: Ball Joint Removal Problem Need Help ASAP

11-16-08, 01:47 AM
So I tried swapping out the upper ball joint on my 02 Lade and have hit a major snag. Now I have a problem. I went to AZ and got the ball joint removal fork (useful tool) and the ball joint installer press on loan-a-tool. Don't even think about this job without these two tools. However, even with the fork and a 3' extension pipe for more leverage, I couldn't get the ball joint out of the steering knuckle. Yes, I pulled the nut on the bottom and there were no rivets to drill out. So after getting kinda clever, I managed to put the weight of the truck on that upper control arm and actually got the ball joint to separate. AKA the ball joint failed and came apart in two pieces. I used the press tool to push the top part out of the upper control arm (or A arm...I'm not sure what the technical name is). However, I CANNOT GET THE STUPID BALL OUT OF THE STEERING KNUCKLE. I've heated it with a torch 3 times, continued to use the removal fork although I can't get that much leverage on it now that the steering knuckle is loose and wobbles. I set the rotor on a jackstand to at least hold everything up, but as soon as I pry, things move. I've hit the crap out of that ball with a hammer, and it didn't budge. Latched a pair of vice grips on there and tried to spin it, but that didn't work. I'm out of ideas. Can anyone help here? Thanks. I just wasted 5 hours screwing with this and I'm still not done... See pics to know what I'm dealing with. The "ball hitch" is whats left of the upper ball joint and I cannot get that sucker out. Please help.

11-16-08, 10:54 AM
I know what you are dealing with as I replaced all my ball joints when I put on my spindles. And you have the right tools, what if you cut the top part of the ball off with a die grinder and used the press to push it out? I have an air compressor so I just hooked my gun to the press and just pushed them out that way.

11-16-08, 11:06 AM
Only problem there is I can't get the bottom of the C-clamp part of the press underneath the screw part of the ball due to the half shaft being in the way. The threaded part sticks out too far and there just isn't enough room. I wish I had an air compressor...that would make some things a lot easier to deal with...

11-16-08, 12:17 PM
what about just taking off the spindle completely, that way you could access it? You already need an alignment...

11-16-08, 01:17 PM
agreed...back plan C option 3 is now removing the knuckle. Only problem is how do you remove the cover to get access to the half shaft nut? See attached pic. I pried on that thing with a screwdriver and it didn't even budge. There is a nut on the half shaft right? Ideally I'd like to remove the knuckle and leave the spindle in there. That's possible, right?

11-16-08, 06:51 PM
ok sorry late reply but I just got home, the cover should pop off, yes there is a nut once you pop it off. I use a pair of plumbers pliers because they are big enough to get around the diameter, give it a turn and it should unsrew (I dont think they are threaded). I would turn the wheel to get access for the clamp so you dont have to go through all that, but if you dont have access, then you need to take it off.

11-17-08, 02:54 PM
Any luck? Need anymore off the wall suggestions? :cool:

11-17-08, 11:06 PM
OK, so if you use a chisel and take some time, you can get the cover to the half shaft nut loose. When I first saw that and hit it a couple times, I got discouraged quickly because nothing moved. However, the half shaft nut was indeed underneath there. A 35mm socket fit on there nicely and the impact wrench that I got from Menards easily took the nut off. I think I could have used one hand, which is much less hassle than using a 4' pipe on the end of a ratchet/breaker bar. So at this point, my plan is to remove the knuckle...the only thing left holding it is the lower ball joint, which shouldn't be too hard to get out, but I've heard those are worse than the uppers. We'll see. Once the knuckle is off, I should be able to hammer/press whats left of the upper ball joint out of there and then buttoning things back up shouldn't be that bad. We'll see... Damn, I thought this could have been a 1 hour job best case scenario, 4 hours worst case. I was WAY off. Even the good ole rule of three (things take three times as long as you think) didn't apply as I've been screwing with this since Saturday. I'll let you guys know how it all works out. Thanks.

11-17-08, 11:34 PM
Glad to hear it, actually I can't imagine doing the job w/o a compressor, fork, and a press, all these things make this job essential. It took me a day to put my spindles on and when I did the lower ball joints I was ready to cry, because I thought they were never gonna come off. Good thing though, I bought all new ball joints and a fancy grease gun and that made installation a snap. If I had to do it again, I bet I could also do it in 1/3 of the time.

11-18-08, 12:44 PM
Keep us updated. Let us know if you have any more problems.

11-20-08, 12:25 PM
I finally finished this job up. Well not really.

Since I couldn't get the lower half of the upper ball joint out as discussed earlier and seen in the pics, I decided I needed to remove the whole steering knuckle so I could work at a bench rather than in the wheel well. And I decided that I might as well replace the lower ball joint while I was in there.

To take the nut off the axle if one of the ball joints is loose, you will need an impact wrench, but if you have one of these tools, that nut comes off nice and easy. Next, you'll need to take off the tie rod which I needed the press for, but it wasn't wedged in there that bad. Then take off the caliper and use something to hold that up out of the way (not the the brake line) and you'll have to remove the ABS line. There is a connector up at the top of the shock where that will come loose and you'll have to free the line from the little clips that lead up to the top of the shock. At this point the only thing holding the steering knuckle on is the lower ball joint and the axle is still in the spindle. I took the nut off the bottom of the lower ball joint and was hoping to use the separator fork tool to bust things loose.

Side note: after talking to the guy at Autozone, I was apparently using this tool incorrectly. I shoved the thing in there and then put a 3' pipe over the end of it to use it as a pry bar, but what its supposed to do is cut the boot and separate the two halves of the ball joint if you hammer it in as far as it will go.

