Wagenswest custom vw bus suspension

VW Bus and Vanagon ball joint replacement cut away and comparisons.

Recently I replaced the ball joints in my 1985 Vanagon Westy, being that all the weight of the Vanagon is resting on only 2 ball joints up front, unlike the bus with 4 weight bearing ball joints. I thought I would do a little research into the available replacement ball joints on the market, we all know that replacement parts have become less than satisfactory lately.

After talking with a Vanagon repair shop I was informed that the Febi ball joints were going bad in less than 500 miles, so I went with Meyle HD ball joints. After installing the Meyle HD’s, I was very curious as to the differences between the ones I pulled off ‘Lemforder’ and the ball joints I installed, So one common thing that we do at Wagenswest is purposefully destroy new parts to see how they are made. And that is what we did, I ordered a pile of single ball joints then started cutting them apart and what I found was very concerning.

Here is the summary of what we found.
Basically if the ball joint has a machined cap ‘see photo #4’ instead of a stamped cap ‘see photo # 3’ then it is most likely a good ball joint.  This is a good clue because what the manufacturers have done is instead of taking the time to machine the cap to the shape of the ball and then lining the cap with a Polly type bushing product, they have instead made a cheap stamped cap and compensated by injection molding a cheap plastic webbing to make a socket structure that fits between the cap and the ball. This would work just fine for something like a tie rod end, but proves to be insufficient for a heavy weight bearing ball joint, like we see on the Vanagon.

So the Meyle HD’s that I installed on my van lasted only 300 miles until they had significant up and down play. I then used this comparison exercise to see that the only ball joint that comes even close to the OE is the OE and that would be Lemforder which are currently not available but you can buy them under the name MOOG. 06/2013

As for Volkswagen bus ball joints we found that some of the best ones are the ones we have been using for years, ‘OE brand’ “not actually OEM” ball joints, or if you want to search out a set of Lemforder ball joints,  I’m sure they will be great too.

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