How to Replace Ball Joints on a Pickup Truck

Written by francis walsh
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How to Replace Ball Joints on a Pickup Truck

Ball joints in a pickup truck are used to cushion the spindle as it spins and turns with the wheel and brake attached. Ball joints are positioned inside the upper and lower control arms of the vehicle and use a mechanical taper to help secure the spindle in place. When a ball joint begins to show signs of wear, they will usually emit noises from the wheel when turning or driving. Because a worn ball joint allows the spindle to become off-centre, the wheel may not turn completely one way or the other, and you may see the wheel tilt in or out from vertical. Replace ball joints on a pickup truck that are damaged or worn to correct ball joint problems that affect the handling and safety of the vehicle.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 4-way lug nut remover
  • Floor jack
  • Jack stand
  • Lower ball joints
  • Upper control arm assembly
  • Control arm bushings
  • Ball joint press
  • Allen wrenches
  • Pickle Fork
  • Hammer
  • Pliers (needle nose)
  • Tie wraps
  • Grease gun

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Loosen the lug nuts of the pickup truck wheel that has the bad ball joints. While the truck is still on the ground, go ahead and start loosening the wheel lugs so that when the truck is lifted you can easily take the nuts off and remove the wheel.

  2. 2

    Raise the corner of the truck with a floor jack so that the wheel is about 4 inches off the ground. Place a jack stand under the frame closest to the lifted wheel and lower the weight of the pickup truck onto the jack stand. Remove the floor jack from its lifting position. Remove the wheel's lug nuts and pull the wheel off.

  3. 3

    Remove the brake caliper from around the rotor with an Allen wrench. Stick the wrench into the caliper retaining bolts that are driven in from the back of the caliper through the caliper mounting bracket. Loosen and remove the two bolts and pull the brake caliper off of the rotor. Tie the caliper to the truck with a tie wrap so the caliper does not hang on the short rubber brake line that connects the caliper to the brake system.

  4. 4

    Loosen the brake caliper mounting bracket with a wrench and separate it from the spindle. Pull the brake rotor off the wheel studs and set both pieces off to the side. Use pliers to pull the locking cottar pin out from the bearing nut. Use a wrench to loosen the wheel bearing nut and pull the wheel stud assembly off the spindle.

  5. 5

    Place a pickle fork in between the upper ball joint and the spindle. Hit the pickle fork with a hammer to drive the fork in between the joint and to separate the spindle from the upper ball joint. Loosen the retaining nut under the lower ball joint. It is the nut that holds the spindle to the lower ball joint. Loosen this nut and the spindle will be free from the lower ball joint and can be set to the side.

  6. 6

    Loosen the upper control arm retaining bolts that run through the control arm bushings and secure the control arm to the frame of the pickup truck. Remove both control arm bolts and pull the old control arm free from the pickup truck for disposal. Install a new upper control arm that includes the upper ball joint using new control arm bushings secured in place with the old control arm retaining bolts.

  7. 7

    Press the old lower ball joint out of the lower control arm using a ball joint press that you can rent from an equipment rental company. Used like a large C-clamp, the ball joint press can be used to push the old bearing out and insert a new joint in its place. Set the press over the old ball joint so the press bolt is hitting the top of the ball joint and the correct ball joint cup is on the bottom of the control arm to allow the joint to come out. Tighten the press using a wrench and extension bar if the joint is hard to remove. An extension bar on the end of a wrench increases the amount of torque applied to the press and will help to get tough ball joints out.

  8. 8

    Install a new ball joint in the lower control arm, using the ball joint press to push the joint into place from the bottom up. Place a cap on top of the control arm and the ball joint inside the correct ball joint cup. Sandwiched in position, as the press is tightened, the ball joint is pushed up into the control arm. After the ball joint is in, you can remove the ball joint press and set aside. Use pliers to open the snap ring that keeps the ball joint from falling out of its hole. Spread the snap ring enough so that it can go around the top of the exposed ball joint and keep it from falling out.

  9. 9

    Screw the grease fitting that comes with new ball joints into the top of the exposed ball joint head. The fitting should point toward the back of the pickup truck when tight. This position lets you fill the ball joint with grease easily with the wheel still attached. Slide the grease boot over the ball joint spindle from the bottom up to complete the installation of a new lower ball joint on a pickup truck.

  10. 10

    Position the spindle so that the lower ball joint bolt goes through the alignment hole at the base of the spindle and the top ball joint bolt drops into the alignment hole at the top of the spindle. Thread the ball joint retaining nuts onto the ball joints and tighten the spindle in place.

  11. 11

    Install the wheel stud assembly and wheel bearing onto the spindle using a cottar pin to hold the bearing nut in position. Push the brake rotor onto the spindle and replace the brake caliper mounting bracket and caliper. Put the wheel on the wheel studs and snug the lug nuts before lowering the pickup truck and securing the wheel nuts firmly.

Tips and warnings

  • An auto parts store may let you rent a ball joint press for free.
  • Grease the upper control arm bushings before installation.
  • Sometimes a new upper control arm will make a squeaky noise if installed without some initial lubricant.
  • After you replace a pickup truck's ball joints you should bleed the brake caliper you removed during installation.
  • Moving a brake caliper can produce air bubbles in the brake line that can make stopping impossible.
  • Test and bleed the brake system after any suspension job that requires the caliper to be removed from the rotor.

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