How to Replace a Lower Ball Joint on Vehiclesby Contributing Writer
The ball joint in the car's lower control arm works much like the ball joint in your arm or leg. Even then, you need a special press tool and receiver cup from an auto parts store or equipment rental yard. On all other year models, you'll need to replace the entire lower control arm, so be sure to consult with your mechanic before attempting any replacement.
Under The Hood:
- How to Replace a Lower Ball Joint on a Crown Victoria
- How to Replace the Lower Ball Joint on a 2000 Dodge Neon
- How to Replace the Lower Ball Joint in a Nissan Maxima
Removing the Control Arm
Raise the car's front end, support it on jack stands and remove the front wheel. Loosening the lug nuts before raising the car will make it easier to remove the wheel.
Remove the shock absorber by removing the shock's attaching nut, washer and bushing, the self-tapping bolts at the lower end of the shock absorber. Pull the shock absorber out through the hole in the control arm.
Remove the coil spring: Disconnect the center link from the Pitman arm, compress the spring with a spring compressor, remove the nuts and bolts securing the control arm's inner end to the frame, then slowly lower the arm and remove the spring.
Take out and discard the cotter pin on the ball joint stud.
Loosen the castle nut on the stud with one or two turns of a wrench, then tap the steering knuckle sharply to loosen the stud in the knuckle; you may need to use a picklefork-style ball joint separator. Remove the stud nut.
Unbolt and remove the lower control arm.
Replacing the Ball Joint
Remove the ball joint from the control arm using the press tool and receiver cup.
Install the replacement joint using the same press tool.
Install the control arm and its mounting bolts, but don't tighten the nuts all the way yet.
Position the spring on its seat in the lower control arm, slowly loosening the spring compressor once installed. Follow the spring compressor's exact instructions.
Place a floor jack under the control arm, raise the arm and guide the spring's upper end into position, making sure the insulator is properly installed on the top of the spring.
Install the ball joint stud into the steering knuckle and install the castle nut. Tighten the nut to 129 foot-pounds; tighten it further, until the hole in the stud lines up with the slot in the nut, if needed. Install a new cotter pin.
Install the shock absorber.
Raise the control arm with the floor jack to its normal ride height and tighten the pivot bolt nuts to 129 foot-pounds.
Reinstall the wheel and lower the car.
Items you will need
Picklefork ball joint separator
Press tool and receiver cup
2000 Dodge Neon: Remove the Lower Ball Joint
Remove the initial torque from the wheel nuts, on the side of the Neon that you are going to work on. Use a tire iron to loosen the lug nuts. Raise the side of the car you are working on with a 2-ton jack or a jack with greater capacity. Place a jack stand beneath the sub-frame rail on the front of Neon. The sub-frame is the narrowed frame that is also known as the engine cradle. Remove the wheel from the Neon on the side of the car you are working on .
Remove the caliper mounting bracket bolts from the rear of the brake assembly, using a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket. The bracket bolts are not the caliper bolts, but are the bolts to the bracket that holds the caliper in place. Removing these bolts will save time, rather than removing the caliper separately. Turn the bolts counterclockwise until you can remove them by hand.
Insert a pry bar between the top of the brake rotor and the caliper. Pry the caliper free from the brake assembly. Hang the caliper and bracket assembly from one of the coil spring rungs on the front of the Neon, using a high strength steel hook or a metal clothes hanger. Do not let the caliper and bracket hang freely or you will damage the rubber hose between the rear of the caliper and the frame of the Neon.
Remove the brake rotor from the Neon by hand. Install a 32-millimeter axle nut socket on the end of a 1/2-inch ratchet or breaker bar. Turn the axle nut in the center of the wheel hub counterclockwise, until the face of the nut is flush with the outer edge of the CV axle.
