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New 02/12/2005, updated after much pain 02/17/2005
As you all probably know, I'm doing joint/hub stuff on my car today.
I'm having some trouble with the lower ball joints. I've read a BMFH will do the trick.
1) is there an easier way?
2) how big of a big f*ing hammer do I need? I have a 8 pound sledge.
If you have a quick answer, call me
Go to NAPA and get their $15 Pitman Arm tool.
Do those work well Chris? I've seen them but always heard that the
Gen 3 takes a special kind.
Works if you are replacing the ball joint, since the pitman arm tool will
tear up the ball joint rubber boot.
How do you get the ball joint out of the spindle and the new one in?
You need to get the LARGE Pitman arm tool. They make a smaller one
for imports and small cars, but it won't fit on our big ball joints.
Also, you might as well get 2 of the large ones, since you will
probably break one--I have heard of this happening a few times.
Perhaps putting tension on the ball joint with the Pitman arm tool and
then using the BFH to deliver a light tolchock and drive the ball
joint loose? I know Kirk has a method for this job...
I actually used Autozone's Pitman arm puller OEM27016. It was a pain and I
thought I broke it but it worked! Good thing is, if you break it, you don't
have to pay for it!
Paul L Fisher
Is this to remove the ball joint from the spindle or to remove it from the
A-arm? I have always been able to pry the joint loose from the spindle. If
you do not have a press, is there a way to remove the joint from the A-arm,
without destroying the arm? Also, how do you keep from damaging the rubber
boot when using the Pitman tool?
I used it to push the ball joint out of the a-arm.
Forgive me if I am telling you something you already know but the Gen 3
A-arm/ball-joint relationship is backwards compared to most other vehicles
I've worked on. In the Gen 3, the ball-joint is part of the knuckle and the
threaded bolt goes through the A-arm. The pitman puller goes over the a-arm
and the screw in the middle pushes against the ball-joint bolt.
Paul L Fisher
The pitman tool will trash the boot - no way around it.
The trick is a two or three pound hammer to the front or backsides of
the lower A-aram to get the tapered hole to resonate, and pop the
tapered ball joint out. It may take some sweat but with the right
tool and enough force it pops right apart with both parts being
Getting the ball joint out of the Knuckle is another story, you must
have a press and several goodies to be able to rig it up to press it
Nope! Definitely not! I only replaced the drive axle. I did not replace the
ball-joint. Are you sure you aren't talking about a pickle fork?
Paul L Fisher
Uh the pitmin too will trash what? Its wide enough not to hit the boot if
used correctly, another simple way is to jack the car up using the nut on
the bottom of the ball joint (loosened slightly) and hit the control arm with
a hammer (BFH). The weight of the car will pop it loose.
Kirk J Doucette
ok... I'm back. have the ball joints out of the a-arms. used a
pitman arm, a handle from one of my jacks and all 250 pounds of my fat
ass. popped right out.
to clear up some confusion about 10 emails ago, I used a 3-jaw puller
to back the spindle/cv assembly out of the bearing/hub assy.
now, I'm stuck on removing the ball joint from the knuckle. what do
you think about a couple of sockets on either end and a big ass
c-clamp? I really don't want to take the knuckle off the strut.
My bad... I was thinking fork. Dunno why but I was...
Getting the ball joint out of the knuckle is easier than getting the new
one in. Remove the snap ring. Put the knuckle in the oven and heat it to
200-250 deg. Heat it for about 30 minutes. When you remove it take a hammer
and tap the ball joint out of the knuckle.
All this time you should have kept you NEW Ball Joint inside the freezer,
while you're cooking you knuckle to get the old one out. When you get your
old Ball joint out, try to put the NEW Cold Ball Joint. Normal Disclaimers
apply. I've never done this before. I am close to a Machine shop that can
press in a ball joint so I've not done that before.
Does this sound familiar? Sounds like pressed to fit ala Camshaft.
Rene Carlos Cruz
Big time, Glen and Rene!!! did the trick in less than 5 minutes of pounding.
And here it is folks, completely unedited, so read and follow at your own risk. Matt's Haynes Manual of Suspension work.
