91 corolla ball joints

I recently took my 91 corolla to get the suspension checked out after hearing a popping noise while driving straight that I pinned down to something connected to the front driver's side strut. (creaking/popping while letting my weight off the fender)
I got it looked at and they were nice enough to show it to me while it was up on the rack, and the guy took the front left wheel and shook it pretty hard up and down and said look, there shouldnt be any play in the wheel (looked like there was about 1/4 inch or so) so that means the ball joints are bad. And look again, there shouldnt be any play left-to-right either and he grabbed the tire and shook the wheel pretty hard that way and it had about the same amount of play. So that means you need a new tie rod end. I didn't hear the popping sound at all during all of this, but maybe thats because there wasnt any weight on the suspension components. (and also i could be backwards about the tie rod ends and ball joints.. i just cant remember which direction he said means which).
They said they werent sure what was causing the popping noise exactly, but that those things definitely needed to be replaced and that I would need an alignment.
Then, I was shown my tires and the one on the passenger side was really worn away on the very inside tread, and so was the driver's side, on the inside, so my tires must have been sitting like this: / \ while driving causing that wear pattern.
In fact, the driver's side tire was so worn away you could see the steel belting in a strip about a foot long where the rubber had just torn away!
So, I guess I need to find out if this clicking/popping/grinding/burping/creaking sound could indeed be a ball joint on one side, and if i definitely need an alignment after ball joints and a tie rod end are done, and how much it should all cost for parts and labor (rough estimate).
Will the new set of walmart tires last until 2 weeks from now when I can afford to have this done (driving a total of about 10 miles a day at 35mph)? Is it terribly dangerous to be driving with a popping noise coming from some sort of worn suspension part heard every 2 seconds or so? I've driven the car for months with the noise intermittently. I realize these last questions can't be answered, just adding them for dramatic effect. :S
Thanks for any input, Bill
They gave me a rough estimate of $400 for parts and labor, for a new ball joint on either side and a new tie rod end on the left
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It sounds very much like they told you the truth.
The popping noise could be caused by the bad parts, likely the ball joint.
The next sound you 'might' hear after the popping noise is 'OH CRAP' as the front wheel falls off. Been there, it isn't any fun....
You can burn off a tire in 'very' few miles if the joints are bad enough.
Yes you will need an alignment.
Have no idea what the cost is, but not likely cheap. You can do a lot of it yourself if you are so inclined.
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Mike Romain
If that estimate includes the alignment when it's done, that's not bad...
The ball joints on your car when bad will show horizontal movement, sliding back and forth where the lower control arm and spindle join...that's the best location to observe that movement, otherwise, it could be a hub bearing or something else causing it...tie rod ends (outer) will show vertical play in the ball socket when worn, again, you check this at the PART, not at the wheel...and the inners, being inside the rack end boots, aren't visible, but you can still feel them by squeezing the boot while moving the wheel left/right...you can feel the slop as a slight popping sensastion, most likely what you hear/feel when driving, as it transmits directly through the steering rack to the body, right down near your feet when driving.
If all these parts are truly that worn on your car, and it's tearing up tires as you descibe, I personally wouldn't drive it as far as I could throw it...ever had a ball joint seperate and let the spindle go at speed? I have, that's why I wouldn't do it again....
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in news: snipped-for-privacy@b28g2000cwb.googlegroups.com:
First thing to check is the stabilizer bar balljoints. These go bad all the time. They are easy to change. Part is ~$70 or so.
Raise car. Pull up and down on the stabilizer bar link. It's usually the upper ball that goes bad and play is readily obvious.
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