What is proper way to check ball joint on Ford Crown Victoria?

Here is the question:
What is the proper way to check for ball joint wear on a car like Ford Crown Victoria, which has upper and lower A-arm suspension. The spring and the shock absorber are made into a single strut unit. Mechanics at 2 different alignment shops told me the jack should go under the lower A-arm, because in the suspension like that, the lower A-arm is load-bearing, so jacking up the frame would make the lower A-arm push into the ball joint, so that it would be difficult to detect any play. But I was taught to raise the frame and was never told of any other way of doing it.

Here is the long story.
I had the front suspension checked out by 3 different mechanics. First was Massachusetts state safety and emissions inspection. He did it by jacking up the frame and found no wear on ball joints or tie rods.

Second was a mechanic at an alignment shop. The guy at the front desk told me the ball joints are bad, and they won’t do an alignment before I replace the ball joints.

Third was another mechanic at a different alignment shop. This time, I told them that it passed the state inspection and I jacked up the car myself and verified that the ball joints and tie rods were fine. This mechanic told me that a car with upper and lower A-arms need to be jacked up on the lower A-arm. I took the car back.

I took the car back, and lifted one wheel and found that that the ball joint had a very slight play, but more importantly, the tie rod was loose. It’s been at least 3,000 miles since the state inspection, so I am thinking the tie rod could have worn out after the state inspection.

Are these mechanics trying to deceive me?

The last 2 mechanics were correct. The state inspecter was wrong and you proved it to yourself by finding the play in the joint.

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On that car the front suspension is jacked under the lower control arm so the wheel raised off the ground/ramp and then the suspension is inspected.

On your car, I would jack up under the lower control arm to remove the load from the ball joints, and try wiggling the tire at 12 and 6 o:clock positions to check for play, and also have a helper take something like length of 2x4 and pry up under the tire while I watched the ball joint for play.


That would have been enough of an assessment for me They turned down work because they could not warranty the alignment.


Thank you very much for the clear answer. I guess I was just in denial. Also, I thought the guy who has the state inspection certificate took a test with questions about ball joint inspection, so he should know. It’s just frustrating these things go bad on cars. I rarely had to do alignments also. When I lived in L.A., where there is no large pot holes, I never had to replace ball joints or tie rods. Now, I live in Massachusetts, there are huge pot holes (not only big, but really sharp) after the snow plows go by. Here, I need to do alignment just about every year.

If your car is the now-discontinued Crown Vic it’s old enough to need new ball joints no matter what part of the country you live in. My Lincoln Town Car (same chassis) needed ball joints at 10 years/130K miles.