Here at Circle Track we're always looking for new parts, ideas, techniques, and really anything that makes you faster and helps you win. Recently, we found a couple of things that we think will help, and are often over looked or taken for granted. How many times have you been at the track and have seen a front-running car have a problem and wreck for seemingly no reason? Later, after the race, walking through the pits you learn he broke a ball joint and that ultimately caused the wreck. I've heard of this happening numerous times and actually witnessed it twice this year by two different front-running cars. After talking to the teams, I learned they both had one thing in common, they never checked their ball joints.

Beyond ball joints, another thing that I've noticed on several different cars I've worked on are upper A-frames issues. These issues range from binding to having a lot of play in the bushings. Both of these can cause serious problems.

With A-frames and ball joints in the back of our minds this year, during our midseason break we did our normal maintenance on our Dirt Late Model. After checking the ball joints, we noticed one was possibly bad, or going bad. Because there is a lot of stress on all the suspension components, especially the ball joints, coupled with the problems we have seen, we decided to go ahead and change all of them. Now, like a lot of you, I knew I wanted low friction, but wasn't sure about taper dimensions, length, and so on. Also, I wanted to know how much difference there really was between manufacturers. After all, you can go from the very cheap auto parts store stuff to the very exotic (aka expensive) Formula 1/ NASCAR stuff. So, we put a call into the guys at Howe Racing Enterprises and asked all the questions. I was very surprised at how much difference there really is. The staff at Howe Racing was so knowledgeable and helpful; it made getting the parts we needed quick and easy. While we started the conversation about ball joints we also covered some task-specific tools and the new upper A-frames the company now offers. After talking with Howe I knew I had to have them.

Ball Joints

Howe ball joints offer very low resistance while still fully capturing the ball to maintain alignment. The alloy steel ball studs are process-coated for low friction and long wear, while the rugged steel housings will withstand impacts that would destroy lesser ball joints. We all have seen and heard of low-friction ball joints; but when I received these, I was surprised at how low the resistance really is.

Choosing the right ball joint for your application is extremely easy with the tech support at Howe. It offers several different options from screw-in uppers and lowers, to bolt-in uppers and press-in lowers covering a range of applications from GM to Mopar. They are also NASCAR-approved and IMCA-legal. A really nice feature to also consider is that all Howe ball joints are user rebuildable. This is important for teams, like us, who don't have an unlimited budget like the guys in NASCAR. Not only are Howe's ball joints user rebuildable, but they offer an exceptionally large selection of interchangeable studs and housings.

Howe also offers the option to build your own combination. To do this you use Howe's "Fit" code to identify the studs that will fit your spindle. It also ensures the ball size matches your housing size. To explain what the Fit code is, Howe offers a code based on some simple measurements. Tapers are listed by the number of inches per foot, but when ordering you also need to know the base diameter, the length of the taper, and the threads. To combine all of these dimensions Howe created a "Fit" code. This code lets you cross reference with other Howe ball joints and studs. Any ball joint with a matching Fit code will fit the same spindle. Howe also offers other options like XD housings. These housings boast an end-of-travel load testing that is 300 percent stronger and small ball studs that fit smaller housings for added rotor clearance. One last feature that we love is, unlike cheap copies, all Howe ball joints are made and assembled in the USA.

For our application on good ol' Project DLM, we're using a screw-in upper and lower. Installation is simple because all assembled ball joints are shipped from Howe Racing internally lubricated, adjusted, and ready to install.

Let's get started. First, we will apply antiseize to the threads of the housing. Then we screw it in to the control arm clockwise torqueing it to 100 ft-lb. One thing to pay close attention to is to make sure that the stud is in contact with the spindle from top to bottom. If the taper is larger than the stud it will appear to be tight but will have a gap at the large end and will eventually break.

Here are a few tips that we learned along the way to help with your install:

1. Most dirt racers don't run the rubber boots on their ball joints as they trap dirt during racing and hold water from the cleaning each week. We take the air hose and blow as much of the water away after we wash the car and grease the ball joints immediately

2. Use castle nuts and cotter pins on all your ball joints. These parts are provided for a reason. We have seen plenty of nuts come off ball joints, and when this happens it never ends well.

3. When you first insert the ball joint into the spindle, make sure to pay close attention to the position of the hole for the cotter pin. You want the stud of the ball joint turned so you can insert the cotter pin.