Ball Joint Replacement – How to Do It?

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If you’re somewhat of a car enthusiast, you might already know the importance of ball joints in the suspension system.

Are you hearing weird clunking noises from your car’s front? A ball joint replacement is what you may need.

This little component allows your car’s suspension to absorb the shock when you drive over a bump. It reduces vibration and makes your ride comfortable.

And it’s also equally responsible for the vehicle’s steering capabilities. A worn-out ball joint can make your steering wayward without warning.

This makes you prone to sudden accidents. You might also hear a constant clunking sound from the car’s front wheel suspension every time you ride.

Ball joints accumulate a lot of dirt and grit while driving but still last a long time. But sooner or later you will be required to replace them.

This article will give you all the information necessary for a compulsory ball joint replacement.

Ball Joint Replacement

Getting Started

Before you begin inspecting the ball joint, you must make sure the car is entirely stationary, and there’s no way for it to move.

After parking on an even surface, block both the rear and front tires. To inspect the ball joint, your first need to look beneath the front tires.

Gently jack both the front tires off the ground, and secure it with jack stands.

To make sure nothing moves while you’re replacing the ball joint, chock the back tires as well.

Inspecting Ball Joints

Inspecting Ball Joints

Next, you need to determine which of the ball joints (if any) need replacing. There’s an easy way to detect this.

However, your car will be equipped with either of the two types of suspension – control arm or strut style suspension. The methods for inspection vary for both.

If a control arm induces your suspension, you need to jack it up near the ball joint and check for wheel play.

For a strut style suspension, you must jack the car up and check for wheel play using a pry. A good ball joint for Jeep JK will have no space between the point of contract.

And if you notice a significant amount of space, it means your ball joint needs to be replaced.

Access the Ball Joint

After you purchase a suitable ball joint assembly for your car model, you need to access the worn-out ball joints.

The steering assembly in some cars requires the brakes to be moved aside beforehand.

In that case, you can hang the brakes with the help of wire and place them away from the brake lines.

To allow more space, you also need to loosen the mounds to hold the sway bar or control arm in place. This will help you securely remove the ball joints.

Removing Old Ball Joint

The top of the structure should look like a castle at the bottom. You need to locate the castellated nut and try to loosen it.

Don’t forget to remove the cotter pin first. To make sure the nut is in a safe position, leave the castellated nut just a few turns in.

If you’re using a McPherson strut suspension, you may notice a pinch bolt. Releasing this pin bolt will free the ball joint stud from its grasp.

Popping the Ball Joint Loose

The trick is to guide the ball joint through a hole in the upper part of the suspension. It is somewhat of a complicated task.

The suspension system contains the ball joint in a tight fit. It helps to keep them in place.

Moreover, a lot of dust and grime may settle inside the suspension due to driving.

In that case, you might need to use a hammer, and a special tool named the “pickle fork.” Next, you need to use a wrench to remove the largest nut from the ball joint, which will be replaced with a new one.

Then carefully drive the pickle fork between the steering knuckle and control arm.

This might take a little effort, and you may need a hammer for this onerous task.

To ensure the ball joint doesn’t pop out of the gasket, put on the castellated nut before you hammer away.

Remove the Allen Bolts

Move the control arm free and start loosening nut bolts and rivets. The ball joint must be held in place.

If some of the components look corroded, consider using a torch to loosen them.

Installing the Ball Joint

Once you remove all the nuts and bolts, it’s time to install new ball joints. The new rubber boot should be moved over the ball joint stud.

Then the joints should be guided inwards through the steering knuckle. Use the new hardware provided to bolt the joint into place.

Some of the bolts and the castellated nut need a torque wrench to be tightened to a specific level.

Follow the service manual to know all the necessary specifications. If you’re working with a McPherson strut, reinstall the pinch bolt.

For the last step, install the grease fitting and fill the assembly with grease. Once that’s done, reattach the brakes and wheels removed earlier, and lower the car back.

Final Words

Keep in mind that replacing the ball joints can alter the car’s alignment. Please make sure to check the car’s alignment and have it realigned.

All that’s left is to take your vehicle on a test drive to check how your ball joint replacement worked.