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Lower Ball Joint Wear - Limit for T3/T25 Syncro??
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:57 am    Post subject: Lower Ball Joint Wear - Limit for T3/T25 Syncro?? Reply with quote

Hello everyone. and a Merry Christmas to all! I just joined and have a 1987 Syncro camper in France.

I completely overhauled the front suspension, including changing the upper and lower ball joints, but only 5,500 miles later my compulsory vehicle check (CT in France) said the lower balljoints showed "minor wear".
I checked the play by jacking the van up with the front wheels off the ground, and raising the wheels with a lever, as the tester did, and measured the play as 1mm on each side.

I have just had another CT, after a further 7,000 miles.
The van has now been failed for "excessive play" of the lower ball joints.
The tester did not measure anything; he showed me the play and said “Look that’s about a centimetre”, I disagreed and said I thought it was nearer 2 millimetres.

I measured the play over the pit in my garage as 1.5 to 2 mm on each side, using a vernier caliper - I have lost my dial gauge, but will try to borrow one next week to get a more accurate measurement.

The new balljoints I fitted were supplied by a well known British VW specialist, who I don’t believe sell junk, but even if they were of lower quality I think that 12,500 miles is a ridiculously short life for parts that are so difficult to change. It is even more annoying because there was no slack in the old ones, which were never changed in the 100,000+ miles since I bought the van, but the boots were torn, and it seemed sensible to change them when I had the suspension completely dismantled.

Can anyone please supply or give a source for Official VW specs for the correct method of measuring wear on the lower Ball Joints, and the maximum wear allowed?
I am looking for official VW documentation.


I have searched online for a week, but found nothing applying to my vehicle. The only VW information I found is on this site, for older vehicles, giving vertical movement limits of between 1 and 2.5mm
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/archives/manuals/dlt_balljoints/ball_joints.pdf

Figures for ball joint wear I found elsewhere online range from a few thou’s to 1/8 inch. Mercedes Sprinter lower balljoints can have massive vertical play, but this is irrelevant as only lateral play, max 3mm, should be measured. The sprinter has McPherson struts, though, so the lower balljoint is not load bearing.
http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15656
You may have to subscribe to the Forum to download the pdf if you want to read it.

I have asked this on another forum; the reply from a professional repairer was "no clearance".
While I'm sure this is the ideal, I feel that wear has to be defined by specific limits, not decided by someone just looking at a part and making a subjective decision.

I also asked VW in Germany for the information. They told me to go to a dealer, but I have had nothing but grief from VAG agents, they just want to sell new vehicles, so I asked them again on the basis that I do my own repairs.

They flat refused, and told me to contact the french importers or their museum for the information.

I’ll try asking the local agent when they open again, but don’t have much hope. I can’t believe there is no technical bulletin covering this.
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Vango Conversions
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Usually the lower ball joints only really wear once the boots are torn. Are you sure it isn't something else? could be worn wheel bearings, control arm bushings and even upper control arms.

There are come crappy parts out there these days, you gott watch out. The Moog parts seem to work well. Some of the "german" parts are more or less low quality counterfeit these days and don't last.
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Petervw
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not searching for the info..but I believe if memory serves me here..20-22 thous. or .5mm is the allowed spec... conflicting information coming from that link about ball joints in Type2 vehicles..2mm space would be way to much..we have a camper in the family so I know from experience..if I was a professional doing a "safety check" on that vehicle, then any play is to much..the heavier and the taller the vanagon the more important to have tight ball joints..
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies.

The boots are perfect, and the play is definitely in the lower ball joints.

The only detailed procedure I have seen for checking lower suspension ball joints in general, is to raise the vehicle and move the wheel in and out - not up and down.

There is barely any lateral play on mine with the wheels raised, and none at all when they are on the ground, so I can't see there being a safety issue.

There is also no sign at all of uneven tyre wear, no slack in the steering, and no suspension noise on bumps.

What really bothers me is I may change the joints now, which is not a quick and easy job, and find the play is just the same as before - i.e. 1mm after 5,000 miles or so, and "worn out" with 1.5mm by 10,000 miles.
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Petervw
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RichardF wrote:
Thanks for the replies.

The boots are perfect, and the play is definitely in the lower ball joints.

The only detailed procedure I have seen for checking lower suspension ball joints in general, is to raise the vehicle and move the wheel in and out - not up and down.

There is barely any lateral play on mine with the wheels raised, and none at all when they are on the ground, so I can't see there being a safety issue.

There is also no sign at all of uneven tyre wear, no slack in the steering, and no suspension noise on bumps.

