Ball joint-suspension change out. 2002 T Bird.

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Here are photos of the parts I bought on ebay. Was right around $700 for everything including shipping.
Thank you, you made short work of researching for me. I think my car is a clone of yours, other than mileage. By the way, I live 10 minutes from Hershey,Pa. famous for chocolate,more famous for Car Show, held first week in October. If your in the area, maybe you can stop by and do a couple corners. (LOL) They say, second time is so much easier. Seriously, thank you again for all the information!!
 
Here are photos of the parts I bought on ebay. Was right around $700 for everything including shipping.
Thanks for all the great information Ed! For someone who claims to have not worked on a car in over 40 years, you sure took on a major job!

I have one or two questions . . . I read through everything but I may have missed something. Obviously the wheels come off to perform the work and you mentioned needing to remove the strut . . . Was there any other special "maneuvering" you had to do to accomplish any of this? Anything under tension you had to release (or support) to get a part loose and/or removed?

You mentioned a few tight places where it was difficult to get clearance to remove a nut or bolt. Any "must-have" tools required? Like something you didn't already have?

Sorry for the interrogation, but I'm thinking you may have inspired a lot of us to get out there and get dirty on this. LOL
 
Yes the wheels need to come off first. When you raise the car off the ground the struts and shocks fully
extend, so as long as you keep the springs and struts together as one piece there is no additional tension.
I do suggest having a small bottle jack to assist in supporting the lower control arm, makes it easier to handle.

The only nuts and bolts that are hard to reach are the front upper control arms. The nuts in the engine bay
are hard to reach. Just need a good short, and long open end wrench. Either 13 or 14mm wrench.

To work on the rear suspension you will need a 21mm wrench, and 18mm wrench. Invest in a good wrench
set while at Harbor Freight. The front struts are easy to remove, DO NOT remove the center nut, only the
four outer nuts that hold the strut assembly to the spring tower in the engine bay.

I did invest in a $89 floor jack, and two jack stands for $29 from Harbor Freight, good to have.

Do like I did, do one wheel first, then another day try another wheel, each time it gets easier.

And be sure when you jack the car up, stay very close to the four jack points that Ford suggests
using as a jack point. I used the immediate area where the black under car cross braces are bolted
to the car body. Use the floor jack at the cross brace bolt point, and put a jack stand at the notch
where Ford suggests placing the car jack.

Hope this helps.
 
Yes the wheels need to come off first. When you raise the car off the ground the struts and shocks fully
extend, so as long as you keep the springs and struts together as one piece there is no additional tension.
I do suggest having a small bottle jack to assist in supporting the lower control arm, makes it easier to handle.

The only nuts and bolts that are hard to reach are the front upper control arms. The nuts in the engine bay
are hard to reach. Just need a good short, and long open end wrench. Either 13 or 14mm wrench.

To work on the rear suspension you will need a 21mm wrench, and 18mm wrench. Invest in a good wrench
set while at Harbor Freight. The front struts are easy to remove, DO NOT remove the center nut, only the
four outer nuts that hold the strut assembly to the spring tower in the engine bay.

I did invest in a $89 floor jack, and two jack stands for $29 from Harbor Freight, good to have.

Do like I did, do one wheel first, then another day try another wheel, each time it gets easier.

And be sure when you jack the car up, stay very close to the four jack points that Ford suggests
using as a jack point. I used the immediate area where the black under car cross braces are bolted
to the car body. Use the floor jack at the cross brace bolt point, and put a jack stand at the notch
where Ford suggests placing the car jack.

Hope this helps.
Super information Ed! Thanks so much!
 

jamel95

Active Member
thanks for a very good write up and it does help but I will take exception to "investing" in Harbor Freight tools. They are a good source of disposable tools for hobbyists like us but they are not investments. And I do agree that buying these things will make the job much more safe and able to accomplish. I plan on gathering parts soon to tackle mine. One question. when I did my Audi control arms they were very adamant about using new bolts. Do the Tbird kits come with new bolts and nuts? Also they were also pointed about torquing to specified tightness. Tbird torque specs? Torque wrench required. Another trip to HF. But to be sure, I do appreciate your write up and I did / have / will continue to use Harbor Freight tools but I have quite a few Snap On and Craftsman tools to rely on as well.
 