So after banging the separator fork all the way in, it did trash the boot, but the lower ball joint did not separate. Again, I tried prying with the fork, but that didn't get me anywhere either so I was stuck.

I called my mechanic and he said that at this point its possible to lean the knuckle down as far as it will go and you should be able to push in the axle, remove it from the spindle and push it to the side. He was right, but the axle just barely clears the back of the knuckle. It took everything I had to get that thing out of there and if I didn't know that it was supposed to come out, I think I would have given up on that idea. Anyway, with the axle out of the way, that gave me enough room to get the press in there and punch out what was left of the upper ball joint.

It took everything I had (I'm 6-5, 205lbs) to turn that press to bust out the upper ball and it sounded like a gun shot when that thing finally broke loose. Now I just need to use the press to remove the lower ball joint and I could move on to installation. Unfortunately, the press was about 1/4" too short to span the lower ball joint so I was not going to be able it to get that one out of there. Yes, I shreaded the boot with the fork tool, but I thought, hey I can install the upper and at least I'll be able to drive the truck to a shop where they can then replace the lower one. Hammering on the knuckle with a 5lb sledge did not break things loose either when only the lower ball joint was holding things together.

My next problem came installing the upper joint using the press. The joint should press about 1/2" into the upper control arm, but when the thing was in there only 1/4", I couldn't turn the press any further. Turns out that the tip on the press is the same size as the lug nuts so I could use a tire iron to turn it, but even then I was still 1/4" away from getting the thing flush with the control arm.

At this point, I quit. I buttoned everything up even though the boot on the lower is cut and the upper is only pressed in half way, but I figure I can limp (15mph tops) over to the shop and have them finish this up and then do an alignment.

I don't know if I have ball joints from hell, but I'll never try one of these jobs again. I'm sure there are people who have replaced these joints as noted in the post above, but this one was over my head. Its essential to have the proper tools (I'm thinking you need to have impact wrench, maybe hammer chisel, etc.) to do this and probably the shop manual (not Haynes/Chiltons that say "now press the ball joint out and you're done") or someone who really knows what it takes to get the old ones out AND get the new ones back in. Another problem the DIYer can run into with this job is that, if you successfully take one of the joints out but can't fully replace it, you can't put any load on the tire/steering knuckle meaning you can't move or even tow the truck. That's not good. I've done a lot of work on vehicles, but like I said, this job was too much for my garage/tool box. I screwed with this for probably 20 hours over the last week and I feel that the truck is only safe enough to limp into the shop.

Just my two pennies...

11-21-08, 01:47 PM
wow. Thanks for sharing. I feel your pain. Did you perhaps think about just taking the upper control arm off and just having them install the ball joint that way? I personally won't try removing and installing ball joints. Most of the places around where I live don't even have a tool for it (rental). So, I always take in my hubs and spindles (depending on vehicle) to the machine shop. Usually always done within the hour.

11-24-08, 11:26 AM
When I took the thing to Midas to have them finish up what I got started, they had to remove the upper control arm to press in the upper ball joint on a 20-ton press. I guess they broke their normal press trying to do that with the control arm on the truck. PITA even for the pros. I'm not saying that its impossible to change the ball joints by yourself, but I'm not going to get into another one of these jobs.

11-29-08, 08:45 AM
Wow, I felt your pain too. I never let anyone work on my vehicles unless it is the dealership while under warranty. This is one job I'll pass on to a front end shop. Thanks for sharing.

11-29-08, 04:32 PM
with the right tools, you can do this in the garage. I have done it and everything worked out. Don't let one mishap worry everyone here. I am assuming if you do own the right tools, then you are familiar with this kind of work.

12-03-08, 01:38 PM
Where is the blow torch. Throw some heat on that bad boy.

12-03-08, 05:17 PM
Tried that. I fired the crap out of it with a MAPP gas torch. Heated the upper ball three times. Didn't budge.

12-05-08, 04:16 PM
If you don't mind me asking a rookie question, how do you know when your ball joints are going bad? Do they tend to need to be replaced after a certain amount of miles? Thanks

12-06-08, 11:25 AM
Conor...I decided to change mine since the boots were busted. If Jiffy Lube or any of those other quick lube places overfill them, the boots burst and dirt, moisture, gunk gets in there and the joint doesn't glide as well as they should. I hate to say this, but in my case there is no difference in the performance of the truck before doing this repair and after. So if you notice that you have busted boots, you might *think* about having this done if you start to hear scraping/grinding noises during turns/when going over bumps. Or you could probably buy a grease gun ($15), shoot some grease into the boots about every time you change the oil to make sure they are full even though some grease is going to squirt out the boot and call it good. Grease enters through the zerk fittings. Search for zerk on the forum...there are about 11 on the truck I think...and someone put together a good post with pics of where all the little suckers are. Or shoot me a PM as I may have gotten that post from a different forum but I have it saved. You'll need a flexible extension tube for your grease gun if you want to hit all the zerks as most are in tricky/tight locations. Now you can do your own lube jobs. Just keep in mind that when the boot is firm to the touch, its full...you don't want to bust them. Other joints don't have boots...when you squirt new grease in, the old grease oozes out. 2-3 pumps with your grease gun per zerk every 5-10k miles is probably a good rule of thumb.

12-06-08, 12:49 PM
wow. I never knew that Jiffy lube or others do joints. At least none that I have gone to ever have.

12-07-08, 11:52 AM
"Oil change and chassis lube" is what they sell, right? I haven't been to one of those places in years since I do my own oil and my two Sevilles had "lubed for life" parts that don't even have zerks. However, with the 'Lade there are lots of places to shoot grease.