What really bothers me is I may change the joints now, which is not a quick and easy job, and find the play is just the same as before - i.e. 1mm after 5,000 miles or so, and "worn out" with 1.5mm by 10,000 miles.
..I don't have one, but I think the Bentley repair manuals would provide the up and down procedure for checking....the rest of your description proves nothing accept that your ball joints are ready to be replaced...although at the moment not an emergency item to deal with, but the time for replacement is coming quickly, ..with such poor quality, I would be afraid to drive because the shaft of the ball joint could snap..I have seen that before (4 times,) by people who refuse to make immediate changes to the obvious problem..good luck
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your input.

I apologise. I should have mentioned that I have the Bentley Manual for VW Vanagon, but it does not give any information on procedures for checking balljoints for play, nor wear limits. It just says replace them if the boots are damaged.

My manual is green and about 1 3/4" thick, Bentley Stock No.VV91. Maybe there is another publication giving specs for wear measurement procedures and limits?

I would be interested to know the conditions under which the shafts of T3 lower ball joints snapped as you describe.

On the T3, whether or not Syncro, the lower ball joint is always in compression and is not subjected to any lateral force other than during cornering.

If used in extreme offroad conditions or was in an accident the ball joints could be damaged, but in those cases I doubt whether any small amount of wear would be a factor contributing to failure.
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Petervw
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RichardF wrote:
Thank you for your input.

I apologise. I should have mentioned that I have the Bentley Manual for VW Vanagon, but it does not give any information on procedures for checking balljoints for play, nor wear limits. It just says replace them if the boots are damaged.

My manual is green and about 1 3/4" thick, Bentley Stock No.VV91. Maybe there is another publication giving specs for wear measurement procedures and limits?

I would be interested to know the conditions under which the shafts of T3 lower ball joints snapped as you describe.

On the T3, whether or not Syncro, the lower ball joint is always in compression and is not subjected to any lateral force other than during cornering.

If used in extreme offroad conditions or was in an accident the ball joints could be damaged, but in those cases I doubt whether any small amount of wear would be a factor contributing to failure.
..just to clarify, the example of 4 ball joint failures (over many years) were not on a syncro (if that should make you feel any better or secure in your views)..worn out or not, rough roads or completely smooth..new or old.. the contributing factor for snapping the stem was poor quality...
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 11:19 am    Post subject: Syncro front lower ball joints Reply with quote

I'd like to add that I've had about the same results when I had the lower front ball joints replaced on my 1986 Syncro by a reputable shop in California. After about 5,000 miles (some of that off road) I was unable to get the front end aligned due to excessive lower ball joint play. I was fairly shocked as I'd just had those put in a few months previously. They were a good quality German brand and were pressed in by a machine shop. As near as I can figure out, they "may" have been pressed in incorrectly, though they are in the correct orientation. I'm told that if the machine shop presses them in incorrectly the ball joints can be damaged and develop excessive play prematurely, which is what I am guessing happened in my case. Or is there something else going on? Bogus parts perhaps? I don't know, anybody else want to share advice/experiences/opinions/etc?
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have my own press, and pressed them in with a mandrel exactly as per the instructions in the Bentley Manual.

Since the above discussions a German friend in the business (he was a Merc main dealer in Munich) spoke about wear limits with a VW executive on the service side.

The (unofficial) information he got was that VW and other manufacturers no longer publish these sort of figures, but simply talk about "excessive wear" etc. in their service instructions, so they shift the liability for these decisions from themselves to the company/person doing the worrk.
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mr. c
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm currently running recently replaced lowers with about 3000 miles on them. I'll keep an eye on them and let you know.
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Syncrozilla
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have had a couple vans come back into my shop for general maintaince that I previously rebuilt the front suspension on that had premature wear on front lower BJs. Both vans had less than 20k miles on them since new BJs installed and had what I would consider unacceptable amounts of play in them. Both van had perfect condition boots. Unfortunately I did not track which brand of BJs I installed. I always use German joints but they could have been lemforder, febi or bilstein as I have used all 3 brands in the past. I bought whatever German brand was available at the time from my parts supplier.

When I install them I usually remove the boot then used a collar that sits on the top on the boot retainer portion and press in that area. I know lots of people press them in with a collar that sits on the stop ring portion of the joint outside the boot. I believe this is an acceptable practice but I wonder in it could somehow be "loosening" the socket around the ball of a lesser quality joint?

I'd be interested in getting to the bottom of these early failures. I'll be keeping track of brands installed from now on.
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insyncro
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The vans that I have had to replace LBJs on all were lifted and had 16" rims with 70 series tires.

I have inspected most brands of new upper and lower ball joints.
The only major difference I can see is that the density of the plastic that holds the threaded rod in place seems to be decreasing as time goes on.
Many of the suspension parts I have around were purchased over the last 15 years...the majority of them were purchased in 2000.
I do see differences in quality from the older parts to ones I see available today.