Inner & Outer Tie Rod, Lower Ball Joints and Wheel Bearings
Odd tools you’ll need (I love to improvise and despite my best efforts, these are NECESSARY):
- 30 mm socket
- 1.375” socket
- Inner Tie Rod tool - Lisle part # 45750, available @ Carquest, Sears, Ebay, Lisle’s website. (Autozone’s rental inner tie rod tool doesn’t work)
- Large pitman arm – available for rent @ Autozone
- Oven (yes, the one in your kitchen)
- Freezer (again, in your kitchen)
- Torx socket for an M6 bolt (you can cheat here – I did, you’ll read below)
- 2 axes or 2-4 pound sledge hammers
- A fat ass (I put all 250 of my pounds go good use)
- A 4 foot cheater bar (the handle from your floor jack works well)
- Elbow grease
- Impact wrench – air or electric. I prefer pneumatic.
- A torch – I used MAPP gas with a ton of success.
- Dentists picks. Or an awl. You’ll want to mark the struts and knuckles to line them up later.
- A 30 pack of your favorite malt beverage or a liter of your favorite liquor (Miller Lite and Mr. Jack Daniels work VERY well for me)
- 2 M6x1.0x25mm socket head cap screws, also perhaps called allen head bolts (since you’ll strip your ABS sensor bolts)
- The following parts – www.rockauto.com has them all, has good prices and great customer service.
o BCA Part #512107 & #513100 – wheel bearing/hub assy’s
o MOTORMITE Part #05170 & #05114 – spindle nuts
o MOOG Part #K8687, #ES3349RL & #EV328 (lower ball joints, inner & outer tie rods)
- The tools listed above
- Beer or whiskey. I know I mentioned it above. Get more. You’ll need it.
- Some excess sanity and skin for knuckles (the ones on your hand, not the car). I wasn’t able to find any at Autozone or online, but am pretty convinced they would have helped.
- Brake pads and discs if necessary
- A couple variety packs of hose clamps. You’ll only need two, but I don’t remember what size they were and these things are just handy to have around.
Editors note - At this point folks you are all on your own!!!
- Jack the car up as far as possible. A lift would have been a lifesaver here.
- Have a beer, this is going to suck.
- Remove the wheels – duh.
- Pull off the calipers (I think its 13mm in the rear and 12mm in the front – kinda backwards, no???) and zip tie them to the springs to keep them out of the way.
- Check your pads for wear
- Pull off the caliper brackets – 15mm all the way around
- Remove the discs
Rear (its easier than the front, so do it first while you have your sanity and knuckles)
- At this point you should be looking at a bare spindle, hub and bearing. If not, you missed a step. Have a beer while you re-read these directions.
- Use your 1-3/8” socket (I think – its this one or the 30 mm and the other is for the front spindle nuts) and your impact wrench (yeah… you really need one) to remove the spindle nut.
- The hub & bearing assembly should slide right off with zero effort.
- Put the new hub & bearing on with a new spindle nut and loctite.
- Re-assemble the brakes, put the wheel on and bang… you’re done.
- Have a beer. Beer-o-meter – 2.
- At this point you should be looking at a bare spindle, hub and bearing. If not, you missed a step. Have a beer while you re-read these directions. Beer-o-meter – 3
- Use the 30mm socket to pull off the spindle nut. Throw it away (the nut, not the socket, smarty-pants).
- Undo the pins through the castle nuts on the lower ball joints and tie rod ends and throw them away. The new ball joint should come with a new one as these should NEVER be reused
- Remove the castle nuts and throw them away for the same reasons.
- Back off the jam nut on the inner tie rod so you can remove the tie rod end (or outer tie rod – I use the terms interchangeably). I used a lot of WD40 and the MAPP gas torch to get this bastard free.
- Use a hammer to pop the tie rod end out of the knuckle. Don’t be shy, you’re throwing this one away, too.
- Leave the vise-grips in place so you can keep the inner tie rod from spinning. Pull off the tie rod end, counting the number of revolutions to remove it so you can get the alignment close. Write the number down – mine was about 22.5 revolutions. You’ll have to align the car when you’re done, anyway.
- Remove the jam nut. You can pitch it. The new inners should come with a replacement nut.
- Grab a block of wood and your floor jack, support the engine and remove the rear two bolts from the subframe. This will give you more room to work on the inner rods. Drop the subframe 2-3 inches. Don’t worry, there’s room, despite how cramped the engine bay is.
- Depending on the side of the car, turn the steering wheel so the rack is extended towards you – it just makes things easier.
- Remove the outer spring clip on the steering rack boot. Keep it.
- Use a small flat head screw driver and a buddy with small hands to reach in there and undo the boot clamp on the inner side of the boot. These aren’t re-useable. You’ll use normal hose clamps when you put the boot back on.
- Pull the boot off. If this isn’t simple, you did something wrong. Have a beer and think about it.
