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Ball joint replacement on 2000 Ford Taurus

I have a 2000 and...
I have a 2000 and 2002 Taurus. I am told that they both need lower ball joint replacement. I have access to a lift. It "looks" easy, but I can not figure out why the labor quoted is $120 each. Why so high? What tools are needed? How is this done? Thanks.
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Answered in 2 hours by:
1/19/2008
Brad
Brad, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 2,366
Experience: ASE Certified Master Technician
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HelloCustomer and welcome to JustAnswer.com!

The ball joints in these are pressed into the steering knuckle assembly. To replace it you must unbolt the strut from the knuckle, unbolt the brake caliper and remove it, and remove the brake rotor. You must also separate the ball joint stud, and remove the knuckle from the drive axle. You'll also need to disconnect the ABS wiring (if equipped) and separate the tie rod end from the knuckle as well.

At this point you have to use a ball joint press tool with a special adapter to press the ball joint out of the knuckle, and to press the new one in, and then reassemble the assembly. The angle of the ball joint in the knuckle makes it nearly impossible to use a standard hydraulic press for this.

The knuckle is aluminum, and as a result you cannot hammer the ball joint out and in, as this poses a huge risk of breaking the steering knuckle assembly. It's actually a bit more difficult than it looks!

The labor guide time for this repair is 1.5 hours per side, so at a "average" labor rate of $80/hour, this adds up to $120 per side. This sounds like a fair estimate, but if you are good with tools you could save a bit of money.

You'll need to buy or rent a ball joint press:

graphic

And you'll need the special Taurus adapters for this tool:

graphic

Good luck!
Brad
Brad, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Ford
Satisfied Customers: 2,366
Experience: ASE Certified Master Technician
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Customer reply replied 9 years ago
Brad, OK I think I get it... it is a lot more work. A couple clarifications: 1. So, if I get what you are saying the steering knuckle needs to come off and is pressed in/out on a bench... right? Do you know if a NAPA or Autozone do this for a fee? 2. When you say remove the knuckle from the drive axle, what does this entail? The other items I know how to do, but not sure about this. 3. Your opinion... if I am going to do all this work, would it make sense to replace the outer tie rods at the same time? (One car is >100k miles, the other 80k miles.) 4. Similarly, I assume this is a good time to do a brake job as well, right? Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX
After the brake caliper, bracket, and rotor is removed, you get the tie rod end separated from the knuckle, then you have to get the axle loose. Next loosen, but don't remove the pinch nut for the strut.

The axle isn't a huge deal. What you do is remove the axle nut from the hub, then reinstall the nut just far enough so that the nut is flush with the axle stub edge... then smack it with a hammer. This will usually break the axle loose in its splines and allow it to slide out freely. The reason you reinstall the nut is so you don't "mushroom" the end of the axle with the hammer, which could make it impossible to reinstall the nut.

Then once you get the knuckle loose from the lower control arm, you can swing it out far enough to slide the axle out of the knuckle. At this time you can remove the strut pinch bolt and tap the knuckle down off of the strut.

As far as the press work, you'll have to call around to different parts stores. Most will want to charge you for the service, but some might do it for free, if you purchase the ball joint from them (it really helps if you're a regular customer and they recognize you as such). Each store has their own policies.. even one NAPA store might handle it completely from another, so you'll just have to check around.

It's actually possible to replace the ball joint without removing the entire knuckle, if you have the above tools... I've done so many that I can leave the strut and brakes attached, and swing the axle out of the assembly and that gives me just enough clearance to get the ball joint tools up in there... but the first time I tried this it actually took me a lot longer than if I had just removed the entire knuckle! Each time it gets a bit faster and now I can do them in much less than half the labor time... but that's only because I've done hundreds of these.

You'll need sockets/wrenches for these sizes:

30mm or 32mm socket for the axle nut (I've seen both sizes installed on the taurus).
12mm or 13mm for the caliper bolts.
15mm for the caliper bracket bolts.
17mm or 18mm for the tie rod end nut and strut pinch bolt.
Side-cutters for the cotter pins, and rotors hold down clips (if still equipped... if you have to remove these just throw them away, they are installed to hold the rotor on the hub at the factory, but aren't necessary after-the-fact)
And of course, a hammer.

As far as the ABS wire (if you have ABS) you'll need to remove it with the knuckle. Unplug the wire from behind the front bumber, and use a screwdriver to pop the plastic retainers from the top and sides of the frame, and remove the whole wire along with the knuckle assembly. Do not try to remove the sensor from the knuckle, as there's a 99% chance it will break in the process. Also make note as to how the wire is routed, so you can reinstall it the same way.

And lastly, here are the torque specs for the bolts:

graphic
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Customer reply replied 9 years ago
Brad, thanks for the help. Your answer was very helpful. I finished up the 2000 today and it worked out well to put some new brakes on there... I'll get to the 2002 in a few weeks. I find it amazing that you can do that in less than an hour, the benefit of pneumatic tools and experience I guess! The second one took about 90 minutes, about half the time of the first. Pretty impressive you can do that press fit on the car... but I did it without the Ford adapters, so it took a while to figure it out on the first one and it is a little tricky to get it right and press straight in there. Overall, definitely is "easy" once you have done it. The tip on the ABS wire was great. Next crazy project I need to do, I'll be looking for your advice. :) Thanks again.
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