Vanagon – the ignominy, the shame, the wages of procrastination (ball joint)

A few weeks ago I replaced an upper ball joint on the van. This was not preventative maintenance, this ball joint was dead.

The boot was ripped, and you can see the grease had long gone. I have no excuse for this lack of awareness of the joint failing. (You know, I think it might even be the original joint)

 I replaced the other side’s joint some years ago, blog post of that here. Good god, it was back in 2009. It was a real chore to get the tapered part of the joint out then and I expected more of the same this time. But apparently god smiles on fools, and the tapered part practically fell out of the steering upright. Back in 2009 I used a Lemforder joint, which I think are pretty darn good. But couldn’t get hold of one quickly this time and went for the Febi version. I don’t think I would have touched any other brands, those two are the best. So do you think the Febi is actually made in Germany?  Says Germany, but not made in Germany 🙂

Yeah so that all went fine, no drama in the install.

But I made life harder for myself. That strange looking tool in the picture of the new joint on Bentley may give a hint. The too was my quick effort to make something to hold the shock shaft while the nut is turned. There is a neat VW specialty  tool for this.

And during my previous spring removals I’ve not needed to hold the shock shaft, the nut came off land went back on easily. But this time there must have been some damage to the threads and the nut was not cooperative. The tool was made from scrap hence the unusual shape at the business end. Really just amounts to a rod with a slot in the end to hold the flattened end of the shock shaft.

Yeah I was swapping springs again. Back in 2013 I installed 2wd westy front springs. They are a few cm longer and the wire diameter was ( and I remeasured) only about 0.5-0.8mm smaller than the syncro springs. I can’t give you better measurements than that, the paint thickness muddies things up. Back then I thought they were really the same wire diameter. But now I wonder. Anyway, the post about that is here. Over time I started to think maybe the syncro springs were stiffer or that the 2wd springs had sagged. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but I had my old syncro springs sand blasted and I repainted them. Here is the shorter syncro spring beside one of the 2wd westy springs I removed.

Well I don’t know. Probably should have left them in. But I didn’t and I had the fun struggle of spring swap. The other two tools I find useful, if not essential, in the spring swap are a ratcheting strap clamp to pull the shock into alignment and a guide tool to screw into the shock shaft to lead the shaft up through the shock tower. I made the latter years ago with a wooden knob for a handle. After I conked my forehead with the knob when I pulled up hard, but the rod was not screwed on securely to the shock, I changed the knob for a T handle.

Here’s the original at work. 

And the highly recommended T handle version. Just a bit of tubing welded to the end.

And… I finally, after a year, got around to replacing the driver’s side lower control arm inboard bushing with a polyurethane version. The original was just thrashed. All distorted, the control arm pushed forward in the mount . Hard to see in the pic, sorry.

This pic shows it better, you can see rubber bushing in the aft end but not on the forward end. Forward end of bushing all worn off.

Getting the rubber bushing out of the arm requires some threaded rod and bit of this and that to make a little press.

The polyurethane bushings are two part with a common sleeve, so it’s quite easy to push them in the arm.

Well that sums things up. But it doesn’t convey the agony of an old man on a gravel driveway working, again, on the van 🙂 

  1. #1 by oldfussbudget on May 25, 2017 - 1:04 pm

    Amazing what a piece of carpet or stiff foam will do for a gravel driveway. Not much to do about the old man bit except get used to it. 🙂

    • #2 by albell on May 26, 2017 - 8:34 am


      Yeah well I was using thin cardboard. Not the best. But boy, a lot of work that would be relatively easy with van on lift is agony in the ground .



  2. #3 by oldfussbudget on May 25, 2017 - 1:04 pm

    ^^I find groaning helps a bit. And laughing, of course.

    • #4 by albell on May 26, 2017 - 8:35 am

      And some thanks that one can at least do it 🙂



  3. #5 by oldfussbudget on May 25, 2017 - 1:10 pm

    What’s your overall number for spring thickness?

    • #6 by albell on May 26, 2017 - 8:37 am

      16.45mm for the westy 2wd and 16.78mm for the syncro. The numbers so close it made me wonder about paint and any wire irregularities. But maybe the slight diameter difference does add up.



  4. #7 by oldfussbudget on May 25, 2017 - 4:39 pm

    Quick-and-(very)-dirty measurement of my Carat spring gives ~17.75 mm diameter. Using the spring calculator below and assuming six working coils and six inch/15 cm diameter, increasing wire diameter by 0.75 mm changed the spring rate from 691 to 795 pounds per inch deflection. Rate varies with the fourth power of wire diameter…

    • #8 by albell on May 26, 2017 - 8:37 am

      I’ll give that calculator a go with my measurements…


    • #9 by albell on May 26, 2017 - 8:41 am

      Oh and one more thing, the German IG16 forum has a wiki with some collected spring data. I’ll see if I can post the data here.



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