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When to replace lower ball joints?

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  • When to replace lower ball joints?

    I've got a 90 series prado, 3.4L petrol, 1998, 130000km on the clock. It has spent its life in a garage near the ocean, so some parts are rusty, but she's in good condition. She's got a log book with regular yearly servicing and hasn't been bush bashing as of yet. The only mod she has is a bullbar, otherwise everything is stock.

    I want to know when I should get my lower ball joints replaced. I haven't had any issues with my prado, except for a radiator cap leak and a busted rear shock. I'm worried that since the car is 20 years old, the ball joints might've rusted out or might just go when I'm on the highway and cause the car to go rolling with no prior symptoms.

    I called a toyota dealership and my prado wasn't part of the lower ball joint recall, but I know the design of the 90 series means when the lower ball joints go, they go. My mechanic has taken my car for a long drive after a service and was happy with how the car drove.

    Thoughts?

    Cheers.

  • #2
    I've owned two 90 series, current one has 285000ks and original lower ball joints. My previous prado, which had seen corrugations on a daily basis for half it's life, had the original factory ball joints replaced at around 300000ks due to developing some play. One of the replacement ball joints (aftermarket) failed within 12 months. Luckily, not catastrophically. I now check mine as part of my regular maintenance routine (easily done). If these ever develop play, I'll bend over and pay the toyota tax on genuine parts or, at the very least, get the best quality aftermarket ones I can find.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by gee View Post
      I've owned two 90 series, current one has 285000ks and original lower ball joints. My previous prado, which had seen corrugations on a daily basis for half it's life, had the original factory ball joints replaced at around 300000ks due to developing some play. One of the replacement ball joints (aftermarket) failed within 12 months. Luckily, not catastrophically. I now check mine as part of my regular maintenance routine (easily done). If these ever develop play, I'll bend over and pay the toyota tax on genuine parts or, at the very least, get the best quality aftermarket ones I can find.
      Thank you so much! That gives me so much peace of mind. How come you had to get rid of your first prado?

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      • #4
        My 1st 90 was manual and I got sick of doing all the driving (wife can't drive manual) on our 3 month long road trips towing a camper. Sold it, looked around for 6 months for an auto 4x4, and realised that the 90 still best suited my needs. So bought another one. Original was a '00 RV 1kz, current one is a '02 TX 1kz. So I at least got a younger model with more fruit. Love 'em! Drove the entire perimeter of QLD last year, Cape York, Gulf Country, Birdsville etc. and had zero issues other than bolt on stuff rattling loose. Passed many new $60K plus vehicles struck down with dirt fuel. The 90 never stopped. I'll post pix of the two when I can find some.

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        • #5
          The old one

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          • #6
            New (17 years old) one on top of Big Red- Simpson Desert. Looks slightly different now with black steelies and wider offset.

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            • #7
              I just had the lower ball joints done in mine mate by a good mechanic. If they go mate you will be crossed up on the highway hopefully on all four wheels still.If there is play get them sorted mate. For a couple of hundred you could save your life,or others mate.

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              • #8
                Mine in my previous 90 series were replaced at 350,000km after lots of off-roading. I also had a steel bull bar, winch & dual batteries on the front end.... So lots of extra weight. Your ball joints wonít rust out because theyíre coated in grease and also covered with a rubber boot. Youíll know when theyíre due for replacement because your car will dance left or right slightly when you apply the brakes at highway speed. You have zero to worry about. Sound like you did a bit of Dr Googling and got yourself worried over nothing. Youíll have a lot of life in the ball joints yet. The warning that theyíre wearing wonít just be sudden from nothing to something. To be honest itís gradual and over time gets worse and worse. People who talk of how bad theirs were when they replaced them let them go for ages before finally getting them fixed. If you do enough Dr Googling youíll be convinced your wheel bearings are on their way out, your exhaust will drop off, your water pump needs urgent replacement and E10 fuel is destroying your car.

                Spray cans of fish oil under your car all over everything, itíll stop light corrosion dead in its tracks. Get many cans and spray it on thick. Even inside your chassis rails on all angles through all the holes. Give it a few days to cure before driving it in case it rains. I did that once early on with a dozen cans and under my car never had any signs of rust and I did quite a few trips to Fraser, Moreton & Bribie. Mine was a 98 model which I owned for 12yrs. Retired it at 392,000km.
                Last edited by Brett1979; 12-03-2019, 09:55 PM.
                2005 120 series V6 Grande, 2 inch susp lift (King/EFS combo), 32 inch MT’s, Safari Snorkel, rear diff lock, breathers, Light Force spotlights, UHF, dual batteries.

