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Ball Joint Replacement

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  • Ball Joint Replacement

    I am officially stuck.

    I managed to get the old ball joint out, with a lot of brute force and anger. Nothing was damaged in the process, other than the boot on the old ball joint. No biggy, it's loose and floppy anyways.
    The LCA slid up (or the rest of the suspension moved down) and now I am unable to move either into position to get the new ball joint located.

    Has anyone else had this issue? I searched youtube, but the only people that have videos skipped over the re installation.

    Should I disconnect the tie rod end and the sway bar link?


  • #2
    Just as an update -
    The car is now undriveable. The CV joint came out of the thing that holds the CV joint in, and I am like 90% sure the bearings are f**ked up now. When I dislodged the original ball joint, the entire suspension jerked about 3" out - away from the car. I believe this tore the CV boot from the thingy. I managed to get the joint back in place, but I don't know if there is anything to hold it in place. If it is salvageable, (I pray to the gods of cars and mechanics that it is) I may not be UPSC.

    I caved and called a friend of mine who is a mechanic. He offered to help me get everything back together so I can get it to a shop for inspection/repairs.

    I had considered completely removing the LCA, but it is under tension for some reason. It took about 200 pounds of force (my dad standing on a long board for leverage) to finagle the LCA under the knuckle. The issue then was that I could not get the entire assembly - ball joint, LCA, and knuckle - to line up without the CV and driveshaft moving back out of place. My mechanic friend said that disconnecting the strut from the knuckle may give us a little more wiggle room, and be able to mount everything properly.

    In short - don't take on a project unless you have a good working and technical knowledge of the system. I had the shop manual and the Haynes manual, and both of those lead me to believe that this project would be a relatively straight forward thing to do. Even the one YouTube tutorial that exists for contours was helpful, but it did not cover everything.

    I fear that in my attempt to save labor costs, I may have just tripled them :(

    PS - I say the car is undriveable because I know how sensitive the CV bearings are. One they are contaminated, they are done.


    • #3
      Welcome to Contour ownership. The front suspension on these cars is not easy to work on, and even those of us who do it frequently occasionally get our tit in the wringer. First time I replaced lower control arms on my SVT, I over-extended one of the inner CV joints and put a small tear in the boot. Eventually, you learn that it pays to take apart more crap than you planned-on so you don't break other stuff. Generally, an over-extended inner CV joint isn't damaged if it goes back together, and it often tears the boot, but the inner boot is the easy end to replace.

      Worst case inner CV joint over-extension scenario is if one of the inner rollers comes off the tri-pot, then it spills little needle bearings all over inside the joint, and you're really hosed then, but that's rare, as the grease tends to hold everything together.

      Before I put coil-overs on my SVT, I learned to take off the whole strut, spring, upper bearing and knuckle as an assembly, which means pushing the half-shaft stub out of the wheel hub. You need to have the tool to push out the half-shaft stub and some new half-shaft nuts on hand to put stuff back together,

      You didn't specify if your Contour has 2-bolt or 4-bolt A-arms, and it doesn't really matter now, but ball joint replacement is more easily accomplished with the A-arm off the car and on the workbench. Trust me, drilling out the factory ball joint rivets is a 5-minute operation on a drill press. The 2-bolt A-arms have very short inner bushing life, and most times it's better to replace the whole lower arm if it's 2-bolt.
      2019 Corvette Grand Sport, 1LT, just stupid-fast.
      1985 SVO Mustang (turbocharged track rat)
      1989 Taurus SHO (supercharged track rat)
      1999 SVT Contour (Sedanus-Grocerygetter-Rapidus)
      2008 Mercury Milan Premier (Comfy boat)


      • #4
        We actually got everything back together today. We took the strut out of the knuckle, and the tie rod end and stabilizer bar link off. Once the knuckle was free to move independent of the rest of the suspension, it was a quick process getting the pinch bolt back onto the ball joint to hold it on.
        It has a 4 bolt LCA, and we decided not to take it off as the ball joints had been replaced before, and we didn't want to fight the weight of the knuckle and spring whilst trying to get the LCA back in. I'm having the car inspected/repaired if needed soon to make sure the CV joint is okay. AFAIK the needle bearings are okay, but the clamp for the boot is long gone. It's been held on by nothing other than the force of the suspension.
        I've learned that Ford designed a really good suspension - only when it's on the car and everything in working order. Other than that, it's a really difficult design to work with, especially without a lift.

