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post #1 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 08:59 AM Thread Starter
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Lower Ball Joint Replacement and Lessons Learned



At 318K Miles (2007 4CYL SE) my lower ball joint (factory original) started squeaking when driving over bumps and there was visible play in the joint. I replaced the ball joint and learned a lot along the way. In the hope that it might save others from some hassle, here's what I learned:

Complete step-by-step write-up, Lower Ball Joint Replacement (PDF):



A few items of note:

1. On my vehicle the failing ball joint made a slight squeaking noise when going over bumps. The video clip below depicts the sound it made which could be readily reproduced by pushing down on the hood of the car:



2. With the car jacked up off the ground, there was NO noticeably play in the wheel (when grabbing it and shaking it at any position or when using a lever to push up under the wheel). This is due to the fact that when the car is jacked up, the strut expands and puts downward pressure on the ball joint making it very difficult to see any play in the joint. A better way to check the ball joint on this vehicle is to support the vehicle's weight by the lower control arm and then check for play in the ball joint (by prying between the knuckle and lower control arm, or prying up on the knuckle). Using this recommended method, the play in my failing ball joint was readily apparent. Here is a video clip to demonstrate:



Zoomed-in video clip which shows the play in the joint better:



3. The commonly available (for purchase and borrow from many automotive stores) Honda Lower Ball Joint Tool Set (PowerBuilt Kit 76, Model 641321) does NOT work with this vehicle (nor, to be fair, is it advertised to support this model year). There are two reasons: (a) the ball joint base does not fit into the receiver cup (the cup is too small in diameter) and (b) the shank of the ball joint does not fit into the pushing adapter (the shank of the ball joint is too large).

4. The "OTC 6734 Ball Joint Adapter Update" kit DOES work on this vehicle but unfortunately does not appear as commonly available (for borrowing) at this time and is not cheap to purchase (~$80).

5. It can be very difficult to remove the ABS sensor from the knuckle -- it is far easier to simply disconnect the ABS sensor at its connector (under the hood) and leave the ABS sensor in the knuckle.

6. The long thin split (cotter) pin in the tie rod end may be impossible to remove and might need to be drilled out (if you live in "rusty" areas).

7. Getting the old ball joint out can be a little tough. I found that using a little heat (plumber's MAP gas torch) around the outside of the knuckle ring holding the ball joint made the task much easier.

8. On this vehicle, there is NO snap ring (C-Clip, retaining ring) holding the ball joint in, at least for the OEM ball joint and OEM replacement (however, I believe some after market ball joints for this vehicle might have a snap ring).

Hope you find this information useful,
John

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post #2 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 09:10 AM
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Superbly written and video clips very well done, great job!!

I am also curious if your wheel bearings are showing any signs of wear or looseness at this mileage? This would have been an opportunity to replace them if needed.

My 1996 Integra needed both front wheel bearings replaced at about 200K miles, I could physically move the wheels in and out by 1/16", I had a shop do the work since the bearings required a good size press for removal and replacement, I just don't have all that gear.


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Last edited by Aviography; 02-14-2016 at 09:31 AM.
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post #3 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 09:48 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the comments, and good question. I don't feel any play in the wheels and there is no audible noise, so I haven't detected any problem with the wheel bearings yet. I contemplated changing them anyway but decided against it in the end (they are about $70 or so each for the OEM bearings, so I figured I would just wait until they started to fail). I am pretty impressed that they have lasted 318K miles though!
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post #4 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 11:23 AM
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Very nice write up!

I do have some questions. Did you have to remove the dust boot from the new ball joint when you installed it? I've had to do this before on my old civic, but I wasn't using an OEM joint either.

Also, could you have just put the knuckle in your hydraulic press to press out/in the ball joints?

And just FYI, you can get the OEM wheel bearings (NSK brand) on ebay for like $40 a piece.

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post #5 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 11:58 AM Thread Starter
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Hi Chris, Good questions!

No, I did not remove the boot and it seemed to fit through just fine. I did wonder about that myself though. I coated the bore with some oil first thinking it might help the boot slide through unscathed.

Thanks for the info about the NSK bearings.

I did try using the Harbor Freight shop press, but I have to admit a failure on that one. The challenge is that the knuckle is a very awkward shape to fit on the press with all of its appendages (the tie rod connector and top arm). To make matters worse the top arm (that goes to the upper ball joint) bends back in the direction where the support needs to be. So I think you need to make some kind of cantilevered support platform that supports the back of the ball joint but doesn't get in the way of the knuckle's top arm while at the same time keeping the dust shield/rotor high enough so they clear the "deck" below. I don't think it is possible to make a "bridge" support in the other direction because the tie rod connector gets in the way...

The picture below shows what I came up with (just some sawed off pieces of 3" X 1/4" thick square tube steel and some plate steel). It came close to working but I bent the 3/8" steel plate before the ball joint came out (!). At that point I didn't have time to monkey with it anymore and just resorted to using the C-Frame press (which I had already used successfully on the other side). However, I think that this could be made to work though with some more effort -- not sure if it is worth the hassle though! It is also kind of a pain trying to balance the not-so-light knuckle on the press too... I guess one advantage of the press (if it did work) is that it seems more forgiving of homemade adapters/receivers (they don't have to be the right height to fit inside the C-Frame). So it might be possible to use some pipes/sockets rather than buying the OTC adapter kit...

Maybe someone else has a better idea on how to do this though.

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post #6 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 01:48 PM
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I would attempt to just support the knuckle at the top ball joint connector and give that a quick try. But it's no big deal since I think I can rent that tool kit from auto zone anyway.

