How to Replace the Ball Joint of an Ford Carsby Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017
The ball joints in a Ford car act similar to the ball joints in a human body. They contain a cup and a ball. The joint on your Ford car allows the suspension to move and flex without falling apart. You'll know when the ball joints have failed or are going bad because you will hear a rattling or your steering will become stiff. You can also do a visual inspection of the ball joint in the wheel well to see if the protective ball joint rubber boot is damaged. Once the ball joints fail, you must replace them or you risk damaging the entire suspension.
Under The Hood:
- How to Replace the Ball Joint of an Escort
- How to Replace Ball Joints on a Ford Ranger
- How to Replace the Ball Joints on a Ford F150
- How to Replace Ball Joints on 1999 Taurus
Block the Escort's rear wheels with heavy blocks or wheel chocks and make sure the parking brake is on. Raise the front end with a floor jack and support the car on jack stands.
Unscrew and completely remove the ball joint's clamp bolt, working underneath the car. The large bolt connects the joint to the stabilizer bar through a notch in the ball joint stud. Use a flare-nut wrench with as long a handle as you can find.
Remove the two bolts that connect the ball joint to the control arm--one on the upper side and another on the lower side--and separate the ball joint from the control arm.
Connect the replacement ball joint to the control arm. Connect the clamp bolt and nut, then insert the two sets of nuts and bolts for the upper and lower ends of the joint.
Tighten the clamp bolt to between 32 and 43 foot-pounds with a torque wrench. Tighten the upper and lower end nuts to between 69 and 86 foot-pounds.
Remove the jack stands and lower the car to the ground.
Items you will need
Park the truck on a level surface and place wheel chocks behind the rear tires.
Raise the truck with an automobile jack and place a jack stand under the frame near the jacking point. Position the jack stand as close to the frame as possible then remove the wheel.
Remove the brake caliper with the proper-sized socket and secure it to the strut with a wire tie.
Disconnect the ABS sensor from the frame of the truck with a wrench.
Place a jack stand under the lower suspension arm to support it.
Unscrew the nut from the tie-rod end and discard it. Use a tie-rod tool to separate the tie-rod from the wheel knuckle. Be careful not to damage the rubber boot on the tie-rod.
Remove the nut and cotter pin from the lower ball joint and separate the wheel knuckle from the lower suspension arm.
Hand-tighten a new castellated nut onto the ball joint then remove the pinch bolt and nut.
Remove the castellated nut then remove the wheel knuckle.
Detach the snap ring from the ball joint and discard it. Remove the ball joint with the tie-rod tool to work it free.
Install the new ball joint in place of the old one and clip on the snap ring. Install the new castellated nut and tighten it with a socket and ratchet. Insert the cotter pin and spread it apart to lock the nut into place.
Reconnect the wheel knuckle and insert the ball joint. Tighten the pinch bolt and nut with the socket and ratchet. Reconnect the ABS sensor.
Insert the tie-rod end into the wheel knuckle and install a new castellated nut. Insert a cotter pin and spread it apart to lock the nut into place.
Reinstall the brake caliper and tighten the locking pins with the socket and ratchet.
Remove the jack stand and remount the wheel. Lower the truck to the ground and repeat the steps for the other side if necessary.
Items you will need
Jack stands (2)
Metric socket set
Metric wrench set
Loosen the front wheel lug nuts by turning them 1/4 turn counterclockwise with a tire wrench. However, be careful that you do not unseat the wheel from the wheel hub and the full weight of the truck is still over the tires.
Place the jack under the front jack point and jack up the F-150. The front jack point is located near the radiator and is an extension of the frame. On the F-150, the jack point is essentially the front crossmember.
Finish removing the lug nuts and pull the wheels off.
Remove the cotter pin and axle nut that holds the outer tie rod end. This nut sits in the center of the wheel hub assembly. Pull the cotter pin out using a pair of pliers. The nut will require some force, but can be removed with a socket wrench.
Push the axle in by hitting it with a rubber mallet. Now that the outer tie rod end nut has been removed, the axle should slide in enough for you to slide the hub assembly forward.
Locate the ball joint. As its name suggests, it looks like ball and cup joint. It will have a rubber protective boot on it. There is an upper and lower ball joint on the F-150, so you'll need to do them both, but the process is the same for both ball joints.
Remove the upper and lower mounting bolts on the caliper with a socket wrench and pull the caliper off the brake rotor. Secure the caliper assembly to the coil springs above the brake assembly with zip-ties and pull the brake rotor off the wheel hub.
Remove the cotter pin and mounting nut from the upper ball joint. The cotter pin must be pulled out with a pair of pliers. The nut can be removed with a socket wrench.
Wedge the ball joint removal tool-also called a pickle fork-between the ball joint and the steering knuckle. Bang on the handle of the pickle fork to separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle
Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the lower ball joint.
