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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Aloha Folks,

Just a bit of backstory first. Last week, I had my Element in at the dealer for it's routine service interval last week (oil change, inspections, tire rotation, etc.) and asked to have the technician check out the CV boot since I had noticed a few specks of grease on the inside of the driver's side FRT wheel. They had found a small tear in the boot and replaced it under the powertrain warranty, for which I was grateful.

Actually, that was the second time the boot was replaced; it was changed out last October and at that time the service technician had indicated that the boot clamp had exhibited some damage, possibly due to being struck by road debris, causing the CV boot to become misaligned. This misalignment then allowed the CV joint to seep grease. I had to pay full pop for that particular repair.

This past weekend, I noticed a repeating "clicking" noise emanating from the driver's side FRT wheel. It would increase as I would accelerate and let up as I slowed down. On Sunday, the noise eventually went away entirely.

I crawled underneath to see if I could find the source of the noise and discovered that the lower arm ball joint bushing (bearing) had unseated itself from the knuckle assembly and was protruding a good 3-4mm. Obviously, as the wheel rotated, the nub on the CV boot clamp would make contact with the protruding bushing and as a result, the CV boot got twisted about its rotating axis. The metal-to-metal contact (the source of the clicking noise) apparently ate through enough of the clamp nub and/or the top of the bushing and the noise eventually let up.

The Element went back to the dealer this morning and I'm now faced with a 3-4 day wait (parts on backorder, nothing available on-island to complete the repair), a hefty repair bill, and out-of-pocket expenses for a rental car to boot.

Investigating the issue with the search function has established that the ball joint assembly is not serviceable on its own; it's an integrated part of the knuckle itself. When I get my Element back, I'm going to try a letter-writing campaign to American Honda. I figure it's worth a shot. I'm into a little over 3 years of ownership and it's disappointing that the part would fail so soon. I'm not an off-roader; I steer clear of road hazards like the plague, hell, I'll even avoid running over manhole covers if I can at all help it...

Before I start writing, I'm just curious as to how prevalent this problem is. Have any you other EOC'ers experienced similar issues? Any idea how/why the ball joint could/would unseat itself in that way? For a part that takes on a good load, a press-fit assembly seems like a crappy way to do something... Any feedback would be appreciated.
 

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i cant see how that happened. thats a pressed in part. to me i would think that was a defect in the ball joint or hub.i always hated that honda doesnt have a replacement ball joint and that you have to buy the whole assembly.there is however moog ball joints for the element. they are press in also but i believe have a c clip to hold them in as well. good luck
 

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Interesting. As stated before, that appears to be pressed in. It looks as if the knuckle or the bushing is out of spec and therefore popped out (I have never seen this happen without the use of ball joint c-clamp). I'm surprised as hell that this isn't a normally replaceable part.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Any chance you could post a picture of the lower ball joint castle nut? Specifically on the cotter pin? Any history of ball joint replacement?
It didn't occur to me to snap a picture from the bottom, angling up. This is the best shot I have, showing the castle nut and cotter pin.

From what I recall, I didn't notice any damage to the castle nut or deformation of the cotter pin, which would suggest that perhaps, I had run something over (road debris). Conceivably, hittilng some kind of road junk could've dislodged the ball joint bushing from its seat in the knuckle. I didn't run anything over and if I did, I surely would have heard it.

The CV boot and clamp had been replaced on two occasions; this is the first time I've encountered a problem with the lower arm ball joint. Well, we'll see what pans out. Best case, I'll get my Element back tomorrow afternoon or Saturday morning, the latest.
 

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Thanks for the photographs and information. I do not think I ever saw anything like that happen to a suspension component, especially a Honda. I would say that is a "one in a row" happening. Sorry it happened to you.
Jackson:)
 

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From what I recall, I didn't notice any damage to the castle nut or deformation of the cotter pin, which would suggest that perhaps, I had run something over (road debris). Conceivably, hittilng some kind of road junk could've dislodged the ball joint bushing from its seat in the knuckle. I didn't run anything over and if I did, I surely would have heard it.
I really wasn't suggesting that you had struck anything that caused your problem. I was curious if I could see signs of improper service procedures if the ball joint had previously been separated from the lower arm. Can't draw any conclusions from the picture that is posted.

Replacement of the CV boot would require getting the knuckle far enough away to allow the outer CV stub to be withdrawn from the hub. Most technicians will separate the knuckle from the lower arm to do this, and Element (and some other Honda models) aren't "a piece of cake" to separate the lower ball joints without the potential for causing damage to the ball joint, lower arm, and in some instances damage to the knuckle.

If that side outer CV boot had been replaced twice already, I'd consider it very likely that the reason for the ball joint separating from the knuckle like it did was probably related to stresses that had been induced during the prior service procedures.

I have never seen a failure like yours on a Honda, except for collision damages or improper service procedures.
 

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Update? 89
 

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While I agree this is an odd scenario, I have seen this happen at my dealership on a 98-02 Accord lower balljoint which, unlike the balljoint pictured above, was a friction/load-bearing unit. The one at my work had not walked out as far but it had started to work it's way out.

