Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Lower Ball Joint Failure - at low speed

`hopped into the car to visit the hardware store for an exhaust manifold stud for the jeep. Heading from home onto the 40mph road near the house, the car had an odd steering issue - it wouldn't straighten by itself. I had to turn it straight. That wasn't normal. The rest of the way (3 miles @ max 40MPH) steering was reasonable.

Shopping complete, I backed out of the parking spot and turned forward. Rolling in the parking lot (2mph perhaps?) the car felt like I hit a pot-hole - but didn't come out of the hole - and it stopped. A tap of the gas pedal - the engine increased but the car didn't budge (the left side axle had pulled out of the transmission). Shut it off and see this.

Mixed emotions of DRAT as the car will need a tow truck (this is the only time this car didn't get me home) and THANK HEAVEN'S that this was at slow speed in a parking lot and not out on the highway - in a curve - on wet roads. Carolina's St. Christoper medal (patron saint of travelers) is still riding with me on the dash board.

Tow truck on the way I called a client and he was willing to pick me up - whenever, whereever. Wholly appreciated. I debated having the car towed to my place but the logistics of getting it from the street to the garage changed my mind. The car needs a set of tires and the tire place does service work too - two items at once.

So why did this happen?  Did a 318K mile 27 year old part fail? That would seem logical, right. Nope. I purchased these lower ball joints (along with four strut assemblies) at the counter of the local Napa store on July 31, 2017. I installed them in Aug 2017. The car had 270K on it at install. The car today has 318K. The duration being 48K miles and 2 years 10 months. Reviewing Napa's web site tonight I'm seeing several lower front ball joints and the ones sold to me were the bottom of the price barrel - and perhaps quality too. Others (and you know who you are) have commented on Napa quality making a change. Lesson learned. Fortunately it wasn't catastrophic. Thanks be to God.

The shiney ball is one half of the lower ball (and socket) joint. The other half is on the wheel assembly.

Driver's side drive shaft pulled out of the transmission.

The wheel assembly portion (ball and socket assembly - this is the socket side). In the operation of the ball and socket joint, the ball is continually trying to be pulled out of the socket (vs. being always pushed into the socket). When it fails, things separate.

The upper control arm and it's ball joint - also recently replaced - from a different supplier.

all of a three foot skid mark

The tow truck gal was great at her job!

I was able to get away with no body damage in the initial issue and wondered if there might be some damage when pulling the car onto the flatbed - nope - "I have a big block of wood to take care of the task".

While waiting, I had already jacked the car up a bit. She was able to place the block of wood under the suspension. The car would sit nicely on the wood while being pulled onto the tow truck.

Before the car and I parted ways, I grabbed the exhaust stud I purchased. I'll get the Jeep's exhaust buttoned up and it'll be my daily driver until the honda is on its feet.

For those mulling the thought - yes, both lower ball joints will be replaced (driver's side and passenger's side). Likely both front brake hoses too. While the driver's side hose isn't leaking it was pulled more than I feel comfortable.