- Use your new inner tie rod tool to remove the inner tie rod. Its loctited, so you’ll need a cheater bar since you really shouldn’t use an impact wrench on something directly connected to the steering rack.
- I know you’re excited to get the new tie rod junk re-installed, but leave it off for now. It only gives you extra room to work.
Removing the knuckles
- Use your dentist’s picks to etch the strut housing and knuckle so you know exactly how high the knuckle goes and what the alignment should be.
- Pop the lower ball joint out of the lower control arm. Easier said than done, I know. There are two methods you can use.
Scott Krietemeyer’s method – get two big-ish hammers, 2-4 pound sledges or axes in my case. Don’t worry, I used the flat end as I didn’t have the sledges. Hold one on one side of the control arm and smack the other side with the other hammer/axe. You’re trying to get the taper fit between the control arm and ball joint to vibrate free. Using two hammers essentially gives you a free hit each time. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, just follow the instructions and you’ll see what I mean. I got one side to pop free with this method, then used the pitman arm to get it the rest of the way out of the control arm.
My fat ass method – put the pitman arm between the knuckle and lower control arm (around the lower ball joint). Slide the handle from your floor jack over the end of the pitman arm. Jump on the other end of the cheater bar. It popped right out and was much easier than Scott’s method which didn’t work on this side. Physics at work here, people… 250 pound man, 4 foot cheater bar = 1000 lbs of force to free the damn thing.
Now that you have the lower ball joint out of the lower control arm, you have some extra play in the strut mount so you can wiggle the spindle/cv joint assembly out of the knuckle. Mine slid right out. It was much harder to get back in. Don’t know why.
- Use that stupid torx socket to remove bolt that holds the ABS sensors on. I didn’t have one, so I used a normal socket. One side worked fine. The other side stripped. I ended up drilling it out. I replaced them with normal socket head cap screws.
- Use your impact wrench to remove the nut from the bolt that holds the knuckle on the strut. A photo would help here, but if you’ve looked at this stuff, you should be able to figure it out.
Lower Ball Joints
- Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Seriously. Do it. Since you’re in the kitchen, get yourself a beer and a break, being careful not to get anything dirty that your AWA will yell at you for. Oh yeah, while you’re grabbing the frosty mug out of the freezer, but the two new lower ball joints in there. Beer-o-meter – 4
- You should be able to work the knuckle down and off the strut now. This takes a little bit of muscle, elbow grease and some wiggling.
- Now that you have this thing on the floor of the garage, flip it over so the studs are on the floor. Use your impact wrench to remove the 3 bolts that hold the hub & bearing assembly to the knuckle. The hub & bearing assembly should fall right out. If not, persuade it a little.
- Remove the circlips from the bottom of the lower ball joints. If you don’t have a circlip tool, a small pair of needlenose pliers will do the trick.
- Put both knuckles in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour. It depends on how long of a nap you want to take or how many beers you want to drink. Beer-o-meter – 5
- While you’re drinking this beer, grab your mallet and a deep socket that has the same OD as the lower ball joints.
- Now that your kitchen smells like burnt grease, pull one knuckle out with an old towel (so you don’t get your wife/girlfriend’s hot pads dirty) and gloves, take it outside, slip the deep socket over the ball joint and pound on the socket. The ball joint should, after some convincing, drop right out. You have to hurry here, so run back into the kitchen, grab the new lower ball joint out of the freezer and it should drop right into (without convincing) the knuckle. Use a hammer if you need to. Repeat the process for the other one.
- Turn off the oven.
- Have another beer ‘cause you have to wait for the knuckles to cool off a bit. Beer-o-meter – 6
- If you didn’t know, that whole procedure works ‘cause aluminum (knuckles are cast aluminum) expands faster than the steel of the lower ball joints. Its called coefficient of thermal expansion in mechanical engineering terms. Basically heating it makes the hole bigger, while cooling the new lower ball joints makes them smaller.
- Reassembly is reverse. Put the hubs back on, slide the knuckle back onto the strut, matching the marks you made with your dentist’s pick, reinstall that one bolt, put the spindle through the new hub/bearing, pop the lower ball joint back in the lower control arm put the castle nut back on and make sure everything’s tight.
- I had to use an impact wrench and the new spindle nut to get the new hub/bearing back on the splines. You might not.
Back to tie rods
- Use your inner tie-rod tool to put the new inner back in. Use loctite on the threads. It should be torqued to something like 35-40 ft-lbs
- Reinstall the boot. You’ll need a hose clamp for the inner side and that spring clip you saved for the outer side. You dropped the subframe so you could fit your ¼” drive rachet and your fat hand in there.
