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Jerad K.
Jerad K., ASE Certified Technician
Category: Car
Satisfied Customers: 5
Experience:  Jerad is an ASE Master Certified Technician, L1 Advanced Level Specialist, and also a Certified Service Consultant.
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TL Type S (A-spec): About 1.5 years ago, after purchasing my

Customer Question

About 1.5 years ago, after purchasing my 2003TL type S I replaced the upper ball joint and wheel bearing on the left side. (I also replaced the lower ball joints on both sides in the front).

Now, a couple of days ago I started to hear a light rubbing/vibration sound whenever I turned the wheel slightly. It seems worse when I turn the left but happens also when I turn to the right.

I brought the car to Canadian Tire. They took a look and told me that my bearing was starting to go. They also said that there was some movement in the upper ball joint and suggested replacing the control arm and ball joint.

I took a look at the car with the mechanic. He really didn't seem too sure about his diagnosis. He couldn't really show me the signs that he said he could sense when he turned the wheel. Also, the he couldn't really show me the movement in the upper ball joint. Could be that he's right but I'm mentioning it in case this helps... he also said that it's not too serious yet but that I should really think of changing at least the bearing soon.

My problem of course is I've already changed both of these parts! I did the work myself so there is no one I can go to to get any warranty.

It's possible I messed something up while doing the work. However, the control arm was really quite straight forward. As for the bearing, I took the knuckle in and had it pressed in at a shop. So if I did mess up something, maybe it was while removing other components... not sure...

So I'm looking for some general advice. My main worry is that there is ANOTHER component that may be the real culprit that perhaps is causing the bearing and upper ball joint to fail prematurely... alternatively, I'd like to know what possibly could have gone wrong during the repair that could have caused this to come back so quickly...

Any help is much appreciated. Thanks!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Car
Expert:  Jerad K. replied 1 year ago.
I would be happy to answer your questions for you. The only things that I can think of for premature bearing failure are the torque of the axle nut and hitting something with the tire that would damage the bearing. Some times it is hard to determine which bearing it actually making the noise. The best way is to run the vehicle on the hoist and listen with a mechanics stethoscope. Be careful for moving parts if you try this. I have found that some of the less expensive bearings out there just don't last that long. I would purchase a premium one to make sure I wouldn't have to do it twice. As for the ball joint, is it greasable? If there is a small amount of play in it, routine greasing will take care of it. You will see a good eighth of an inch or so play in it if it is truly loose. Let me know if you have any other questions or need torque specifications on the bearing or anything. Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi,


 


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?


 


Thanks!

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

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???


 


Thanks....

Expert:  Jerad K. replied 1 year ago.

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.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

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 again!

Expert:  Jerad K. replied 1 year ago.
If the alignment is bad enough to wear suspension components, I think you would have a pulling issue and tires would wear uneven withing hundreds of miles. It can't hurt to at least have it checked when you are done.
Jerad K., ASE Certified Technician
Category: Car
Satisfied Customers: 5
Experience: Jerad is an ASE Master Certified Technician, L1 Advanced Level Specialist, and also a Certified Service Consultant.
Jerad K. and 11 other Car Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for all the info!

Expert:  Jerad K. replied 1 year ago.

No problem. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

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