How to Lubricate Ball Jointsby Jody L. Campbell
Lubricating ball joints and other chassis components is an important maintenance procedure that should not be ignored during routine oil changes. Many ball joints nowadays are non-serviceable, meaning they are sealed components that do not require lubrication. Many truck and SUV makes and models still require lubrication of front end components, however. Before attempting to lubricate the ball joints on your vehicle, make sure they have a serviceable grease fitting to accept lubrication. Refer to the owner's manual for maintenance procedures on lubricating the ball joints of your vehicle.
Lift the front end of your vehicle with a floor jack. Lower the vehicle onto two jack stands.
Put on the safety glasses and grab the grease gun that is preloaded with a grease cartridge and primed, shop rags, and the creeper, and crawl under the front end of the vehicle.
Locate the lower ball joint on one side. It connects the steering knuckle to the lower control arm. Look for a grease fitting protruding from the top, side or bottom of the ball joint. It may be necessary to feel for the grease fitting depending on the make and model of the vehicle.
Place the tip of the grease gun onto the grease fitting. It should fit on snugly and almost snap into place. Apply pressure to the tip of the grease gun with one hand and squeeze the trigger of the grease gun with the other hand. Some pump-action grease guns may make this impossible, but unless pressure is applied to the grease gun tip, it most likely will not force grease into the grease fitting of the ball joint. If necessary, recruit someone to help you.
Pump grease into the ball joint while simultaneously watching the rubber boot of the ball joint. If the ball joints are greased regularly, only a couple of pumps of grease should properly lubricate them. If not, it may take quite a few pumps. Fill the ball joint with enough grease to expand the rubber boot. If you notice some grease starting to purge through the rubber boot, there's enough grease in the ball joint.
Determine if the vehicle has an upper ball joint. Most trucks and a lot of SUVs have both lower and upper ball joints. The easiest way to tell is if the vehicle has front shocks or struts. If it uses MacPherson front struts, it should not have upper ball joints. Another telltale sign is the presence of an upper control arm. An upper control arm will be connected to the top of the steering knuckle by an upper ball joint. If present, locate the grease fitting and fill accordingly.
Repeat this procedure for the other side. It would also be a good time to grease other serviceable chassis components to your vehicle, such as tie rod ends, idler arms, pitman arms and drive shaft U-joints, if applicable. Refer to the owners manual of your vehicle for recommended maintenance schedules between lubricating the chassis components.
Things You'll Need
- Grease gun
- 14-oz. grease lubricant cartridge (for grease gun)
- Floor jack
- 2 jack stands
- Safety glasses
- Shop rags
Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.