How To Replace 1997-2003 F150 Ball Joints

By Dave R. (FTE User: Racerguy)

I finally had my camera at work when I replaced some ball joints so I took some pictures of the procedure.
This is how I do the job but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be done in this exact order etc.


If you don’t have a good impact wrench you should start by removing or at least loosening the 36mm (1 3/8") nut" on the end of the axle. Remove the cotter pin, retainer and nut.
Also loosen the wheel nuts if you don’t have an impact wrench.

Next you should jack up the truck and support it securely with jack stands. Never get under a vehicle that is supported by a jack. Don’t use cinder blocks etc. Having your truck fall on you will ruin your day :(

Remove the front wheels.


Remove the 2 bolts that hold the caliper support bracket to the steering knuckle.


Hang the caliper so it doesn’t hang by the brake hose.

I usually remove the rotor from the hub but this one was seized on pretty tight so i didn’t bother. It’s easier to work if you do though.


If your truck has 4 wheel ABS disconnect the ABS sensor connector. It is attached to the inside of the inner fender.


Remove the cotter pin and nut for the outer tie rod end. If you are replacing the tie rod ends you can separate the end from the steering knuckle with a "pickle fork" .


If you are reusing the tie rod end just smack the side of the knuckle a few times and the tie rod end should pop out. The reason I don’t like to use a pickle fork on a joint I am reusing is that it can stretch the joint and also rip the boot.


With the 36mm nut removed use a soft faced or brass hammer or a piece of wood and hammer to push the axle in. It wont go the whole way out of the hub yet but you need to get it started.


Remove the cotter pin and nut from the upper ball joint.


With a few smacks on the side of the knuckle the ball joint should pop out. If you’re replacing the upper ball joint you can use a pickle fork.


Remove the cotter pin and nut from the lower ball joint.


Again you can hit the side of the knuckle or use a pickle fork to remove the lower ball joint from the knuckle.


While pushing in the axle to get it out of the back of the hub, remove the knuckle.


Put the axle up on top of the end of the sway bar to keep it out of the way. You may have to tie it there. Don’t over-extend the axle any time or you might damage a CV joint.


Remove the snap ring from the ball joint.


Press the old ball joint out of the control arm. At work we have drivers and don’t use a press but this is more or less what it will look like.


Clean up the ball joint hole in the control arm and press the new joint it. Make sure it is straight when you start pressing.


With the ball joint pressed in tight install the snap ring. Usually the new joint will come with a new snap ring.


If you are replacing the upper ball joint/control arm now is the time to do it. I didn’t replace it on this truck.


Remove the nuts and bolts that hold the control arm in and remove the arm. Most alignment shops will want to install an adjuster cam kit when it is aligned so you can do that when you install the new arm. Don’t tighten the nuts that hold the arm on until the truck is sitting on it’s wheels again.


ThiS step is a bit of a juggling act. Install the axle into the knuckle and the knuckle into the lower ball joint at the same time. Loosely install the nut onto the lower ball joint to hold it in place.


Pry the upper control arm down to get the upper ball joint into the knuckle and install the nut.


Tighten the upper ball joint nut to 57-75 ft .lbs. and install a new cotter pin.


Tighten the lower ball joint nut to 83-112 ft .lbs. and install a new cotter pin.


Install the tie rod end into the knuckle and tighten the nut to 57-75 ft .lbs. and install a new cotter pin.


Install the caliper and bracket. Tighten the bolts to 135 ft .lbs.
Be careful not to twist the brake hose.


Install and tighten the axle nut to 188-254 ft .lbs.
Install the retainer and a new cotter pin.

Install the wheels and then double check for any loose parts, fasteners, cotter pins etc.
Lower the truck down and pump the brakes a few times before you take off.
If you replaced the upper control arms you’ll need to get an alignment done now.

After the alignment it should drive like a new truck …hopefully :)
Congratulate yourself on a job well done and have fun with all the money you just saved.

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