On that same type of knuckle with another car, I have successfully beat the ball joint out with a big hammer. Still has to be pressed back in though.

2005 EX-L Sedan, i4 + Automatic. over 185K and counting. runs like a clock.
V6 TL-S fsb/rsb
V6 battery upgrade
V6 strut bar
Weathertech floor liners
Tinted windows
New vtec gasket
New dipstick o-rings (thanks qman)
Penzoil Platinum 0W20
Fram ultra synthetic oil filter
Supertech -20*F washer fluid

Most meticulously maintained accord on this site

Quote:
An interference engine is one which interferes with your wallet if you don't keep a solid timing belt in it. -qman
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post #7 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 03:59 PM
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I saw the video where ericthecarguy used an air hammer to knock the old ball joint out, and the new one in. I wonder if it's as easy as he made it look? I guess I'll find out when the time comes.

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post #8 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 05:03 PM
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Those of us who don't mind getting our hands dirty now and then owe you a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that goes into posting these write ups; especially one with such detail and clarity. I've got a similar job in my near future (upper ball joint) and wasn't sure whether to go OE from Honda or aftermarket. Which way did you go?
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post #9 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by accordophile View Post
and wasn't sure whether to go OE from Honda or aftermarket. Which way did you go?
I am sure there are a lot of different reasonable opinions on that subject. Personally, I always use OEM replacements. I have been impressed by how well the original parts have lasted (upper ball joint was replaced at 243K, and lower ball joint at 319K) and therefore have high confidence that the OEM replacements will perform just as well. However, I am sure that there are many cases where aftermarket replacements are cheaper and offer very good performance as well (sometimes maybe even better). In my case, I used OEM replacements for both the upper ball joint (control arm) and lower ball joints.
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post #10 of 44 Old 02-14-2016, 09:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BLCKFLSH View Post
I saw the video where ericthecarguy used an air hammer to knock the old ball joint out, and the new one in. I wonder if it's as easy as he made it look? I guess I'll find out when the time comes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnNH View Post
I am sure there are a lot of different reasonable opinions on that subject. Personally, I always use OEM replacements. I have been impressed by how well the original parts have lasted (upper ball joint was replaced at 243K, and lower ball joint at 319K) and therefore have high confidence that the OEM replacements will perform just as well. However, I am sure that there are many cases where aftermarket replacements are cheaper and offer very good performance as well (sometimes maybe even better). In my case, I used OEM replacements for both the upper ball joint (control arm) and lower ball joints.
I agree, I like OEM more than not unless it's something like brake pads. Sometimes the exact part can be found cheaper from another supplier, wheel bearings and AC compressors being great examples. If you look at the part, or the parts breakdown on majestic honda's site, it sometimes will indicate who the manufacturer is so you can look elsewhere and save money. I ordered a brand new OEM AC compressor from rockauto and it was over $200 less than the same compressor would have been from Honda OEM. And yes, I got a new compressor.

2005 EX-L Sedan, i4 + Automatic. over 185K and counting. runs like a clock.
V6 TL-S fsb/rsb
V6 battery upgrade
V6 strut bar
Weathertech floor liners
Tinted windows
New vtec gasket
New dipstick o-rings (thanks qman)
Penzoil Platinum 0W20
Fram ultra synthetic oil filter
Supertech -20*F washer fluid

Most meticulously maintained accord on this site

Quote:
An interference engine is one which interferes with your wallet if you don't keep a solid timing belt in it. -qman
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post #11 of 44 Old 02-16-2016, 09:26 AM
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If any of these OEM ball joints were fitted with grease nipples, and greased once in a while, then replacement would be rare. I believe.

I don't particularly like doing it, but I have a needle on my grease gun and go right through the rubber and leave about two shots of grease in the joint. I do this about every 2 or 3 years. The rubber boot seems semi self healing like those old medical rubber septums back when syringes were not preloaded.

Haven't lost a joint in decades.
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post #13 of 44 Old 02-17-2016, 07:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WDHewson View Post
If any of these OEM ball joints were fitted with grease nipples, and greased once in a while, then replacement would be rare.

Haven't lost a joint in decades.
Built in obsolescence?
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post #14 of 44 Old 02-17-2016, 09:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by accordophile View Post
Built in obsolescence?
It's cheaper to not put the zerks in, it makes the maintenance picture look better to buyers, and most ball joints last the life of the car for people.

With this in mind, why would honda want to put in the zerks?

2005 EX-L Sedan, i4 + Automatic. over 185K and counting. runs like a clock.
V6 TL-S fsb/rsb
V6 battery upgrade
V6 strut bar
Weathertech floor liners
Tinted windows
New vtec gasket
New dipstick o-rings (thanks qman)
Penzoil Platinum 0W20
Fram ultra synthetic oil filter
Supertech -20*F washer fluid

Most meticulously maintained accord on this site

Quote:
An interference engine is one which interferes with your wallet if you don't keep a solid timing belt in it. -qman
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post #15 of 44 Old 02-17-2016, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by chris918 View Post
It's cheaper to not put the zerks in, it makes the maintenance picture look better to buyers, and most ball joints last the life of the car for people.

With this in mind, why would honda want to put in the zerks?
On your first point, it might be a bit cheaper for the manufacturer to omit the zerk fittings but that cost is more than offset when the consumer has to replace a ball joint a lot sooner than one that was serviceable. Penny wise pound foolish.

On your second point, maintenance wise I'm more concerned as to what works better than looks better.

And finally as far as ball joint lasting the life of the car; my '07 has play in the upper ball joint with just 86k miles on the clock.

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