Not sure if this helps any.
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Syncrozilla wrote:
I have had a couple vans come back into my shop for general maintaince that I previously rebuilt the front suspension on that had premature wear on front lower BJs. Both vans had less than 20k miles on them since new BJs installed and had what I would consider unacceptable amounts of play in them. Both van had perfect condition boots. Unfortunately I did not track which brand of BJs I installed. I always use German joints but they could have been lemforder, febi or bilstein as I have used all 3 brands in the past. I bought whatever German brand was available at the time from my parts supplier.

When I install them I usually remove the boot then used a collar that sits on the top on the boot retainer portion and press in that area. I know lots of people press them in with a collar that sits on the stop ring portion of the joint outside the boot. I believe this is an acceptable practice but I wonder in it could somehow be "loosening" the socket around the ball of a lesser quality joint?

I'd be interested in getting to the bottom of these early failures. I'll be keeping track of brands installed from now on.


Syncrozilla, that is a good point regarding removing the boots to have larger area available for the mandrel/collar to make contact with, although I feel that pressing against the whole of the top of the “cup” in this way could tend to open it, whereas pressing only on the outside edge, with the boot in place, could tend to close it tighter.

I have now fitted Lemforder BJs, there is no measurable slack, and fingers are crossed.

I don’t know the brand of the failed BJs, the supplier couldn’t tell me, but refunded the cost “as a goodwill gesture”.

I would have been happier if they’d sent someone to fit the new one Sad
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Petervw
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Replacing a lower BJ today..done last yr..only 6000+miles on it and the manuf. said it was rare..
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2013 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rich, if they were the lemforder ones then i`m shocked. anything else in the uk will not last 5 mins on a syncro. some major issues with quality parts in the uk atm and not just specialist parts like syncro / t3 bits.

gkn cv boots are a no no atm also.

lee.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure whether this has been posted here already, but it's certainly an eye-opener. Interestingly, this was posted on my MB124 site, since we're currently suffering a rash of aftermarket balljoint failures--same brands, too.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:35 am    Post subject: Re: Lower Ball Joint Wear - Limit for T3/T25 Syncro?? Reply with quote

I am replacing my front suspension bushings and have checked the lower ball joints - they look fine, the boots are in good condition and there is no free play but they don't seem to be very stiff like a new ball joint (the steering knuckle moved around easily when the tie rods and upper control arms were off). Does this still sound ok? Maybe I could use a grease needle to squeeze some new grease in and not replace them yet.
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:54 am    Post subject: Re: Lower Ball Joint Wear - Limit for T3/T25 Syncro?? Reply with quote

After my experience, if the boots are good and there is no play, leave them alone.

You can't expect them to be as tight as brand new ones.

If you are sure you can add grease without damage it can't really do any harm.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:06 am    Post subject: Re: Lower Ball Joint Wear - Limit for T3/T25 Syncro?? Reply with quote

agree 100%. ^^
have fought this issue since i started doing my own repairs. even had a ball come out of the socket within maybe 10,000 miles on my KG.
the lowers on my van have exceeded the wear limit (which is spec'd) in other, older bentley manuals. fortunately, i don't have a government agency forcing me to replace them so i won't be bothered. i just pump some lube in through the cracked boot if it starts squeaking.

i would be curious, RichardF, what your experience is five years later?
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RichardF
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:02 am    Post subject: Re: Lower Ball Joint Wear - Limit for T3/T25 Syncro?? Reply with quote

I have so far done about 16,000 miles on the Lemförder balljoints, and the van passed the Dec 2014 test with no problems, but unfortunately joints are now the least of my worries.

In March 2016 I had the van completely repainted, found and put on new decals and sorted all the trim and lights to look really good. The idea was to sell the van, as prices here are pretty good, and I have developed a problem with my legs which makes using the clutch very tiring, especially in traffic queues. Looking for something to replace the van I came across a very low mileage (43k kms) 1996 Audi Avant automatic, which is a dream to drive and spacious enough for at least some camping gear.

Then I made a trip to Spain in the van, and had a loud noise from the bottom end of the engine after the steep climb up to the French border. After parking for the engine to cool down the noise was considerably reduced, but it didn't exactly sound sweet.

The warning buzzer for oil pressure had been sounding several times when climbing hills over the previous weeks, and I had changed down to increase revs to make it stop, so I decided the oil pump was failing.

In June 2016 bought a new short engine in exchange for a spare 2.1 engine I have had for years, which I put in the garage alongside the van.

Unfortunately, since then, after bringing the Audi up to scratch, I have had a series of health issues which stopped the work, but hope to get the job done fairly soon, not least because I have more vehicles than I can keep up with at my age.

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