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Hello - I've read every thread I could find on this topic - but I have one quick question. Do you need to break a mechanical weld between the ball joint and spindle, with a pickle fork or whatever? Or does it just come apart with a tap or two? I have to buy several tools for the job and I want to be prepared. Also, any other hints/advice for this job and upper control arm bushings r/r would be greatly appreciated.
The upper ball stud is clamped to the top of the spindle, so you just need a large Allen wrench to loosen the cap screw that tightens the clamp. It comes off pretty easily once you remove the screw.
The hard part to remove it from the control arm. The body of the ball joint is riveted to the upper control arm. You need to grind the heads off or drill them through to remove them. Someone once said that the rivets may be tapered, so if you ground off the smaller end, you can tap the rest of it out the other side. But I don't know which end is the smaller end. I ended up removing the arms to drill out the rivets, which involved using a 15/16" socket and a really long lever on a breaker bar to remove those huge bolts that held the control arms to the frame. Here are some pictures on my picasaweb site:
I didn't have to use a fancy drill bit, just regular high speed steel. But I started with a small bit and worked my way up until the body of the rivet gave away. I think I replaced them with 5/16" bolts, so I think a bit up to 1/4" is usable, but you need to be dead-center on the rivet, or you risk drilling into the arm.
Yup - Got the upper ball joints in yesterday on my day off. Found that tapping with a BFH and a steel punch (from below) didn't begin to move the rivets, so I drilled them out just to the control arm depth. Like xlt4wd90 advised, I used a series of drill bits, but I used one more size just over 1/4"; I'm not sure what size because it was an old bit and the size was unreadable (maybe 9/32" or 17/64"). Next, I'm going to replace the upper control arm bushings and eventually the steering rack.
Thanks for your help, xlt.., and for all the previously posted advice from the forum. It's always a great resource to this ol' tinkerer.
Last edited by mikeinganges; 09-21-2011 at 12:12 PM.
Did you already remove the arms? All the instructions I read about doing this advises you to mark the position of the arm brackets onto the frame rail so you can put them back into the same position when you're re-installing. It turns out if you're replacing the bushings, this is important for the in-out location of the arm, which controls the static camber setting. It's not likely that you will press the new bushings into the exact same positions as where the old ones were, so the fore-aft location of the arm will change, even if you manage to get the brackets installed exactly where they were before. This will affect the static caster setting, which most shops kind of ignore.
Might I suggest however that you use Moog ball joints. I used other brands before. Granted I do more mileage than most of you, but most of the aftermarket brands are cheaply constructed and I got less than a years life out of them. The good news is that one your have replaced the joints once, it is much easier the second time. But just saying, if you are gonna replace the joints, it is worth the little extra money to get the only ball joint that is equal or higher quality than the OEM.
Khan... I'm using both Moog upper ball joints and upper control arm bushings. I don't want to replace these parts ( if at all ) soon, so I'm using top quality parts that will last or are reputed to do so. The originals (OEM) lasted 21 yrs. and 130K miles, so I'm expect to get around 5 yrs. and 50K - 60K miles out of the replacements.
Xlt... Actually, I didn't remove the whole assembly; I disconnected the control arms off the connecting arm and brackets, which stayed on the frame. Obviously for the bushings, I'm going to take the whole assembly off of the vehicle, for easier removal/replacement.
I've noticed that the new bushings have a ridge on the body, which should limit the amount I can press them into the connecting arm support bracket. If the spacing of the brackets are slightly different fore/aft, but I center the assembly as close as possible to the original position on that fore/aft line, wouldn't the final positioning of the control arm (and resulting caster setting) be very close.
The main reason I'm doing this work is to r/r worn/suspect suspension and steering parts, which have resulted in premature inner wear on the front tires and some minor front end vibration. The driver side ball joint was quite worn, and I've noticed an immediate improvement. I'm working towards getting the front tire camber spec. to +.2 degrees, where my present spec. is approx. -.3 degrees (the lower limit) on both sides. Once I finish the work, I will get an accurate front end alignment.
Last edited by mikeinganges; 09-21-2011 at 12:00 PM.
The new bushings I got were a little different than the originals, so the best I could do was to eyeball the depth to which I pressed them into the brackets. But the difference could not have been more than 1/4"; which should not be too much to compensate for by normal adjustments.
Wear on the inner tire edge is from too much negative camber, as you found out. The worn upper joints can contribute to that. I've also seen rotting frame rails that allowed the whole upper arm assembly to cave in. That van was done for; I hope that's not the problem on your van.
Xlt...- My frame is very solid; my van has very little rust considering it's age, which is typical of vehicles which are taken care of from this area (Coastal SW BC, Canada). Not only was one upper ball joint quite worn, but I believe that my upper control arm bushings are suspect; the rubber is very cracked and it looks like there may be some distortion. I remember there was a thread about how these bushings could look good, but when compressed by the vehicle's load, they distorted enough to throw out the camber. Mine don't look too good! Approximately 3mm. or an 1/8" spacing on the control arms is all I need to set my camber up .5 degrees to the positive to get +.2 degrees; collapsing bushings could be the difference. As well, there are quite a few shims to just attain the present -.3 camber setting, so the actual position of the complete control assemblies may be slightly too inboard. When they dropped the engine to rebuild it for the PO, I think they disturbed or didn't carefully reset the assemblies when they put the engine and crossmember back in from below. After I put in the new bushings, I'm going to shim/adjust for the desired setting of +.2 degrees for my front tires camber, then set the toe-in.
Last edited by mikeinganges; 09-21-2011 at 09:52 PM.
Hi, xlt904wd - While there's no metal-to-metal contact yet with my bushings, it's obvious that the rubber has deteriorated enough that I want to replace them.
For quick alignment checks, I use a laser level (for toe-in) and a digital level (for camber) and some basic jigs. I have a very level, concrete floor two-car garage with a paved level approach to the door, which is key to my setup. According to the alignment shop, which is miffed/amused at how close I can get according to their fancy machine, my accuracy is consistently within +/- .2 degrees on camber and a +/-1/16" on toe-in (over 4-5 different vehicles). Not bad for $100 worth of stuff you probably have at home.
This is easily enough accuracy to get the vehicle to the alignment shop for a proper set-up after front end suspension/steering work. I have driven one car after just setting it up at home for 4 years, with no abnormal tire wear and a great improvement in handling! If someone is interested in the complete procedures (lengthy), I'll have to post them in a new thread.
Last edited by mikeinganges; 09-22-2011 at 01:03 PM.
I've been doing rough alignments in my garage as well using a carpenter's level. I eventually bought a gauge set that includes the typical bubble level and toe plates that made measurements a lot easier. I got some wheel dollies from Harbor Freight that allowed me to move the wheel with setting changes. However, I still haven't worked out consistent caster settings yet.
Like you say, they're good enough to get the vehicles to a shop.
Xlt4wd90 - The only way I've been able to get consistent, but still not perfect, camber readings is using an accurate digital level. If necessary, it can compensated for the floor and you may need some kind of jig, so you can take concise measurements from your wheel. There are commercially made tools for this purpose that cost around $300, but usually I just use a very straight metal square tube with the level attached, which I set against the rim to read camber. However, my aerostar's alloy rim profile doesn't work with my usual jig; I have to attach some spacers or something on that tube so it measures accurately from both edges of the wheel rim or just inside it (preferable). For now, I've just been taking off the centre cap and taking a quick read from edge to edge of the 7" opening; it's not the best, but surprisingly quite good.
Last edited by mikeinganges; 09-23-2011 at 10:57 AM.
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