BALL JOINTS

Tiny
OLDPAN
  • MEMBER
  • 2001 DODGE DAKOTA
Is it possible that my upper ball joint on front driver side is worn out with only 45,000 miles. Tc
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Sunday, April 5th, 2009 AT 10:41 AM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Anything is possible. Vehicles come with a warranty to pay for fixing things that break in the first 12,000 miles.

Why do you think it's bad? Many people mistakenly condemn the LOWER ball joints on Dakotas because they DO check bad, but in fact are normal.

Please provide some history or details.

Caradiodoc
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Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 AT 9:04 AM
Tiny
OLDPAN
  • MEMBER
When truck is on lift it is possible to move tire in and out slightly. Also then turning the front driver side tire make a funny noise. Tc
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Thursday, April 9th, 2009 AT 4:22 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Since this is a two-wheel-drive, there will be a little play in the wheel bearings that allows the tire and wheel to move in and out a little on top. This is normal. Over-tightening the bearings will squeeze the grease out from the rollers and lead to bearing failure from lack of lubrication. But; if you can actually SEE sideways movement in the upper joints when someone moves gently on the tire, the joints could indeed be worn. I would expect the cause to be a lack of lubrication or a plugged grease fitting. Some ball joints don't even have grease fittings anymore. Blame that on GM and Ford.

A little slop in the upper ball joints won't make a noise that you are likely to hear. A "funny" noise is impossible to diagnose without hearing it. A metal-on-metal clanking could be broken anti-sway bar links. A rattle is often loose brake pads. The rattle will go away when you lightly apply the brakes. A muffled thumping sound could be rubber control arm bushings but those are rare. Other important clues have to do with when the noise occurs and whether or not you can make it do it. Turning, braking, and bumpy roads are the common things to consider.

A buzzing noise could be front wheel bearings, (although not on a two wheel drive truck design), or air in the power steering system. A hum or rumble, only while driving, could be due to bad tire alignment wear. If you're hearing a clicking or crunching sound that you might also feel in the steering wheel when you alternately accelerate and brake in a parking lot, suspect the two-piece steering shaft. There is a lot of slop between the two halves until it is extended to its installed position. Sometimes the looseness causes noise when the rubber-mounted cab flexes on the frame of the truck.

Caradiodoc
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Thursday, April 9th, 2009 AT 6:43 PM
Tiny
JEFFREY EIFORD
  • MEMBER
  • 1992 DODGE DAKOTA
  • 3.9L
  • V6
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 192,000 MILES
Hi, I would like some help in the front end area. Ol Daisy needs front end work. I don t know if the spring cushions are bad? I do know she needs a arm bushings, ball joints and other joints, lol.
I wanted to replace the whole a arm assembly but am having trouble finding them.
I ve looked and looked for videos on this year and can t find one. Found later years or the 1500 Ram but not the Dakota. So if you could shed some light on this how to do it, I would be greatly appreciated it.
Thanks,
Mouse
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:14 PM (Merged)
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
The typical repairs involve replacing the bushings and ball joints separately. The only time you'd have to replace the entire control arm is for crash damage or severe rust. If you have to do that, look for replacements at a salvage yard.

The upper ball joints are screwed into the control arms. It is possible to remove them with a pipe wrench, but the job is much easier if you invest in the special socket. You can find them at any auto parts store and on the tool trucks that visit repair shops each week. Be aware there's three different sizes, two of which are common, so you might want to take a new ball joint with you to be sure you get the right socket. Be careful to not cross-thread the new joint. It is real easy to do, especially if you're using that pipe wrench, and you will be able to force it all the way in since the threads aren't very deep. While you might be able to force it in all the way, cross-threading weakens those threads, and that could lead to the joint popping out. Once that cross-threading has occurred, the control arm must be replaced.

There's two designs for the lower ball joints. The common one is a pressed-in design for which you'll want a ball joint press. The guys who drive the tool trucks have these too, but you can find the same thing at Harbor Freight Tools. There is also a screwed-in design for the lower ball joint, but I've never run into one of those.

