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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. FFA64533-63F7-4508-B044-FE9771775890.png
    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!!
  2. 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
  3. 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.
    jamel95, tommyc and Tbirdr like this.
  4. Super information Ed! Thanks so much!
    Tbirdr likes this.
  5. jamel95

    jamel95 Active Member Gold Donor

    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.
  6. 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

    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.
    John Hayman, Tbirdr and jamel95 like this.
  7. jamel95

    jamel95 Active Member Gold Donor

    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.
    John Hayman likes this.
  8. 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

    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.
    John Hayman and Tbirdr like this.
  9. Remember that the suspension parts such as ball joints do come with new
    bolts and nuts.
    John Hayman and Tbirdr like this.
  10. 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.
    John Hayman, tommyc and Tbirdr like this.
  11. Hopefully you'll never need them Ed, but it's definitely good and affordable insurance to have them.
    John Hayman likes this.
  12. 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.
    Elsie and John Hayman like this.
  13. Bubblehog

    Bubblehog Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    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.
  14. 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.
    stevedaphotoman likes this.
  15. Bubblehog

    Bubblehog Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    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.
    stevedaphotoman likes this.
  16. Would anyone know if the part numbers are exactly the same for my 2003 T-bird?
  17. jamel95

    jamel95 Active Member Gold Donor

    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]
    Elaineinwa likes this.
  18. Can anyone tell me wether I need lower ball joint studs with a diameter of 14mm or 16mm for my 2002 Thunderbird? I will have them shipped to the Netherlands so I cannot just swap them if they don't fit.
  19. 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.
    Elsie likes this.
  20. jamel95

    jamel95 Active Member Gold Donor

    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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