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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Ball Joints - How to Keep Your Front Suspension Together
By Mike Bumbeck/autoMedia.com
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyDifficult
Difficult
Estimated Time180 minutes
180 minutes
Wear Out
While all automotive ball joints more or less perform the same task, there are many different designs out there. Some are exceedingly simple yet require liberating most of the suspension for replacement. Still other types of ball joints are of the press in variety and require specialized tools for proper installation. Certain ball joints are of the screw-in variety and require not only a giant unique socket, but also the strength of Gorilla Monsoon himself to remove and replace.
 
While pictures or illustrations will help a great deal in navigating through the maze of suspension components, keep in mind that every vehicle is different. It is therefore crucial to acquire a service manual or auto repair manual specific to your vehicle before beginning work on an unfamiliar suspension. Blowing the suspension apart with a pickle fork and figuring it all out later can leave you stuck in a major pickle. Knowing that a special socket or tool needs to be used to remove or install the ball joint before dismantling the entire suspension can save time and money. The good news is that many parts houses now offer specialized suspension tools for rent with deposit, and sell service manuals along with parts.
 
Enough cannot be said about torque when dealing with suspensions. A bolt that has been properly torqued is not one that's just "tight enough." Torque holds the fastener at a tension that allows the fastener to adequately keep things together and flex to a certain extent. Too little torque and the fastener can come apart, too much torque and the fastener can shear and fail - not at all a good thing to happen while hurtling down the road. Always use a torque wrench during final suspension assembly. Finally, always leave one side of the vehicle assembled for reference when tackling any suspension issues.
 
Step 1 - Getting to the ball joint most often requires removal of brake and suspension components. Do not allow brake calipers to hang by the brake lines.
Getting to the Ball Joints
Step 2 - This vehicle has a MacPherson strut suspension and incorporates only a lower ball joint. Separating the strut will allow access to the ball joint.
MacPherson Strut Suspension with Lower Ball Joint Only
Step 3 - Remove the cotter pin if there is one, then the nut on the ball joint kingpin. Separate the ball joint from the knuckle. These ball joints were trashed.
Remove Cotter Pin and Nut on Ball Joint Kingpin
Step 4 - Remove the ball joint to control arm fasteners. Some ball joints are pressed into the control arm itself, others are screw-in.
Remove Ball Joint to Control Arm Fasteners
Step 5 - Removing the entire brake and suspension aside, these ball joints were easy to service.
Ball Joints Easy to Service After Removing Brake and Suspension
Step 6 - Install the replacement ball joint and torque the fasteners to specification.
Install Replacement Ball Joint
Step 7 - Install the knuckle over the kingpin and torque the castle or retaining nut to specification. Do not use impact tools.
Installing Knuckle
Step 8 - With the new ball joint in place, reassemble the brakes and suspension.
New Ball Joint in Place
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