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Ball Joint Installation

James (jat99)

James (jat99), with a little help from Keith (keithf), walks us through replacing the ball joints on his 1999.5 F-250 Super Duty.

Because of the number of pictures, there are no thumbnails; just click on the link labeled 'picture.'

I just replaced the ball joints in my 1999.5 Super Duty.  The truck was all over the road and I had tried everything including an alignment.  Ford wanted my first-born child to do this and I decided to tackle it myself.  With the help of the fine members of this board, I was able to do this and save hundreds of dollars.  This was my first time replacing ball joints of any kind and it went rough at the beginning not knowing exactly how to do it, which parts I needed and finding all the part numbers, then finally tracking them down.  The Ford manual is very vague for someone that has never attempted this.  I thought I would document this procedure and share it in case someone out there wants to do this as well.  I have included pictures and part numbers.  The material below is based on my experience and mine alone.  It is strictly a reference to use and maybe someone could find some helpful information in it.

  • Self-explanatory I hope.
  1. There is no need to remove the caliper from the caliper bracket.  Unbolt the the larger two bolts holding the caliper bracket to the knuckle and pull the caliper (still attached to the caliper bracket) off the rotor.
  2. Remove rotor and set aside.
  1. Remove the retainer ring on hub lock.
  2. Pull outward on hub lock.  This can be hard to remove, it will come off though.  I used a piece of wood to smack it on each side and then worked it off.
  1. Remove tie rod from knuckle using pitman arm puller.  Picture  I got the puller form an auto parts store for $14.99.  I used bungy cords to secure the tie rod to the front springs after removal.
    The Ford manual shows removing this later on when you get to the knuckle but by removing it now, you will be able to turn the knuckle left to right and access the hub lock nuts easier.
  1. Remove snap ring on axle shaft.  Picture  You will find a pair of snap ring pliers very handy for this.  I got mine at Sears.
  2. Remove the three thrust washers.  Remember how they came off because one of them is different and has to be in the middle of the two round washers.
  3. If you have ABS, disconnect the ABS wheel sensor harness and routing clips.  The Ford manual states do not remove the ABS sensor from the bearing but then later states to remove the bolt and the ABS sensor from the hub.
  4. Remove the four lock nuts that hold the hub on.  These are on the back of the knuckle and are 13/16 nuts.  Picture
  5. Remove the wheel hub and bearing by pulling out holding the lug nuts.  You will probably have to wiggle it around some to get it out.
  6. Remove the disc brake shield.
  7. Remove and discard the yellow o-ring.  Replace this o-ring anytime the hub is removed.  Picture  This is Ford part number F81Z-4A322-AA and will cost about $2.50.  The Ford manual states that failure to replace this could cause a vacuum leak and loss of four wheel drive operations.
  1. Drive the axle shaft main seal out of the knuckle from behind using a drift (per manual).  I used a screwdriver.  Picture  You will have to hit on top and bottom and then from side to side.  Notice in the picture I have the screwdriver in the first groove coming up from the knuckle.  It has a hard surface inside there.  The second groove does not.  Of course this will have to be replaced and is a major pain to install onto the axle shaft.  We will get to this later.  This is the axle shaft main seal and is Ford part number F81Z-3254-CB and will run about $29.47. As an alternative, you can use firm pressure with a couple of lever bars pushing out between the axle housing and against the inner axle u-joint.  That will break the inner (differential) seal and outer axle end seal tension and pop the whole axle and seal out as a single unit.  Once it is all loose, you can carefully haul it out (do not ding the axle ends) and attack the old outer seal at leisure.
  2. Pull axle shaft out once you have driven the main seal into the knuckle.  This might be a good time to place the tie rod back into the knuckle and straighten the knuckles front and center.  This will help when trying to pull the axle shaft out.  It will need to be pulled straight out.  The passenger side will be tougher than the drivers side simply because it is longer.  Just work with it and it will come out.  Picture
  1. Remove upper ball joint castellated nut by removing cotter pin, nut, and insert.  Picture  This is 1 1/8 if I remember correctly.
  2. Remove lower ball joint nut.  Picture  I did not have a socket for this.  The largest I had what 1 3/16 and it was slightly larger.  I removed it by taking the tie rod out of the knuckle and turning the knuckle so I could get a crescent wrench in to it.
  3. Remove the vacuum line. Picture
  4. I then removed the knuckle by tapping down on the top ball joint and also hitting the bottom of the knuckle beside the lower ball joint with a heavy hammer.  Watch your toes!  Place a towel under it on the floor so when it falls out it will not crash too hard on the floor.  Picture  Do not mix up the alignment shim/sleeve on the upper ball joint from either side of the truck - they need to go back on the side they came off to ensure your camber/caster is correct afterwards.
