We have produced this technical bulletin to make you aware of the causes of ball joint failure. It is nearly impossible to destroy a Howe ball joint when installed and maintained properly. It is not possible to produce a ball joint that is indestructible when misused. Fortunately, ball joints don’t just break on their own and you can greatly reduce or eliminate the possibility of failure if you use them properly.
#1 MISFIT TAPER
The most common cause of ball joint failure is the result of the tapered hole in the spindle not matching the taper of the ball joint stud. There are several possible causes for this mistake. If you have this condition the ball joint will eventually break at the base of the threads from the cyclical bending of the stud. If you only replace a ball joint after a failure the replacement ball joint will also break.
1. Wrong Parts – Ball joint tapers are rated in inches per foot. Make sure that you are using a spindle with the same taper as the ball joint. Many aftermarket spindles are made with tapers that are not the same as the o.e.m. parts. Specifically, be aware that some aftermarket Mustang II spindles are manufactured with Chevelle tapers.
2. Out of Tolerance – Most racing spindles are made in the aftermarket. Most are within acceptable tolerance but not all. Do not trust any spindle taper that is “as cast”. A true taper requires an accurate machining process.
3. Poor Reaming – Straight flute reams are made for hand use and will chatter if used in a machine or a hand drill. When the ream chatters the oscillation causes the hole to become non-concentric or “egg-shaped”. A non-concentric taper will lead to eventual failure of the ball joint stud. Howe makes tapered reams that are designed for machine use and are accurate to the matching stud.
4. Damaged Taper – When a ball joint is damaged from an impact it often causes the taper in the spindle to become non-concentric. When this happens the taper must be corrected with a ream or the spindle must be replaced. Failure to correct this will result in your next crash.
How to check proper fit:
You can check the fit of a new Howe ball joint stud by looking at the copper plating or by using a felt marker to cover the surface of the stud. Hand fit the ball joint stud into the spindle spinning the stud with your fingers while holding light pressure against the taper. Remove the stud from the spindle and inspect the surface of the stud. The marker should be removed over the length of the taper. If it is removed on only one end this indicates a poor fit. The lesser the engagement the faster the ball joint will fail.
#2 OVER TRAVEL
Make sure that your ball joints are installed at angles that will not allow them to exceed their travel range.
1. Compression – To verify adequate compression travel remove the springs and lower the car until it stops. With the car bottomed out, you must have additional travel remaining.
2. Extension – Damage can be caused by high amounts of spring preload against the limits of the ball joint travel. Do not stand or jump on the wheel while the ball joints are at the end of travel. This is a problem when attempting to force a long spring into the suspension.
#3 OVER TORQUE
It is important that the ball joint is installed to the correct torque into the control arm as well as the spindle.
1. Spindle - Howe Ball Joints are supplied with a grade 5 castle nut. This lower grade nut is purposely used to prevent damage to the stud. If you have stripped the nut simply remove the stripped nut, clear the threads and replace with an equal grade castle nut.
2. Control Arm – If you are using a ball joint with a threaded housing use the torque specs as listed in the instructions using a ball joint socket. Excess torque will distort the housing and restrict the motion of the ball.
#4 INSTALLING BALL JOINT BY THE CAP
Never install threaded housing ball joints by the cap. Only use the correct ball joint socket to turn the housing and tighten to the specification as listed in the instructions. If you install the ball joint by the cap this will cause the cap to tighten excessively onto the ball and restrict the movement of the ball joint and potentially cause its failure.
The first thing to do - as you are doing now - is to check our list of Frequently Asked Questions. If our FAQ's are not able to answer your question, then please contact us by phone at 989-435-7080 or email us here.
Instructions are available online as PDF's for many of our popular products. These instructions can aid you with installation and/ or maintenance. To see the list of instructions available online please visit here.
If your Howe precision ball joint does not seem to move smoothly or features sticky spots you may have one a couple issues.
If it seems to feature a lot of drag you may need to properly adjust the lash of the cap by following these steps:
Lash can be set with the a-frame attached to the car if the spring is unloaded and the ball joint taper is free from the spindle. If you choose to remove the ball joint from the a-frame, gently clamp the housing by the flat sides in a vise to disassemble.
Use a 3/32” allen wrench to remove the setscrews from the housing.With a 1/2” drive ratchet turn adjuster cap counterclockwise to remove.Clean moving parts to inspect for excessive wear. Replace any parts that are worn or damaged. The ball stud is concentric and should be checked for straightness. Install the ball stud upside down in the housing and spin the stud against the side of the housing with your fingers. If the ball stud is bent, you will see it wobble.
Install the housing into the a-frame or gently clamp the housing by the flats into a vise.Install the ball stud into the housing without grease.Apply a small amount of light lubricant to the threads of the cap, install and tighten until it contacts the top of the ball.Set the lash on the ball by loosening the cap 1/8 turn.Install the setscrews into the housing tightening them evenly. If you have a steel adjuster cap apply blue loctite to setscrews before installing.Using a grease gun, grease and rotate the ball stud by hand until the grease is visible on the bottom of the ball.
The other issue that can occur is when tightening the set screws on the cap. If they are not tightened equally or are over tightened they can egg shape the cup of the cap causing there to be sticky spots in the movement of the stud.
For Howe stock replacement throwout bearing (82870 & 82876) you first need to be sure that the bearing has enough travel to disengage your clutch. The 82870 has .688" of total travel while the 82876 only have .526".
Before installing you need to measure the distance from the bell-housing surface to the clutch fingers and write it down. Now measure from the face of the transmission to the front of the bearing. Install the necessary amount of the supplied shims that will make the measurement 1/16” (.06”) less than the dimension +/- 1/32 (.03). Each shim is .05” thick.
Next, install the transmission and throw-out bearing assembly. When spaced properly, there should be about 1/16” clearance between the bearing and the clutch fingers.
Finally bleed the system thoroughly, making sure that if there is a high spot between the bearing and master cylinder that the air is bled from the high spot.
Serial Numbers on Howe Racing chassis are located on top of the left frame rail next to the driver's seat around the thigh area when seated. The format of the serial number has changed over the years.
From 2010-Present: Serial numbers are welded on machined tags a Howe tag and a Number tag. The number tag begins with an "H" followed by a four digit number. This number represents the approximate number of complete chassis Howe Racing has ever built.
From Early 1997-2009: Serial numbers were welded on machined tags a Howe tag and a Number tag. The number tag is a five digit number. The first three digits of the number represent the order the chassis was built in and the last two digits represent the year. Example: Chassis number 08804 would be the 88th chassis built in the year 2004.
From 1990- Early 1997: Serial numbers were stamped on the frame rail as well as a Howe Serial number tag that was pop riveted over the one stamped on the rail. The serial number was formatted so the first numbers represented the month the second numbers represented the build order and the last two digits represented the year. Example: Chassis number 1 12 95 would represent the 12th chassis built in January of 1995.
From Nov. 1975-1989: Serial numbers were a minimum of 4 digits represented by the order they were built and the year. The earliest number issued each year was 11.
Earlier: The earliest known serial number was issued in November of 1975.
ASA Spec Center Sections 1992-2004: Howe racing was the exclusive supplier of spec midsections for the American Speed Association from the time it transitioned to a series specific chassis in 1992 until its final race in 2004. All of these midsections featured a Howe Tag as well as an ASA tag with a serial number. For 1992-93 the number represented the total number of midsections built ever. Beginning in 1994 the number kept track of the number of midsections built per year with the first two digits representing the year.