A car's suspension is held together by its ball joints. They ensure that the connection between the steering and the front wheels is maintained. A car's front suspension normally has four ball joints, two on each wheel, and an upper and a lower joint. They need to be replaced after the car has completed around 80,000 to 150,000 miles. Dirt, lack of lubricants, and constant wear and tear make these joints ineffective. If you find that the steering is unstable, the car shakes while driving, or you hear noise from the front wheels, it may be a sign that the ball joints need replacement.
- Grease pump
- Pickle fork or straightening rod
- Drill machine
- Torque wrench
- You need to prepare your work area and find a flat, hard, and preferably concrete surface to park your car. Raise your car from the front using a jack.
- It will be much easier to do this if you can take your front wheels off. You will also have to remove the brakes and suspension. When you remove the brakes, ensure that you hang them properly on a wire and do not let them dangle in the air.
- If your car has a McPherson suspension, it will only have a single ball joint, a lower one. Once you separate the strut, you will be able to easily access the ball joint.
- Take out the cotter pin and loosen the castellated nut--a large nut at the bottom with a crown-like head. Again, if your car has a McPherson suspension, just pull out the pinch bolt.
- Next, remove the ball joint by loosening its nut. Be careful, as this nut is extremely tight and you will require a straightening rod or a pickle fork to get it out. Since you haven't removed the castellated nut, the ball joint won't fall down.
- Using a drill machine, carefully remove all the rivets around the ball joint and slowly slide it out.
- Once you have removed the old joint, you need to replace it with a new one. Take the new ball joint and push it into place through the steering knuckle hole.
- Screw the ball joint using the recommended tools or the ones provided by the manufacturer along with the new joint.
- Tighten the screws using a torque. Ensure that it is very tight, as it is important that the new ball joint does not move from its place. Fix the new grease fitting and add some extra grease to the assembly to ensure sufficient lubrication.
- Attach the brake and suspension components. Put the wheels back on, and lower your car.
- Always refer to a service manual. Adhere to all the specifications and procedures which may be unique to your vehicle.
- When you lift up the vehicle, it is better to lock the steering handle. This places the steering in the best position for you to complete the job without any obstacles.
- In a case where the ball joint is attached to the control arm, you will have to replace the whole control arm assembly while replacing the ball joint.
- Once you have replaced the ball joint, get your vehicle aligned by a professional.
- Always use standard and company manufactured products. Do not try to buy non-standardized material as there may be some discrepancy in the size of parts.