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At 318K Miles (2007 4CYL SE) my lower ball joint (factory original) started squeaking when driving over bumps and there was visible play in the joint. I replaced the ball joint and learned a lot along the way. In the hope that it might save others from some hassle, here's what I learned:

Complete step-by-step write-up, Lower Ball Joint Replacement (PDF):

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B023spaMkQOlR2g3SjQxMkxzSTg/view?usp=sharing

A few items of note:

1. On my vehicle the failing ball joint made a slight squeaking noise when going over bumps. The video clip below depicts the sound it made which could be readily reproduced by pushing down on the hood of the car:


2. With the car jacked up off the ground, there was NO noticeably play in the wheel (when grabbing it and shaking it at any position or when using a lever to push up under the wheel). This is due to the fact that when the car is jacked up, the strut expands and puts downward pressure on the ball joint making it very difficult to see any play in the joint. A better way to check the ball joint on this vehicle is to support the vehicle's weight by the lower control arm and then check for play in the ball joint (by prying between the knuckle and lower control arm, or prying up on the knuckle). Using this recommended method, the play in my failing ball joint was readily apparent. Here is a video clip to demonstrate:


Zoomed-in video clip which shows the play in the joint better:


3. The commonly available (for purchase and borrow from many automotive stores) Honda Lower Ball Joint Tool Set (PowerBuilt Kit 76, Model 641321) does NOT work with this vehicle (nor, to be fair, is it advertised to support this model year). There are two reasons: (a) the ball joint base does not fit into the receiver cup (the cup is too small in diameter) and (b) the shank of the ball joint does not fit into the pushing adapter (the shank of the ball joint is too large).

4. The "OTC 6734 Ball Joint Adapter Update" kit DOES work on this vehicle but unfortunately does not appear as commonly available (for borrowing) at this time and is not cheap to purchase (~$80).

5. It can be very difficult to remove the ABS sensor from the knuckle -- it is far easier to simply disconnect the ABS sensor at its connector (under the hood) and leave the ABS sensor in the knuckle.

6. The long thin split (cotter) pin in the tie rod end may be impossible to remove and might need to be drilled out (if you live in "rusty" areas).

7. Getting the old ball joint out can be a little tough. I found that using a little heat (plumber's MAP gas torch) around the outside of the knuckle ring holding the ball joint made the task much easier.

8. On this vehicle, there is NO snap ring (C-Clip, retaining ring) holding the ball joint in, at least for the OEM ball joint and OEM replacement (however, I believe some after market ball joints for this vehicle might have a snap ring).

Hope you find this information useful,
John
 

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Superbly written and video clips very well done, great job!!

I am also curious if your wheel bearings are showing any signs of wear or looseness at this mileage? This would have been an opportunity to replace them if needed.

My 1996 Integra needed both front wheel bearings replaced at about 200K miles, I could physically move the wheels in and out by 1/16", I had a shop do the work since the bearings required a good size press for removal and replacement, I just don't have all that gear.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the comments, and good question. I don't feel any play in the wheels and there is no audible noise, so I haven't detected any problem with the wheel bearings yet. I contemplated changing them anyway but decided against it in the end (they are about $70 or so each for the OEM bearings, so I figured I would just wait until they started to fail). I am pretty impressed that they have lasted 318K miles though!
 

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Very nice write up!

I do have some questions. Did you have to remove the dust boot from the new ball joint when you installed it? I've had to do this before on my old civic, but I wasn't using an OEM joint either.

Also, could you have just put the knuckle in your hydraulic press to press out/in the ball joints?

And just FYI, you can get the OEM wheel bearings (NSK brand) on ebay for like $40 a piece.
 

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Hi Chris, Good questions!

No, I did not remove the boot and it seemed to fit through just fine. I did wonder about that myself though. I coated the bore with some oil first thinking it might help the boot slide through unscathed.

Thanks for the info about the NSK bearings.

I did try using the Harbor Freight shop press, but I have to admit a failure on that one. The challenge is that the knuckle is a very awkward shape to fit on the press with all of its appendages (the tie rod connector and top arm). To make matters worse the top arm (that goes to the upper ball joint) bends back in the direction where the support needs to be. So I think you need to make some kind of cantilevered support platform that supports the back of the ball joint but doesn't get in the way of the knuckle's top arm while at the same time keeping the dust shield/rotor high enough so they clear the "deck" below. I don't think it is possible to make a "bridge" support in the other direction because the tie rod connector gets in the way...

The picture below shows what I came up with (just some sawed off pieces of 3" X 1/4" thick square tube steel and some plate steel). It came close to working but I bent the 3/8" steel plate before the ball joint came out (!). At that point I didn't have time to monkey with it anymore and just resorted to using the C-Frame press (which I had already used successfully on the other side). However, I think that this could be made to work though with some more effort -- not sure if it is worth the hassle though! It is also kind of a pain trying to balance the not-so-light knuckle on the press too... I guess one advantage of the press (if it did work) is that it seems more forgiving of homemade adapters/receivers (they don't have to be the right height to fit inside the C-Frame). So it might be possible to use some pipes/sockets rather than buying the OTC adapter kit...

Maybe someone else has a better idea on how to do this though.

 

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I would attempt to just support the knuckle at the top ball joint connector and give that a quick try. But it's no big deal since I think I can rent that tool kit from auto zone anyway.

On that same type of knuckle with another car, I have successfully beat the ball joint out with a big hammer. Still has to be pressed back in though.
 

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I saw the video where ericthecarguy used an air hammer to knock the old ball joint out, and the new one in. I wonder if it's as easy as he made it look? I guess I'll find out when the time comes.
 

