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Ball joint-suspension change out. 2002 T Bird.

Discussion in '2002 - 2005 Ford Thunderbird' started by edward301, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. Have started changing out all four suspension components. Started with the
    right front. Changed out top control arm, sway bar link, and steering knuckle.
    The ball joint boots were completely gone. The lower control arm and ball joint
    were in great shape, the ball joint boot was perfect.

    It was not half as hard as I thought it would be, the only difficult part was removing the
    top two bolts for the upper control arm, because the engine compartment is so tight, and
    filled with wiring brackets, and cooling fan fluid bottle. I did have to remove the shock
    strut to get the bolts out for the upper control arm, at least I now know if I have to change
    the strut later, it will be easy. Took almost two hours, the other three corners should go
    faster now that I kind of know what to do.

    Here are some photos. Let you know how the others go. Tbird1.JPG Tbird2.JPG Tbird3.JPG Tbird4.JPG
  2. Bird52

    Bird52 Well-Known Member Lifetime Donor

    glad to see posts like this.
    its very helpful to all of us owners to see what we are in store for.
    maybe we should buy all these parts in quantity since every bird seems to need them.LOL
  3. where did you get replacements from?
    John Hayman likes this.
  4. Thanks, got to replace my upper control arms as the boots have perished, thought
    I had to remove the strut, what a terrible design idea.
    Elsie and John Hayman like this.
  5. Bought all my suspension components on ebay, many sell the parts there, bought many of them
    that came in bundled kits, cheaper that way.
    John Hayman likes this.
  6. Just finished the right rear suspension. Took longer about 2.5 hours but this time I replaced
    the upper control arm, lower control arm, sway bar link, and rear steering alignment link.
    Did not have to remove the spring strut.

    As you can see in the first picture the ball joint boots were broken in little pieces. It looks like
    any boots that were the somewhat clear tan in color would not last.

    Not bad job, just many nuts and bolts to remove since replacing both control arms. The swivel
    bushings some were bad, some were not. Some of the nuts and bolts are hard to reach with a
    wrench. Can not use a power nut driver on the rear at all.

    I believe these swivel bushings are what give the squeaking knocking noise in the rear end.
    Some of them were detoriating just like the ball joint boots.

    Since my T Bird only has 12,220 miles, age got the bushings, even though it is always garaged.

    The first picture shows how bad the ball joint boots were.

    Second photo I have replaced everything except the steering alignment link was not replaced
    yet in the photo. T bird rear.JPG T bird rear done.JPG
    bobsmethers, tommyc, Elsie and 3 others like this.
  7. I just had Ford do my complete rear end a few months ago.. It's interesting that it seems like all of the rubber on all t-birds 2oo2 vintage are deteriorating 15 and 16 years old.. I figured I would wait till spring to do it.. When I brought in in last fall for a coolent and tranny flush and fill and was just the lower control are rubber.. Then this spring when I took it in for the lowers it was all the rear rubber bushing.. I would be glad to fly to your house/garage to help.. Maybe I would learn how to do it my self.. I'll also bring the beer.. :)
    CadillacPete, Elsie and John Hayman like this.
  8. Edward, keep up the good work and I enjoyed your pictures. I gotta change out my rear end sometime too. Last year I changed the front end myself, now the rear needs same treatment. I don't know if I can or want to do the work myself this time.

    I still can't believe how many Tbirds need whole new suspensions. My Bird was hardly ever driven in the rain, never in the snow, never on a rock road, keep in a garage and still needed ball joints, control arms, sway bars, struts. I've got a 94 F250 sitting outside with a couple of hundred thousand miles, that was used to pull trailers, push a show plow in winter, carry 4500lbs of rock regularly and I've never did a dam thing to it, and yet baby the Tbird to death and it needs constant repair and attention. WTF???
    Gwiz16, tommyc and John Hayman like this.
  9. Just completed the left front suspension, went well but getting to the top control arm rear
    bolt and nut was very difficult. The brake booster and master cylinder are in the way, and
    it takes a small wrench, and small movements of the wrench to get the nut off. Installing
    nut much easier, but still very tight area.