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                • #9
                  how much should you pay to get a mechanic to install lower ball joints

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                  • #10
                    Labour is about an hour per side.
                    Trouble with Brett's comment is these cars are now quite old and most will have already had the joints replaced. But were they genuine or rubbish, that's the dilemma. My 90 was still on original joints at well over 300,000k when I bought her, they were an accident waiting to happen yet she steered perfectly.
                    Toyota spec is replace when you see 0.5mm movement but again, many mechanics don't know how to check for movement as unlike most ball joints, the 90 hangs from the ball, not seated in it.
                    So you should replace the 4-bolts when the joint is replaced as the ball joint hangs on those bolts.
                    For on road driving I'd replace at 80-100,000k as they are not an expensive item and they can and do fail with absolutely no warning. If your car is weaving all over you don't have a ball joint problem.
                    For off road it's going to be a much shorter life. I had a set of genuine show 1/4mm after my Kimberley, Gibb, Bungles etc trip which shows what corrugations will do.
                    My 555 brand were out of spec in one trip to Lawn hill so it's only genuine for me.
                    Glen EP has such excellent prices there's simply no reason to buy aftermarket. He sells ball, bolt and dust seal kits which makes it dead simple.

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                    • #11
                      Haha wow... Carco, Youve never experienced a worn ball joint have you. Going by what youíre saying you havenít. Replacing ball joints every 80-100,000km for on road use? That is major overkill. To put the myths to bed, symptoms of a worn ball joint are:
                      The steering will wander to the left or right and will cause uneven wearing to the front tyres. You can get clunking noises in the front, mostly when reversing and turning the wheel while doing so. And you can get vibrations in the steering too while cornering slowly or driving at speed. These are your signs. Experience any one of these issues and by all means replace them because theyíre worn. You could replace them when there are no symptoms but itís not necessary unless you experience symptoms. Hate to think what your take on the life span is of you go off-roading on occasion. Do you change your brake pads and rotors every 4 months? Yeah and steer clear of 555 as I donít rate their gear from what Iíve seen of it. Replacing ball joints is a mileage based item as they donít wear when the car is parked. Replace ball joints every 100k in a Falcon or Jeep maybe but not in the 90. Geez Iíd be surprised if any were worn prior to 250,000km. Itíd take some continuous severe treatment to punish them that badly. The 90 is a well built car.
                      2005 120 series V6 Grande, 2 inch susp lift (King/EFS combo), 32 inch MT’s, Safari Snorkel, rear diff lock, breathers, Light Force spotlights, UHF, dual batteries.

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                      • #12
                        Each to his own Brett.
                        But you're just plain wrong re-worn ball joint symptoms.
                        The ball head wears continuously and as it's hanging in the socket, it will stay nice and centred until the day you back out of the driveway hard lock and she simply pops out.
                        If your car is wandering all over, it's going to be a multitude or could be items, but ball joints is way down the bottom of the list.
                        If you ask anyone who has had a joint fail, they all say one constant.
                        The steering gets heavy and she no longer returns to centre. That's telling them the socket is completely worn, binding and ready to drop. Stop driving immediately.
                        Testing a joint for wear is also hit and miss as when you jack the lower arm, the joint hangs at a different angle to its normal driving position. But it's the best method we have and if a joint shows wear under that test, it will have a lot more wear in the as-driven position.
                        But we're getting off topic, the OP asked how long to replace a LBJ and he should allow about an hour per side.

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                        • #13
                          okay so I have a question,

                          When I am braking at slow speeds my car pulls left very badly, I was told by my mechanic that my coils and shocks are on its way out but he didn't mention anything about the Lower ball joints.

                          When reverse nothing happens and when cornering nothing happens. It's simple braking at low speeds.

                          My car also makes a slight wobble when hitting over 110km an hour but i think thats purely due to me needing wider tyres.

                          thoughts and opinions,
                          cheers

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                          • #14
                            Mines just hit 300. Full front end rebuild coming up including rack. Everything's got a bit of slop in it so I'm not messing around with anything just gonna replace the lot.

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