The Ford Econoline (E-Series) Van had quite a run, dating all the way back to early roots in 1961. Now, with the retirement of this popular van series, 2015 brought a new global platform to the market; the very popular Ford Transit. Due to improvements in fuel mileage (reduced fuel consumption) and cargo square footage, this platform has become a new standard with last-mile delivery and service industry fleets.
While the popularity of the Transit has soared in recent years, and for good reason, there is something else you may need to know. This is especially the case for Transit owners and Transit fleets, as they are particularly tuned-into maximizing tire life, and managing fuel expenses.
Ford Transit: An Unforeseen Issue
Tire wear, sometimes excessive tire wear, has emerged as an issue. This is especially the case for the front steer tire/wheel assemblies. The culprit, from our perspective, is a lack of factory adjustment for camber angles on this front suspension.
When the camber angle (the outward or inward tilt of the tire & wheel assembly) is out of alignment, tire wear to the inner and outer edges will most likely occur, drastically decreasing tire life.
Ford uses a variation of the RevoKnuckle front suspension that mounts the strut to the knuckle with a clamp. This system is not adjustable for camber from the factory or with aftermarket cam bolts like some other common make & model vans.
Ford Transit Tire Wear: Ford Motor Company Has a Remedy, But Is it a Solution?
Ford’s recommendation to correct this issue, is for the alignment technician to perform a cradle shift. This is done by shifting the cross member to optimize alignment angles. This requires loosening the four bolts that hold the cross member to the unibody. This is not always effective as it trades positive camber on one side to negative camber on the other side. This is a time-intensive procedure that is not typically effective in completing the alignment and getting the van back into specification.
The sub-frame bolts are also torque-to-yield, and Ford recommends replacement if they are loosened in any way, at the cost of $112 MSRP. This adjustment is estimated at two hours and there is no guarantee it will bring the camber back into specification. Ford’s recommendation of this procedure does not bring camber back into specification to replace components such as springs and bushings. Simply replacing parts to adjust alignment angles does not usually correct the issue. Even worse, the customer is left with a van that is not within specifications and their tires will continue to wear prematurely.
Ford Transit 150-350: Camber & Caster Adjustable Ball Joint Corrects for Wheel Alignment Issues
An adjustable replacement lower ball joint adds camber & caster adjustability, and corrects for these tire wear issues. The lower ball joint is part of the suspension knuckle, and is pressed-in from the factory and secured with two bolts. The aftermarket adjustable ball joint design is received into the same hole as the OE ball joint, but is not required to be installed press-fit. The adjustable design is also greaseable, the OE factory ball joint is not greaseable.
The adjustable ball joint design has an offset stud that turns inside a sleeve to accomplish the camber & caster angle adjustments. The sleeve is also threaded, allowing adjustability to account for any (eventual) loss of ride height. The combination of these two adjustments will allow a total of plus 1-degree to minus 1-degree of camber change. When installed on these popular late model delivery vehicles, excessive fuel consumption & tire wear can be mitigated. This ball joint is currently the only aftermarket solution to this common problem.
For more information & detailed installation instructions, you may find the following link to be helpful: https://www.stempf.com/wheel-alignment-product-search/
Ford Transit Ball Joint Installation Instructions:
Ford Transit Ball joint instruction Removal *Important* 1. Record vehicle ride height before removing the lower ball joint. 2. Using a hoist or floor jack ensures the vehicle is supported safely 3. Remove the front wheel. 4. Remove and discard the lower ball joint nut. (Ball joint comes with a new nut.) 5. Using either a Pickle Fork or Two Leg Puller separate lower control arm from steering knuckle. 6. Remove and discard both torx bolts. (Ball Joint kit comes with new hardware.) 7. Attach Special Tool 88-7313 to the end of the slide hammer. Attach the opposite end to the lower ball joint. Or OE removal tool (See Fig. 1) 8. Remove the lower ball joint from the steering knuckle. Install 1. Clean any rust or debris from the lower ball joint mating surface. 2. Install threaded base plate into steering knuckle. (In its lowest ride height position) (See fig. 2) 3. Fasten the base plate to the steering knuckle using new bolts provided in the kit. a. Torque base plate bolts to manufacture specification (Use Threadlocker Glue) Caution: Check for proper clearance between ball stud and rim. Adjusting the ride height too high may make contact and damage to the rim. (See Fig. 3) 4. Connect the lower ball joint and lower control arm together. 5. Insert “cotter key puller” or “scratch awl” into the cotter key hole. Rotate ball stud to adjust camber as needed. Adjust ride height if more camber is needed (See adjusting Camber) 6. Install new ball joint nut and torque to manufacture specification 7. Install wheel and tire and torque lug nuts. Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Adjusting Camber 1. Raise the front of the vehicle to unload front suspension. 2. Loosen lower ball joint nut and brake tapper of stud control arm. 3. Insert “cotter key puller” or “scratch awl” into the cotter key hole. Rotate ball stud to adjust camber as needed. 4. Camber and ride height adjustment can be made in two ways: a. By placing a 3/8 hand ratchet in the top of the ball joint and rotating to desired camber adjustment. or b. Placing a 2-inch wrench at the lower ball joint base nut will also achieve camber adjustment. Caution: Check for proper clearance between ball stud and rim. Adjusting ride height too high may make contact and damage to the rim. (See Fig 3.) c. Use a punch or chisel to lock the jam nut in place after adjusting ride height. 5. Install grease fitting and fill with grease. 6. Tighten lower ball joint nut and torque to manufacture specification.