        Ill post again once the car is out of the shop. We aren't sure if we'll have it towed (insurance covers the towing, so no cost there) or risk driving 15 miles on a potentiallly damaged CV. Moving up and down the driveway didn't cause the CV to pop out, but I don't want that happening on a road at any speed.

        Edit: getting the strut back into the knuckle was hell. We couldn't move the knuckle out far enough without dislodging the CV, and the strut end was too long to fit over the top of the knuckle. Ford's design on that is a downfall IMO. GM has the slide through bolts that make it easier to remove/replace


        • #5
          Originally posted by dezenzerrick View Post
          Edit: getting the strut back into the knuckle was hell. We couldn't move the knuckle out far enough without dislodging the CV, and the strut end was too long to fit over the top of the knuckle. Ford's design on that is a downfall IMO.
          This is the main problem almost everyone runs into, there just isn't enough vertical room to lever the lower control arm down and pull everything apart, which is why I started removing the strut and knuckle as an assembly, it's more work and more steps, but I don't break stuff. The bushing stiffness in the 4-bolt lower arms doesn't help either, because you really have to lean on it with a long lever to keep the ball joint stud out of the knuckle and the outer CV boot when you're removing the upper assemblies. Keep the plastic ball joint boot covers, and use them during dis-assembly and assembly, they keep you from damaging the ball joint boot and the outer CV boot.

          I was an engineer for Ford for 10 years, I saw these cars, and others, being built at B&A plants. For most front drive cars, the front subframe, steering, engine, transaxle and all the front suspension pieces-parts are installed into the body as a complete unit from underneath. The body moves into place in a fixture, then the whole front subframe assembly comes up on an elevator, two line techs guide the front struts into into the strut towers. They run some fasteners into place and it's done, it takes less than 60 seconds. It makes for fast, easy and low-cost assembly, it just doesn't make for good serviceability. It was a great design for Ford, but not for the rest of us who like to wrench on our own cars.

          I know many a Ford service manager who tells of dealer service techs who would call in sick on the mornings when they knew they had a Contour or Mystique in their service bay, they hated them as well.
          2019 Corvette Grand Sport, 1LT, just stupid-fast.
          1985 SVO Mustang (turbocharged track rat)
          1989 Taurus SHO (supercharged track rat)
          1999 SVT Contour (Sedanus-Grocerygetter-Rapidus)
          2008 Mercury Milan Premier (Comfy boat)


          • #6
            I'm glad I'm not the only one experiencing this.

            And you're definitely right about the stiffness in the LCA bushings. To even get the thing beneath the knuckle the first time we had a 12' 2x3 (it's a kind of wheel stop for in the garage) lodged under the frame behind the fender and over the LCA. It took maybe 200 pounds of Chinashop bull to get the control arm low enough.

            I'm an engineer in a facility that actually casts knuckles and control arms for Ford, GM, Chrysler and Mercedes and I can say that Ford still uses a similar design to this day. When it comes to assembly, it's perfect. Like you said, it's put on in one piece, easy squeezy lemon peasey.

            CD4.2/4.3 and S550 all use the strut-into-knuckle design.


            • #7
              I'm resurrecting this thread rather than make a new one as it is close to my question, which is:

              What brand of 2-bolt LCAs are giving good service these days? My original Ford units lasted to about 130k mi, I replaced with BAT units which had cheapy plastic bearing liner ball joints and lasted about 40k mi. I then tried Mevotech Supreme which has greasable (and allegedly metal lined) ball joints, but the larger inner rubber bushing on one side appears torn after only 10k mi. Not impressive and as above this is not a fun job. I have some Moog bushings that I may try to press into the Mevotech arms but not sure how easy that will be. I do have a 12T press.

              I also wonder whether overflexing the bushings on installation (to insert ball joint into knuckle) maybe damaged them, they don't have to flex that far in service. Maybe G Morrell's "remove as an assembly" idea is best after all!

              Any thoughts?
              Al Seim
              2000SVT Contour