How to Replace a Ball Joint on Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Worn ball joints on a Mercury car have several indicators. They cause a shaking in the steering wheel when encountering rough road surface, severe wear on the front tires and a knocking noise over bumps in the road. They are used on the lower control arm to secure the spindle to the arm and allow the spindle to turn or swivel. An extremely worn ball joint can obviously cause a catastrophic incident where it separates and causes a total loss of control of the vehicle.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace a Ball Joint on a 1996 Dodge RAM 1500

Park the truck on a firm and level surface. Set the parking brake. Loosen the lug nuts by turning them counterclockwise with the lug wrench.

Place the jack under the frame just behind the wheel you're going to work on and lift the truck until the front wheel is off the ground. Place the stand under the frame just behind the jack and carefully lower the truck onto the stand. Finish removing the front wheel.

Remove the caliper retaining bolts by turning them counterclockwise with the ratchet. Hang the caliper from the upper control arm with a piece of wire hanger. Pull the dust cover off the hub with the large slip joint pliers. Straighten the cotter pin and remove it with the wire cutters. Remove the lock cover by pulling it off and place it in the dust cap. Loosen the center hub nut by turning it counterclockwise with the large pliers and place it in the dust cap. Pull the rotor assembly off the spindle and set it aside.

Remove the front shock absorber by turning the top retaining nut and the lower bolts counterclockwise with the ratchet and socket. Insert the spring compressor tool into the middle of the coil spring and clamp the top and bottom coils. Take up the tension on the coil by turning the center bolt on the compressor clockwise. Back off the compressor one half turn.

Straighten the cotter pin and remove it by pulling it out with the wire cutters. Remove the ball stud nut by turning it counterclockwise with a wrench. Insert the pickle fork between the steering knuckle and lower control arm and strike it sharply with the hammer until the ball joint separates from the knuckle. Pull the coil spring and rubber isolator out.

Install the ball joint press so as to press the ball joint out of the lower control arm. The ball joint will need to be pressed downward. Turn the threaded stud clockwise with the wrench to press the ball joint out. Turn the threaded stud counterclockwise to loosen the tool and remove the old ball joint. Insert the new ball joint and turn the tool around to press the ball joint in. Turn the threaded stud clockwise with the wrench to press the ball joint into the lower control arm. Place the rubber boot over the ball joint. Lift the coil spring into place and replace the rubber isolator on the lower control arm.

Turn the threaded stud counterclockwise to loosen the ball joint press and remove it. Turn the ball stud so it faces front to rear. Insert the ball stud into the hole in the steering knuckle and thread the nut onto the stud by turning it clockwise by hand. Tighten the ball stud retaining nut to 135 foot-pounds if 11/16 or 175 foot-pounds if 3/4. If the holes in the nut and ball stud don't line up, tighten the nut until they do. Insert the cotter pin through the holes and bend it over the stud to secure it.

Remove the spring compressor tool by turning the threaded stud counterclockwise and remove it. Insert the shock absorber from the bottom, making sure the rubber and metal grommets are in place on the shock rod. Replace the upper grommets and thread the nut onto the shock rod by turning it clockwise by hand. Tighten this nut to 25 foot-pounds with a torque wrench. Thread the bottom retaining bolts in by hand, turning them clockwise and tighten them to 200 inch-pounds.

Slide the rotor over the spindle, insert the bearing, tapered end first, then the large, keyed washer. Thread the lock nut onto the spindle by turning it clockwise by hand. Tighten it to approximately 15 foot-pounds by turning it with either a socket or the large pliers. Slide the castle lock over the spindle nut and insert the cotter pin through the hole and bend it over the spindle to secure it.

Slide the caliper over the rotor and insert the retaining nuts. Thread them into the holes by turning them clockwise by hand. Tighten these bolts to 2 foot-pounds.

Replace the wheel and threads the lug nuts onto the studs by turning them clockwise by hand.

Lift the truck off the jack stand and remove the stand. Lower the truck until the wheel makes contact on the ground. Tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern to 135 foot-pounds. Lower the truck and pull the jack and wheel chocks out.

Items you will need

  • Lug wrench

  • Jack

  • Jack stand

  • Wheel chocks

  • Socket set

  • Ratchet

  • Wire hanger

  • Wrench set

  • Pickle fork

  • Hammer

  • Large slip joint pliers

  • Wire cutters

  • Ball joint press tool

  • Spring compression tool

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace Ball Joints in a 2005 Dodge Dakota

Upper Ball Joint/Control Arm

Raise the truck and support it on jack stands; place the stands underneath the frame rails. Remove the wheel for the control arm you are removing.

Loosen the upper ball joint's stud nut without removing it--use a flare nut wrench if possible--and then pry the ball joint off of the steering knuckle using a ball joint removal tool.

Remove the mounting fasteners for the control arm by removing their nuts and then pull the arm away from the frame brackets. Take note that the fastener studs both point in the same direction.

