How to Replace the Ball Joints in a Chevy Truckby Robert Moore
Replacing the ball joints on your Chevy truck isn’t the easiest job, but if you pick up the right special tools while you’re at the parts store, you’ll have it back on the road in no time. Your truck's lower ball joints can be replaced, but if you need to replace the upper ball joints, you have the replace the entire control arm assembly. If you’re replacing the lower ball joints, remove the steering knuckle. The following procedure is based on a 2011 Silverado 1500, but the process is similar for all 1500s built between 2007 and 2011. Your truck will need a front end alignment once you’ve replaced the ball joints.
Lower Ball Joint Removal
Park your truck on a level surface and set the parking brake. Remove the center cap from the front wheel, if equipped. If your truck is four-wheel drive, remove the cotter pin from the CV shaft nut with a pair of pliers. Remove the CV shaft nut, using a 36 mm socket and a breaker bar. Loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench.
Lift the front end with a floor jack, then position jack stands under the frame rails. Position the jack stands so that they are directly under the flats between the lower control arm mounts. Lower the front end so that it rests on the stands, then remove the floor jack.
If your truck is two-wheel drive, skip to the next step. If your truck is four-wheel drive, install a CV shaft remover onto the wheel hub. Turn the push bolt of the CV shaft remover clockwise with a socket and ratchet to push the CV shaft out of the wheel hub. Remove the bolts that secure the CV shaft to the output flange on the front differential. Make a mental note of how the stabilizer bar link is assembled. Hold the link bolt steady with a box-end wrench and remove the link nut. Remove the stabilizer link bolt, bushings, washers and center sleeve from the lower control arm and stabilizer bar. Guide the CV shaft through the opening in the lower control arm and remove it from the vehicle.
Remove the bolt securing the wheel's speed sensor harness to the steering knuckle. Remove the cotter pin from the tie-rod end stud. Hold the tie-rod end stud in place with a box-end wrench, then remove the tie-rod end nut. Thread the nut back onto the stud a couple turns, then separate the tie-rod end from the steering knuckle with a tie-rod separator. Remove the nut and discard it. Repeat the separation process for the upper and lower ball joint, using a ball joint separator. Remove the steering knuckle from the vehicle.
Remove the locking tabs from the body of the lower ball joint with a hammer and chisel. Follow the directions included with the ball joint press kit to determine the proper size cup to use with the ball joint press -- the correct cup is slightly larger and longer than the ball joint itself. Tighten the press bolt until it contacts the ball joint. Ensure that the end of the press bolt is centered on the ball joint body, then turn the press bolt clockwise to press the ball joint out of the lower control arm. Loosen the press bolt to remove it and the ball joint.
Lower Ball Joint Installation
Guide a new ball joint into the lower control arm. Install the press over the ball joint using the proper-sized cups -- when pressing the ball joint, a cup slightly larger than the opening in the lower control arm is used on top of the lower control arm. Turn the press bolt clockwise against the upper cup to press the ball joint into the lower control arm. Remove the press. Install the snap ring around the upper edge of the ball joint, using the snap ring pliers.
If your truck has four-wheel drive, Install the CV shaft to the output flange on the front differential. Tighten the bolts to 58 foot-pounds with a torque wrench. Allow the CV shaft to rest on the lower control arm. Install the steering knuckle, while guiding the CV shaft into the hub assembly. Install the upper and lower ball joint nuts. Tighten both ball joint nuts to 37 foot-pounds, plus 95 degrees.
Install the tie-rod end to the steering knuckle and tighten the nut to 44 foot-pounds. Slide a washer onto the stabilizer bar link bolt, followed by a bushing. Guide the bolt through the lower control arm, then install another bushing, a washer, the center sleeve, a washer and a bushing. Guide the bolt through the stabilizer bar, then install the last bushing and washer. Apply a coat of thread locker to the bolt threads, then tighten the nut to 17 foot-pounds.
Tighten the ball joint and tie-rod end nuts slightly, if needed, to align the groove in the nut with the hold in the studs. Slide a cotter pin through the nuts and studs, the bend the tips of the cotter pin in opposite directions around the nut. Install the wheel and snug the lug nuts. If your truck has four-wheel drive, install a new CV shaft nut. Lower the front end, then tighten the CV shaft nut to 188 foot-pounds. Slide a cotter pin through the CV shaft nut and CV shaft, then bend the tips of the cotter pin in opposite directions around the nut. Tighten the lug nuts to 100 foot-pounds. Drive the truck to a local repair shop for a front end alignment.
Upper Control Arm Removal
Park your truck on a level surface and set the parking brake. Remove the center cap from the front wheel, if equipped. Loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench. Lift the front end with a floor jack, then position jack stands under the frame rails. Position the jack stands so that they are directly under the flats between the lower control arm mounts. Lower the front end so that it rests on the stands, then remove the floor jack. Remove the wheel.
Position a third jack stand, under the lower control arm for support. Place an alignment mark on each of the alignment cams in relation to the chassis with a paint marker. Remove the cotter pin from the upper ball joint stud with pliers. Remove the nut with a socket and ratchet. Thread the nut back onto the stud several revolutions, then separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle, using a ball joint separator.
Remove the bolt securing the wheels speed sensor harness to the steering knuckle. Remove the two nuts from the upper control arm bolt, then remove the outer alignment cams. Remove the upper control arm bolt from the upper control arm, then remove the control arm from the truck.
Upper Control Arm Installation
Lay out the four new alignment cams that came with the new control arm next to the old alignment cams. Make an alignment mark on each of the new cams that are identical to where you made the mark on the old cams. Hold the upper control arm in position, then guide the bolt and two inner cams into position.
Install the outer cams on the control arm bolt, then snug the upper control arm nuts. Align the marks on the new cams with the marks you made previously on the chassis, then tighten the control arm nuts to 140 foot-pounds with a torque wrench.
Guide the upper ball joint stud into the steering knuckle, then tighten the ball joint nut to 37 foot-pounds. Install the bolt that secures the wheel speed harness to the knuckle and snug it. Install the front wheel and lower the front end. Tighten the lug nuts to 100 foot-pounds. Drive the truck to a local repair shop for a front end alignment.
Things You'll Need
- Breaker bar (4WD only)
- 36mm axle socket (4WD only)
- Lug wrench
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Axle Remover
- Socket set
- Paint marker (upper ball joint only)
- Box-end wrench set
- Tie-rod separator (lower ball joint only)
- Ball-joint separator
- Ball joint press kit (lower ball joint only)
- Snap ring pliers
- Torque wrench
- Axle nut (one for each side)
- Tie-rod end nut (one for each side, if replacing the lower ball joint)
Robert Moore started writing professionally in 2002. His career started has head writer and Web designer for VFW post 1224 in Hamburg, Michigan. He has prepared business plans, proposals and grant requests. Moore is a state of Michigan-certified mechanic and is pursuing an Associate of Arts in automotive technology from Lansing Community College.