How to replace the ball joints on your 97-03 F-150 4X4
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 anyone sees any mistakes here let me know or if you have any tips to add feel free to do that.
(click on the blue words for pictures)
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.
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.
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.
1. Are the torque specs the same on a non-7700 (5 lug)?
2. I believe the lower control arm needs to be supported seperately from the weight of the truck so that it doesn't "unload" when the ball joint is disconnected. Is this true?
The torque specs are the same for both.
The sway bar and shock absorber hold the lower control arm up so you don't have to support it.
In one of my pictures you might have noticed that I had a jack stand under the control arm. Since I use drivers to install the ball joint that's necessary. With a normal ball joint press it's not.
racerguy....enjoyed the steps and pictures. a couple of concerns: i don't think you mentioned how to press the lower b j back into position. a guy at o'rielly's said to put it in the freezer for a couple of hrs, it will go in easier. My question is , will lowering the weight of the control arm "press" it in, (if being cold helps also), with some large socket/piece of pipe over the flange so you don't damage the threads, or how did you press this back in? my apologies if i missed something. also i sometimes have prob. getting those torques on any ball j. and getting the cotter pin to align up. when that taper seats in , she aint going much further, if you get the c.pin holes ligned up, but not to torque, you may not be able to turn the nut another 60degs to the next alignment slot.(without snaping the threads-ouch) Had you rather go under the 57 ft lbs or take a chance on going onto the next slot? thanks for any comments--i temping to replace one side this afternoon. thanks...paul
I've never cooled a ball joint to install it but that should help.
Lowering the control arm onto the ball joint won't press it in, but if you have a piece of pipe or something similar to use as a driver you can do it that way while beating on a piece of wood next to the ball joint hole to press the joint it. An actual ball joint press would be better though unless you have exactly the right size driver that just fits on the lip around the edge of the joint. You don't want to be beating on the ball stud at all.
Dont back off the nut to get the cotter pin in. If you're getting close to the right torque then just stop at the next hole. It won't hurt to turn it to the next one after the torque value is met though.
I just replaced both sides upper and lower. The alignment shop did just as you mentioned suggesting cam bolts for the upper arms. I marked the position of the bolts before removing them and the alignment rack showed caster and camber within spec.Toe in was the only adjustment needed.
K & N Borla Superchip Kid haulin' Grocery gettin' Sled & ATV towin' Huntin' 4X4
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