    RF bird control arm.JPG RF bird sway.JPG RF bird steering.JPG
    Gus Gutz, bobsmethers and John Hayman like this.
  10. Steve, would you be comfortable sharing what the dealer set you back to do the job? I can do this type of work, but since I work about 8 days a week my challenge is finding the time. I haven't used a dealer for anything yet, but I'm considering the Lincoln dealer instead of Ford . . . I'm reluctant to use a local shop for something like this.
    CadillacPete and John Hayman like this.
  11. Finished, each time job got easier, I kind of know what I am doing now that I am done.
    The left rear was the last wheel. Changed upper control arm, lower control arm, sway bar
    link, and rear steering link. As you can see in two close up photos the rubber boots were
    gone, bad materials. Other than the ball joint boots falling apart, I also noticed that the
    swivel bushings also fell apart. The fixed bushings were ok. Ford must have had an issue
    with one of their suppliers. The last phot is of my T Bird back on all fours. Going to get a
    four wheel alignment, and new tires. In a few weeks I will try and find out why my tilt
    wheel only goes up and down, and out, but not in. Something amiss. Tb rear steer.JPG Tb rear steering.JPG Tb rear susp.JPG Tb rear suspension.JPG T bird finished.JPG
  12. Tommyc, a few years ago I took my Tbird in the local Ford dealer for "The Works" oil change - $39 with a $10 off coupon for a final price of $29. Cheaper than I can do it at home. Anyway - that is when they told me I needed a whole new front end - and left it on rack so I could see where all the bushing were dry rotted, etc.. Anyway those crazy sobs wanted $5400 back then to do JUST the front end.
    CadillacPete and John Hayman like this.
  13. That is a crazy price, I figured they would do all four wheels for that price.

    It is not that hard of a job, I am by no means a mechanic, I have not worked on a car in
    40 plus years, the most I have ever done is change a bumper.

    Any decent mechanic shop could do this.
    John Hayman and Elsie like this.
  14. Just got four new tires, and a four wheel alignment. Driving home car is squeak free
    and not any noises. Has not been this good since new. As soon as our 104 degree
    days go away, will be time for top down driving. T Bird.JPG
  15. Tbirdr

    Tbirdr Active Member Lifetime Donor

    Edward301, how did the other corners go? if you have more photos can you post. How many miles are on your car?
    Great article,thanks
    John Hayman likes this.
  16. Tbirdr

    Tbirdr Active Member Lifetime Donor

    The parts that you replaced, are they ford parts? Do the replacement parts have casting markings similar to the originals?
    Great article, gives me incentive to do my car
    John Hayman likes this.
  17. Tbirdr

    Tbirdr Active Member Lifetime Donor

    I mentioned a couple post back if you had finished the other corners, sorry about that, I did see the work you performed, thanks
    John Hayman likes this.
  18. I have done all four corners, the new suspension parts are not ford parts, however the
    parts look identical, and the car drives like new. I did get new tires, the old ones
    were 16 years old and slightly out of round. I did get a four wheel alignment, and they
    gave me the alignment sheet, and all the numbers were spot on, so the new parts worked

    My 2002 Bird has 12, 254 miles, always garaged, I bought new from the dealer.

    The new suspension parts had the same casting marks as the old parts, you could not
    tell them apart. I did not go with the cheapest parts, the ball joint boots were thick and
    had bands or clamps on the ends to keep the boots from coming loose.

    All my photos above are from all four corners.

    Took nine hours total, and was not hard. Only cut my hand one small time.
    John Hayman, Tbirdr and Pacific-Coast like this.
  19. Tbirdr

    Tbirdr Active Member Lifetime Donor

    That is awesome that you still have YOUR car since new! I will be taking on the same job soon. You can call me lazy,but, do you have a list of parts you purchased and from what supplier. My car has 34,500 miles. Age of original suspension may have a lot to do with its demise, so , I’m sure my car will need more parts I’m also glad that you are so please with the suspension quality.

    For me, I think this will be a least 5 bandages, anyway, thanks for the encouragement!
    John Hayman likes this.
  20. Here are photos of the parts I bought on ebay. Was right around $700 for everything including shipping.

    Attached Files:

    tommyc and Tbirdr like this.

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