A special tool is also made for pressing the bushings out and in. I've seen people do that with a standard shop press, but that makes the job rather cumbersome. The special tool is similar to the ball joint press, but if you clamp the tool in a vise, you can quickly run the pressing screw in with an air impact wrench.

All of these special tools are usually available at auto parts stores that rent or borrow tools. Control arm bushings used to easily last the life of the vehicle, but today they're made of softer rubber compounds for better ride quality, so failures from wear are common. As a result, the special bushing press gets a lot use. In most places the people at the parts stores make you buy the tool, then you get a full refund when you take it back. If you decide to keep a tool, you still take it back, then they give you a brand new one.

The biggest mistake competent do-it-yourselfers and inexperienced mechanics make is they tighten the control arms' pivot bolts when the truck is still jacked up and the suspension is hanging down. When the vehicle is lowered to the ground, those bushings will be clamped in a permanent twist. That will over-stretch them and greatly reduce their life. Instead, just install the bolts loosely, lower the vehicle to the ground so it's sitting at normal ride height, then crawl underneath and tighten all the pivot bolts.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:14 PM (Merged)
Tiny
JEFFREY EIFORD
  • MEMBER
Thank you so very much for thoroughly explaining the process to me. As for the A arm bushings if I unscrew the two nuts that hold the a arm to the frame, wont it be under pressure from the coil spring?
The ball joints I can do. Thanks for the pointers. And the control arm bushings I can do. As the tie rod ends, ( I've done those before). Just a little confused about the A arm.
Thanks again.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:14 PM (Merged)
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Yes, the control arms will be under spring pressure, but there's a trick I used to use when replacing coil springs that will work for you. The service manual procedures, going back to the 1970s, involves breaking the tapered stud loose for the lower ball joint, prying the control arm down, then prying out the coil spring. This involves three people, the danger of a flying spring, and the need to remove the wheel and tire assembly.

My method was to support the control arm between the two pivot bolts with a post jack. The vehicle had to be on a hoist. The post jack was similar to a bottle jack, except it was about four feet tall. Remove the shock absorbers if they go through the coil springs. Remove the nuts, use the jack to take the spring pressure off the bolts, then slide the bolts out. Let the jack down, and be sure the control arm is following it down. You don't want it hanging up, then suddenly releasing and causing a lot of excitement. Spring pressure will be gone by the time the control arm comes down about four inches.

If you're a little squirt, have a helper pull out on the bottom of the tire as you tug the control arm down with one hand, and lift the spring out with your other hand. Clean any dirt out of where the spring sits in its pocket, then lift the new spring into place. Lift the control arm back up onto the jack, then pump it up until you can slide the bolts in. This is the most miserable part of the job because you have to guide the arm as you line up the bolt holes. If you're careless, everything could jump out to the side from that spring pressure. You will likely have to use a large punch or line-up tool when the first hole lines up, then get the second hole lined up and pop the bolt in.

That was the procedure for doing the springs without even removing the wheels. I could do a pair of them in 20 minutes and be on the alignment rack before the other guys had their first spring out. If you don't have a hoist, you might be able to do the same thing by raising the truck, placing blocks under the control arm, then manipulating the jack to let the spring pressure off the bolts. Moving the arm around during reassembly is going to be difficult, so consider doing this on a hoist.