I consider the Harbor Freight tools an investment because I use them so little
they will last for many years. Since my car has so few miles, and no rust, I used
the same bolts on the upper control arms, I did check them for rust, and any
wear. Still looked new.

Many of the suspension parts came with new nuts with nylon stays, and I used
them.

I guestimated on torquing the bolts and nuts, since I did each wheel one at a
time I knew how hard each nut was tightened, and tightened new nut the same.
It is easy to figure out. Since each nut has nylon stays in the end of the nut, the
nut will not come loose. Truthfully you tighten each nut as tight as you can,
until the spring tower, or suspension bracket compresses against the bushing
on your new part. This is to keep the suspension part from rattling.

I found out yesterday a guy I know owns a Jaguar S type and he has had the
same issues we T Bird owners have had.
 

jamel95

Active Member
importance of torquing to factory / design values here http://bimmertips.com/importance-using-proper-torque-values/ nuts and bolts on rotating parts can loosen. Nylock can be suspect if over tightened. The Audi bolts are designed to stretch a certain amount when torqued and once they stretch they do not return to the original length. Reinstalling them can weaken them significantly. Modern metallurgy combined with an ever increasing search for higher strength / lower weight makes me want to follow manufacturer's recommendations to avoid unfortunate circumstances. I really appreciate what you did Ed, a great job, but cars have changed a lot and not limited to engine / electronics. Control arms are a common repair item for Audi owners.
 
If my car had been a high mileage car I would have changed them, if they had shown
wear I would have changed them.

Have a ranch outside of town, our ranch vehicles are having suspension parts
changed all the time, our ranch guys do not torque nuts, and most of the time
use same nuts and bolts over and over.

We have a 2000 Suburban with 237k miles, that car has been beat to death,
through rivers, changed suspension parts, brakes, etc, never torqued anything
and zero issues.

Also have a 1996 Ford F-250 with 167k miles, same situation, never any
issues.

In all honesty none of the bolts were that tight, I undid all of them with a
standard wrench.. The front strut towers are such thin metal, if there is
a weak link, it would be the strut towers.

My old saying, use common sense.
 
Took T Bird out to our ranch today, 40 miles each way. Not much traffic once out of town, so I
gave car a good run, got up to 110 and car was perfect, smooth, vibration free, and steering
was straight.

Suspension change out, and new tires make car behave like new. My next task is to figure out
why steering wheel, will not telescope in.

Still can not figure why my cops have not gone bad yet. I do have a spare set with new plugs
in the trunk, if and when from every ones advise.
 
Took T Bird out to our ranch today, 40 miles each way. Not much traffic once out of town, so I
gave car a good run, got up to 110 and car was perfect, smooth, vibration free, and steering
was straight.

Suspension change out, and new tires make car behave like new. My next task is to figure out
why steering wheel, will not telescope in.

Still can not figure why my cops have not gone bad yet. I do have a spare set with new plugs
in the trunk, if and when from every ones advise.
Hopefully you'll never need them Ed, but it's definitely good and affordable insurance to have them.
 
This is an old article, but wanted to update some information on the suspension bolts and nuts. I saw a good
show on TV the other day where someone was changing out a suspension on a newer Ford car, this particular
car did have bolts that stretched when torqued, and these bolts could not be reused. On the TV show they
showed how you could tell if the bolts stretched, and while torqueing what you would experience. I can tell you
my T Bird did not have these type of bolts, so I believe our T Birds are old enough that they do not have bolts
that stretch when torqued. It was easy to tell if the bolts were stretching, when torqueing right when the torque
wrench should snap, it does not and keeps creeping tighter, but does not snap. Repeated attempts still do
not get a torque wrench snap. When this occurs, the bolt is thinner in the middle, much like it is tapered.
 

