DIY Lower Ball Joint Replacement on a 4x4 titan

NBhunter80

New Member
Well I finally got around to changing out my lower ball joints, and let me tell you, it was a pretty big pain in the butt. I couldn’t find any write-ups online for lower ball joint replacement on a Titan, so I figured I would share the experience I gained. It was a really long night doing the job, but I know that if I had to do it again, I could do the job in half the time it took us to figure things out the first time around. I didn’t take many pics because honestly I was too busy trying to get the job done to get the camera out. Anyway, here’s a basic write-up of what you need for the DIY replacement of the lower ball joints on a 4x4 Titan. Two people are required to do this job easily. It would be possible with just one person, but it would be really tough to do by yourself. It is definitely ideal if you have someone to help. If you have someone to help and you don’t waste much time, the job will take you 4 to 5 hours to do the lower ball joints on both sides. We took much longer than that due to getting side tracked and trying to figure stuff out. If you are experienced with front end work, you might be able to do the job in less than 4 hours. You should purchase new GREASEABLE lower ball joints to replace the factory ball joints (I used MOOG lower ball joints that come with a lifetime warranty). Remember to always replace the lower ball joints in pairs. If one is gone, the other is probably not far behind.



Tools you will need:



- Metric socket set and wrench sets up to 22mm with a few sizes of extensions, ratchets and breaker bars

- Really big socket to remove axle nut– we used a 1¼” socket with a 4 foot breaker bar

- Ball joint press

- Grease gun with grease

- Needle-nosed pliers

- Pickle fork

- Big F’in Hammer (small sledge hammer ideally)

- A short piece of 2x4” wood to hammer against

- Separating tool (jawed c-clamp style) to pry the lower ball joint post out of the spindle

- Alignment tool or screwdriver to line up holes in order to fit bolts through the mounts.

- Jacks and jack stands



Procedure:



1) Jack up the front end of the truck and set the truck on jack-stands. Remove the jacks unless you have other jacks available. You will need the jacks to support stuff later on.



2) Remove the front wheel lug nuts and set the wheels aside.



3) Have someone sit in the truck and press the brakes to hold the hubs from turning. You have to immobilize the axle in order to remove

the bolts in the next step.



4) Using your big 1¼” socket and biggest breaker bar, loosen the nut on the front axle half-shaft. You can leave the nut on for now, but you will need to loosen it now while you still have the brakes attached.



5) Crawl under the truck and loosen the six 14mm bolts from the axle flange while one person presses the brakes to immobilize the axle. You will have to rotate the axle to access the bolts, so communicate to your partner when to release and press the brakes in order to access all 6 bolts. These bolts will be pretty stubborn because they are most likely caked in road grime.



6) Now you can start removing the brakes. Remove the ABS sensor wire from the little clips and be careful not to damage the wire throughout the entire procedure.



7) Remove the brake calipers via the caliper mounting bolts. The caliper mounting bolts are 21mm and can be removed with a regular socket. If you have never removed the caliper mounting brackets before, the bolts will be really stubborn because they have locktite on them.



8) Set the brake caliper out of the way and support it so you don’t hang the caliper by the brake lines. I hung the calipers from the upper control arm using straps and made sure the brake lines weren’t pinched or kinked. Leave lots of slack in the brake lines.



9) Remove the brake rotors.



10) Remove the nut that holds the sway bar end-link to the Lower Control Arm.



11) Swing the sway bar out of the way.



12) Loosen the bolt on the upper ball joint, between the upper ball joint and the spindle.



13) Remove the lower shock mount bolt that attaches the shock to the LCA.



14) Remove the bolt on the bottom of the spindle that clamps onto the lower ball joint post.



*Now is the best time to remove the axle half-shaft. On a 4x4 Titan, you have to remove the axle shaft in order to get enough clearance to get the lower control arm out of the spindle. We wasted a couple hours trying to figure out another way around this, and we did find a way to get the old ball joint out (destroying the old ball joint in the process), but then when we installed the first new ball joint, we couldn’t get it back into the spindle again because of lack of clearance due to the axle being in the way. We then had to take the axle out anyway to get the new ball joint back in. Save yourself the trouble and remove the axle before removing the LCA. There is really no other way to get the new ball joint in, and it makes removing the LCA much easier if the axle is out of the way.



15) Have one person under the truck to support the axle shaft. Remove the 14mm bolts on the axle flange that you loosened in step 5.



