Alright, so we’ve all been there. You go under your car to check some things out, and as you’re crawling out from there, you notice something nasty, and it’s not the gross chick that’s been stalking you around town — you notice a torn boot on one of your ball joints. Now, this can be on a tie rod, tension rod, or whatever. This one was on my front lower control arms on the S14.
Alright then, time for the tip of the day, week, month, whatever. I’m going to tell you how you can save some money fixing that nasty leaking ball joint. So first…
After giving the finger to your car for doing you wrong and forcing you to get dirty on a weeknight, you’re going to start by removing all the parts needed to access the broken ball joint. In my case, I had to remove the brake caliper and the bolts that hold my coilover to the knuckle.
After you get those things out of the way, you can remove the nut on top of the ball joint and finesse the knuckle off of it (using a hammer, yo). But be careful to NOT screw up the threads on the ball joint. I like to put a nut on top of it just to protect the threads from damage. You can hammer the knuckle actually, which gets the ball joint looser than your ex, nom’sayin?
By the time you get everything off, you’ll be left with the above picture — your ball joint on the control arm and a seriously jacked up dust boot with oil leaking everywhere. At this time, wiggle that mofo around. Wiggle it good. Try to see if there’s play in the bearing or not. If there’s NOT, then you’re in luck, and all you need to do is change that dust boot, pack some more grease in there, and BAM, DONE.
But if there IS some slack in there, then you’re screwed. Stop reading, and install a new ball joint, sucka! If you’re not a sucka, then keep reading, and I’ll show you how to save some money, yo.
Next, buy a brand new ball joint from your local auto parts store. Whoa whoa whoa, wait. The money-saving part comes soon, I swear to you, man. So, as I was saying — go and get a brand new ball joint from your local O’Reilly or Autozone or whatever it may be. Before you leave the store, don’t forget to buy some grease for the ball joint.
Put that new grease on the cleaned-up ball joint that’s still on the control arm. While you’re at it, take a look at this sweet Moog ball joint that I bought for about $26. That ain’t bad…not bad at all.
Now, time for the magic. Take that fresh dust boot off of your brand new ball joint, and put it onto your old ball joint. Oh wut? You’d rather just put a fresh new ball joint in all at once? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and your ball joint isn’t broken. The boot is just torn. So change the boot, and keep the joint.
What you’ve got now is a working ball joint on your car with a new dust boot and new grease. On the side, you’ve got your old dust boot, which you can throw into the dumpster. You’ve also got a brand new ball joint that’s ready to be used later on. But wait, you can’t use it without the dust boot! OH NOOO! So, what you do now is go to Energy Suspension and buy a brand new dust boot from them, based on the measurements of your ball joint. It should only cost like $3 or $4. Cheap, right?
In the end, you’d have spent a total of about $30 to end up with a non-leaking ball joint on your car plus a SPARE brand new ball joint with a sweet aftermarket urethane dust boot. Most people will just mindlessly change the whole ball joint, even though the only thing broken is the dust boot. But not you, know why? Because you’re smarter than that.
And you’re also broke. Like me. So saving money is a full-time job.