My daughters Honda Accord is a 1999 4 cylinder LX with 100K miles.
Car was purchased used with 80K 1 owner female owned and garage kept
car. We knew it would need tires soon. So she kept two and bought two
new ones for front. The garage that put them on told her she needed
ball joints. She was going to get them at $66 dollars a piece, but
then they said 3 hours labor for a total of about $360. But then they
said, well usually we do "Control arms too" and it would be even more
So she said, "I'll get a 2nd opinion, and more money before I do the
work. Just put on the tires".
Before I help her go get a 2nd opinion, any general knowledge about
what is a normal set of wear parts she might need for her front end
with 100K? Cost for same?
Thanks in advance for any advice.
Sounds like BS.
Ball joints ARE important, and they do wear out ... eventually.
That said, I'd be very surprised if they are in danger of failing. They
are protected and sealed by a rubber boot thingy that should not yet be
cracking on a 10 year old car. That said, don't discount the ball
joints out of hand. If you live in the heart of the rust belt, I
suppose it's possible that the rubber has dried out and cracked sooner
than expected. Once dirt invades the ball socket, the joint's days are
shows the general idea. So long as the boot is intact, the joint will
last a LONG time. You can inspect them with little effort. Check
Autozone.com for their on-line repair guide. It's not terribly deep,
but does offer useful information and will give you some idea what the
repair shop is supposedly babbling about. Even IF the boots are
cracked, so long as the joint retain some grease, damage may not yet
have occurred. You can remove the old boots, wipe and clean the old,
possibly contaminated, grease, repack with fresh grease, and install a
new boot. (Buy the genuine Honda parts! Cheap aftermarket boots are
often made with crap rubber that will break down within a matter of
years.) This is a fairly easy DIY project.
As for the 'control arms,' there are several on each wheel. The arms
themselves don't wear out, but the rubber bushings that attach them to
the chassis and other suspension components can crack and break down.
This is a slow process that does not generally create an unsafe
condition. As the rubber degrades, the car's handling very slowly
becomes more vague. No biggie. Again, 100K/10yrs seem awfully early to
be "Doing the control arms."
Any time I have a mechanic poke about, I expect specific information
from him. These guys you've found sound suspiciously vague. Between
their shifty language and the nominal life of the components, my gut
feeling is that they are trying to scam you.
Get that second opinion unless the rubber boots that keep dirt out of
the ball joints are obviously cracked open from age. Somewhat to my
surprise, I'll admit, my 1991 Accord's ball joints are still original
equipment at 214K miles. In fact, nearly the entire front end is
original except for rotors, brake hoses, a couple of axles, and new sway
bar bushings. I did replace one of the boots once while replacing an
axle because it looked bad.
(It's worth adding that if you plan to use pickle forks to separate the
joints at any point you should be prepared to replace the boots. If
you're careful you won't have to, but one careless application of that
pickle fork and those things will be on Boot Hill. They don't cost
Note: I live in the Northeast. I don't know how long the boots last
I'm in the Northeast too. I'm going to take it to my local,
honest/reliable, but not a Honda expert mechanic and have him look it
over. I got the feeling this was a place that went looking for
something to replace. But my daughter was doing good just coming up
with the money for the tires and alignment, never mind all this other
There's only one sure way of telling if a balljoint is worn or not: Pop the
taper and wiggle it by hand (takes all of a few minutes with the CORRECT
tool, which is NOT a pickle fork).
If the stud moves with a bit of resistance, the balljoint is still good. If
the stud moves with no resistance at all, it's bad. If the stud has actual
play in it, then it's REALLY bad.
Testing balljoints that are still hooked up is fraught with uncertainty on
account of the load suspensions tend to put on them no matter what position
the control arms are in.
The old front tires should tell you whether the front end needs work and
what work. Abnormal wear caused by ball joints usually exhibits cupping and
more wear in spots on the tire rather than the "around the tire wear" caused
by camber or toe maladustment. I would suggest a trip to a reputable tire
store and have them "shake down" the front end to check for wear in the ball
joints, control arms, tie rod ends, etc.....BTW, contrary to what most of
the denizens of this group maintain, some of the NON OEM parts are just as
good as Honda's. Moog, for example, makes and excellent product....
Good point about the tire wear, I was actually surprised that they
lasted as long as they did and looked like a even wear.. not on one
side or the other and no cupping. I'm thinking that they were looking
to make fast money, more than make a long term customer.
My 1999 Accord (made in Japan - VIN starts with "J") needed ball
joints at about 130K miles. "Play" exceeded state inspection
specifications. My other cars (Honda and Toyota) of similar or more
miles have not needed ball joints. I wonder if '99 Accords are prone
to this issue.
I believe it would likely depend on how hard the car is driven and the
condition of the roads driven on (e.g. roughness). I had to replace the
front ball joints of a '93 Accord at about the same age and mileage.
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