Connect the replacement control arm to the frame brackets and apply the fasteners, making sure the bolts point in the same direction as before. Do not tighten the bolts all the way yet.

Connect the ball joint to the steering knuckle and tighten the upper stud nut to 55 foot pounds.

Re-connect the wheel and tire and lower the truck. Once it is back at its normal ride height, tighten the pivot bolt nuts to 75 foot pounds.

Lower Ball Joint

Raise and support the truck like you would for an upper control arm removal and remove the wheel.

Unbolt and remove the brake caliper and its mounting bracket from the brake disc using a wrench and then slip the disc off the studs. If the disc is held in place with pressed washers, clip them off with cutting pliers.

Raise a floor jack under the lower control arm at the outer end to support it and then separate the control arm from the stabilizer link by removing its link nut.

Paint marks to show the relationship between the control arm's mounting bolts and the frame, remove the bolts and pull the arm from the brackets. Separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle as described for the upper control arm.

Press the ball joint out of the control arm using a special press tool and receiver cup. This type of tool can often be rented from an equipment yard.

Install the replacement ball joint into the control arm using the same tool you removed it with.

Connect the control arm in the reverse order that you disconnected it. As with the upper arm, don't tighten the pivot bolt nuts until after you lower the truck back to normal riding height. Tighten those bolts to 180 foot pounds.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Tire iron

  • Wrench

  • Cutting pliers

  • Ball joint separator

  • Paint

  • Small brush

  • Press tool and receiver cup

 How to Replace Ball Joints in a RAM 2500

Lift the truck with a jack and safely support it with jack stands. Place a floor-jack underneath the lower control arm on which you will be replacing the ball joint.

Use a wheel wrench to remove the tire and wheel assembly from the side where you will be replacing the ball joint.

Use a socket wrench to remove the cotter-pin and stud nut.

Release the upper ball joint taper using a flat-head screwdriver to pry it off the control arm.

Remove the bolts from the ball joint and pry the ball joint off the control arm using a ball joint fork.

Place the new ball joint onto the control arm, below the steering knuckle, and reattach its bolts. Tighten the bolts to 169 Nm.

Reattach the upper ball joint taper, the cotter-pin and stud nut. Tighten the stud nut to 183 Newton Meter, or Nm.

Reattach the tire and wheel assembly. Remove the floor-jack and jack stands and slowly lower the truck to the ground.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Floor-jack

  • Wheel wrench

  • Flat-head screwdriver

  • Ball joint fork

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace the Ball Joint on a Mercury Grand Marquis

Disable the air-ride suspension on the Grand Marquis before lifting the vehicle. The air-ride suspension switch is located in the trunk. Some models have an access door to open behind which the switch is located.

Disconnect the negative battery cable and engage the parking brake for safety. Make sure your Grand Marquis is parked on level ground, preferably on concrete or asphalt.

Slightly loosen the lug nuts from the wheel(s) you need to remove to access the ball joint. Use the floor jack to lift the vehicle and support it with jack stands. Only use the factory recommended jacking point under the engine bay. Use the side mounts to support the vehicle with the jack stands.

Use the four-way lug wrench to remove the wheel(s). Remove the wheel hub and the brake components to access the control arm and ball joints.

Use the ball joint press to remove the ball joint from the Marquis. The ball joint cannot be removed without a ball joint press.

Install the new ball joint using the ball joint press; do not remove the protective cover while installing it. Once the ball joint is fully tightened, remove the cover from the joint. You may have to trim the protective cover to remove it.

Reinstall the wheel hub and brake components. Replace the wheel and tighten the lug nuts to between 85 and 105 foot-pounds using the torque wrench. Lower the vehicle, reconnect the negative battery cable and enable the air ride suspension by turning the trunk switch back on.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Four-way lug wrench

  • Socket wrench set

  • Ball joint press

  • Replacement ball joint

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace the Ball Joints on a Mercury Sable

Raise and support the vehicle on jack stands. Remove the wheel using the ½-inch drive air gun and the appropriate socket. Remove the lower ball joint nut using a wrench.

Separate the ball joint from the spindle using the ball joint separator. It looks like a big fork with just two teeth. Place the remover in between the lower part of the spindle and the lower control arm. Strike it hard with the hammer and the ball joint will pop out of its tapered hole in the spindle. On a strut type of front suspension, it is safe to remove the lower ball joint without supporting the arm because there is no spring tension on the arm. Once the ball joint is loose, push the lower arm down and with the other hand swing the spindle off of the ball joint and let the spindle sit to the side of the lower arm.

Remove the snap ring from the ball joint on the top-side of the control arm using the snap ring pliers. Place the floor jack under the lower control arm as close to the ball joint as possible without interfering with its removal. Strike the ball joint stud with one good blow with a hammer and the ball joint will come out downward.

