If your vehicle creaks, it veers when you hit a bump, the steering wheel shakes, or the tires clunk, it may be time to inspect the ball joints. Ball joints connect to the suspension system control arms that help you turn the wheel. However, since they are subjected to road condition, they can easily wear. Ball joints should be replaced as soon as possible.
Prepare to Replace the Ball Joints
To replace the ball joints, gather:
- Work gloves
- Jack stands and wheel chocks
- Allen key or hex driver
- Small hammer
- Combination wrench
- Bolt cutters (optional)
- Spray penetrating lubricant
- Ball joint tool or chisel
- Brake bleeding kit (optional)
- New ball joints
Park the vehicle on a hard, even surface, shut off the motor, let it cool. Raise the front of the vehicle on jack stands, and set wheel chocks under the back wheels to keep them from rolling. Check your manual for the exact location of parts and specific removal steps.
Determine if the ball joints need to be replaced by rocking the tire back and forth. The wheel should have little play, and there should be no gap around the ball joint.
Remove the Old Ball Joints
On some vehicles, you may need to remove the brake system, but try to work around them. If you have to remove parts, keep them in order, and replace damaged parts.
Remove the brake hose, then use the Allen key to disconnect the brake caliper, the part of the brake system that helps the brake pads contact the brake disc when you stop. Disconnect the brake drum, giving it a gentle tap with a small hammer, if needed.
Spray the ball joint nuts and Allen bolts with lubricant and let it sit a minute or two. Remove the cotter pin (straight metal fastener) and loosen the castle nut, the nut resembling the top of a castle using the wrench. If the nut is still hard to remove, cut it with a bolt cutter, and buy replacements.
Work the ball joint shank through the steering knuckle, and install the new nut to keep the ball joint from dropping too fast. Insert the tool between the control arm, hit it hard with the hammer, then remove the bolts to dislodge the joint. If you don't have a joint removal tool, use a chisel.
Install the New Ball Joint
Wipe the area where the ball joint installs. Thread the new ball joint into the steering knuckle, and place the rubber boot on the stud, using the new bolts instead of the old ones.
Refer to your manual for the suggested torque to tighten the bolts. Reattach the brake assembly, replacing damaged pads or other parts, and bleed the brake system, if you removed it. To learn more, contact an auto body repair service in your area.