Problem solving ball joints

For some time now there has been an odd and disconcerting clunking noise coming from the front of my Mini when I pull away.  I had come to the conclusion that it might be the upper ball joint on the driver’s side wheel (the passenger side upper ball joint had been replaced about six months ago), but without a ball joint splitter or torque wrench I wasn’t exactly feeling confident attempting to sort it out myself!  Thankfully I didn’t have to do it on my own, thanks to that wonderful community that is Colchester Mini Club – Aaron came and helped me this evening.

Initially I was going to go round to Aaron’s house to sort out the ball joint, but somehow the battery had drained itself and I couldn’t start the car at all, which was odd.  So a quick phone call later (plus time for Aaron to get here), and we were taking things apart.  It turns out the ball joint wasn’t quite as worn as it could have been, which was a surprise, and led me to wonder if it was actually that ball joint that had been making the noise in the first place.  Nevertheless we set about replacing it, and after what seemed like an endless process of swapping shims around to get the right spacing we finally got the thing back together.  However, a quick spin round the block (after a jump start) showed no improvement, which meant that it wasn’t the upper ball joint that had been complaining at all!  Typical!

A little further exploration showed that it might have been the lower ball joint on the passenger side, which was completely dry and in urgent need of greasing.  Aaron left me to it at this point as he had to be elsewhere, so I got busy with my grease gun and greased up the lower ball joints on both sides, just to make sure.  The clunking is still there, though possibly a little less, so I shall probably be heading round to Aaron’s on Monday so we can replace both lower ball joints, as they’re probably worn from lack of lubrication.

Still not sure why the battery was dead though.  It’s fine at the moment, having taken it out for a good run to charge up the battery, but it’ll be interesting to see whether it still has charge tomorrow morning.  There are a number of possible causes here: it could be a dying battery, not accepting charge; it could be a faulty alternator, not sending the charge to the battery; it could be the fan belt, which has been slipping a little when the engine is working hard in first gear, and would therefore not be turning the alternator and hence not charging the battery; or it could be an electrical leak of some sort, though I’ve not changed anything recently so I’m not sure where such a leak might be.  Still, there will be plenty of Minis around tomorrow for the Colchester to Great Yarmouth Mini Run, so there should be safety in numbers!  The weather is set to be changeable, so it looks like we’ll have to expect glorious sunshine interrupted by the odd torrential downpour, but it should be good fun nonetheless.  I’ll probably take my camera, and may post some pics up on my Photolounge when I get back.

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