Push the axle into the hub to back it out and pull the hub away from the axle. In the process, you should be removing the knuckle as well.
Remove the snap ring on the lower ball joint by pressing the clip apart and pulling up on the clip with a pair of pliers.
Place the head of the ball joint press tool over the top of the ball joint and tighten the clamp until the ball joint is pressed out of the control arm. Note the orientation of the ball joint as you are removing it
Install the new ball joint. Installation is the reverse of removal. When pressing the new joint in, make sure that the ball joint press tool is pressing the joint straight into the control arm.
Re-install the snap ring.
Repeat steps 11 and 12 for the upper ball joint.
Reassemble the suspension. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Tighten the axle nut you removed in step 4 to 254 foot-lbs with a torque wrench. Set the dial on the torque wrench to 254 foot-lbs and turn the nut clockwise until the wrench clicks.
Put the wheel back on, tighten the lug nuts, and lower the truck to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts to 100 foot-lbs.
Items you will need
Replacement ball joint
8mm hex head wrench
22mm combination wrench
Ball joint separator tool
Ball joint press tool
2 jack stands
Set the parking brake. Place wheel chocks in front and behind the rear wheel opposite the side being worked on. Remove the hub bolt by turning it counterclockwise with the 33 mm socket and breaker bar. Loosen the lug nuts by turning counterclockwise.
Slide the jack under the frame just behind the front wheel being worked on. Raise the car high enough to lift the front wheel off the ground. Remove the lug nuts and wheel.
Remove the caliper by turning the two bolts securing the full caliper assembly to the steering knuckle by turning counterclockwise with the socket and ratchet. Pull the caliper off the rotor and hang it from the coil spring with a wire hanger. Pull the rotor off the hub and set it aside.
Straighten the cotter pin on the tie rod stud and remove it with the wire cutters. Remove the tie rod nut by turning it counterclockwise with a socket and ratchet or a wrench. Place the pickle fork between the tie rod and steering knuckle. Strike the pickle fork sharply with the hammer until the tie rod separates from the steering knuckle.
Straighten the cotter pin on the ball joint and remove the nut by turning it counterclockwise with a ratchet and socket or wrench.
Install the gear puller over the hub collar (or on the lug nuts, depending on puller) and tighten the center threaded stud against the axle until the axle slides out of the steering knuckle.
Place the pickle fork between the control arm and the steering knuckle. Strike it sharply with the hammer until the control arm and ball joint separate.
Loosen the pinch bolt securing the steering knuckle to the MacPherson strut and pull the knuckle off the strut.
Remove the C-clip on the top inner portion of the steering knuckle ball joint opening by prying it out with the small pick. Install the ball joint tool, pushing the ball joint through the opening in the knuckle from the top. Rotate the nut on the ball joint tool clockwise with a wrench or socket until the ball joint separates from the knuckle.
Loosen the nut on the ball joint tool and pull it off the knuckle. Insert the new ball joint in reverse of how the old one was removed. Reverse the ball joint tool and tighten the nut with the wrench until the ball joint is completely pressed in. Install the C-clip on the inside of the ball joint opening of the steering knuckle. Loosen the ball joint tool and remove it.
Slide the bottom of the strut tube into the corresponding opening on the steering knuckle. Torque the pinch bolt to between 30 and 40 foot-pounds with a wrench or socket and ratchet by turning the nut clockwise.
Align the hole in the ball joint stud facing front and rear. Slide the lower control arm over the ball joint stud and thread the new bolt onto the stud by turning it clockwise until finger-tight. Tighten this bolt to between 30 and 40 foot-pounds with a wrench or socket and ratchet. Insert the new cotter pin into the hole in the stud and between the openings in the nut. If the openings don't line up, tighten the nut until they do. Insert the cotter pin in the hole and bend it over or around the nut and stud.
Insert the tie-rod end in the hole on the steering knuckle and thread the bolt onto it by turning it clockwise until finger-tight. Tighten this nut to 30 to 40 foot-pounds with a wrench or socket and ratchet. If the holes don't line up, tighten the bolt until they do. Line the holes in the stud and the nut up as needed by tightening the nut and insert the cotter pin. Bend the cotter pin over or around the stud and nut.
Insert the axle shaft end into the opening in the hub and push it as far through as you can. Replace the rotor on the hub.
Install the wheel and thread the lug nuts by hand, turning them clockwise by hand. Thread a new hub bolt onto the axle shaft by turning it clockwise by hand. Run it down as far as possible by hand.
Lift the car off the jack stand with the jack and remove the jack stand. Tighten the lug nuts to 100 foot-pounds with the lug wrench. Lower and remove the jack. Tighten the hub nut with the 33 mm socket and breaker bar to 100 foot-pounds. Remove the wheel chocks.
Items you will need
33 mm socket
Ball joint press