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Replacing ball joint dust covers

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 james1978 23 Jun 2020

So, before my MOT at the end of the week I've been told that these will need replacing because they've split. I've received a  couple of quotes - the first just under £200 and another at a little bit more. A quick you tube search makes it look like quite an easy and straightforward job but before I get stuck in I was wondering if anyone has done this on a VW transporter? Am I just being foolish in thinking I can complete this and I should leave it to a competent mechanic?

Any thoughts or comments gratefully received. 

 colinakmc 23 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Which ball joints - track rod ends or lower suspension ball joints? For either you’ll need a ball joint splitter tool. Also need to satisfy yourself that disconnecting a main suspension arm won’t liberate the front spring. And a torque wrench for doing it all back up again would be good.

Last thought - if the dust covers are split the joints themselves may be jiggered with dirt ingress, corrosion etc.


(Caveat - I’ve never done any work on a VW transporter, does it have wishbones or McPherson struts?)

Post edited at 16:53
 jkarran 23 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

If the boots are split do the whole joint, saves doing it twice. Can be quite easy, can be a total git, depends how seized up it all is and how good your access is.

Jk

1
 james1978 24 Jun 2020
In reply to colinakmc:

Thanks both for your help. 

Re "which ball joints?" The only info I have is -  Front suspension arm ball joint dust cover severely deteriorated. 

 jkarran 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

> Re "which ball joints?" The only info I have is -  Front suspension arm ball joint dust cover severely deteriorated. 

Deteriorated covers a multitude of sins. Have a look at them, you might get away with cleaning them, MOT can be a bit of an excuse for drumming up work.

Jk

1
 capoap 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Hi James, im all for having a go but i think bottom ball joints/ lower arms is/could be a very steep learning curve.   You may need a joint separator stands jack ect  a good guy with a hammer can get them apart without the tools but you are dealing with suspension parts here. 

 daWalt 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Do you mean the CV Boot? not sure what a ball-joint cover is when it's at home.

I have tried and failed to replace a CV boot myself. I couldn't get the wheelhub of.

yea, it's a pain in the arse, but rubber seals don't last forever.

 james1978 24 Jun 2020
In reply to daWalt:

Yeah, the cv boot is the one. I guess I'm just going to have to suck it up and take it to a mechanic. 

Cheers for all of your input/help.

 jimtitt 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Well if you change the cv boot but the notification is for the lower arm ball joint you've wasted time and money.

The lower control arm ball joint is easy if you are a mechanic, shit if you aren't as you need the right star drive for the bolts, a 24mm socket and a joint splitter. The rubber boot cost about a tenner each, a complete new joint about 18 quid. You can work this out I guess!

 DredStripe 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978

If you are vaguely competent when it comes to practical things, get the Haynes manual for your model. 

I managed to replace both lower suspension arms, CV boots and the egr valve on my Citroen dispatch for its last mot. For a fraction of garage prices.

Can't recommend Haynes enough, i always get one when I change vehicles. 

Caveat: if you're not generally practical, leave well alone.

1
 colinakmc 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

> Thanks both for your help. 

> Re "which ball joints?" The only info I have is -  Front suspension arm ball joint dust cover severely deteriorated. 


Sounds like it’s the wee cover on the ball joint at the outboard end of the main lower suspension arm; its taper joint fastens into the vertical that holds the hub carrier etc. The CV joint boot is on the driveshaft and not on the suspension arm.  (if it’s a front wheel drive transporter).

If you’ve never done anything mechanical before it’s a big ask, as much from the health & safety point of view as anything.

 gezebo 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

It is straightforward with the right tools etc. Depends on how much time/space you have and if you need your van. 
 

If you stuff it up it’ll be tricky to tow it somewhere! 

As a minimum you’re going to need a trolley jack, axle stands, a few slightly specialist tools, some other more common tools, the part, and a considerable amount of your time compared to a garage. £200 is starting to sound cheap now.... 
 

 robert-hutton 24 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Might be worth to see if you have a "DIY garage" near you as they you use the lift and tools and you do the work, some will offer advice.

 james1978 25 Jun 2020
In reply to robert-hutton:

Thanks to you all for your replies. I think that I'll just bite the bullet this time and give it to a mechanic. 

I'll also get a copy of the Haynes manual ordered up for the next emergency! 

Cheers. 

In reply to james1978:

If it's a T4, there is no Haynes manual, and you'll get as good guides online as the "workshop manual" which isn't particularly good.

The lower ball joint is pretty easy, but the thing about working on vans is everything needs bigger tools! I've broken big solid breaker bars, countless sockets etc.

The upper ball joint is less easy, but still doable.

Another thing of note - if it is a lower ball joint, £200 is a bit steep! It's probably 15-20 mins work in a garage, and, even paying TPS prices maybe £40 for the joint. Worth double checking the the MOT centre the exact problem. 

 gethin_allen 25 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

The big question is how old is the vehicle and is it in good condition otherwise.

I've changed a few lower swing arm/ball joint assemblies on my cars and some fell apart with the slightest touch of a hammer and others were rusted to hell and involved cutting off rusted bolts and beating the hell out of with a lump hammer. 

