How to Rebuild Your Ball Joints
Hard, or even moderate trail riding places a great deal of strain on your Jeep’s suspension parts, and none more so than the ball joints. These are exceptionally tough feats of engineering connecting the steering knuckles to the wheel, which means that they must take the brunt of the road vibration so that the steering does not suffer. When they start to degrade, you will notice road wobble, numbness in the steering, and abnormal tread patterns on your tires. When that inevitable time comes, don’t succumb to the temptation to shell out for a whole new set of ball joints, especially when a rebuild can do the trick for a fraction of the cost.
Once you have your rebuild kit, tackling this is pretty much an all-day job, so it’s best done on the weekend. To get to the ball joints, you must first drain the fluid from the front axle, remove the wheels, move the brake calipers out of the way, remove the rotors and backing plates, and pop off the axle shafts. If you’re tempted to skip any of these steps to save time, don’t be; you will save far more time by not having to work around these parts, plus you ensure that they don’t accidently get damaged due to a missed hammer swing.
For the rebuild, let’s break it down into steps:
- Clean the attached ball joints with a penetrating spray, like brake cleaner, and some shop rags. This will make removal a much smoother process.
- Remove the upper stud and ball sockets by removing all retaining clips, spacer clips, and threaded cap plugs. The studs will be reused, so be sure to reattach the old castle nut to the bottom of the stud so that the threads are not damaged when a hammer is used to pop the stud and ball socket out of the cup.
- Drop out the lower assemblies by removing the fittings, roll pins, threaded plugs, and lower seals and snap rings. The assembly can then be removed downward through the ball joint cups with a few focused swings of a hammer and punch. Avoid damaging the ball joint studs.
- Remove the ball joint studs from their sockets with the aid of a vise and a hammer punch. Don’t forget to utilize the old castle nuts to prevent damage to the stud threads.
- Once the assemblies and all associated parts have been separated, you’ve arrived at the point where you get to put it all back together again, in reverse order, with the brand new parts from your rebuild kit. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for grease applications, ft./lbs., etc.