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  #1  
Old 04-04-2013, 08:09 PM
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W115 Upper Ball Joint Replacement: Control Arm or Just the Joint?!

So what's the deal here, I've been told by MB that the entire upper control arm must be replaced when the ball joint goes. But then I find aftermarket parts that would replace just the joint, and they look to be correct:



I notice Pelican sells only the upper control arm, but other sites sell both upper and lower ball joints as individual units. I think that the original upper ball joints weren't bolted on like the above image would suggest, but instead were riveted? To install the above joint would thus entail drilling out the rivets?

Has anyone done this; what's your recommendation? The alignment is perfect right now, I was hoping that I could get away with replacing just the ball joints and not have to spend money on an alignment, but I doubt this would be the case with the entire control arm.

What's the going theory on replacing the entire control arm vs. just the ball joint? If I replace just the joint, will they wiggle at all in the existing holes? It seems like these would have to be a very exact fit in order to operate as they should. Does anyone know if I will definitely have to have an alignment after this -- in which case I might just go for the complete Febi control arms...

Opinions?

Experience?

Last edited by Coastal220; 04-04-2013 at 08:35 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-05-2013, 12:38 AM
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My non MB experience says that even if you only replace the BJ you still have to get an alignment. Replacing the entire arms saves you the labor of grinding off the rivets and (I assume) gives you new inner bushings.

Csaba
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  #3  
Old 04-05-2013, 01:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vandor View Post
My non MB experience says that even if you only replace the BJ you still have to get an alignment. Replacing the entire arms saves you the labor of grinding off the rivets and (I assume) gives you new inner bushings.

Csaba
Yeah, I see this as saving labor but I wonder how much of a sacrifice aftermarket control arms are compared to original MB. I'm inclined to swap it all out but it seems nothing, even Febi, can be trusted today. Thoughts everyone?

Last edited by Coastal220; 04-05-2013 at 01:38 AM.
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  #4  
Old 04-05-2013, 10:12 PM
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Do any of you regulars here have a good suggestion? I'm torn.

Mike D?

Tom Guy?
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  #5  
Old 04-06-2013, 08:40 AM
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I'm "old school". If the bushings are good then I replace just the ball joint. This adds a couple hours of labor to the repair so that is something to consider. If we're talking $50 or less difference then I'd go with the control arm, at $50-$100 it would depend on how energetic I was feeling and above $100 definitely just the joint.
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  #6  
Old 04-06-2013, 09:42 AM
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I understand your dilemma. But, if it was me, I'd change the whole arm and use MB (or the OEM) parts. I know it will cost more, but MB suspension parts and bushings last so much longer than any other make I've own. I'd hate to replace them with aftermarket parts, that are likely made in China or equivalent! Do you know who manufactures the ball joint you are interested in?
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  #7  
Old 04-06-2013, 10:30 AM
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I would agree but if the MB part is "Modern" its quality is likely lacking to say the least. If you could get NOS that's different. The new MB stuff seems to be a lot lower quality than it used to be. May just be flukes though?

I would not personally be averse to doing just the ball joint as long as the rest of the bushings are in order. It saves money and if drilling out rivets is all that's needed, thats pretty easy. Especially if they make the offset ones like they do for American vehicles so you can set camber/caster if something else is off-spec (wider tires, worn springs, etc)
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  #8  
Old 04-06-2013, 01:02 PM
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Thanks guys, you always shed good light this stuff.

The aftermarket parts, (both full control arm or just the ball joints) would be made by Febi or Lemfoerder (I'm not sure Lemfoerder makes the control arms) and at least for the lower ball joint Pelican claims Lemfoerder is OEM. These are the "best" I can find, and who knows where the stuff is made--all over the place as far as I can tell from other posts. Turkey, Italy, maybe even Taiwan?

I don't believe either the upper or lower ball joints can be found offset. The rest of the suspension is dialed in and the previous owner had gone over it meticulously, not even newer cars handle like this.

The joint isn't making noise, yet, but I want to be ready when it does. I need to take a close look at the control arm bushings. I'm assuming they are original too, and if totally shot maybe I'll replace the entire control arm.

There is just so much garbage to navigate these days -- completely frustrating. You would think someone might make quality parts and know they would reap the benefits from people like us...

MB wants over $500 for each control arm. Not sure if they are NOS.
Febi upper control arms with riveted ball joints are $100.
Lemfoerder lower ball joints are $25.
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  #9  
Old 04-06-2013, 01:49 PM
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Febe and Lemfoerder are both OEM. I always choose Lemfoerder when I have a choice.

Tomguy....I've been fortunate that most of the early MB parts seem to be identical in quality from MB. But what you state makes sense!
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  #10  
Old 04-06-2013, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by JPMOSE View Post
Febe and Lemfoerder are both OEM. I always choose Lemfoerder when I have a choice.

Tomguy....I've been fortunate that most of the early MB parts seem to be identical in quality from MB. But what you state makes sense!

Yeah I've heard they are OEM but I also read about A LOT of quality issues with these parts. Even Lemfoerder breaking down after a year or two.

What does OEM really mean for these parts that aren't made in Germany, and in the case of the upper ball joint, are a substitute part that requires modifying (removal of rivets) the original MB control arm to install? Just by virtue of requiring this modification the part can't really be "OEM"...

I don't want to start another parts thread here (though the URO window seal was very humorous) so let's just say I'll probably go with aftermarket parts unless I can get a very good deal on some NOS MB.