Balljoints, if separated properly from the arm using the proper Honda Specialty Tools balljoint separator, take less than a minute to split. Simply remove the castle nut, install the Honda balljoint stud nut, position the remover in place and apply a 3/8" drive air ratchet with a 19mm socket on the pressbolt and it will pop it damage-free in seconds.

Based on the images above I think there may be other factors at work there. I know on '01+ Civics which have the replaceable press-in design it takes my Chicago Pneumatic heavy duty air hammer with a flat punch bit and myself leaning into it to drive out the balljoint. Also, I don't recall needing to separate the knuckle from the balljoint to remove the CV shaft when I worked on ISO strut suspensions at the dealership. You just have to be careful you don't pull the inner joint out.

Perhaps the knuckle has improper tolerances for the interference fit balljoint?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Just a quick update. I've had my Element back for about two weeks now and everything seems to be in order. In all, the steering knuckle assembly (and its ancillary parts) was replaced, along with the hub bearing, CV boot, and clamps.

Fortunately, the repair wasn't as costly as originally estimated. Even though American Honda wouldn't budge on some of the parts (had to pay full pop for the knuckle and its attendant parts), the CV boot and hub bearing was replaced under the 60 mo./60K powertrain warranty.

To the dealership's credit, they stepped up to the plate and waived the the labor charges which of course, went a long way toward reducing the total repair bill. Having been a former mechanic in another industry, I understand and can appreciate the fact that labor is a very important and significant profit center for any dealership. Because of this gesture, they have my sincere thanks for working with me, especially in these tough times.

Apparently, neither American Honda nor the dealer could offer a plausible explanation for the failure of the ball joint (to paraphrase American Honda, they summed it up by saying that "parts are parts, and sometimes, parts will fail" and that "Hawaii is known for having some of the worst roads in the nation"). Perhaps so; maybe I just have that 1 of 15,000 or 20,000 vehicles manufactured with a part that happened to be out-of-spec. Whatever the case and the cause, I hope this will be it and again, props to my dealer for working with me.
 

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In my very inventive, recently licensed, stubborn German, hotshot technician opinion, this likely could have been avoided had Honda gone with a snap-ring design like that found on balljoints which MOOG manufactures: http://www.energysuspensionparts.com/proddetail.asp?prod=MOOG-K9802



Let's not forget that for customer-pay jobs (a.k.a. out-of-warranty), the bill for one balljoint will skyrocket as you tack on replacing the knuckle, the ABS sensor if equipped (because most of the time they seize into the old knuckle and end up being broken if removal is attempted), R&R of the wheelbearing, then labour to re-install the entire assembly back onto the vehicle.

To me that's utter bull****.

I just find it odd that other manufacturers like MOOG produce JUST a balljoint for those applications and manufacture it with provisions to install it SECURELY so it DOES NOT WALK IT'S WAY OUT.

:twisted:

Again, I'm not the engineer who designed the knuckle/balljoint applications nor am I the official who said that the whole assmebly has to be replaced, so take what I say with a handful of salt as I am a fiercely opinionated and stubborn German. However, when components on my Element have started to fail, I turn to the local Carquest next door to my work for a lot of MOOG chassis items if for nothing more than the lifetime warranty on them.
 

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This kind of thing has gone on for years. To save $0.02, the automaker makes you replace a whole assembly when only one component (predictably) wears out.
All I can say is F that when my balljoints start to wear out, because I'll be pressing the old Honda one out and pressing a new MOOG one back in.

The boots on those styles of Civic, CRV and Elements always crap out with no delay (mine were split when I bought my Element). In their defense though, I've seen those boots coming in on customers' vehicles time and time again completely wide open and absolutely NO play in the joint whatsoever :shock:. Mine are tight as a drum.

Tear open the boot on a 1998-2002 Accord lower or upper balljoint however and see how long that thing lasts :twisted:
 

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All I can say is F that when my balljoints start to wear out, because I'll be pressing the old Honda one out and pressing a new MOOG one back in.
Yes, thank goodness for aftermarket manufacturers giving us replaceable (and greaseable) components.
 

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Yes, thank goodness for aftermarket manufacturers giving us replaceable (and greaseable) components.
Unfortunately the MOOG endlinks (well, not the ones I received) and lower balljoints for the 2004 Elements are not serviceable/greaseable.

Still, with a lifetime warranty I'll take it anyday. All you have to do is keep the receipt in a safe place and even though you will likely never have to claim the warranty more than once or twice in the vehicle's lifetime (unless you receive a defective component), however if you do at least you know it's there for you.
 

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New boots tomorrow

Hi, I'm new here, but glad I found this board. I'm going to a Nissan dealer mech my brother knows tomorrow to get my U-joint boots replaced, they are original issue; the Honda dealer wants too much. Also getting tie rods and cooling sytem hoses, as they are all original issue also. My 2003 E has 104k miles, guess I did good after reading some of these posts!
 

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Dan is correct. Moog components (where applicable) come with the snap ring and knurling on the balljoint body to retain it securely in position which I especially like, second only to the fact that you don't have to replace the entire knuckle.

Another bonus is Moog has lifetime warranty which is nice if you ever run into problems with them.
 
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