Let's modify that a little. That works on cars with the spring pushing down on the lower control arm, but in this case, supporting it under the control arm will squeeze the joint tightly together because the spring is pushing down on the spindle. Instead, support the van with jack stands under the cross member or frame. If there is a grease fitting in the lower ball joint, try to wiggle it. If it moves, there is excessive wear in the joint. This is only accurate when there's no weight on the tire. I think the wear-indicator grease fittings went away with the '95 models but check for that anyhow.
Next, you can also grab the tire on the front and back and try to turn it left and right, gently. Have the steering column unlocked. If you feel a little knocking, have a helper do that while you watch underneath to see if the play is in the inner or outer tie rod end. If both are solid and there's no clunking, do that again but much harder. When you tug really hard each way, you're using the tire as a lever to push and pull against the steering linkage. Sideways play in the ball joint will show up this way. You'll see the bottom of the tire move in and out too as well as feel it.
The last thing is to use a pry bar to try to move the control arm up and down. Do that right next to the ball joint. If you see movement between the ball and socket, replace the ball joint.
Excuse me for sticking my nose in here.
Monday, April 11th, 2011 AT 10:34 PM