With years of experience in the Bongo parts industry & working closely with the “Owners Club” we would like to share the following information:
The front wishbone suspension arms on the Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda are, of course, subject to wear & corrosion. UK MOT laws now dictate that, if the rubber gaiter on the balljoint is split, it will fail the MOT. For such a small part, which is the right solution?
Replace the Balljoint Gaiter ?
Gaiters for the balljoint on the Mazda Bongo lower suspension wishbone arm are available as a separate item. You will need to pay your mechanic to release the wishbone balljoint from the wheel hub to change it, so expect at least a half hour labour charge each side. It is also true that occasionally the nut on the end of the balljoint that holds the hub on is so corroded it has to be cut off. In this case, the balljoint is rendered useless, so changing the gaiter is not an option. Also fitting the new gaiter is not that easy, and you do need to be careful not to damage the new gaiter when fitting it. They are only available as a genuine Mazda part however, so if you have had a ball joint changed in the wishbone, they may not be a perfect fit. If the gaiter is split, it is also worth considering that grit and dirt have most likely already entered the joint, so its life expectancy is now very likely to be limited.
Replacing the Balljoint:
The balljoint is available as a separate replacement part but it’s not all good news here unfortunately. When Mazda first designed the Bongo lower wishbone suspension arm, they didn’t design them with balljoint replacement in mind. Consequently, Mazda have never supplied the balljoint as a separate genuine part.
In 2011 aftermarket (or pattern) balljoints started to come onto the market. These have proved to be very popular as it seemed to be the most cost effective solution to the problem of a worn balljoint or split gaiter. You will, of course, have to pay for the entire wishbone to be removed for the arm to be put on the press & then re-fitted, after the balljoint has been replaced. Probably another hours work each side, depending on how corroded the nuts are!
Unfortunately, time has shown that this is not a very reliable fix. There are a couple of issues with this solution. Firstly, if you press the balljoint out of the arm and press a new balljoint in, the new balljoint will need to be very slightly over size to ensure that it is a good tight fit again. If it is not a tight fit it is potentially dangerous, as this is essentially what secures the front wheel hub. We have also heard that some of the balljoints available have a very short life span, sometimes as little as 3 months before either the gaiter has perished or it is knocking again. This could be due to a poor quality ball joint (there are different manufacturer’s) or incorrect installation.
How many times can you replace the balljoint in the same wishbone arm? As the arm was never designed to have it changed the honest answer is none! However cost is always a consideration so, assuming you tried this once and have been lucky enough to fit a good balljoint from a reputable supplier & it’s been fitted well, but now 2 years later it needs changing again, should you fit another one? In our view the answer is NO. The next balljoint should again be slightly over size to ensure a tight fit. Balljoints however are only available in one size so fitting a second after-market balljoint to the same arm should not really be considered. It is unlikely to be a tight enough fit. Essentially the joint will get weaker each time you try this fix. In short if you try this repair it’s a one-time fix not be repeated, so it will most likely only ever be a short term solution.
What’s best for me?
The best option would be a complete wishbone arm, which is a new Mazda part. This is a good option as the lower arms are weakened by internal rust and in some cases have collapsed leaving all the bushes and balljoint in place but nothing joining them together. A complete arm consists of the metal body, a front wishbone bush, rear wishbone bush and lower balljoint – all genuine Mazda.