Ball Joints: How to Tell if they are bad ?

I'm getting some 'thunks' from my 2001 Civic EX front suspension, usually when shifting between 1-2 and 2-3 , and also when the front tires hit an
obstacle that causes a front-to-back impact vs. and up and down. No problems when driving daily at speed on the interstate. Struts are new Tokico blues, as are the rear shocks. Could it be bad ball joints ?
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Big E. Ratt wrote:

is it psychic wednesday?
whoever fitted the new shocks should have checked all that stuff as they did the work. if not, they need to check it now. especially as they may not have fastened a bolt properly.
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Thanks.
I didn't go into all the details...noises were present before and after shock/spring replacement : old Koni shocks and Eibach springs were replaced with Tokico shocks and OEM springs. Yes, I wanted to restore original ride height.
If it were rear wheel drive, I'd guess a U-joint was going bad.
I'll take it in to Honda for a complete checkout. The car has 235K miles on it, so it might be time...
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You have at least two TSBs out on front suspension noise.
03-039 covers a knock, pop or squeak that is due to a deteriorated front lower control arm bushing.
01-054 deals with a knock, pop or crunch resulting from the front spring coils contacting each other.
I can't remember if you've got balljoint-type stabilizer bar links. If you do, that's another source of knocking noise as the balls wear out.
--
Tegger

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Tegger wrote:

all of which should have been checked when doing a major rebuild like replacing macpherson struts!
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I had the replacement done at an aftermarket shop, not at Honda. I doubt if these after-market shops even know what a TSB is.
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Big E. Ratt wrote:

I would think that they should. Hell, Studebaker issued TSB(s) throughout its time in business which ended over thirty years ago.
As far as I know, all car manufacturers issue such documents and the most serious issues result in recalls.
JT
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"Big E. Ratt" wrote:

To check the ball joints...
Jack up the car and set it down on a pair of jack stands. Unlock the steering wheel. Grab the tire at the 12 and 6 o'clock positions. Try to rock it back and forth. If you feel movement it could be either the ball joints or wheel bearing. Have someone else repeat the rocking described above while you get under the car and look at the suspension with a flashlight. If the movement is coming from the ball joints you should be able to see this. If not, then look at the back side of the hub area where the CV joint connects to the hub. If you see movement here, then the wheel bearing is bad. Note that sometimes grabbing the tire at the 5 and 9 o'clock positions works better for detecting looseness in the lower ball joint. You can also check the tie rods for looseness by grabbing the tire at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions. If you feel any looseness here when you rock the tire back and forth, you can isolate it to the tie rods by feeling movement in the joint through the tie rod boots. The ball joint in the tie rod ends can be checked by squeezing them with a large pair of channel lock pliers in the vertical axis. Sometimes, this also works well for double checking any suspected looseness in the upper ball joints.
Eric
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Eric wrote:

unfortunately, while you're right in principle, jacking the car up and letting the wheels dangle with the chassis on stands is about the /least/ successful way of detecting ball joint wear possible.
normal running position is with the weight on the wheels, thus, most wear is with the ball joints in that position. letting the wheels dangle ensures that ball joints are in a position where they have /least/ wear since the vehicle has almost zero miles with the wheels in that position.
the solution is to test with the suspension having weight on it. the easiest thing for the home mechanic is to jack one wheel at a time, with the jack directly under a suspension member, wheel /just/ off the ground. /then/ you can exert force on the wheel and see if you can feel movement.
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jim beam wrote:

I do not believe that jacking up the car from the lower control arm will produce a normal load on the suspension. One could only achieve such a goal by putting a floor jack under the tire and jacking up the suspension from that point. However, this would interfere with one's ability to detect looseness in the ball joints.
Moreover, for what it's worth, I've never had any problems detecting looseness in the ball joints following the protocol that I outlined. A supplement to the technique could be to use a large prybar to move the suspension around in the vertical axis of the particular ball joint being examined.
Eric
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Eric wrote:

no. take the wheel off and look at it if you need to remind yourself of configuration - that can't happen.

once they're worn /that/ bad, sure. but the idea is that you try to detect it before it gets so such an extreme if you want to maintain safety and not incur tire wear.

yes indeed.
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However, if excessive movement in a ball joint and/or tie rod end can be detected with no load on the suspension wouldn't that indicate a need to replace the part?
DaveD
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Certainly, provided the play is actually in the joint and not the bearings, etc. And you need to be able to tell WHICH joint is bad.
Plus, Honda balljoints can seize instead of getting loose. This will not be apparent from the "wiggle" test, no matter how you do it. A seized balljoint is very bad news indeed. Ask me how I know.
Pop the taper and do the check properly.
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Understand and agree with your logic. The wiggle or shake test, in my opinion, is useful for a quick, spot check only. Another clue can be gotten from abnormal tire wear pattern, which would show up even in the case of a seized joint.... Cupping sort of randomly around the tread, IIRC. Of course, by this time other clues should be apparent.... DaveD

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l joints.

The very best and most accurate way is simply to pop the taper, lever the control arm out of the way, then wiggle the stud by hand.
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