Bubblehog

Well-Known Member
importance of torquing to factory / design values here http://bimmertips.com/importance-using-proper-torque-values/ nuts and bolts on rotating parts can loosen. Nylock can be suspect if over tightened. The Audi bolts are designed to stretch a certain amount when torqued and once they stretch they do not return to the original length. Reinstalling them can weaken them significantly. Modern metallurgy combined with an ever increasing search for higher strength / lower weight makes me want to follow manufacturer's recommendations to avoid unfortunate circumstances. I really appreciate what you did Ed, a great job, but cars have changed a lot and not limited to engine / electronics. Control arms are a common repair item for Audi owners.
I saw this exchange about torque specs and replacing some bolts. I have Ford shop manual for my 2005 T-bird, and in the procedure for control arm removal the manual does specify to discard some of the nuts and bolts that are removed. In the reassembly procedure the manual does specify torque specs. The shop manual was available both as paper and on CD-ROM on e-Bay, but some of the vendors sell incomplete versions on disk. I wondered if all the nuts and bolts that came out were standard metric, or were some of them special, with built-in shoulders or sleeves for bearing surfaces.
 
When I replaced all my suspension components, all the nuts and bolts looked
standard. My car only had 12,200 miles, and no rust, and all the nuts and bolts
looked new.

Some of the new suspension parts came with new nuts and bolts, and I used
them if supplied. If any of the nuts and bolts looked worn or damaged, I would
have replaced them, but with so little miles, and car parked in a climate controlled
garage, everything looked good as new.

I can see where a high mileage car would need new nuts and bolts, but not
with only 12,200 miles.

It has been six months since I changed everything out, and car is squeak and
rattle free.
 

Bubblehog

Well-Known Member
Thanks- My 2005 has about 43k miles, and the rubber boots are mostly trashed, but it has no play, knock, squeaks, or issues in the suspension. Two local independent mechanics and the Ford dealer inspected it and said that even though the boots are bad, since the ball joints are all still fine I can wait to replace the parts until there's some issue, or until we retire and move to Florida later this year and I have the time and garage space to devote to doing it myself. I have the tools, the manual, and experience, but I've had newish cars for a long time and never had to do this job on one before. Thanks for posting the information, it's good to see the photos and your experience.
Owning this T-Bird is reminiscent of owning a boat, except I get more use out of the T-Bird.
 

jamel95

Active Member
I've said this before regarding suspension bolts, It is not the age of the bolts, old or new, Modern bolts are often designed to stretch to a certain point (called deformation) to achieve their load capacity. Reusing the bolt and tightening to the design load can cause the bolt to fail prematurely. As manufacturers look for weight savings and use higher strength bolts avoiding the cycle of stretch and yield is extremely important. I would not want to reuse a bolt in a place where the manufacturer says use a new bolt. I don't like suspension failures.

https://www.fastenal.com/content/feds/pdf/Article - Bolted Joint Design.pdf


[/QUOTE]I can see where a high mileage car would need new nuts and bolts, but not
with only 12,200 miles.

It has been six months since I changed everything out, and car is squeak and
rattle free.[/QUOTE]
 
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. View attachment 2328 View attachment 2329 View attachment 2330 View attachment 2331
Found out this week that my 2003 T-Bird needed replacing ALL ball joints and component pieces. I know that the car is 16 years old but it has only 25,500 miles. When I first saw what was needed I was stunned and wanted FORD to know about it. I reached out to them but they really know how to handle complaints - have a customer service rep answer the phone who has English as their second or third language. Anyway, is ball joint rubber rot common in T-birds?? Thanks.
 

jamel95

Active Member
two words - second opinion... but as the forum shows, these parts are consumables for wear. My Audi needed control arms (very common on Audi's) before 50k and were more expensive than Ford's.
 
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