There aren't that many special tools (can vary between vehicles) a joint separator tool and maybe some unusual sockets are fairly essential and a impact driver can be useful to remove stubborn bolts. For £200 I'd be inclined to get the garage do it unless money is tight and time is plentiful.

 Ridge 25 Jun 2020
In reply to gethin_allen:

> The big question is how old is the vehicle and is it in good condition otherwise.

> I've changed a few lower swing arm/ball joint assemblies on my cars and some fell apart with the slightest touch of a hammer and others were rusted to hell and involved cutting off rusted bolts and beating the hell out of with a lump hammer. 

> There aren't that many special tools (can vary between vehicles) a joint separator tool and maybe some unusual sockets are fairly essential and a impact driver can be useful to remove stubborn bolts. For £200 I'd be inclined to get the garage do it unless money is tight and time is plentiful.

^ This

It's one of those jobs that, if done on a new vehicle like in the videos and workshop manuals, isn't particularly complicated. In reality, unless you're really lucky, it'll be scraped and bloody knuckles and the neighbours complaining about all the screamed obscenities in earshot of their kids.

 Timmd 25 Jun 2020
In reply to gethin_allen:

> The big question is how old is the vehicle and is it in good condition otherwise.

> I've changed a few lower swing arm/ball joint assemblies on my cars and some fell apart with the slightest touch of a hammer and others were rusted to hell and involved cutting off rusted bolts and beating the hell out of with a lump hammer. 

I saw recently that heating rusted nuts until they glow red can help to unstick them, it was the mechanic Fuzz Townsend doing it on Car Sos.

Post edited at 13:07
 nniff 25 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

If you get a Haynes manual, you need to get the Haynes translator pack too.  This will help with phrases like:

'This may be difficult to undo', which actually means 'A herd of mad bull elephants couldn't shift it'. 

'Often rusted' means 'Will no longer fit any socket that you have, not that it would turn anyway'. 

'Make a note of the arrangement' means 'It's going to fly apart and you'll never get it back together again, even if you can find all the bits'.

I gave up with Haynes when bits needed a software update instead of a smart smack with a hammer.  They've got a lot slimmer over the years for this reason.  And some sections were just wrong - I've never forgiven them for their instructions on refitting MGB rear leaf springs.  Easy if you don't follow the manual - but it costs time and blood to find that out.

 jimtitt 25 Jun 2020
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

> If it's a T4, there is no Haynes manual, and you'll get as good guides online as the "workshop manual" which isn't particularly good.

> The lower ball joint is pretty easy, but the thing about working on vans is everything needs bigger tools! I've broken big solid breaker bars, countless sockets etc.

> The upper ball joint is less easy, but still doable.

> Another thing of note - if it is a lower ball joint, £200 is a bit steep! It's probably 15-20 mins work in a garage, and, even paying TPS prices maybe £40 for the joint. Worth double checking the the MOT centre the exact problem. 

I'm impressed if your local garage can do booking the job in, writing the work card, order the parts, bring the van in and onto the hoist, change two lower joints, bring the van back out, fill out the worksheet and write the bill all in 15mins! Not forgetting disinfecting which is standard nowadays.

In reply to nniff:

Haynes yes   As said not around for T4. And if it was u/s   

Mk1 Polo clutch replacement first time on a Fwd car the (good) book said unbolt Gearbox it meant  unbolt  clutch bell housing 

 james1978 26 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

After all of that worry it passed its MOT with a couple of minor advisories! 

 colinakmc 26 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Glad to hear it got through. 2 “service” stories: my 3 series got a comment at about 35000 miles that it had a worn steering arm ball joint, by an Arnold Clark mechanic; at 91000 miles the same steering arms are absolutely fine and have never attracted any more attention. So not always to be taken at face value.

Second one is more about changing times. I recently changed the brake pads & discs on Mrs Colin’s VW Up. Picking the bits up from the motor factor’s I commented that the last brakes I could remember doing were on a Morris Minor. The parts guy gave me a long face and said theyre much more complicated now, mate. In the event, once the car was secured on stands the pads and discs took about 15 minutes a side, it was like a Lego kit with one bolt and one set screw each side. I wouldn’t even have got the Minor’s brake drum off in that time.

So it’s still worth having a go at the grimy bits, even if you have to leave the diagnostics to a NASA engineer.

Post edited at 12:49
 birdie num num 26 Jun 2020
In reply to james1978:

Your local garage has invested in premises, tools, hydraulic lift, experience, accounting etc etc.

Just under £200 doesn’t sound too bad to get the job done properly.

 gethin_allen 26 Jun 2020
In reply to colinakmc:

I bought a car with a slight shock absorber oil leak that I was told would need replacing on the next MOT. 

4 years later it finally failed an MOT due to it. It wasn't even picked up on the previous 3 tests. Just goes to show how cursory the MOT test is and how you shouldn't consider a car safe just because it has a long MOT.

 capoap 26 Jun 2020
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

Where are you Alasdair, if it only takes you 15 mins  I  have a selection of motors that i could let you do  at say £100 an hour.   15mins = £25 a bargain   The last Focus bottom ball joint i did it took an hours grinding to get the ball joint spliter to fit, the same tool that i have had for over 30 years .  I don't need a bucket of water to keep the tools cool like in the day of my youth but 20 mins is pushing a bit.!!!!!


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