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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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 it incorrectly.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

John Napoli

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.


Jim Warren
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.,

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 ...
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Cart the rotor/axle/etc to your sturdy work bench and start cleaning the grease and grit off the lower end.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Clean everything involved with the lower balljoint thoroughly. Scrape crud from the inner surface where the new upper race will go.
  12. 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.
  13. 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 tightened ...
  14. 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
  15. Does it move freely with some resistance? Do it again.
  16. Reassemble everything.

Voila! Jim W.

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