DIY: Balljoint replacement.

Aug 12

Back in June I replaced my balljoint – the whole process took very little time because of a rental tool I got from Partsource. NOTE: I was advised that it might be too big to work on the 240sx – it takes a bit of figuring out how to put the plate pieces in place to make it fit :)

Free tool rental if you return within X days = $ saved and less typical finger damage than using traditional hammer pounding.

I heard of torching methods to loosen the balljoint but this is not a good way to remove these as they can turn into projectiles and cause severe damage.  Google it and don’t try it.

Removal is reverse of the installation basically so please look at later photos to help you understand removal which I didn’t take photos for :(

After determining that the issue was a balljoint failure, I found out about the free tool rentals that some shops offer – I rented the “balljoint press” after putting a deposit down.  Here is what it looks like:


Here is what i did to get started:

1. Raise the vehicle on the side with the faulty balljoint.  Secure with jack stand.

***Safety goggles on – it’s amazing how cheap these things are for what they protect.  I have to make a note about it here: I’ve seen things fly out, grease pop out, rust and other crap fly from under the car and head towards my face.  I’ve been in emergency twice for removal of crap from my eyes – including one time piece that got stuck near my pupil.  Happily no damage and I can see well.  But I see people go under the car with no eye protection and I just wish I could let them know how cheap the solution is when the problem could mean their eyesight and/or thousands of dollars in treatment for pair of $3.99 glasses.  It’s no brainer to me – I use them all the time – as I enter garage to do anything.  One of my friends has a tear in his eye from rust piece – he has a blind spot because of it.  Interestingly – one of his priorities is safety for people he works with.  What’s the price for losing eyesight?  Gotta be more than $3.99.  So having ranted on – get the frickin safety glasses already and let’s continue :)


2. Remove brake caliper – usually 2 bolts – secure it with a wire to the steering arm + sway bar to ensure you don’t twist or break the brake line.  Don’t lose the pad shims if it came with them.  Remove caliper bracket – usually 2 larger bolts.  Now remove rotor.  You should see plain hub-axle like this:  (I cheated a bit – this is an after-job photo)


3. Take pliers in combination with a good screwdriver and pry the pin out of the locknut on top of the balljoint.  It will take some effort – you can use a precision punch to knock the pin out from the side of the nut.  Once you do that. you should be able to unscrew the nut.  Use a prybar on the wrench if you need to.


4.  With the NUT off, you have balljoint that’s stuck in the hub-axle very likely.  Take a hammer and give it a good wack on the side of the hub where the balljoint spline enters the hub-axle.  You should see the lower control arm loosen and drop a bit – this indicates you were successful.

Now mark with marker (for alignment) and unbolt the 2 top 19mm nuts that hold the hub-axle to the strut tower and rest the hub-axle on the side carefully – I used a solid protein jar to support it in position so that I wouldn’t have to remove tie rod (you will see this in few other pics).  This gave me the clearance to work and apply the press on the arm without removing it from the car.

Now remove the snap-ring securing the balljoint from falling out of the lower control arm.  You will need to use snap-ring pliers (see installation section below for a way to remove / install this ring).


5.  Now you have enough clearance to take out your rental press and put it on to do the job.  Choose the cup and top plate that does the job – should have good support from the bottom that rests on outer edge and doesn’t apply force of the press to the center of the balljoint bottom.


6. Now go slowly at first and ensure that it doesn’t create issues.  It might be a good idea to place a small cloth between where the press will rest against the arm as you turn it over.  It left a small mark on my arm – no issue functionally but if you can avoid it – why not.  Now keep turning until it pushes it out and drops into the lower cup of the press.  I am not making it sound easy – sometimes u need a pipe on that wrench to turn it like I had to, but in comparison to typical process of balljoint removal – it’s 5 minutes vs couple of hours (NO JOKE!).


7. Bingo!  Here is the shot of the 2 combo pieces I used on my 240sx to remove the balljoint…


8. Removed it.  Great – now it looks dirty though.


9. Let’s clean it up.  Bit of wd40 to clean away the grease (don’t use some corrosive solutions for cleaning).  Also you can use very fine grit sandpaper (400) to remove any rusty crap from there – don’t polish too much or you will wear out the hole and your ball joint will not hold in place properly.  Just clean up any stuff left over by previous balljoint & dirt.  Afterwards wipe it all off with paper towel.


10. This is what the clean one should look like – smooth feel around the hole.  Disregard the damage on the outer rim – I think that’s how I bought the car.  My guess is that one of the previous owners didn’t rent the press 😉


11. Checking to see how far the new balljoint goes in without pressing in – doesn’t catch the ring yet (“finger press” hahaha).


12. Lube the OUTSIDE of the balljoint!  Same with the balljoint hole in the lower control arm – it’ll make it easier to go in without damage.  Don’t worry – it won’t spin or get loose afterwards :)  Any non-corrosive lubricant will work here – I used hydraulic oil that we use for lubricating pneumatic tools.


13. Select your plates for the press and start pressing it while watching carefully not to damage the balljoint.  Notice the combo I use – the bottom of the balljoint uses a cylinder that presses on outer edge of the balljoint not the center to avoid damage!


14. Keep stopping and remove the press once in a while  to make sure you got clearance in the upper cup so you won’t cause damage to the balljoint.  As you can see I had enough clearance still but I kept checking – no point of tightening it all the way to find out that you busted the grease cup on the balljoint and caused physical damage to the balljoint.  Stop and keep checking every few turns:)  Once you’ve checked that it went in all the way (look at the bottom and see clearance – there should be no spacing between control arm and the bottom of the balljoint.


15. Let’s put on the new snap-ring.


16. Done.  check out the angle of snap ring – i positioned it for easy access & removal if I ever want to access it with the hub-axle still in place.


17. Now put the hub-axle back on, tighten 2 x 19mm bolts to torque specs after ensuring the tower lines up with the alignment marks you made earlier.


18. Now bring the lower control arm with balljoint towards the hub axle, put on the nut and tighten it to torque specs.  Afterwards put in the nut lock pin and bend the ends to prevent it from coming out by itself from the vibrations.


19.  Reassemble brakes & double check your work before putting on the tires to make sure nothing is loose. (Noticed that pad is scratching my disc in the middle in the photo).

Enjoy the firm ride :)