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How to Replace a Ball Joint in a Cavalier

by Jody L. Campbell

The ball joint in a Chevy Cavalier connects the steering knuckle to the lower control arm. It sustains the up and down movement of the suspension and wheel, as well as allows the wheel to move from side to side. The ball joint uses a contained rubber boot to hold grease inside and keep the ball joint lubricated. After wear and tear, or if the rubber boot becomes compromised, the ball joint may lose its lubrication. When that happens, failure of the ball joint soon follows and will require replacement.

Lift the Cavalier safely on a car lift to waist level.

Remove the hub caps and then remove the wheel nuts using the impact gun and a 3/4 inch socket (or a 19 millimeter).

Disconnect the stabilizer link from the lower control arm using a hand wrench and a ratchet and socket.

Remove the cotter pin from the lower ball joint castle nut using a pair of cutting dikes to bend the pin and pry it out of the pilot hole. Remove the castle nut using the gun and socket or a wrench.

Separate the ball joint and lower control arm from the steering knuckle using a large pry bar and a hammer. While applying downward pressure of the control arm with the pry bar, strike the control arm with the hammer to disconnect the ball joint from the knuckle.

Lift the Cavalier up to access the rivets of the ball joint under the control arm. The original ball joint in the Cavalier was retained to the control arm by three rivets which will require drilling to remove the ball joint. However, if the ball joint has been replaced before, simply remove the three nuts and bolts, and remove the ball joint from the control arm. If this is the case, skip Step 7, and proceed to Step 8.

Use the drill and the 1/8 inch drill bit to make a pilot hole in the center of each rivet. This will guide the 1/2 inch drill bit to drill out the rivets and remove the ball joint from the control arm. Remove the ball joint from the control arm.

Install the new ball joint with the three nuts and bolts provided with the new ball joint. Tighten the nuts and bolts using a ratchet and socket on the nut, and a hand wrench to hold the bolt head still.

Maneuver the ball joint stud into the control arm using the pry bar to lower the control arm as necessary. Replace the new castle nut (provided with the new ball joint) onto the stud and tighten. Be sure to align the slots of the castle nut to allow the new cotter pin (also provided) through the hole in the ball joint stud. Replace the cotter pin and bend it to lock the castle nut in place.

Reconnect the stabilizer link to the lower control arm.

Replace the wheel and wheel nuts. Tighten the wheel nuts with the torque wrench and a socket to 100 foot lbs.

Insert grease into the new ball joint (if applicable; some aftermarket replacement ball joints are sealed like the originals) using a grease gun. Pump grease into the grease fitting until the rubber boot is full.

Items you will need

About the Author

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.

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