Ball joint-suspension change out. 2002 T Bird.

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.
Yeah, it is a quite common problem for these Birds. I've got an 03. I take it to the Ford Dealer to have em change oil - I get "The Works" oil, inspection, tire rotation, car wash, done for $39 - then use a $10 off coupon. Cheaper than I can do it at home. I digress - anyway they keep telling me I needed new suspension. Yeah, yeah they are just trying to sell me something. Anyway I finally looked - yeah they (rubber bushings) all rotted out. Ford wanted $5400!! I thought they were kidding - they weren't. I did the front myself and changed struts too - a little over $1000 in parts. Still haven't got around to doing the back.

I know other Tbird owners who have had the same thing happen. Why, can't figure that one out. Most of these cars are garage keep, never driven in the rain or snow, never on rock roads. How, how in the heck can a suspension rot away in a vehicle with very limited miles is beyond me. Ford blames it on Jaguar who they owned at the time...

Check around - some independent shop can or will do the job for about a 1/3 of maybe even a 1/4 of what the Ford dealer will want.
 
Yeah, it is a quite common problem for these Birds. I've got an 03. I take it to the Ford Dealer to have em change oil - I get "The Works" oil, inspection, tire rotation, car wash, done for $39 - then use a $10 off coupon. Cheaper than I can do it at home. I digress - anyway they keep telling me I needed new suspension. Yeah, yeah they are just trying to sell me something. Anyway I finally looked - yeah they (rubber bushings) all rotted out. Ford wanted $5400!! I thought they were kidding - they weren't. I did the front myself and changed struts too - a little over $1000 in parts. Still haven't got around to doing the back.

I know other Tbird owners who have had the same thing happen. Why, can't figure that one out. Most of these cars are garage keep, never driven in the rain or snow, never on rock roads. How, how in the heck can a suspension rot away in a vehicle with very limited miles is beyond me. Ford blames it on Jaguar who they owned at the time...

Check around - some independent shop can or will do the job for about a 1/3 of maybe even a 1/4 of what the Ford dealer will want.
Elsie, thanks for your reply. I am lucky to have found a local shop with whom I really trust to do great work at a fair price. The owner told me that Ford would have charged me $4500. I got all of the work done for $2800. I have the before and after photos and NOW everything looks great. I really would like to start a class action suit against Ford, BUT, it is a 16 year old car even though it has been babied and garage kept and I have only 25,500 miles.....
 
My 02 White Bird is doing great since the suspension change out last fall. My recent purchase 02 Red bird,
had bad ball joint boots, so I changed out the rear suspension, made a big difference when going over
bumps, the front needs changing since it makes squeeks, and rattles. It is the bushings that make all
this noise, bad ball joints simply rattle, and give a loose feeling. The red 02 only has 13k miles, was always
garage kept also.
 

Bubblehog

Well-Known Member
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.
Ball joint boots and suspension bushings are made of rubber, and all rubber parts deteriorate with age, not just mileage. Since all T-birds are now at least 14 years old, we can expect the rubber parts to show their age. You would see similar conditions on any car this old, and it is a big topic in the T-bird community because we care for our babies and want to keep them in top condition. Your car's boots are probably in tatters, but if you don't have any noises or problems, you can wait to replace the parts. The big replacement costs result from the need to replace entire control arms because the bushings and rubber boots can't be replaced independently, and the labor costs to replace the big components are much more than if you could just put on a new boot. One way to reduce the cost is to find a reputable independent shop to do the work rather than a dealer or big chain auto repair company. A smaller shop has fewer layers of price markup between you and the person turning the wrenches. Good luck with your baby. Owning a T-Bird is like owning a boat, but you get more usage out of the T-Bird. It's all worth it when you tool around with the top down and wave at the gawkers.
 
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???
Wow, I hope I have a little better luck with my Bird! So far, so good!!
 
I wish you were correct about the ball joint boots, but I have a few old vehicles, and none of them have
the same T Bird issue with rotting ball joint boots. Have a 97 Suburban that has always been outside
and the ball joints are fine. A 2000 Suburban that has lived on the ranch with 257k miles, and vehicle
is falling apart, but the ball joints are still good. Have a 96 Ford F250 with 158k and ball joints are
worn out, but boots still good, ranch life simply wore them out.

Also have a 07 Suburban with 14k miles, that I cross the river in multiple times each week, and
ball joints are perfect, a little rusty under the chassis but all good.

Both of my 02 T Birds have 12k miles, and 13k miles, both garage kept, and in great shape, but both
had bad ball joint boots.

I have been looking for a 02 donor T Bird, and have found a few, the two I looked at had bad ball
joint boots also, with 81k on the odometer.
 
I started changing the suspension part boots on my '03 with 17k. The parts are still tight so I'm only changing the boot (and adding grease). This should be easier and less expensive than pressing out bushings and replacing parts and hopefully doesn't need alignment when done. I'm also disappointed in the service life of these. The material they used is terrible. What was Ford thinking? Why do the engineers always feel the need to change everything? Surely by now they should have figured out a good suspension boot.
 
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I am not sure you can press out the bushings in aluminum parts. I
tried and it was not going well. Felt like it was stressing the aluminum
part, did not want to take the chance of fracutring the part. Was so
much easier just buying new part.
 
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
 
Happy New Year! Hope you read this soon, as I'm confused as to how removing struts gets the rear control arm nut off on driver side. I might be able to get at it if I remove the brake reservoir, but maybe you can give me some insight into how the strut is going to help with this. Otherwise, I'll just replace ball joint, as bushings look perfect. Rob
 
Happy New Year! Hope you read this soon, as I'm confused as to how removing struts gets the rear control arm nut off on driver side. I might be able to get at it if I remove the brake reservoir, but maybe you can give me some insight into how the strut is going to help with this. Otherwise, I'll just replace ball joint, as bushings look perfect. Rob
Sorry, I meant front upper control arm, rear nut (driver side). R
 
On the front suspension, you have to remove the complete strut assembly as a unit, so that once you
get the nut off the upper control arm, you can slide the long bolt off which slides in the area where
the strut assembly was. I have attached a photo of the wrench I bought which makes removing
the nut and reinstalling so much easier in that tight area.Wrench.JPG
 
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.
This is an old request, but I did find out last year that 14mm bolts were used on the front lower ball joints
until about March 10, 2002 production. Anything after that date has 16mm lower ball joint bolts.
 
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
 
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