- Thread the new jam nut on
- Grease the outer tie rods
- Thread them back on using the same number of turns to remove the old one.
- You’ll still have to get your car aligned. Parts aren’t always the same length. My steering wheel is off center about 15 degrees and the car has a very slight pull to the right. Author’s note: it took me an hour to align it the next night.
- Drop the new outer tie rod end into the knuckle and reinstall the new castle nut
- Have a beer, you’re close to being done. Beer-o-meter – 6
- Make sure you tightened everything, especially the subframe bolts since I forgot to write about them until now.
- Reinstall the front brakes
- Put the wheel back on (also a good time to rotate tires)
- Drop the car
- Drive it to see how far off your alignment is. If its bad, take it straight to a shop and have the wife pick you up.
- Put your tools away and sweep out the garage. Do it while you’re still dirty. The wife probably won’t thank you, but it’ll save nagging in the very near future.
- Have another beer or 6. You’re done. Beer-o-meter – 7
Lessons Learned (or forgot about)
- I probably would have done CV service – at least grease them, if not replace them.
- Use real impact sockets. I tore up a couple of my normal sockets since I didn’t have any real ones.
- Buy that damn inner tie-rod tool FIRST. I could have had the job done in one day if I did have it. Instead, I quit at 4:30, had a few more beers, dinner, and then went to a “Dirty Capitol Hill Intern” party in DC. Guess what… drunk. Didn’t get home til 4 am. Tired and sore and operating on 4 hours of sleep and a hangover, I couldn’t find the tool the next day. What did I do? Watch Duke vs Maryland and drink more Jack. Less hungover on Sunday and armed with a Lisle part number, I found it at carquest and finished the rest of the job in less than 45 minutes (not including cleaning the garage).
Prepared by: Matt Kennedy, with credit to Scott Krietemeyer, Rene Carlos-Cruz, Glen Murdock
Beer-o-meter – 7+
Torque specs from Glen Murdock:
they are in lb-ft. (L) = Loctite.
Inner Tie Rod-to-Rack: 67-81 (L)
Outer tie rod to knuckle: 35-46
Front Shock Absorber-To-Knuckle Pinch Bolt: 73-97 (L)
Front Disc Brake Caliper Anchor Bolt (15mm head): 65-87 (L)
Front Axle Wheel Hub Retainer: 170-202 (L), if you reuse the nut
Wheel Hub Retaining Bolts: 61-78 (L)
Sub-frame to Body Retaining Bolts: 57-75 (L)
Lower Ball Joint Nut: 50-67 (L)
Rear Axle Wheel Hub Retainer: 188-254 (L), if you reuse the nut
Brake Adapter-to-Rear Disc Brake Caliper Bolt (15mm head): 65-87 (L)
Lug Nuts: 85-104
Comments from John Stoessel:
Steering Rack concerns:
When you loosen or tighten the inner tie rod, you should extend the rack to the driver's side so you can grab the rack with a wrench (i used a crescent) near the last teeth and wedge the wrench so to prevent transferring the full loosening torque through the rack and pinion system.
Author’s comments: While John is right (that method can’t hurt), I believe every part of these cars is designed with a heavy factor of safety and the handful of shots of torque you’re giving it to get the inner tie rods on and off are going to be nothing compared to the normal wear and tear we, as SHO enthusiasts, put on these cars.
Inner Boot Clamp Thought:
Second, I used a plastic tie wrap to replace the large boot clamp. It is still in place after a couple months.
Author’s comments: if the tie wrap works, great. I'd still go with hose clamps. The peace of mind is worth an extra 2 bucks.
Dan Carman’s suggestions:
1) In the parts/tools list, remove either AXE or BEER/WHISKEY. You
can only have one or the other. :-) (Author’s comment: I used both and only hit my hand once… with the flat side of the axe – don’t worry.
2) When removing the front outer tie rod end, it is better to loosen
the jam nut before you remove the end from the knuckle. Sometimes the
jam nut is on there so tight that you need both hands on the wrench to
break it loose, and having the end still installed in the knuckle is
the only way to do that. Otherwise, you need to have one hand free to
hold the outer tie rod end still while you wrench the jam nut with the
Well whatever the Beer-O-Meter says - that is one hell of a write up. Thanks to all who contributed - Epically Uncle Jack - If I have to explain that - youre on the wrong website.
Matt, you forgot to mention how many blood sacrifices were made