1972 Volkswagen Beetle front passenger side knocking

Tiny
REBDUN
  • MEMBER
  • 1972 VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE
The front passenger side of my friend's 1972 vw beetle makes a sound that I can only describe as "between a thunk and a knock". It doesn't happen all the time and it's random; not just when we go over a bump or make a right or left turn.
Every forum I have looked at suggests one of two possibilities: 1) swaybar bushing or 2) ball joint. The guy she bought it from told her it was the upper ball joint and in fact gave her the part but was by no means an expert. We definitely don't have a press, so I wanted to get your opinion on it first.
I know we don't necessarily HAVE to have a press because a friend of mine didn't use one when he did my suburban. But he is a master mechanic. Plus he always tells me that the difference between foreign and domestic is like night and day.
I basically don't want her to have to pay a shop if its not the ball joint and my experience primarily lies with 70s and 80s Chevy trucks and they are the easiest thing on the planet to diagnose and fix!
Any help you could give would be much appreciated! Thanks, Rebekah
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Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 AT 4:04 AM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Interesting perspective. I'm guessing you haven't worked on anything other then Chevies. Those have one of the hardest upper ball joints to replace the first time because they have hardened rivets that have to be cut off. Try replacing one on a Dodge. They unscrew with an inexpensive special socket. Also, the issue of the big difference isn't between imports and domestics; it's between Volkswagens and everything else. German engineering definitely isn't better; it's just different.

Upper ball joints rarely need a ball joint press. On Chevies they're riveted on, and replacements are bolted on. Dodges are screwed in. It's the lower ball joints that are typically the load-carrying joints and may be pressed in. On GM products they can often be pounded out without using a press, but that can deform the hole making the new joint fall out or at least not be held in tightly. That can happen on other brands too. The common fix is to add a couple of small spot welds that can be cut off next time.

Be aware too that you don't want to have a part replaced just based on the fact an unknowledgeable person looked at it and handed you a part. Have the car inspected at a tire and alignment shop. That will insure you have the right part replaced and that no other worn parts are overlooked. Many shops will do a preliminary inspection for free, and only charge you when a more detailed diagnosis is needed. When one steering or suspension part is worn to the point of making noise, the other parts are just as old and could be worn to the point of coming apart. That can lead to loss of control and a crash. The Beetle doesn't have a common history of that like Ford products do, but you still want to have the car inspected periodically. Not all parts worn to the point of becoming dangerous make noise.

Also, providing parts to be replaced is like taking your own food to a restaurant and asking them to cook it for you. If you aren't happy with the quality of the food, or if that new part doesn't solve the problem, you're still obligated to pay for the service because you got what you requested. When the shops provide the parts they mark them up a little, just like every other business does, to provide a little profit that goes toward ordering it and having it delivered, and reordering it if it's defective or wrong. If the new part fails while it's under warranty, that profit offsets the cost for the mechanic to replace it again at no charge to you. If a part you supply fails in short order, you will get to pay for the labor again because the failure wasn't the mechanic's fault and he doesn't work for free when he didn't make a mistake. Most reputable shops won't even install customer-provided parts, to avoid these hassles and arguments.

As a side note, I have to wonder why the previous owner even had a ball joint on hand. It's not a common car and to just happen to have an uncommon part on hand suggests he knew there was a problem, bought the part, but then sold the car without repairing it. That's just a guess on my part but it would lead me to wonder what else he knew about but didn't fix.
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Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 AT 1:09 PM
Tiny
EXOVCDS
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Ball joints can be easily diagnosed once the car is in the air a press will be needed.

Thomas
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Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 AT 5:13 PM

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