Install the lower ball joint using the ball joint installer kit. Use a cylinder that fits the bottom of the ball joint and a larger one on top to act as a receiver. Place the two end caps on top of the cylinders and install the c-clamp over both of them. It is a bit of a juggling game but if the bottom is installed first with one hand, the c-clamp will hold it in place while the top cylinder is installed. Tighten the c-clamp by hand and it will hold all in place. Make sure that the ball joint is going in dead straight. If it tries to go in cockeyed it will be difficult to straighten.

Install the snap ring on the top side of the ball joint using the snap ring pliers. Push down on the lower control arm with one hand and place the spindle over the ball joint with the other. Let go of the lower arm and push the ball joint stud back into the lower hole in the spindle. Install the nut on the ball joint and tighten.

Grease the ball joint with the grease gun. Install the tire and let the vehicle down.

Items you will need

  • Jack stands

  • ½-inch drive air gun

  • Set of ½-inch drive sockets

  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet

  • Set of 3/8-inch drive sockets

  • Ball joint separator tool

  • Hammer

  • Set of wrenches

  • Snap ring pliers

  • Ball joint installer kit

  • Grease gun

 How to Replace Ball Joints in an Acura Integra

Prepare to Replace Ball Joints

Buy a name-brand ball joint replacement kit. Since Honda no longer makes the Integra, contact a distributor that sells parts for your make and model, such as Acura Automotive Parts.

Park your car on flat concrete and block your back tires with something heavy.

Unlock you steering wheel for easy access.

Jack up your car and support it on safety stands.

Loosen the lug nuts slightly.

Remove the two front tires.

Lift and secure the front end of the car.

Disassemble the Lower Ball Joint Component

Keep a diagram of your front suspension system close while you perform the repair.

Remove the following parts, front wheels, axle nut, brake caliper, brake rotor, wheel sensor wire bracket, steering knuckle and boot by prying off the snapring.

Disconnect the following components from the steering knuckle, brake hose, wheel sensor, tie rod and lower ball joint.

Install the Lower Ball Joint

Position the ball joint as specified in your kit instructions and firmly press it into the steering knuckle.

Install or connect the following components in this order, lower ball joint and torque the nut to 40 ft. lbs. (54 Nm), tie rod and torque the nut to 32 foot pounds (43 Nm), upper ball joint and torque the nut to 32 foot pounds (43 Nm), wheel sensor and torque the bolts to 84 inch pounds (9.5 Nm), brake rotor and torque the bolts to 84 inch pounds (9.5 Nm), brake caliper and torque the bolts to 80 foot pounds (108 Nm), brake hose and torque the bolts to 84 inch pounds (9.5 Nm), new axle nut and torque it to 134 foot pounds (181 Nm), front wheels, steering knuckle to the vehicle and finally the ball joint boot and snapring.

Items you will need

  • Name-brand ball joint replacement kit

  • Safety stands

  • Screwdriver set

  • Automatic drill

  • Bricks or heavy object to block your car from rolling

 How to Replace Ball Joints on a GMC Sonoma

Lift up the front of the vehicle using the jack and secure it on jack stands. Make sure the vehicle is completely secure on the jack stands before you crawl underneath it. Remove the front wheels using the tire iron and place them to the side, out of the workspace.

Place the jack underneath the lower control arm until it just contacts the arm. This is to catch the spring from launching out of the control arm when the upper ball joint is disconnected.

Unbolt the upper control arm from the spindle using the 1/2-inch ratchet and socket. Then unbolt the upper control arm at the frame using the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket. Remove the upper control arm and place it to the side. GM does not offer a replacement ball joint for the upper control arm and instead sells the entire control arm assembly. This is actually easier to install than having to press out the stock ball joint, which requires special tools, and is also more reliable than buying an aftermarket ball joint.

Bolt the replacement upper control arm to the frame using the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket, then bolt the ball joint on the upper arm to the spindle using the 1/2-inch ratchet and socket.

Unbolt the lower control arm from the spindle using the 1/2-inch ratchet and socket. Then slowly lower the jack to release tension on the spring and separate the ball joint from the lower control arm.

Use the pneumatic angle grinder with the cut-off wheel to cut "X" shapes into the rivets that secure the lower ball joint to the lower control arm. This will make it easier to remove the heads of the rivets using the chisel. Insert the chisel attachment into the pneumatic chisel and place the chisel head between the lower control arm and the head of the rivet. Pull the trigger and chisel off the heads of the rivets until they're off completely. Once they are, switch to the pointed attachment and place it in the center of the rivet, then pull the trigger to knock the rivets completely out of the lower control arm.

Slide out the stock ball joint and slide in the replacement ball joint. Then bolt it in place using the hardware provided with the ball joint and the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket. Jack up the lower control arm and bolt it to the spindle using the 1/2-inch ratchet and socket. Bolt the tires back on and lower the vehicle back onto the ground using the jack.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Tire iron

  • 1/2-inch ratchet and socket set

  • 3/8-inch ratchet and socket set

  • Replacement upper control arm

  • Replacement lower ball joint

  • Pneumatic angle grinder with cut-off wheel

  • Pneumatic air chisel with pointed and chisel attachments