DT Install: Changing Your Ball Joint

Published in the May 2013 Issue May 2013 News

The first thing for any project is safety. Making sure you have the proper tools for the job and your standard personal protective equipment can be the difference between successfully making the repair and being pancaked by your truck. So let's just go over the basic checklist and move on from there. For this install, you'll need a floor jack and stands, assorted wrenches and a good ratchet, a pry bar, hammer, a flat-head screw driver and some patience. With the checklist covered, let's get this install underway. For this segment, we replaced the ball joint on a 2001 Chevrolet 2500 Duramax.

The Install

Chock your tires snugly behind and in front of the tires to ensure your truck isn't going anywhere. With the chocks firmly in place, run your floor jack under the axle, behind the tire and the ball joint you need to repair, and properly seat it on the axle. Next, use your lug wrench to loosen the nuts. You want to do this before you lift the tire off of the ground. Otherwise, the wheel will spin when you try to loosen it. The easy and effective way to get your tire off is to loosen each lug in a criss-cross pattern, which prevents stripping or cross threading when you later replace the lugs.

With the lugs loosened, next jack the tire off the ground (an inch or two should be adequate), slide your jack stands under the frame of the truck and seat them in a durable and reliable portion of the frame. With the stands in place, slowly relieve pressure from the jack and guide the truck safely to the stands. You'll need the jack a little later, but we'll get to that.

Completely remove the tire lugs and dismount the tire. You should now see the ball joint, which is mounted in the A-frame. The joint itself will be connected to the steering knuckle, with two control arms that extend upward and are bolted to the frame. First, remove the ABS line from the A-frame. This step is important to do first. If the line gets crushed or pinched and looses integrity, you're looking at some serious problems.

Next Up

A bracket located on the forward control arm helps hold the ABS line in place and should also be removed. Once the ABS line is safely out of the way, remove the cotter pin that secures the ball joint nut seated under the steering knuckle, then remove the nut from the joint and place both cotter pin and nut aside.

Now, seat your jack under the axle directly behind the ball joint lift until the axle is perpendicular to the ground. If the joint is well lubricated and not rusted out, this lifting action should free it out of the axle. If that's not the case, add firm and steady pressure with a pry bar at the ball joint and just under the A-frame, pry the joint free from the axle. Relieve pressure from the jack and separate the joint from the axle. Once that's achieved, begin removing the bolts at the top of each control arm that are fitted to the frame. With the bolts removed, the ball joint and A-frame should be free to remove and it's out with the old and in with the new.

Watch For Rust

This remove and replace install should be a simple fix. The installation should be followed inversely from the removal. Sometimes, however, the fittings may rust out and cause complications with the removal process. If this is the case, it may become necessary to remove the shock to allow some extra space and give the bolts a “gentle” tap with a hammer to loosen them from their position. Just remember, safety is paramount, so good luck out there and be safe.

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