Ball Joints: How to Tell if they are bad ?

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Big E. Ratt, Sep 23, 2007.

  1. Big E. Ratt

    Big E. Ratt Guest

    I'm getting some 'thunks' from my 2001 Civic EX front suspension, usually
    when shifting between 1-2 and 2-3 , and also when the front tires hit an
    obstacle that causes a front-to-back impact vs. and up and down. No problems
    when driving daily at speed on the interstate. Struts are new Tokico blues,
    as are the rear shocks.
    Could it be bad ball joints ?
    Big E. Ratt, Sep 23, 2007
  2. Big E. Ratt

    jim beam Guest

    is it psychic wednesday?

    whoever fitted the new shocks should have checked all that stuff as they
    did the work. if not, they need to check it now. especially as they
    may not have fastened a bolt properly.
    jim beam, Sep 23, 2007
  3. Big E. Ratt

    Tegger Guest

    You have at least two TSBs out on front suspension noise.

    03-039 covers a knock, pop or squeak that is due to a deteriorated front
    lower control arm bushing.

    01-054 deals with a knock, pop or crunch resulting from the front spring
    coils contacting each other.

    I can't remember if you've got balljoint-type stabilizer bar links. If you
    do, that's another source of knocking noise as the balls wear out.
    Tegger, Sep 23, 2007
  4. Big E. Ratt

    jim beam Guest

    all of which should have been checked when doing a major rebuild like
    replacing macpherson struts!
    jim beam, Sep 23, 2007
  5. Big E. Ratt

    Big E. Ratt Guest


    I didn't go into all the details...noises were present before and after
    shock/spring replacement : old Koni shocks and Eibach springs were replaced
    with Tokico shocks and OEM springs. Yes, I wanted to restore original ride

    If it were rear wheel drive, I'd guess a U-joint was going bad.

    I'll take it in to Honda for a complete checkout. The car has 235K miles on
    it, so it might be time...
    Big E. Ratt, Sep 23, 2007
  6. Big E. Ratt

    Big E. Ratt Guest

    I had the replacement done at an aftermarket shop, not at Honda. I doubt if
    these after-market shops even know what a TSB is.
    Big E. Ratt, Sep 23, 2007

  7. I would think that they should. Hell, Studebaker issued TSB(s)
    throughout its time in business which ended over thirty years ago.

    As far as I know, all car manufacturers issue such documents and the
    most serious issues result in recalls.

    Grumpy AuContraire, Sep 24, 2007
  8. Big E. Ratt

    Eric Guest

    To check the ball joints...

    Jack up the car and set it down on a pair of jack stands. Unlock the
    steering wheel. Grab the tire at the 12 and 6 o'clock positions. Try to
    rock it back and forth. If you feel movement it could be either the ball
    joints or wheel bearing. Have someone else repeat the rocking described
    above while you get under the car and look at the suspension with a
    flashlight. If the movement is coming from the ball joints you should be
    able to see this. If not, then look at the back side of the hub area where
    the CV joint connects to the hub. If you see movement here, then the wheel
    bearing is bad. Note that sometimes grabbing the tire at the 5 and 9
    o'clock positions works better for detecting looseness in the lower ball
    joint. You can also check the tie rods for looseness by grabbing the tire
    at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions. If you feel any looseness here when you
    rock the tire back and forth, you can isolate it to the tie rods by feeling
    movement in the joint through the tie rod boots. The ball joint in the tie
    rod ends can be checked by squeezing them with a large pair of channel lock
    pliers in the vertical axis. Sometimes, this also works well for double
    checking any suspected looseness in the upper ball joints.

    Eric, Sep 30, 2007
  9. Big E. Ratt

    jim beam Guest

    unfortunately, while you're right in principle, jacking the car up and
    letting the wheels dangle with the chassis on stands is about the
    /least/ successful way of detecting ball joint wear possible.

    normal running position is with the weight on the wheels, thus, most
    wear is with the ball joints in that position. letting the wheels
    dangle ensures that ball joints are in a position where they have
    /least/ wear since the vehicle has almost zero miles with the wheels in
    that position.

    the solution is to test with the suspension having weight on it. the
    easiest thing for the home mechanic is to jack one wheel at a time, with
    the jack directly under a suspension member, wheel /just/ off the
    ground. /then/ you can exert force on the wheel and see if you can feel
    jim beam, Sep 30, 2007
  10. Big E. Ratt

    Eric Guest

    I do not believe that jacking up the car from the lower control arm will
    produce a normal load on the suspension. One could only achieve such a goal
    by putting a floor jack under the tire and jacking up the suspension from
    that point. However, this would interfere with one's ability to detect
    looseness in the ball joints.

    Moreover, for what it's worth, I've never had any problems detecting
    looseness in the ball joints following the protocol that I outlined. A
    supplement to the technique could be to use a large prybar to move the
    suspension around in the vertical axis of the particular ball joint being

    Eric, Oct 1, 2007
  11. Big E. Ratt

    jim beam Guest

    no. take the wheel off and look at it if you need to remind yourself of
    configuration - that can't happen.

    once they're worn /that/ bad, sure. but the idea is that you try to
    detect it before it gets so such an extreme if you want to maintain
    safety and not incur tire wear.
    yes indeed.
    jim beam, Oct 1, 2007
  12. Big E. Ratt

    Tegger Guest

    l joints.

    The very best and most accurate way is simply to pop the taper, lever the
    control arm out of the way, then wiggle the stud by hand.
    Tegger, Oct 1, 2007
  13. However, if excessive movement in a ball joint and/or tie rod end can be
    detected with no load on the suspension wouldn't that indicate a need to
    replace the part?

    Dave and Trudy, Oct 2, 2007
  14. Big E. Ratt

    Tegger Guest

    Certainly, provided the play is actually in the joint and not the bearings,
    etc. And you need to be able to tell WHICH joint is bad.

    Plus, Honda balljoints can seize instead of getting loose. This will not be
    apparent from the "wiggle" test, no matter how you do it. A seized
    balljoint is very bad news indeed. Ask me how I know.

    Pop the taper and do the check properly.
    Tegger, Oct 2, 2007
  15. Understand and agree with your logic. The wiggle or shake test, in my
    opinion, is useful for a quick, spot check only. Another clue can be gotten
    from abnormal tire wear pattern, which would show up even in the case of a
    seized joint.... Cupping sort of randomly around the tread, IIRC. Of course,
    by this time other clues should be apparent....
    Dave and Trudy, Oct 3, 2007
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