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So I took my 2003 Element into the Honda dealer get the compliance bushings replaced. The shop that initially detected the problem told me that both lower control arms would need replacing, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because in the course of pressing in the new bushings, the arms would get damaged so we'd be better off just starting with whole new arms. This sounded sketchy to me, since none of my reading on this forum implied that the very common Element compliance bushing problem required replacement of the lower arms. At best, I figured the shop was not properly equipped to do the job, so I went to the local Honda dealer, being new to the city and not having received any better recommendations from friends.

The dealer successfully replaced the passenger side compliance bushing, but called later in the day to report that while separating the driver's side lower control arm from the knuckle, the "ball joint just came apart". Now I am being presented with a bill for an extra $650 and the information that in six years of working at the Honda dealership, the sales manager has "never seen this happen before" and that "sometimes parts just break". I have seen the broken ball joint pieces and can see no evidence that the joint was cracking or about to blow. They additionally assure me that the passenger side ball joint is just fine.

My questions are as follows, fellow Element owners!

1. Is this something I should be expected to pay for? To me, this is coming off as a technician error. Everything I have read here about ball joints implies that with the proper tool a good mechanic will be able to pop the control arm off the ball joint, but that a not so good mechanic will sometimes screw it up and break a perfectly good ball joint.

2. Why is the knuckle replacement estimate coming in so high? I understand that on the Element a broken ball joint means replacing the entire knuckle, not just the ball joint like is possible in many other vehicles, but he is ordering parts beyond the knuckle itself. My parts estimate says $428 for "LF Knuckle and Bearing" and then another $85 for an ABS Sensor. What is this bearing that needs replacing? And why the ABS sensor? I was told that both of those pieces are "worst case scenario" and will only need replacing in the event that removing the old knuckle breaks the existing bearing and sensor. At least this time they are telling me in advance that their way of removing things breaks all the surrounding pieces, I guess.

I'm feeling a little bruised by this entire process. I ditched one sketchy shop in favour of the dealer, but it doesn't feel like my caution is paying off at all. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!
 

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Chances are they had a new techie working on your ride which is why the ball joint broke. I can give you 3 different invoices for work to be performed at a Honda Dealership that were never completed by the tech's. I was out of town and my wife jumped the gun on waiting for me to return.......arggh. If mistakes like work not being performed are common then I can only imagine the kid using a fork and hammer to seperate the lower ball joint out of the lower control arm instead of the tapping method could easily happen.

ASE standards are to use the fork and hammer method.....which will in most cases destroy the ball joint boot (my guess as to why they said it came apart).

Good mechanic standards are to use a dead blow to wack the lca and release the ball joint without damage to either.

You decide on this one. At least you know now where not to take your vehicle for service.
 

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If a Honda dealer's tech used anything but the approved ball joint remover (07MAC-SL00200 / 07MAC-SL00202) and thread protector (07AAF-SDAA100), they are in the wrong. Yes, a pickle fork could easily ruin the ball joint. Ask to see the tool they used. It should look like this:

 

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I guess my point was, he as a consumer could always request the old part for his own visual inspection. Just because it's a dealership doesn't mean they are good mechanics you know ;).

I just can't understand how the honda tool could have broken the ball joint, I own one (though rarely use it)and when used properly it should have been fine. Maybe the mechanic forced it in too deep? That too would of course rip the ball joint boot.

P.S.

Whats the chance the Honda dealership hired some laid off GM techs? OH LORD
 

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what are the ball joints made of? platinum? $650??

they are cracked..........I just replaced both ball joints on my 98 beetle.

$12.97 each, my cost, retail around $25.
Agreed. When I still had the Astro Van, ball joints, idler arms, and tie rods for both sides totalled less than $350 for the bits. Happily, I didn't have to pay labor since my roommate did the work for me for his auto repair class.
 

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...What is this bearing that needs replacing? And why the ABS sensor?...
The new knuckle doesn't come with a bearing in it, and there is no way of pressing the old bearing out of the old knuckle without damaging the bearing in the process. You'd have to drive the old bearing out by applying force to the inner race, which means the force will be transfered through the roller ball-bearings to move the outer race out of it's pressed fit with the knuckle. Re-use is a no-no, and half the inner race will stay on the old hub when it's pressed apart anyways, as the hub will have to be driven out first so that the retaining snap-ring can be removed before the old bearing could be driven out. The shop will not even remove the old bearing entirely, since the knuckle is being replaced - they will just drive the hub out to get the hub, snap-ring and dust shield off for re-use.

The ABS sensor will almost certainly be siezed in the old knuckle, especially if the roads are salted in the winter. The sensor is potted in a plastic housing, and the plastic will crack before the sensor comes loose. On a vehicle requiring sensor replacement alone, it's pretty common to have to drill the old sensor out and then clean out the hole in the knuckle with a hone before a new sensor can be installed.

Personally, I've never used Honda's ball joint removing tool, and have never needed to use it to separate a ball joint from a control arm. I have seen plenty of damaged ball joints from other technicians who use the tool, which doesn't provide me with any incentive to start using the tool myself.
 

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Personally, I've never used Honda's ball joint removing tool, and have never needed to use it to separate a ball joint from a control arm. I have seen plenty of damaged ball joints from other technicians who use the tool, which doesn't provide me with any incentive to start using the tool myself.
Smart Man ;-)
 

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Honda Tech, I assume you used a Pittman arm remover or similar, and not a pickle fork? Also, can you shed any light on how the other techs damaged the ball joint using the spec tool?

I recently had occasion to separate a ball joint from the LCA on my E. Used a screw-type puller in conjunction with the lever method, and damn if that thing wasn't in there tight, but it did pop out with no damage. If I can do it, I don't see why a Honda shop shouldn't be able to.
 

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Also, can you shed any light on how the other techs damaged the ball joint using the spec tool?
They are usually damaging the threaded end of the ball joint. I do not watch them do it, I only see the after-math. I don't know if they are setting the tool up wrong, or using it wrong, or what. Like I stated earlier, I have never used the tool myself, so I really don't know how or why the tool isn't 100% effective. It may be the tool, or it may be 'operator error'.
 

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Well that makes sense. They're probably not using thread protector 07AAF-SDAA100. That lets the Honda puller off the hook. Back in the day, I used to put an ordinary nut on the end of the ball joint shaft to protect the threads. That should still work, but the thread protector tool (really just a cap nut) is probably best. In fact it will protect the threads nicely whether you use the Honda ball joint remover or another screw-type device, like a pittman arm puller.

If a shop uses a pickle fork, whether with a BFH or an impact hammer, they will wreck the boot and possibly break the ball joint itself (back to the OP's problem). If they just whack the hell out of the bottom of the shaft, they might do other damage. In short, IMO a Honda shop should pay for any parts they break.
 

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Cost to replace front lower suspension ball joint boot that is cracked

Anyone have a rough estimate of getting my front lower suspension ball joint boot that is cracked? I was quoted $219 and just wanted to keep 'em honest.
 
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