Hammer the end of the CV axle to push it backward through the wheel bearing, using a large rubber mallet. Having the axle nut flush with the end of the axle will ensure that you do not damage or "mushroom" the end of the CV axle, causing the axle to have to be replaced. Hit the end of the axle repeatedly until it pops free of the wheel bearing. Remove the CV axle nut completely from the end of the CV axle.
Remove the lower ball joint castle nut using a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket. Turn the nut counterclockwise with the ratchet using one hand, while simultaneously pushing the CV axle back through the wheel bearing to create room for the ratchet and socket. Remove the nut completely from the lower ball joint.
Strike the outer front corner of the lower control arm, using a hammer. You want to hit the lower control arm downward and toward the rear of the Neon. Continue striking the lower control arm until the lower ball joint pops free of the steering knuckle. Hit the lower ball joint downward through the lower control arm, once it is free of the steering knuckle. The lower ball joint is held to the steering knuckle with the nut, and the lower control arm by friction. Hitting the ball joint downward will allow it to pop free of the lower control arm.
2000 Dodge Neon: Install the Lower Ball Joint
Raise the lower control arm up near the steering knuckle, using a 2-ton jack beneath the arm to lift it. Insert the new lower ball joint through the bottom of the lower control arm, upward and through the mounting hole in the steering knuckle. You can adjust the alignment of the lower control arm and steering knuckle holes, using the jack to maneuver the lower control arm into place. Install the lower ball joint nut onto the upper end of the ball joint and tighten the nut using a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket.
Lower the jack when you have the lower control arm and ball joint assembly properly mounted. Push the CV axle shaft toward you from behind the steering knuckle, and install the 32-millimeter axle nut onto the axle. Tighten the axle nut onto the axle, using a 1/2-inch drive torque wrench to tighten the axle nut between 90 to 110 foot-pounds.
Install the brake rotor back onto the wheel hub by hand. Install the caliper and caliper bracket assembly over the rotor. Insert and tighten the caliper bracket bolts between 60 and 70 foot-pounds of torque, using a certified torque wrench and socket.
Place the front wheel back onto the Neon, and tighten the bolts so that they are snug. Lift the Neon off of the jack stand, and remove the jack stand. Lower the Neon the ground. Tighten the wheel lug nuts between 90 and 110 foot-pounds using a certified torque wrench.
Items you will need
3/8-inch drive ratchet and socket set
36-inch or larger pry bar
2-ton or greater capacity jack
1/2-inch drive ratchet or breaker bar
1/2-inch drive, 32-millimeter axle nut socket
Large rubber mallet
High tensile wire hook or metal clothes hanger
1/2-inch drive certified torque wrench
1/2-inch drive socket set (19 to 21 millimeter wheel nut sockets)
Raise the car and support it securely on the jack stands. Remove the front wheels with the ½-inch air gun.
Remove the cotter pin from the ball joint stud with the wire cutters. Remove the ball joint nut using a wrench.
Separate the spindle from the ball joint stud by placing the ball joint separator between the spindle and the lower control arm. Hammer the tool until the ball joint stud separates from the tapered hole in the spindle.
Push the lower control arm down while lifting on the spindle until the stud is free of the spindle. Push the spindle to the rear of the control arm to keep it out of the way.
Remove the snap ring on the top side of the ball joint using the snap ring pliers.
Put the ball joint press tool on the ball joint and press the joint out of the control arm.
Push the new ball joint in through the bottom of the control arm. Make sure it is lined up to go in straight. Attach the ball joint press. Press the ball joint completely into the lower control arm with the ball joint press.
Attach the snap ring on the top side of the ball joint. Lift the spindle and line the hole in the bottom with the ball joint stud. Lay it down so the stud enters the tapered hole. Screw on the ball joint nut and tighten it with a wrench. Push the cotter pin into the ball joint stud and bend the ends outward.
Items you will need
Ball joint press kit
Ball joint separator tool
Air gun with ½-inch drive
Set of ½-inch drive sockets
Set of wrenches
Ratchet with 3/8-inch drive
Set of 3/8-inch drive sockets
Snap ring pliers