We have been told by our regular mechanic that our 95 Ford Thunderbird LX V8 needs upper and lower ball joint replacement and also strut rod bushings. How much to repair this? Is this something that could repair ourselves if get the parts. Or does this repair need special tools?
You'll need a ball joint press. Replacing ball joints can be done by experienced do-it-yourselfers, but the same is true of heart surgery. There are special procedures to prevent damaging the new parts and to prevent early failure. There are a lot of little things professionals watch out for that aren't even mentioned in the service manual, which, by the way, you should have on hand to learn the steps required. You'll be pulling the brakes apart. That opens a whole new can of worms with all the things that can go wrong. Ford has enough brake trouble without adding to it.
As for cost, a lot depends on the parts used. The parts for your car cost between less than nine bucks to over 40, depending on the manufacturer. Your mechanic knows that the lower cost parts might not be the best value for your money, so hope he elects to sell you the better ones.
As a former suspension and alignment specialist, I used to replace these in less than a half hour per each. If I had to do them today in my driveway, it would take me all day, even if I didn't have to hunt all over for my tools. It's just a whole lot easier on a hoist and with all the necessary tools within easy reach.
If you think you want to tackle this yourself, don't even buy the parts until you have the factory service manual and have read through the procedure. I can offer suggestions if you have questions, and to prevent brake problems.
January, 23, 2011 AT 1:42 AM
Thank you for the response. We have the Chiltons book for this car. Right now the car pulls some to right when braking, not all the time, and can hear the car squeaking and creeking. Asked at our local pep boys for total cost on parts for ball joint and strut bushings. Total is about $214. But our mechanic had given us total price parts/labor of $950? Sounds like labor? Are the strut bushings also alot to it to repair?
My wife is looking at new cars and was told after looking at the car would give us $1700 as trade for new vehicle? Are these 2 repairs enough in your opinion to trade it?
January, 23, 2011 AT 3:43 AM
My opinion is biased because there has been a lot of misery associated with Ford steering and suspension systems over the years. On most cars, ball joints become sloppy and eventually cause clunking noises. They can do that for many months or even years before they separate. Fords have a different history. Instead of clunking, it is real common for them to squeak, then separate. In one case that happened within 700 miles of an inspection that showed everything to be fine. When the ball and socket separate, the bottom of the wheel squirts out and you lose control of the car. It can also cause the rubber brake hose to pull apart resulting in loss of the front brakes which do about 70 percent of the stopping.
The upper joints are cast into the upper control arms so replacing them is a lot easier than the lower ones. One very important point to keep in mind is to not tighten the two mounting bolts until the car is sitting on the tires at normal ride height. Most do-it-yourselfers will just install the part, tighten the bolts, then reinstall the wheel and let the car off the jack. The bolts will hold the bushings in place as they were when the suspension was hanging down. When the car is lowered, the control arm moves up and puts the bushings into a permanent twist. That will severely reduce their life.
The car will need an alignment after the parts are replaced. If a problem occurs afterward due to the parts installation procedures, the last person who touched the car tends to get the blame. That's one reason many mechanics don't want to work on cars after the owners replaced parts. Another reason is it's kind of like bringing your own food to a restaurant and asking them to cook it for you. Also keep in mind that they make a tiny profit on the parts they install for you. That covers their labor expense when they have to replace defective new parts at no charge to you. In the rare event one of your new parts fails, you will have to replace it again and pay for another alignment.
You'll have to decide if you think you're up for the challenge. You will be much better off with the factory service manual. Chiltons and Haynes just don't do as good of a job.
As for trading the car, I am very prejudice against new cars because of all the unnecessary, unreliable computers and the need to constantly return to the dealership to have them reprogrammed. Used computers from the salvage yard won't work either. You must buy new ones from the dealer, then have them programmed to your car, ($$$). My '88 Grand Caravan has 379,000 miles, runs perfectly, and never refuses to start due to a malfunctioning anti-theft system. Any new car would be less reliable and cost more for repairs and maintenance so there is no benefit in replacing it. To see what I mean, scroll through the posts here and see how many problems are related to computers and other electrical issues. I'll never have any of those problems.