Before you start, this would be a good time to measure the suspension ride height, and replace the springs if it is low. The only height specs I can find are for a 4wd. Those use easily-adjustable torsion bars, not coil springs. If you visit any tire and alignment shop, they all have small books that show every car and truck model and year, where to take the measurements, and what they should be. Given the age of your truck, the springs are sure to be sagged. That changes the geometric shape of the spindle, two control arms, and frame. When that happens, you can still set the alignment to specs so the numbers look perfect on the computer screen, but with the wrong geometry, the wheels will tip in and out on top through the wrong alignment changes as the suspension travels up and down. This means there will be excessive tire wear, even though the alignment numbers look good.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:14 PM (Merged)
Tiny
JEFFREY EIFORD
  • MEMBER
Thanks again for the thorough explanation. I might let the auto service I use check the ride height and remove and replacement of the springs if needed. I can do the other items.
Again thank you.
Mouse
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:14 PM (Merged)
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
The spring procedure isn't difficult if you're on a hoist, but I wouldn't want to do it on the ground. If you were able to watch it being done, you'd have the confidence to tackle the job yourself.

Measuring ride height is very straight-forward. All you need is a tape measure, but you have to know where to measure. For a lot of models, it is from real easy-to-reach points, to the ground. Some have you measure from the bottom of the side marker light lens, to the ground. Some have you measure from the top of the bumper, to the ground. Unfortunately, in all the online service manuals I have access to, I've never found a reference to or drawing for this procedure. I performed it on every vehicle I aligned, and while I was a little more tolerant of slightly sagged springs on some models, others, like the Ford Ranger and Bronco 2 came from the factory with horrendous tire wear problems, then just slightly-sagged springs made that problem a lot worse. I didn't want my name on those repair orders unless I was allowed to correct ride height as part of the job.

If you look in most Chrysler paper service manuals, you'll find a short paragraph about how they want you to measure ride height, but at first it looks really complicated. They even provided the dealerships with a special tool with a bubble level built in. To sum up their procedure, they wanted you to measure how much lower the lower ball joint was relative to the lower control arm bushing. Typically that was less than two inches. I had a drive-on hoist so the vehicles were sitting on their tires, at normal ride height. You would have to park on a smooth, flat surface, (not necessarily perfectly level). The same thing is done by measuring from the bottom of the lower ball joint to the ground, then take a second measurement from the bottom of the control arm to the ground. Subtract the first one from the second one to get their measurement.

Logic would dictate all you have to do is measure from the control arm to ground, but the whole reason Chrysler has you do it this way is to overlook tire size in the equation. Sometimes other manufacturers will provide multiple readings when those vehicles were available with optional tire sizes. Chrysler's procedure is easier and faster to copy year after year, into new service manuals, then they just have to list one spec for each of those models.

If I failed to mention it earlier, all tire and alignment shops, and most repair shops, have a small book that shows where to take the height measurements on any model and year, and what those measurements should be. The people there will be happy to look up your truck and show you the drawing. Asking for that information tells them you know something alignments, and how important correct ride height is. Since those are aftermarket books, and they know most shops don't have the special tool, they provide measuring points that are easier and faster to reach. Most of them make reference to something on the bumpers or the wheel openings.

Remember the rear leaf springs sag with age too. Those aren't really all that hard to replace except the bolts get rusted to the metal sleeves inside the bushings. Often we have to use a reciprocating saw to cut through the bolts, then the pieces can be popped off separately. If you need new front springs, we don't want the front to be up where it should be and the back end is dragging lower. Rear leaf springs can be "re-arced" too by the people at alignment and heavy truck specialty shops. We have one in my town, but I never watched to see how they do that. I do know it still requires the springs to removed from the vehicle, but it saves you the cost of buying new springs.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
JEFFREY EIFORD
  • MEMBER
I will check with an alignment shop. Maybe even where I plan to have my rear springs done. I had planned to do them because the ole girl does sag in the rear. So I'll check with them on the front.
Thank you for your advice.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
KEN
  • ADMIN
CARADIODOC is one of our best! Please let us know if you need additional help.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
JEFFREY EIFORD
  • MEMBER
Yes Ken I was very thankful for all the advice. Yesterday 10/25/19, I bought new tires p215/75/15r wanted 70's but ended up with 75's. The tire shop did an alignment and said I only need to replace the sway arm bushings and shocks. Yippee! They said everything else was tight. 1992 with 190 thousand miles I thought was pretty good. Always greased by a previous owner. So I'm happy. She drives great ! Thanks for all the input, however I'm hanging on to it for future reference.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
KEN
  • ADMIN
Nice work, we are here to help, please use 2CarPros anytime.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
SCOOBBYDOO27
  • MEMBER
  • 1997 DODGE DAKOTA
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • MANUAL
  • 90,000 MILES
My truck is making a scraping noise when braking is this the ball joints causing this?
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
JACOBANDNICKOLAS
  • EXPERT
Hi:

