Several months ago, we had our car inspected during a routine oil change. It turns out that 2 of the joints needed replacing. We opted to postpone the repair because of our financial situation, but when we took it in to have the work done, the mechanic told us that all 4 now needed replacing. Long story short, we can't afford to put that much money into this car, so we're looking for alternatives to replacing all 4 joints. We know the car is not safe to drive at this point, but would it be reasonably safe if we replaced 2 joints?
Your thoughts are perfectly understandable except that does not apply to Ford products. Ford has WAY more trouble with steering and suspension parts separating leading to loss of control and crashes than all other brands combined. Clunks, squeaks, and rattles must never be ignored, and you should have the truck inspected at least yearly.
Ball joints are not a big deal and a lot less expensive than the alternative. That's sitting in a courtroom explaining to the jury why you ignored worn parts and caused a crash. That's less likely to happen with an Explorer than the Escort / Tempo "killer" cars, but a good lawyer or insurance investigator will still convince a jury you were partly at fault for the crash when the other guy ran the red light because you were less able to avoid it, and they will be right. Worn ball joints don't hold the wheel in proper alignment. That leads to reduced braking and handling. You and I know that may not have a huge negative affect, but it's the jury you have to worry about. Also, I'm the master at getting the last ounce of life out of my vehicles, (my daily driver is an '88 Grand Caravan with 401,000 miles), but I draw the line at suspension and brake parts. Those get checked often and replaced right away when they're needed.
Fords also have the worst tire wear of any company. Besides the poor suspension designs, they leave off some of the adjustments so you're stuck with whatever you have which is usually not the best it can be. If your truck has twin I-beam suspension that is a strong suspension system but it is by far the worst design ever developed when it comes to tire wear. You must keep the ride height correct and the wheels in alignment to reduce that wear. The money you think you're saving on ball joints will result in the tire tread scrubbing off and you'll be buying tires sooner than necessary.
Another option to consider is looking for a nearby community college with an Automotive program. We were always looking for live work but we only worked on what we were currently teaching. We would do ball joints in the Suspension and Alignment class that we taught only once a year. The students were very conscientious and well-supervised but it could take a week to get the truck back. The trade-off is you'll save most of the labor cost and some of the parts cost.
April, 24, 2013 AT 10:22 AM
Thanks Caradiodoc for your thoughtful opinion. We got a couple of more quotes, and decided to go ahead with the repair. It is very painful to swallow, as we know we'll be getting rid of the car in December when we move out of the country, but it is worth it to know that it truly needs doing.