Monday, October 15, 2012

Tech Tip - Ball joint replacement

Worn ball joints can be a serious hazard. Essentially, they are what hold the spindle to the car. This failing means your wheel will no longer be attached and that's not going to end well. To tell if its time to change them there are a couple signs. If you can see the joint, it should have a rubber boot around it. Like below. If that boot is worn, torn and outright gone its time to replace the joint. If you can't see the joint you can often tell by the loud squeaking or even grinding sound when ever your car/truck's suspension travels (up and down movements). To replace, depends on upper or lower joint. We will discuss both here.
This your typical worn out joint. Notice the boot is completely gone.
First upper, very straight forward standard swap out. Our vehicle is a Ford Explorer, very common suspension and notorious for ball.joint failures. On these trucks the and most car you cannot replace only the upper ball joint. You must replace the entire assembly. Two bolts shown below unscrew and slide out so you can remove and replace. I recommend marking the current ball joint placement, so you can place the new one in the same position. This way you can save money in alignment costs. Separating the ball joint from the spindle can be a pain, if you don't have a ball joint separator. The best way i find is to use a 5lb sledge. Give it a couple good smacks on each side of the spindle near the joint, normally frees it up.

The lower joint is a press in, press out which will require a special tool. The tool can be rented at Autozone or discount for a small fee which will be return when you return the tool or you can buy one for around $120. With the top join off, remove the crown nut from the steering arm and remove it from the spindle. It lodged in use the same hammer technique used on the upper mount or if you have a ball joint separator this make it easier. Once off remove the caliper and caliper beaker assembly. Then the rotor and if you have four wheel like our vehicle. You will need to remove the bearing assembly as well. To remove there are three bolts located on the back of the hub in a triangle pattern. Once removed the hub slides off. Last remove the lower crown nut off the lower ball joint. One off remove the spindle to gain access to the ball joint. Using c-clip plies or a pair of needle nose pliers remove the clip. Using the tool, proceed to press out the old joint or you can hammer it out if you wish. Then using the press, press in the new joint and put on the new c-clip. Before reassembling you'll need to grease fill the joint using a basic grease gun. Then reverse the steps and reassemble.

This is the steering knuckle mentioned above. Once Unbolted a few taps to the side of the spindle should free it.

The 3 Bolts to release the hub bearing assembly.

Our car was equipped with ABS to we needed to unbolt the sensor before removing.

Simply slide off bearing assembly.

Using the ball joint press tool, press in and out the old bearing.

With the new bearing in. Put on the new c-clip and fill with grease using supplied nipple.

This should be your finished product.

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