In all seriousness I would stop driving the vehicle and have it towed to a repair shop. Ford has WAY more trouble with steering and suspension parts separating leading to loss of control and crashes than all other manufacturers combined. Ball joints and tie rod ends cause the most problems. Assuming you survive the impending crash, you could find yourself sitting in a courtroom explaining why you knew about the worn part and chose to ignore it. Your liability insurance won't do you any good if they find out you were knowingly driving the vehicle with a defect. You can get away with worn parts on some other car brands for quite a while, but if I told any mechanic you've been ignoring one on a Ford for three months, their eyes would get wide with surprise and disbelief. The question isn't "what could happen", it's when and who will you hit?
There is something wrong with the estimate you provided. While working at a dealership for a different brand, I repaired a lot of Ford trade-ins including a pickup truck that put the owner in a ditch at highway speed due to a separated tie rod end. Many Fords use assemblies that put the ball joint and lower control arm in one piece. They are somewhat easier to replace but it definitely doesn't take seven hours. There's something you haven't included or don't know about. For your vehicle, the lower front ball joint is available separately for anywhere from $12.00 to 70.00 and the control arm with ball joint is available for between $240.00 and $385.00 plus shipping. Replacing the entire control arm or just the ball joint takes about an hour. That's for front parts. Your vehicle also uses ball joints and control arms in the rear instead of the tough solid axle housing. Worn parts there will not hold the wheel in proper alignment which leads to tire wear.
Factory parts almost always cost more from the dealer. Aftermarket parts from name brand manufacturers like Moog and Federal Mogul usually cost less and they do a real good job of improving on the original designs. The vehicle will have to be aligned after suspension parts are replaced, so a more typical estimate would be in the area of 350.00 for parts, not including one, two, or four new tires, two hours for labor, which is generous, at around $100.00 per hour, and whatever the going rate is for an alignment. When I left the dealership in '99 they were charging $49.00 for my alignments. Now it's closer to $100.00 for a four-wheel alignment because many cars and trucks have gotten harder to adjust. That puts my dollars and labor times at half of what you listed.
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Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 AT 6:49 AM