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Ball Joint Installation


During disassembly of the new axle, I found that the upper left ball joint was pretty much froze solid. It worked a little bit, but wasn't long for this world. I figured this would be a great time to change the joints out for new heavy duty joints.

The new ball joints are McQuay-Norris (Made by Dana Corp) from Jeff's Bronco Graveyard. JBG has been a supplier for many parts during the axle swap including steering linkage.

These pictures were all taken after the axle was disassembled so I don't have pictures here of how to remove the knuckles from the axle. This is actually pretty straightforward if you have greased your wheel bearings before. In a nutshell:

  • Remove the wheels
  • Remove the brake calipers
  • Remove the hubs and rotors
  • Remove the spindles
  • LOOSEN the ball joint nuts. Leave them engaged on the ball joint studs a couple threads to catch the knuckles when they come loose.

The next part I am not comfortable with due to the use of hammers on stressed components, but it is the standard way to do the job. In order to remove the knuckle, rap it sharply with a large hammer on top of the knuckle casting near the ball joint. You need to smack it pretty hard two or three times after which it should pop right off. I haven't found a good home-mechanic tool to make this any easier on the parts, so I guess we're stuck with this for now.

For scanned pages from Dana's ball joint installation sheet, click here for page 1, here for page 2. These files are about 150k in size and are very good scans. These pages don't have any copyright notices on them, so I assume they are safe to publish. Thanks to a member of the Offroad Mailing List for sending these to me.

BallJointPuller.jpg (37443 bytes) This is the joint puller I rented from AutoZone. They have a great rental program. They sell you the tool, you use it until the job is done, no rush to get it back, and they give you your money back when you bring the tool back. This particular tool had been pretty much beat to hell. But all the parts fit together the way they should and the job was over in less than 20 minutes.

BadSpindleStud.jpg (37210 bytes) If you look close, you can see that the spindle stud at the bottom of the picture doesn't have much for threads left. The nut was missing from this stud when I took the hub off and looked like it had been gone for quite some time. I plan to replace a couple of these studs with parts from the Bronc.

OldJoints.jpg (38991 bytes) This is the right side steering knuckle. You can clearly see the snap ring on the bottom ball joint. The instructions on the puller warned that the upper joint on Dana 44 axles may have a spot weld on the upper joint. These didn't. The amount of grease inside the knuckle is a good indicator that the previous owner kept the axle joints well lubed. Those joints are long gone, though. Straight below the upper joint in the picture you can see a square boss with a threaded hole in it. This is where the steering stop bolts go. One of mine had the head missing and was thoroughly rusted in. A little time with the torch and a pair of good vice grips got it out without too much hassle. A tap cleaned the threads out as good as new. I will install new grade 8 bolts and lock nuts when everything goes back together. Grade 5's would probably work as well, but the hardness of the grade 8 should hold up better to hitting the axle housing.

RemoveLowerBalljoint.jpg (39794 bytes) Here is the puller positioned to remove the lower joint. The lower joint must be removed before the upper joint as the screw on the puller needs to go through the lower hole while pulling the upper joint. After removing the snap ring, assemble the necessary adapters and tighten the puller screw to press out the joint. It is common for the joint to be rusted in, so it may take quite a bit of work to get the joint out. Luckily, in Colorado we don't use salt so the joints came right out.

SpareBalljoints.jpg (37569 bytes) Here are the old joints. Don't throw them away! Clean them up and throw them in your spares box. It isn't unheard of for the ball joints to get wasted if an axle joint lets loose under extreme pressure. They may be tough to get out on the trail, but at least you'll have the option if you have extra joints along.

 InstallUpperBalljoint.jpg (39753 bytes)Here is the puller positioned to install the upper joint. Here you can see how the puller screw goes through the lower joint hole. Spread a little motor oil in the bore, line up the joint as square as you can, and press it in. In case you forgot which joint is the upper one, it's the one with the hole drilled through the stud portion. The upper joint uses a castellated nut and cotter pin to keep the nut on. The lower joint uses a low-profile nut with no locking. Using a good locking compound on the lower nut would probably be a good idea.

InstallLowerBalljoint.jpg (39864 bytes) Here is the puller positioned in the lower joint. I found out on this joint that the adapter ring and stepped disk on the puller will jamb against the head of the stud directly behind this joint. Since the stud cannot be removed or installed with the joint in place, the next best thing is to install the joint without using the ring and disk. This worked just fine on the second joint. Don't forget to install the snap ring on the lower joint when you're done. The upper joint doesn't get one.

NewJoints.jpg (39637 bytes) Here's the finished installation ready to go back on the axle. Notice that the grease zerks haven't been installed yet. I'll install them after the knuckles have been installed to avoid damaging them. The upper joint isn't greaseable once the axle is installed, so the zerk is installed, the joint greased, the zerk removed, and a plug installed in the hole before the axle is installed.

One thing I haven't been able to figure out yet is what to do with the threaded insert in the upper balljoint stud hole in the axle ear. When I figure it out I'll post the result.

Comments? Email me!

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