Roger Lister's Guide to
EEK / K-Car Ball Joint Replacement
The lower ball joints on the K-car based minivans are not hard to replace. But will give you fits if you've never tried something like this before. This also applies to other K based platforms. Aries/Reliants, Spirit/Acclaims, Daytona/Lebarons, minivans, Shadow/Sundance, Lancer/Lebaron GTS. Probably missed a few. This is how I did it on my 1987 Grand Caravan SE...
To save space, and for readability, I'll be brief.
First off, raise the front of the vehicle. I had access to and made use of a two post lift. Though, when I replaced my halfsahfts, I did it in my driveway and the front of the van on jackstands. Always, always, always use supports of some kind. You will be moving things around, and shoving and pushing, and a jack alone won't cut it. I should wear eye protection, but don't as often as I should.
Next up, remove the wheel (or wheels if it is easier for you).
Drop the sway bar by removing the LONG bolts that hold the plate to the lower control arms. You will need a 13mm deepwell socket for the nut, and another 13mm socket or wrench on the bottom. I cheated, I used an air ratchet. Now, some folks live in bad weather and may find these bolts rusted. Buy new long bolts to replace them if you think this is you. Also, take this time to scrape out any dirt and grease and rocks that might have settled in there over time. In fact, you might have to clean some of the gunk out before you can get the socket on the nut. I only completely removed one bolt and nut, leaving the other one almost at the end of the threads and the plate hanging. Then, just swing the swaybar back out of the way.
Now, my van is an 87, but it still has the earlier style single pin caliper. And worse, the early style wheel bearing. I unbolted the caliper adapter from the steering knuckle. I used a rope to hold the caliper out of the way. Always support the caliper. Don't let it hang from the brake line. I'm hoping to change the front lines sometime before summer, but don't bet on it. Since I had access to the lift, I also dragged the oil collector under the van in case the halfshaft pulled out of the tranny. Also, I tied more rope between the two shafts to try to keep the shaft in place.
I used a balljoint "picklefork" to get the balljoint out of the steering knuckle. It wasn't easy. It took some prying to get the lower control arm down far enough to get the balljoint out of the steering knuckle. Now the fun begins.
Next is to press the balljoint out. A problem I had since I wasn't removing the steering knuckle, was that it was seriously in the way. I used a tie down chain to hold the strut and knuckle out of the way. I still needed help pulling the control arm down enough (using a large pry bar) so I could get the press on the control arm. The alternative, was to remove the arm completely and use the hydraulic press (I had access to it, but wanted to try it this way first). Paul Smith had some trouble breaking his balljoint out. Now, he seems to be a pretty big guy, and if he had trouble. Well, I wasn't real optimistic. But I also didn't want to remove the whole control arm either.
I used a C press to push the ball joint from the lower control arm. The balljoint is pressed in from the bottom of the arm. So, use the arbor (I wound up using a large socket) that is smaller than the top of the balljoint and fits over the balljoint stud to push down. Also, on the bottom, use the receiving cup that is big enough to fit around the bottom of the balljoint. Then, with everything lined up and inplace, use a wrench on the press and twist until the balljoint is out. You will notice it moving. Anyway, After the balljoint was pressed in by the factory, it appears they brazed or tack welded one spot on the balljoint to the control arm. That braze or weld broke cleanly. Just fine by me.
Press the new joint in, place the dust boot over it and seat it, place the balljoint stud back in the steering knuckle, and put everything back together. Oh, before I forget, torque that pinch bolt down to 70 ft/lbs, and while I prefer the set and click type of torque wrench, this is what I have for now. Now, this write up is not meant to replace a manual. And, this is my own experience. Your experience may differ.
When all is over and done with, it shaould all look like it did when you took it apart. OK? It might need a trip back to the alignment shop, so be carefull... So there you have it. Watch for sharp parts under there. There are a few of them. Also, good time to look for wear on the C/V boots, brakes and brake lines, grease the tie rod ends and the balljoints (new one needs it!!!!), and general tightness of just about everything. Now, put your wheels back on, and go for a drive. No left over parts? Good. Pat yourself on the back, what's next...
I'M NOT AN EXPERT!!! Just a guy that hates to pay for stuff I can do myself. Be warned, this guide is not all inclusive. There might even be mistakes. This is what I did on a Thursday evening at a shop I get to use. Not everyone is lucky to have access like this.
I'd like to thank Gary at the NAWS China Lake Auto Hobby Shop for his patience and the shops equipment. Couldn't have done as easy without it... I'd also like to thank my son, without whose muscle would have made for a longer and more difficult evening...
Page created 18 March, 2001
All text and photos copyright © 2001 Roger Lister. Feel free to use this info as needed, but if you use this on another site, let me know...