  1. Remove lower ball joint first.  Remove snap ring.  Picture  Place knuckle in vice and use a ball joint removal kit to drive out lower and upper ball joints.  I borrowed one of these kits from AutoZone.  I paid a deposit and got it back upon returning the kit.  The lower and upper ball joints must be driven out from the bottom.  Picture
  1. Install new ball joints using the same kit.  Install in reverse order with the upper going in first.  Clean out the openings for the joints.  Picture  I got my new ball joints from AutoZone and they are made by McQuay-Norris part number FA1754 at $19.99 each.  Many auto parts stores carry these though.  These had the grease fittings but be careful with the upper grease fitting because it may hit the knuckle as it travels around.  Your only option would be a 90-degree and mine only came with a 45 for the upper.  Even with a 90 I would still check it closely.  I just installed the supplied cap and when it needs grease I feel I will have enough room to get a 45 in there temporarily.  Picture  Do not forget to put the snap ring back on the lower ball joint.
  1. Position wheel knuckle onto axle housing.
  2. Install nut onto lower ball joint.  Do not tighten at this time.
  3. Install the insert and castellated nut onto the upper ball joint.  Do not tighten at this time.
  4. Tighten the lower ball joint retaining nut to 101 lb-ft.  On thing to remember here: more than likely the ball joint is going to spin as you try to tighten the lower ball joint retaining nut.  You will have to apply pressure to the lower ball joint in order to get the nut going and get the ball joint snug before you can torque it down.  I used the clamp that came in the ball joint kit to apply pressure while I got the nut going with a crescent wrench through the knuckle opening.  Picture  You can also use light upward pressure from a floor jack to prevent the ball joints from spinning.
  5. Tighten the upper ball joint nut to 101 lb-ft.  Install cotter pin.
  6. Install tie rod end onto knuckle.
  7. Tighten the tie rod castellated nut to 52 lb-ft.
  8. Install cotter pin into tie rod nut.
  1. First you will need to replace the two seals on the axle shaft.  The larger is on the outside and is Ford part number F81Z-3254-CB and will cost about $30.00.  The smaller one is a dust seal on the inside and is Ford part number F81Z-1S175-HCA, around $15.00.  I also found the smaller one is made by National and is part number 710413 at Car Quest, around $7.84.  Picture  The inside small dust seal can be easily installed by hand.  The large outside main seal will require a little more ingenuity.  This seal will need to be tapped on with force.  It must be hit with something that is barely larger than the opening in the center.  You need to match something slightly larger than the inside diameter of the hole in the seal.  Picture  If you hit it more to the outside, it will cave in with you.  I simply beat the old one off and took the entire axle shaft and my new seal to my local Ford dealer and they put it on for a small fee (around $10.00).  Trust me when I say this is the best way unless you want to spend time finding something like galvanized pipe to do this with.  It is a pain in the rear.
  2. Once new seals are on, install the axle shaft back through the knuckle and into the axle shaft housing.  I used a block of wood placed over the axle shaft and tapped the axle shaft in far enough so I could place the hub back on and the hub bolts would stick out the back of the knuckle enough to get the nuts on them.  I then cross-tightened the hub bolts and this pushed the axle shaft in as I tightened.  Do not forget to put the washer onto the axle shaft before putting the hub on.  This washer looks grey and has grooves on one side which faces inside against the new main seal.  Also make sure you have installed a new yellow o-ring on the hub (Picture) and put the disc brake shield back on.  Picture  If you have ABS, position the ABS sensor back on the hub and tighten bolt to 13 lb-ft.
  3. Tighten hub bolts on back of knuckle to 133 lb-ft.  Picture
  4. Put the three thrust washers onto the axle shaft inside the hub.  Make sure the non-metallic thrust washer is installed between the two metal thrust washers.  Failure to do this will cause severe wear to the non-metallic washer and cause damage to the wheel hub and bearing, the axle shaft seal and the axle shaft.
  5. Install snap ring.  Picture
  6. Install the hub lock and retainer ring.

  1. Install pad holder onto rotor and knuckle.  Picture  Tighten bolts.  (I do not have torque specs.)

  1. Picture  If you get black(er) hands at this stage, consider replacing the line - it is perishing.  Also check the lower hose fitting (on the knuckle) for rust.  It is known to 'fade away...' - replace with a brass fitting.
  1. Picture
Before I drove the truck, I jacked both wheels off the ground and locked each hub at the wheel and turned the wheels to see if the front driveshaft would turn.  I then turned on the switch and engaged the ESOF and turned both wheels again with the hubs locked together, individually and unlocked.  Everything was great and it drives so much better.

By the way, do not forget to grease the new ball joints!

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