6 Hr. Balljoint Operation
6 Hr. Balljoint Operation
Wellington Allen & John Napoli
As a novice mechanic, with emphasis on the novice, I NEVER would have
attempted this balljoint operation, now successfully completed I'm pleased to
report, without the help I got here. It was a great comfort knowing that if
I got into trouble, somebody here could probably bail me, in a day or so.
As a novice, HERE ARE SOME THINGS I LEARNED. But first, hats off and a
round of warm beer(Lucas refridgeration) to: John Napoli, Greg Price,
Gregory Andrachuk, Dennis Besisswanger, Jan, and those in ADMIN for the
help I got here. Kirby's book, too, was very useful.
- JACKING. Setting up the jacks, the stands, in the right places,
properly--AND SAFELY, to take advantage of the tension between suspension
and car weight to remove and replace the old balljoint. Haynes doesn't
mention this stuff.
- STUBBORN LOCK NUT. You can save some time, energy, and frustration in
loosening the lock nut by turning it clockwise, instead of counter
clockwise. Surprise!(Remember, I'm a novice). Are all lock nuts this way?
- USE TIE ROD SEPARATOR. And as a corollary, use the tool correctly. The
designated balljoint separator had a claw too wide; the tie rod tool worked
better. Don't try to pump or pry the joint loose; just hammer till it
pops. John Napoli suggested a gentler and preferred technique which,
unfortunately, didn't work for me, mostly because I think I was performing
- TOLERANCES. When the assembly comes apart, you get the tolearances you
need for extracting the bolts and nuts. The splashguard orginally seemed
like it inhibited extraction of one of the balljoint horizontal bolts
through the upper arms; when the wheel is turned a bit, and things loosened
up, the problem ceased to exist.
- WELL, EVERYTHING CAN'T BE PERFECT. I could not figure out how to apply a
torque wrench to the lock nut holding the stub axle. Space was too tight.
Tried every socket extender and adapter combo I could dream up,but no luck.
Haynes specifies 50LBs on that nut; I approximated this, best I could, with
a closed end wrench, and some serious primal grunting.
- TIMING. Avoid this job when the weather temp. is mid 90s, and the
humidity is suffocatingly high. A few ravenous mosquitoes nearly drove me
mad.( Haynes doesn't mention this, either).
I did it!
This is a slow job the first time out and as you get better,
like anything else, it becomes a breeze. You DON'T need a
ball-joint separator (pickle fork). I've never used one yet on any
disassembly of a tapered pin.
Jack up car, place bottle jack under lower control arm to provide
up and down control. Remove two ball joint bolts (to A arm). Swing
caliper/hub/spindle assembly out -- don't abuse the flexible brake line.
Place a piece of wood vertically from the ground to the hub flange to keep
things stationary. Loosen the nut holding the ball joint to the spindle.
Now this is the technique that always works. Back up the part that the
tapered pin goes through with something massive, like the head of a sledge
hammer. Smartly strike the other side with a small sledge or heavy
hammer. The tapered pin pops right out.
This works on all parts, like tie rod ends and ball joints. It does not
abuse the parts the way those pickle forks do. If the piece is stubborn,
you might have to strike it several times. If it is really stubborn, add
a vertical component of force with a pry bar or even the weight of car
(just loosen the nut and don't remove it in these situations so everything
doesn't fly apart -- after the pin pops out, correctly block everything
and remove the nut the rest of the way). If space is really tight, you
can do without the backing when striking but then you'll need more blows
to 'pop' the tapered pin.
This technique was taught to me by an old German mechanic. Works great
and spares the parts.
A Detailed Description for Upper and Lower
First, decide whether you want to re-wire the caliper bolts with
safety wire. It's annoying to get everything back together, up on
jack stands, and not have the right wire. So, the worst part is the
lower ball joint, which is not replaced but rebuilt. To do this you
must remove the hub carrier ... decide how far you are prepared to go.
- Sturdy workbench
- Jacks and stands
- 13mm-1/2", 14mm-5/8", ??mm-7/8"
- Source of heat (maybe)
- The usual ball joint removal tools...big hammers, "pickle fork" etc.
