I replaced the upper and lower ball joints (along with new shocks all the way around) on my 1998 Bravada approximately four years ago. Last year, I had to replace the lower ball joints again, along with an idler and pitman arm. Now, I'm told that both lower joints and one of the upper joints are bad again. I have always used/specified MOOG replacement parts in my suspension repairs. Is there something else causing these ball joints to wear out so quickly? The original factory set lasted almost nine years and over 100K miles. Now, it looks as though I'm going to be on my third set in the last four years and roughly 40K miles.
What is very unusual is how long the original ones lasted. These GM vehicles and the Chevy S10 Blazer are known for going through ball joints very quickly. They're good money-makers for the repair shops. I don't know why that is. I took a class at a Federal Mogul / Moog plant in St. Louis, MO a few years ago and had a tour of the research facility. They come up with a lot of improvements over factory parts. That's real easy to do with Ford parts, but GM and Chrysler parts are already pretty high quality.
I can only tell you that in the community college where I used to teach, there were a number of faculty members who were bringing us their Blazers and Bravadas every few years for ball joints, so you're not alone.
February, 24, 2011 AT 2:49 PM
I suppose I was lucky then on my original set. But, I'm curious in that the steering set up on these SUV's is not all that different really, than any other non rack & pinion type steering and suspension set up. I'm wondering if something else in the steering/suspension chain (tie rod ends, main steering gear, shocks, springs, control arms etc.) May be causing the ball joints to wear prematurely?
Call me curious, but to just say "well, those vehicles are just hard on ball joints" doesn't get to the root of the problem. If they are, then I ask why? Not trying to be a***** or anything. I'm trying to figure out a better solution if it's there.
Thanks for your response though. It's comforting (in an arcane sort of way) to know that I'm not alone in my troubles.
February, 25, 2011 AT 2:24 AM
You're asking the same thing mechanics and other owners have been asking for many years. Every vehicle model has well-known characteristics that every owner will experience. Most of these problems can be blamed on design factors that are usually the result of the manufacturer trying to save money. Let's face it; if any one manufacturer wants to make long-term quality a priority it's going to cost more to build the car and it will cost more to buy than their competitors' similar products. Remember too that the manufacturers make a huge profit on selling replacement parts so it is not in their best financial interest to have parts that don't wear out.
Some parts are designed to meet the customers' demands for a quiet and smooth ride. Suspension parts like control arms and anti-sway bars are mounted with rubber bushings to absorb road vibration. Those parts never wear out on race cars because the parts are made of steel. Most people would not put up with the harsh ride even if it meant those parts would never need to be replaced.
It became well-known that all 1980s models Ford Escorts, Tempos and their Mercury twins were "killer" cars. The outer tie rod ends could check fine, then separate leading to a crash less than 1,000 miles later. When I worked at a Sears Auto Center in the '80s we received a shipment of replacement parts once per week on every Wednesday. There were typically 40 outer tie rod ends for Escorts and Tempos and a dozen inner and outer tie rod ends for all of the other car brands and models combined. By Saturday we were out of the Ford parts and had to buy them locally. Ford sold a pile of those cars because they rode so much smoother than Chrysler's and GM's competitive products. That was because the front tires were tipped way out on top and way in on the back so they were riding on just the edges of the tread. Unsuspecting customers didn't learn about that trick until the tires wore out at 15,000 miles. Ford is also the only manufacturer that has a lot of cars and trucks that can not be aligned. Now why do you suppose they would design cars that can't have the alignment fixed? After years of complaints about steering linkages falling apart, why would they not redesign them like older parts that lasted longer?
Beginning with the 1987 models, GM switched from the world's second best AC generator to the worst design ever. The current generator design can't help but develop a lot of voltage spikes and they put that on cars and trucks with a bunch of silly computers that are susceptible to voltage spikes. That generator has been causing a lot of problems and frustration but there are no plans to go back to the old system. Some of the newer designs are even worse.
GM makes about 80 percent of their own parts and buys the rest from outside suppliers. Chrysler buys about 80 percent of the parts they use. Since the big three pay a lot more in labor costs they have to cut costs somewhere else to be able to sell cars at competitive prices. One common way is to squeeze suppliers to make the same part for a nickel less. "Do whatever it takes to make that fifty dollar part for $4.95 instead of $5.00". Build a million cars, save a million nickels. Ford left off four five-cent grease fittings in the late 1970s. That's just one part out of thousands.
These are just a few examples of the business practices that ultimately affect the vehicle owners. We see the results all the time when trying to diagnose the cause of a failure to see if we can prevent it from happening again. After you see these things for decades you start to get cynical when you see any ad on tv bragging about one manufacturer's quality. If quality really was the goal cars would cost a lot more to buy, they would cost a lot less to repair, and we would no longer see the same repeat pattern failures over and over.
February, 25, 2011 AT 3:14 PM
Ok, Ok. Consider me whacked up side the head with a 2" x 4". I was just hoping that there might be an underlying cause that was contributing to the problem. I'm one that always asks why when faced with a challenge. I'm never one to bandage a broken leg with a band-aid. Now, as for being stubborn. Well, that's another story entirely.