by Wes Hairston
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On the evening before the Annual Fall gathering of MAFOA at Roger and Brenda Cutter's place, I convinced my wife to take a ride with me to pick up some soft drinks (per Roger's request of earlier in the day). I had spent all afternoon tracking down a shorted wire in the connection post going to the MAP Sensor mounted at the side of the Air Cleaner. New plugs, wires, cap & rotor, as well as setting the timing 3 dozen times didn't seem to get things right. It would run great a while, then start missing, bucking and spitting. Went though all the drills, but nothing seemed to be wrong. Accidentally touched the errant wiring while the car was running the idle smoothed right out. Moved it a bit, the engine started missing - Found YA!!! It took a delicate splicing and soldering effort that left the Four-Banger purring like a kitten (well maybe an over sexed alley cat).
I had even got out the shop vac and sucked up all the pine needles from the carpets, windshield & engine vents, washed the dust off and checked the air pressure at all four corners. When on the way back home I hear a sickening sound of metal breaking, feel the left front of the car take a nose dive into the oncoming lane of a twisting two lane road. I had chosen to take the "spirited &challenging" route home thru the park. I was enjoying the sweet sound of the properly tuned engine as it was worked thru the gears, in and out of a few serious bumps and curves.
It took about three hours and $50 for roll back tow truck to get to me and pull the car from the ditch I had pushed it into to get off the roadway in a blind curve.
This car was thoroughly inspected two years ago after installation of new struts, shocks, front bearings, calipers & rotors (less than 5,000 miles &several lubrications since). There was no warning & we were quite lucky that there was not oncoming traffic at the time the ball joint broke. The replacement cost $18 at the local discount parts store. Disassembly revealed that the bolt simply snapped, just above ball portion. Old housing was easily "banged out with hammer" - (top down) from the wishbone arm. Greased the new unit circumference with chassis lube, then pressed it into the control arm with rig of C clap, piece of pipe with inside diameter large enough for new ball joint to fit inside. A solid piece is placed under the flat round bottom of the new unit bracing it from below on solid surface. A couple of downward whacks with 2-lb hammer to the piece of pipe (it's around the ball joint bolt, above and in contact with the wishbone arm) should seat it up flush into place. Have yet to torque the retainer nut and probably stop in at the alignment shop.
Given the age and 200K plus mileage I'm inclined to credit this experience to metal fatigue. Next Spring for the sake of safety I plan to change out the ball joints in my other cars as a matter of suspension maintenance (85 GT 104K & 84 SC 76K miles).