I have an '03 Lexus GS430 with about 55k miles on it. Today I had the front rotors turned by a friend since they were slightly warped. When I picked up the car he informed me that the upper ball joints were bad (He told me he was able to wiggle them by hand about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) and that they were causing the excessive wear on the inside edge of my front tires. I have known about the uneven wear on my tires since about March when I noticed a shimmy at interstate speeds. Right after I noticed the shimmy and wear I took it into my dealer to have the alignment checked. At the time I took it in only the front right and rear left tires were worn. They said that was because the only thing out of whack was the front right tow-in, and the reason for the wear on the left rear was due to it being rotated to the back on the last visit. At this point I was quite angry that they had not informed me of the issue and that it had now cost me unnecessary wear on my rather expensive tires. I complained to the service advisor and they agreed to buy one of my 4 new tires when I was ready for them.
However, now that I was informed of this I got to looking more closely at my tires and have realized that the front left that was previously fine is now worn bald on the inside edge. After picking up my car from the brake job, I called my dealer and told them what he had told me. They proceeded to tell me that due to the spring loaded design of the joint that some play is normal and if it is bad that they would have to look at it before they could order parts. The problem here is that tomorrow morning they are supposed to be putting 4 brand new ($240ea.) tires on it for my drive to Chicago and back Thursday and Friday (800 miles round trip), which means that if they are bad I will be running new tires on a screwed up suspension for at least that far. I explained this situation to them and they agreed to take a brief look at it this afternoon and order the parts if necessary. However the tech they had look at it said he could not tell if anything was wrong by hand, and that he would have to do a full inspection of them tomorrow when he had more time, which involves checking the amount of torque on the spring.
I guess my first question is: Have any of you car gurus ever known of an upper ball joint that was designed to have slack in it? (That just seems absurd to me!!!)
....and second: Is driving that far with screwed up ball joints going to permanently screw up the new tires?
Thanks for listening.