If the you only hear the sound when you are braking, it sounds like your brakes are bad. I would check them. As far as a ball joint, it can make a noise, but it won't be a scraping noise. I've heard clunks, creaks, and even a squeak when the steering was turned, but never a scraping. Please check your brake shoes (rear) and brake pads (front).

Let me know if this helps and what you find.

Joe
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
AJHAREN
  • MEMBER
  • DODGE DAKOTA
I have a 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab with 72000 miles on it. If my uppor or lower ball joints are bad, will I be able to feel the vibration in the steering wheel?
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
JCA072879
  • MEMBER
Sometimes yes sometimes no the way to check them if they have torsion bar suspension is jacking the truck up on the lower control arm so the suspension does not stretch out and then grab the top of the wheel and the bottom and try to move it. If it moves at all have someone watch the joints to see what one is moving. Chopped tires, and if it is 4wheel driveu-joints can make the wheel shake also
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
WYE1
  • MEMBER
Have you checked to see if your Dakota is under the recall for ball joints that Dodge issued sometime in 2004. I took in my 2001 and they replaced the upper ball joints under that recall (this was in Jan 2005 after I learned of the recall). I went to the official Dodge site and entered my VIN to see if my Dakota was included. Don't know if that still exists; if not, get in touch with me.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 12:15 PM (Merged)
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Ball joints do not cause shaking or vibrations. If one is worn and has excessive "lateral run out", meaning the ball can move sideways in the socket, it can allow a shake to occur by not holding the wheel solidly in position, but any shaking has to be caused by something that is rotating. Most commonly that is a tire with a broken belt, or a bent wheel. A warped brake rotor can do it too, but that will be much worse when braking. If it is only felt at highway speed, suspect a tire / wheel assembly that is out-of-balance.

For everyone diagnosing suspension-related problems on Dakotas, it is important to be aware the lower ball joints come from the factory with a lot of up-an-down movement between the ball and socket. A brand new one from the dealer has this movement too, about 1/8". That would never be acceptable on any other brand or model, but on the Dakotas, it is completely normal, and doesn't cause any noise or other symptoms. A lot of these get replaced when this movement is found during an inspection.

The next question has to do with replacement ball joints. If you find this movement in the lower ball joint during an inspection, is it an original joint with normal, allowable movement, or is it an aftermarket replacement that has become worn and has developed that slop? The answer is either one is acceptable. An aftermarket replacement joint can be allowed to develop this up-and-down movement, but it still can not have any sideways movement. Sideways movement in any ball joint on any model car or truck will prevent it from holding the wheel in alignment. Besides an intermittent clunking noise, it can cause a pull to one side, a pull to one side when braking, excessive steering wander, and once it gets bad enough for the ball and socket to separate, a loss of control and a crash.

Due to the geometric relationship between the height from the ground of the ball joint(s) and outer tie rod end, a spindle that can move back and forth sideways due to a worn ball joint will cause that wheel to turn left and right a little at the same time. This is where the steering wander comes from. The alignment angle of concern is "total toe", which must be set very precisely for good tire wear. Due to the nature of the changing alignment, at times total toe will be too much toed-in, and at other times too much toed-out. Each condition leads to a choppy tire wear pattern, but when both occur at the same time, they both cause excessive wear that cancels each other's wear patterns out. The result can look like a tire has a good wear pattern, but the tread is just worn from what looks like high mileage.
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Monday, October 28th, 2019 AT 4:54 PM

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