Ball joint lube schedule?

2002 Subaru Legacy wagon
Had the car up on the car shop's hoist while looking for an exhaust leak. Found that but the tech pointed me at the zerks for greasing the
ball joints. He noted that they were all rusted over and looked like grease had never been applied. He asked if I felt any wobble or looseness in the handling (probably wondered if there had been excessive wear without re-lubing).
If the zerks are rusted and can no longer be used and if penetrating oil or torching them to heat them up doesn't work, well, just unscrew the old ones to screw in the new ones. My concern is how often are the ball joints supposed to get greased. Although there are zerks, some folks claim the ball joints are sealed and don't get re-lubed. If that were true, why are there zerks and rubber boots?
I also noticed one of the boots (that protects the grease) is slipping off. Do the ball joints have to get removed to put on new boots? That would be labor intensive hence costly. If no boots need replacing, what might be the price at the car shop to have them go around to all the zerks to lube them up? I can buy a grease gun (can't find my old one) and a cartridge at maybe $15 but I'd have to crawl underneath. If they charged something like $25-$35, I'd pay the shop instead of me doing the job. I quit changing my engine oil and filter long ago. Plus I wouldn't be using the grease gun for so long that I'd new new lube the next time and probably couldn't find the gun again.
The manual says only to inspect at 60K and 120K miles. The car has about 83K. It is old but annual mileage is very low. In fact, the car was bought used as a 2-year old with 60K already on it, so only 23K has been added over 13 years (~1.8K/year). Don't know if this ever got inspected before and the rust on the zerks sure makes it look like they never got greased.
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MOST CARS TODAY COME WITH PLUGS INSTEAD OF ZERKS AND ARE "PERMANENTLY LUBRICATED" WHICH MEANS THE JOINTS LAST AS LONG AS THE GREASE. Many dealerships and garages replace the plugs with zerks and grease the joints. Particularly if a vehicle is used off road. A bit of grease every six months or so will extend the life of the joints as long as nobody blowa a rubber boot off. Vehicles used off road (in mud and water) need to be greased after immersion (generally speaking). If a boot cannot be repositioned or the boot is damaged the joint needs to come apart to replace the boot (if the boot is available as a service part), but most often the joint has to be replaced as the boot is nor available separately.

If done with an oil change the lub job should be less than $25.00

If they were greased the day before you bought it, the zerks would likely be dry and rusty by now. Have new zerks installed and have it greased - should be good for another 10 years at the rate you are putting miles on.
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clare wrote:

This is for a 2002. I don't know if that counts as "today".

I saw the zerks. They weren't plugs. They were shaped like zerks and even looked like they had the opening with ball bearing behind them into which the grease would get injected.

That's what I thought until I saw the zerks.

Hmm, that would still mean the joints need to be relubed to last as long as the grease. Maybe you meant "the grease lasts as long as the joints" for the grease to be permanent for the life of the joint.

Possible but wouldn't that mean they injected some lube (and then put zerks in instead of reinstalling the plugs)? It was a 2-year old car when bought so no maintenance records before that. As a standard procedure on used vehicles, do dealers typically lube the used joints before sale?
I didn't get the car from mom until last year and she didn't keep any maintenance records. With 60K on the used car when bought, tis unlikely any lube maintenance got done other than engine oil & filter. With my mom ownership over the next 23K, unlikely any maintenance got done after purchase. My mom and aunt don't do anything to a car unless it won't run or something falls off.
Say the dealer or someone else replaced the plugs with zerks so now it is unknown if they got used or were needed. Is there anyway to check if lube is unnecessary (i.e., that the grease is permanent for the life of the joint)? Like maybe call the dealer's service center to ask if the lube is permanent and to ignore there are zerks?

While it's a SUV, it never goes off road, not even dirt roads. Snow is about all that car has gone through since purchased. My recollection was that a sales person owned the car before and why there was 60K on it in just 2 years.

That's another reason why I don't want to buy a grease gun and do the joint lubing. I pushed off the boots before. Hard to tell when to stop injecting until there is some old grease oozing out.
But if the grease is permanent (to the joint's lifetime), doesn't seem I should be lubing at all. If the joint ever gets replaced, it'll get lubed at that time and I still don't need to be lubing it afterward.