I'll update the thread whenever I get around to actually doing the work and let you all know what I went with.
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  #11  
Old 04-06-2013, 05:08 PM
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FWIW, many cars (e.g. 1990's GM) have ball joints of this design riveted to the control arm, and the SOP is to drill rivets and replace ball joint, re-installing using nuts and bolts, even with the OEM's spare part and service information ("step 1 drill out rivets...")

So I see no issue with doing so on an MB...

as for lifespan... if original BJ lasted 200 000 miles for example. are you really going to drive another 200 000 miles? That is a lot of driving and a lot of time especially on an old car.
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Old 04-06-2013, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Volker View Post
FWIW, many cars (e.g. 1990's GM) have ball joints of this design riveted to the control arm, and the SOP is to drill rivets and replace ball joint, re-installing using nuts and bolts, even with the OEM's spare part and service information ("step 1 drill out rivets...")

So I see no issue with doing so on an MB...

as for lifespan... if original BJ lasted 200 000 miles for example. are you really going to drive another 200 000 miles? That is a lot of driving and a lot of time especially on an old car.
I take your point, Volker. As I mentioned above though, this is NOT the SOP for Mercedes Benz. They claim the entire control arm must be replaced. And I have the FSM for this vehicle. Mercedes DOES NOT offer just an upper ball joint, they sell the control arm and joint as a complete unit only. Thus, these replacement joints are not in any true sense OEM... they are not riveted, the design is different, etc...

Your point on the lifespan is precisely where my question and all the uncertainty lies. I have read several posts mentioning failed ball joints and boots after less that 10k miles or a year or two. Even with "OEM" parts like Lemfoerder.

I've also heard reports of the upper ball joint bolts not seating tightly in the rivet holes, and thus allowing the entire joint to shift on the control arm under load, throwing out your alignment.

All these variables are what brought me to post this question. I do take note that it may be SOP for GM.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:01 PM
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The issue I suppose is with the joints & where they are made. If you're talking about Lemfoerder made in Deutschland vs in China, well the Chinese stuff is all made in the same factory and just packaged differently. Sort of like the ball joints or sway bar links I put on my Jeep from a certain huge-name online parts retailer. The ball joints and sway bar links lasted 1 trip off-road and not even 500 miles. The sway bar links are literally dripping blue dye from the shoddy rubber down my front suspension & the ball joints fell apart. It doesn't matter if the name is "Auto Extra" or "Mevotech" or whatever, they're all made in China and all JUNK. Raybestos, and some others are mostly made in the USA & all look fairly similar to me to say they may be made in the same US facility but are WAY better made. Moog is made in the USA and seems to have way better quality. This is just with parts for US cars, the best thing you can really do is go by internet experience. If enough people ordering from a specific MFG says "This made in China part is junk" it's probably true. I used to assume it had to do with improper installation or other issues, but with every part in my Jeep's front suspension replaced and the stuff still going... Goes without saying.
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  #14  
Old 11-18-2015, 12:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coastal220 View Post
Yeah, I see this as saving labor but I wonder how much of a sacrifice aftermarket control arms are compared to original MB. I'm inclined to swap it all out but it seems nothing, even Febi, can be trusted today. Thoughts everyone?
I drilled put the rivets, it was truely a piece of cake, it was 100 times easier than I anticipated.

I used a Wizz wheel to cut a groove in each rivet to start, but when I do the other side, I will use my automatic punch, to get started, it seriously only took me about 30 minutes total to get the old ball joint out.

Step by step.

1. Unbolt ball joint from knuckle (leave nut partially threaded to save the thread ::you don't actually have to do this, because you are replacing the ball joint, but it is good practice:

2. Use a pickle fork/ball joint seperator, to dismount ball joint from knuckles tapered pickup point.
I actually take a hammer to the knuckle at the outside around the ball joint, instead of a pickle fork, because this practice will preserve the boot, rather than destroy it with a pickle fork.

3. Unbolt the control arm from the subframe (now is an oportune time to do your motor mount.) I believe the bolts where both 17mm heads, use 2 wrenches, and a small amount of patience, I didn't see a practicle way to get a ratchet in there.
The nuts are stover nuts/prevailing torque, prevailing lock (whatever you want to call them)nuts

4. Get to a work bench, get your Wizz wheel, or your auto punch, and get your drill bits, starting from 1/16th to probably 5/16th and some cutting oil.

Now is the time for that mild amount of patience.

5. Spend the next 30 minutes grinding a little bit and drilling quite a bit.

6. Find a vice, and an air hammer (be carefull when placing in the vice, not to bend the control arm) air chisel the heads off of the rivets, the outer most rivet's head will come off from the top of the control arm.
The inner rivets heads will be chiseled off from the bottom.

7. Change heads on the air chisel to an air punch, drive out rivets. Be carefull not to damage the holes in the control arm.

Grab you some new bushings and slide them into the control arm, they aren't pressed in, or atleast mine just popped right out.
I havnt bought new bushings yet.

Right now I am at the point if putting the new joint in. I am not sure of what torque to apply to the bolts, they look like they are only 10 lmm bolts, ibam thinking that any more than 40 ft lbs would be a bad idea.

In time I will do the other side, even though there is nothing wrong with the joint, because this task was such a breeze.

I hope this was at all helpful.
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  #15  
Old 11-18-2015, 01:01 PM
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And let's say the joints only lasted a year, mine is meyle, so I feel that I can trust it. But either way, once you have done the hard part, this is merely a 20 minute job.
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