Thanks for your reply. Couple of follow-up questions...
For the bearing: I remember when I changed it the first time that the axle nut was loose once I got there. When I replaced the bearing, quite sure I brought it in to have it properly torqued at a nearby garage. So just wondering if it's come loose again. I'll check it out but in the meantime, could it be that it's just the axle nut that causing the noise?
Also, have you really seen bearings that start to fail after a year and a half? I think the one I got was the "medium" quality one... but could have also been the cheap one... not 100% sure.
Now for the ball joint, you'll have to forgive my ignorance. Can you explain the basics of how a ball joint gets loose? I don't think it's the greasable type (I think I would see some kind of nipple on the rubber part right?) and don't seem to have any leaks. So what is it that has the play? What causes it? Doesn't some of the grease have to come out at some point? How bad is it that it's loose? At what point is it obvious that I really need to change this part? i.e. it LOOKS ok to me and really don't want to change it again since it's also the control arm and the assembly goes for like 130$....
Finally, so there is no relation you can think of between these two parts failing together again?
Just to follow up on my last post... I took a look at it myself today and can definitely notice some movement at the upper ball joint.
Also, I took the wheel off, put the lugnuts back on to hold the rotor and then pushing the rotor back and forth at the top and bottom, I get some movement and can hear metal on metal "bumping" each other. Axle nut is nice and tight though.
If I keep pushing, after the first back-and-forth, that's when the ball joint starts to move.
All the movements are slight but still noticeable.
Tried all this on the other side (right) and nothing moves or gives at all... so does look like I have the issues I thought... question I still have though is why did this come back???
I think I will start off with the bearing and go from there. I have seen multiple bearings fail within the first six months. It may be a quality issue or driving habits. People that park on the curb and use their right front tire to bounce off of it all of the time seem to have bearing problems. The only correlation I see between your two problems it some sort of impact. Alignment could be an issue but I would think it would wear tires like crazy instead of suspension parts. Most models recommend replacing the axle nut every time you take it off, it has sort of a plastic ring on it that is a one time use locking mechanism. As for testing ball joint and bearing, its a little harder to do by yourself, but leaving the wheel on will give you more leverage and you may notice more play. I always test such components with the wheel on and support under the lower control arm.
As for the ball joint, think of it as your fist and arm. The ball of your fist would be encased in a polyurethane or some sort of plastic, and then the metal goes around the plastic. Your arm would be the part of the ball joint with the threads. Grease is used to provide a lubrication between your fist, the ball, and the plastic. Even non-greasable joints and greased from the factory, and is the boot is in good condition, they should not lose any grease. That being said, any lubricant will lose its power sooner or later. Play in your ball joint occurs when the metal ball starts to wear into the plastic, creating more clearance between the two. Great idea to compare side to side. It requires special tools to actually measure the ball joint movement and I think its sort of a waste of time. If its loose enough to see and feel, its loose. If there is a grease zerk, it is usually on top of everything any pointing up, small metal nipple sort of thing. Most new vehicles do not have a zerk on them, and some times it is hard or impossible to find after market parts with them. Some high quality parts have lifetime warranties. I know this is something you don't want to do again, but this might entice you to buy the high quality ones.
I would probably replace the bearing for now, I know the noise can get annoying driving down the highway. The only ball joints I have ever seen break are the ones we have been recommending for years and the customer never wanted to do. I would give the ball joint until your next oil change, check it again and go from there.
Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks.
Great reply and explanation, thanks a lot!
I have just one more thing if you don't mind...
Still trying to figure out why this came back again. I hear what you're saying about the impact or parking using the curb. While this is a good possible explanation I really can't say it applies in my case.
So my last question is about the alignment. You mention this as a possible cause. After doing the replacement last time, I have to admit that I didn't get it aligned. I had measured the position of all the components and marked them to be sure I got the new ones in the same place and hoped that was enough. I thought as you say that I would see wear on the tires if there was a problem. Thing is I've changed the front summer tires once and also put winter tires on seasonally. So maybe I just haven't seen the wear yet???
How important is it to do the alignment after a job like this? What are the types of problems you would expect to see if driving with a bad alignment.
Do you think maybe there was already a bad alignment when I bought the car and replaced those parts that caused it the first time? Then having replaced everything as it was, perhaps I put it back to the bad alignment that caused the issue in the first place?
Thanks for all the info!
No problem. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.