How to install lower ball joint without press

There are some ball joints that don’t require a press, but when it comes to certain suspensions that us pressed-in ball joints. Well, there is also a solution for this one too, but you might not like it.

What is a ball joint?

A ball joint is part of the suspension system. It is a ball connected to rod that connects the steering knuckle to the control arm. It is essentially a pivot that provides a wide-angle of movement for your suspension from the wheel. Some suspensions come with both upper and lower ball joints.

Why replace a ball joint?

Simple; if the ball joint is worn, the angle of pivot will be affected, sometimes to such a degree that it affects your control over manoeuvrability at low speeds. If this is the case, then you don’t want to go to high speeds because you will most probably lose control.

Replacing a Ball joint without a Press

OK, remember I started out with stating there were two types of ball joints? Well, this is how to replace the one that doesn’t like being replaced without a press.

You cant, you need to take the whole control arm assembly out and give it to a professional or find a press.

I told you, you wouldn’t like it.

Now for all the rest

Step 1: Preparation and Safety

Make sure you are on a flat and even surface. Prepare a jack and four jack posts. Don’t jack up your vehicle yet, that’s in step 2.

Step 2: Identifying

Take a look at the suspension units, and focus on the ball joints that you want to replace. First, ascertain if you have strut or control-arm style suspension.

Now check the ball joints

  • Control-Arm Type: Jack up the control arm near the ball joint, this will show you wheel play.
  • Strut-Style: Jack up the vehicle and use a pry-bar to ascertain wheel play.

If the joints have any space between them, or the wheel is moving a lot, then you need to replace the joint.

Step 3: Remove the Wheel

Remove the wheel where you want to replace the ball joint. This is a straightforward replace wheel removal operation.

Step 4: Make more room

Once the wheel is out of place, look to see if you need to move aside the brakes. If you do, when you disconnect them, hang them using a wire hook, don’t dangle them. IN some instances you will want to loosen the control arm or sway bar mounts too. Remove the wheel and access the ball joint. Depending on the steering assembly, you may also have to move aside the brakes. If so, use a wire to hang the brakes and don’t dangle them by the brake lines. You'll also need to loosen the mounts holding the control arm or sway bar in place to give you more room to move suspension parts away.

Step 5: Prepare the ball joint for removal

As with all ferrous components, there can be rust and dust to compromise removal. I always suggest you soak the bolts with solvent and metal cleaner. Remember, the suspension system is the dirtiest part of the car, it gets all the crap off the road stuck to it, and in many cases is never really cleaned properly.

Step 6: Removing the Ball Joint

After cleaning up the area, locate the cotter pin and now loosen the castellated nut. The reason it called a castellated nut is that the top looks like a castle in a chessboard. Don’t take the nut off, just loosen it with a few turns. There are some models that come with a “pinch bolt”. Remove the pinch bolt which will remove the clamp on the stud. Now you can remove the ball joint by guiding it through the upper half of the steering knuckle. In many cases, this is a tight fit, and this fit is made so for maintaining the ball joint in place, but it also helps pile on the toad grime. I expect you will need to use a hammer and tie rod separator or “pickle fork”, which provides the leverage required. Next, take a wrench and unscrew the castellated nut right off the joint, you might want to replace it with a new nut, this will prevent the ball joint from exploding out when you go hit it. You don’t need to put another nut on though. Now place the fork or tie rod between the steering knuckle and the control arm and hit hard. You will ruin the gasket in the process, but that’s a foregone conclusion before we started work. If you did put a new castellated nut on, then the ball joint will have been stopped from thunking out. You can unscrew the nut and remove the joint with ease.

Step 7: Remove the Control Arm

Now you can unscrew the Allen bolts that hold the control arm in place. Slide it free and loosen all the bolts or drill out the rivets that hold the ball joint in the arm.

Step 8: Installing the new ball joint

Take the new ball joint and slide it in the control arm through the knuckle hole. Now take the rubber boot and slide that over the stud and then push the joint all the way through the knuckle hole. Next, close the joint using the hardware that came with the kit. Do not use any of the old bolts hardware. Using a torque wrench, tighten the bolts up to the manufacturer’s requirements. Now insert the grease fitting and fill the assembly with grease.

Step 9: Reattach the Wheel Assembly

Now you have to reassemble the components you took apart as well as re-attach the wheel too.

All done.

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