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Those of us who don't mind getting our hands dirty now and then owe you a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that goes into posting these write ups; especially one with such detail and clarity. I've got a similar job in my near future (upper ball joint) and wasn't sure whether to go OE from Honda or aftermarket. Which way did you go?
 

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and wasn't sure whether to go OE from Honda or aftermarket. Which way did you go?
I am sure there are a lot of different reasonable opinions on that subject. Personally, I always use OEM replacements. I have been impressed by how well the original parts have lasted (upper ball joint was replaced at 243K, and lower ball joint at 319K) and therefore have high confidence that the OEM replacements will perform just as well. However, I am sure that there are many cases where aftermarket replacements are cheaper and offer very good performance as well (sometimes maybe even better). In my case, I used OEM replacements for both the upper ball joint (control arm) and lower ball joints.
 

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I saw the video where ericthecarguy used an air hammer to knock the old ball joint out, and the new one in. I wonder if it's as easy as he made it look? I guess I'll find out when the time comes.
I am sure there are a lot of different reasonable opinions on that subject. Personally, I always use OEM replacements. I have been impressed by how well the original parts have lasted (upper ball joint was replaced at 243K, and lower ball joint at 319K) and therefore have high confidence that the OEM replacements will perform just as well. However, I am sure that there are many cases where aftermarket replacements are cheaper and offer very good performance as well (sometimes maybe even better). In my case, I used OEM replacements for both the upper ball joint (control arm) and lower ball joints.
I agree, I like OEM more than not unless it's something like brake pads. Sometimes the exact part can be found cheaper from another supplier, wheel bearings and AC compressors being great examples. If you look at the part, or the parts breakdown on majestic honda's site, it sometimes will indicate who the manufacturer is so you can look elsewhere and save money. I ordered a brand new OEM AC compressor from rockauto and it was over $200 less than the same compressor would have been from Honda OEM. And yes, I got a new compressor.
 

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marking this spot
 

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If any of these OEM ball joints were fitted with grease nipples, and greased once in a while, then replacement would be rare. I believe.

I don't particularly like doing it, but I have a needle on my grease gun and go right through the rubber and leave about two shots of grease in the joint. I do this about every 2 or 3 years. The rubber boot seems semi self healing like those old medical rubber septums back when syringes were not preloaded.

Haven't lost a joint in decades.
 

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Built in obsolescence?
It's cheaper to not put the zerks in, it makes the maintenance picture look better to buyers, and most ball joints last the life of the car for people.

With this in mind, why would honda want to put in the zerks?
 

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It's cheaper to not put the zerks in, it makes the maintenance picture look better to buyers, and most ball joints last the life of the car for people.

With this in mind, why would honda want to put in the zerks?
On your first point, it might be a bit cheaper for the manufacturer to omit the zerk fittings but that cost is more than offset when the consumer has to replace a ball joint a lot sooner than one that was serviceable. Penny wise pound foolish.

On your second point, maintenance wise I'm more concerned as to what works better than looks better.

And finally as far as ball joint lasting the life of the car; my '07 has play in the upper ball joint with just 86k miles on the clock.
 

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If you've worked on the front suspension yourself, you know it is not possible to put a zerk fitting on top of the ball joint with Honda's design, it is completely blocked by the cv-joint. If the ball joint is flipped upside down, then YES.

Moog makes aftermarket front upper ball joint as well as tie rod ends with zerk fittings, because they are accessible.
 

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On your first point, it might be a bit cheaper for the manufacturer to omit the zerk fittings but that cost is more than offset when the consumer has to replace a ball joint a lot sooner than one that was serviceable. Penny wise pound foolish.

On your second point, maintenance wise I'm more concerned as to what works better than looks better.

And finally as far as ball joint lasting the life of the car; my '07 has play in the upper ball joint with just 86k miles on the clock.
Car companies are mainly worried about cost of ownership, TCO, in the first 5 years. If you reduce the service need the TCO goes down. Honda is trying to make a profit and sell new cars. They don't car if it will cost you a bit more to maintain you ~10year old car they would much rather sell you a new one. As long as the car is built well enough to keep there reputation they will try to cut cost where they can.
 

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Car companies are mainly worried about cost of ownership, TCO, in the first 5 years. If you reduce the service need the TCO goes down. Honda is trying to make a profit and sell new cars. They don't car if it will cost you a bit more to maintain you ~10year old car they would much rather sell you a new one. As long as the car is built well enough to keep there reputation they will try to cut cost where they can.
Yeah I get that. Car companies will build cars with an eye to the bottom line and just with the required quality to get you through the warranty period. But wasn't it the Japanese back in the day who made their inroads (and had the domestics on the ropes) by building cars that were better than they had to be, ie double wishbones on an affordable family car.
 

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EXCELLENT EXCELLENT write - up OP.

Yes, it seems like OTC 6734 is the holy grail of 7th gen lower ball joints. I searched far and wide to see if a competitor made a honda adapters and OTC was the only brand I could find. You would think that with this many models out there, someone else would market the adapters for the lbjs. I ended up spending $70 for my set on eBay.
 

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I don't particularly like doing it, but I have a needle on my grease gun and go right through the rubber and leave about two shots of grease in the joint. I do this about every 2 or 3 years. The rubber boot seems semi self healing like those old medical rubber septums back when syringes were not preloaded..
I do this too but I reseal it. I wipe the injection spot with brake cleaner and apply a dab of RTV. Couldn't pull it off if I tried, once it dries.

On the subject of Zerk fittings. I can't think of any car manuf, that uses them anymore. Sealed joints simply add to the reliability of the car, as most owners will not apply grease. Joints with zerks will fail relatively quickly, if not greased.
 
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