- Assorted solvents for cleaning, including stuff to clean
greasy fingerprints off rotor.
- Safety wire (should you choose to use it; no other
manufacturer I know of does, including Volvo (they use a similar caliper).....
- Brass (or other) drift
Disclaimer, to make my lawyer happy ... the following is a report on my
experience and not intended as instruction. I assume no liability etc.,
- Jack the car, etc ... have a small jack available to lift the lower
wishbone. Should be placed well outboard --- to get enough leverage to
compress the spring a bit.
- Remove the brake caliper: two 19mm-3/4" bolts safety wired
together. I did not disconnect the brake line, as the Haynes manual
says, rather I unbolted the 3rd 19mm-3/4" bolt holding the steering
arm and brake line bracket. !!there may be thin shim washers on the
caliper bolts between the caliper and hub carrier ( to align the
caliper). Have something to support the caliper and not strain the
hose ... I used a 1 gallon olive oil can.
- The hub/rotor mass will now swing freely ... remove the upper
ball joint nut. Choice: separate the ball joint stem from the
axle carrier now or later. I left it for later when the assembly
was out ... pickle-forked it. Others have advised whack the hub
carrier (with a large hammer backing up the blow on the back side)
to pop the ball joint spindle free... and then there's always heat.
- Depending on how you are going to remove the upper race of the
lower ball joint, you may want to loosen the nut that holds the front
axleó another tapered cone fitóor you can do it on the work bench ...
- Remove the two upper ball joint bolts .... 14mm-5/8" SHIMS!!!
Shims for adjusting the castor may be on either side of the
ball joint, hung on the bolts. Remember where they go.
- Swing the axle carrier/rotor mass out of the way and remove the
lower ball joint nut. Pop off the ball joint in your preferred
method. Pickle-fork, stun it with a hammer, heat and whack ...
be prepared to receive 20lbs of metal when it separates.
- Cart the rotor/axle/etc to your sturdy work bench and start
cleaning the grease and grit off the lower end.
- Disassemble the lower ball joint ... 4 13mm-1/2" bolts with
locking tabs. Tap the end of the ball joint stem and pull
the bottom off. SHIMS, always shims ... save them you may need
them if the new ball joint didn't come with enough.
- Discard the old "ball" and dust boot ... pry off the dust boot
retaining collar, if there one. Mine had little plastice rings
that popped off with the twist of a screw driver.
- The hard part: remove the upper race of the ball joint ...
an hydraulic press would be nice, and this is where you will
be thinking of removing the axle assemble and will be thankful
for loosening the big nut earlier. However, this race can be
removed with a drift and hammer (I had a piece of 1" aluminum
bar stock). It must be driven down and any damage to the part
sticking out will make it very difficult indeed to get it out.
Heating the metal housing a bit may help. I carefully whacked
with my hammer and drift around the rim to drive it out evenly.
- Clean everything involved with the lower balljoint thoroughly.
Scrape crud from the inner surface where the new upper race will go.
- Carefully seat the new (lower balljoint) upper race with careful
blows from the hammer, using the drift. It must be fully seated;
you'll feel when it bottoms out.
- Lightly grease the new "ball and slip it into the upper socket race.
Place a stack of shims over the bolts (4) of the now pristine lower ball
joint cap and adjust ... Adjust, yeh right. Trial and error with shim
thickness until you get a freely moving but not slack ball joint ... I
punted here, the Haynes manual says something ridiculous like "should
move with 4 ft-lbs pressure" move how? rotational...side-to-side? I
shimmed it so that the movement was a bit stiff with the cap fully
- Final lower ball joint assembly; I removed the grease fitting,
packed a finger full of grease in the ball joint cap (bottom 4-bolt
piece) and tightened...this forced new grease out the grease fitting
hole expelling the last of the old grease. Bend up the lock tabs
(they did send new ones??). Install the new dust boot
- Does it move freely with some resistance? Do it again.
- Reassemble everything.
Voila! Jim W.
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