One boot is slightly askew then the other. It looks like it is offset a bit but still covering the joint. When I tried to move it with one finger, it didn't move but then I wasn't going to push much since I could make it worse. I was just checking if loose. Either the rubber was a bit deteriorated and my finger got smudged with black or it was just road filth (the smudge rubbed off easily). It looked like it was still covering the joint but just not best positioned.
I didn't see any way to remove and replace the boot without dismantling the joint. I only got a quick glance as the mechanic was pointing out the problem with the exhaust noise from a corroded gasket that had blown out in front of the muffler.

That's what I figured. Although early (by mileage, not by time) for an oil job, I'd have the local shop do the engine oil+filter job and ask them about lubing the joints. If the zerks are too rusty, they should be a pittance to replace.
I don't know about "blowing off the boot" since most videos say to watch for old lube oozing out from the boot to know when to stop injecting. In fact, one guy used blue-colored grease so he could tell when the new grease was oozing out to make sure the old grease got pushed out.
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On Sunday, July 2, 2017 at 8:41:40 AM UTC-10, VanguardLH wrote:

I can't think of a single reason not to grease those joints. Most people wo n't do it because there's typically no grease fittings but that's not the c ase i.e., you have no excuse not to. I certainly wouldn't ask people on new sgroups what they thought of the matter. If I was that tech, those joints w ould have been lubricated and I would have informed you of that after the f act.
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wrote:

With it on the hoist to check the exhaust I may not of "shot first and askled questions later" but I would definitely have recommended they be lubed and offered to do it while it was on the hoist, if the customer was standing there.
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On Sunday, July 2, 2017 at 1:49:36 PM UTC-10, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

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won't do it because there's typically no grease fittings but that's not th e case i.e., you have no excuse not to. I certainly wouldn't ask people on newsgroups what they thought of the matter. If I was that tech, those joint s would have been lubricated and I would have informed you of that after th e fact.

I wouldn't ask but that's probably because I find lubing ball joints are fu n and easy! I would ask, of course, if the customer was standing there but how often does that happen?
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Just because yours had zerks doesn't mean they came from the factory that way - see my later information

No, I meant what I said. They last as long as the grease. When the grease is gone, the joint wears out. It was an "accurate" definition of "permanently lubricated"

They pulled the plugs and inserted zerks to grease the vehicle and did not pull the zerks and reinstall the plugs. This id "standard procedure" at many dealerships.

No, but quite often at the one year or 2 year service, or the 12000 or 24000 mile service.

Stop and think for even just a SECOND. If the dealer installed the zerks, they WERE lubricated - at least once. They NEVER install zerks without greasing them. Why would they install them and not grease them????

If the zerks are there, the joints are lubricatable and a little grease will definitely help, not hurt, the joints

And in the first 2 years it will have had AT LEAST 2 "major services" - which is when a dealership would most likely install zerks and lubricate the chassis.

Not hard at all. just pump untill you see the rubber expand a wee bit. One or two pumps of the gun

See my definition of "permanently lubricated" The joint lasts as long as the grease, not the other way around. As long as the joint gets out of warranty the manufacturer is happy.

As I said, there is NO WAY to replace the rubber without dismantling the joint.

Depends on the joint. Some boots can be "flushed" that way, others will split the rubber before anything comes out.
I became an apprentice mechanic in 1968 and a licenced mechanic in 1971 - so I've seen a LOT of joints and boots, and lubricated hundreds of thousands of Zerks. Replaced hundreds of boots and joints too.
Been ther,done that, got the "T" shirt, wore it out and used it as a rag - - - -
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On 7/2/2017 1:19 AM, VanguardLH wrote:

Warning: I have not tried any of the things in that message on my present Subys, but over the years I have many times had to deal with a frozen Zerk on other vehicles. As he said, removing and replacing may be the only option. But they love to break off when you try that! The metal around the threaded section is of course thin, because of the hole down the middle. So if the fitting is not just visibly rusty but also rusty down in the threads, the weak point where it will break is just below the hex you put a wrench on. So removing may be (a) a good idea or (b) the only possibility, but don't plan to do it casually as a small step in lubing the car! Be ready to use heat (but of course that may change the temper of the metal and make it even more anxious to break off) and whatever other tools or incantations you would use for broken off bolts! Bob Wilson
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