16) Loosen the nut on the axle shaft all the way to make the nut flush with the end of the axle shaft (this is to protect the threads of the axle shaft. Using your Big F’in Hammer tap the axle shaft inwards until the splines slide out of the hub. Protect the axle shaft end with some wood so you don’t damage it with your hammer. Make sure the other person is under the truck and ready to support the axle shaft when it comes loose. Once the axle shaft has been tapped free of the hub, remove the nut on the end of the axle, pull the axle shaft through and set it out of the way.



17) Pry the lower ball joint post free from the spindle using the pickle fork and your separating tool. Once the ball joint is free from the spindle, jack up the spindle and hub assembly to support it.



18) Remove the LCA cam bolts at the base of the LCA. Take note of where the small hole in the cam bolt washer is located before you take the cam bolts out. The orientation of the cam bolts is important for your alignment. You will need an alignment afterwards anyway, but it will help if you keep some relative idea of where the hole in the cam bolt washer was positioned so you can re-install the bolts in approximately the same orientation.



19) Remove the Lower Control Arm.



20) Using pliers, remove the clip ring that holds in the lower ball joint.



21) Using your ball joint press, press out the old ball joint from the LCA.



22) Give that crappy old ball joint the finger and heave it towards the garbage bin in disgust.



23) Press in the new greaseable lower ball joint into the LCA. Be careful not to damage the new ball joint while pressing it in.



24) Install the new clip ring onto the new lower ball joint.



25) Install the grease nipple onto the new lower ball joint, and fill the ball joint with grease.



26) Line up the back of the LCA with the LCA mount.



27) Re-install the LCA cam bolts finger tight to hold the LCA in place while lining up the lower ball joint with the spindle.



28) Have one person pull out on the spindle and the other person line up the lower ball joint pin with the hole in the bottom of the spindle. Tap in the spindle onto the lower ball joint pin. This may require some force to tap it in there, and one person may have to press down on the LCA while the other person taps the bottom of the spindle.



29) Once the ball joint post is completely into the hole in the bottom of the spindle, install your new bolt and locking nut that came with the new ball joint into the bottom of the spindle in order to keep the spindle attached to the lower ball joint.



30) Grab your axle shaft that you set aside, and clean off the splines on the axle shaft that go into the hub. My hubs had some water that had intruded and the axle splines had some surface rust on them, so did the hub splines. With some gentle cleaning I was able to remove all the grime and rust. After cleaning, I put a small amount of grease on the splines to help keep away future rust.



31) Unbolt the cam bolts again on the LCA and let the back end of the LCA hang down slightly while supporting the LCA with a jack so it doesn’t stress the new ball joint. This will help you get the axle shaft back in more easily.



32) Gently and carefully insert the axle shaft back into the hub. Make sure the axle splines are sliding properly into the hub and not fetching up. Put the nut back on the axle shaft finger tight.



33) Bolt the other end to the axle flange finger tight using the six 14mm bolts.



34) Re-install the cam bolts and LCA. Install and tighten them in the proper orientation as noted in step 18.



35) Jack up the spindle/LCA in order to relieve pressure on the Upper Control Arm.



36) Tighten the upper ball joint nut that holds it to the spindle/UCA.



37) Re-install the lower shock mount bolts and tighten. We had to do some precision jacking on the LCA and use an tool to get the alignment of the holes proper in order to slip the bolt back in through the shock and the lower shock mount.



38) Re-install the sway bar.



39) Re-install brake rotors.



40) Re-install the brake calipers with the 21mm bolts through the mounting brackets.



41) Re-install the ABS sensor wires into the clips.



42) Repeat the procedure from steps 3-5 using the brakes to immobilize the axle in order to tighten the six 14mm bolts on the axle flange, and the nut on the end of the axle (1 ¼ “ socket).



43) Check all of the bolts and nuts that you removed throughout the procedure to ensure that they have all been tightened to the proper torque specs.



44) Re-install your wheels and wheel lug nuts.



45) Celebrate the fact that you didn’t get ripped off by the dealership selling you two new Lower Control Arms with the same crappy ball joints, and then charging you a fortune to install them!



Remember to drive slowly at first for the test drive after changing your lower ball joints. You had quite a few things apart on the front end, and you don’t want to be going fast at first in case there is a problem because you installed something improperly or the new ball joints were defective. You will need an alignment after messing with everything on your front end (I’m sure you needed one anyway if you had bad ball joints). I finally got my truck aligned properly after replacing the lower ball joints yesterday, and no more pulling or crooked steering wheel!! The ride quality is also infinitely better than before. No more clunks, pops, groans etc. It was a hassle to do this job, but my truck drives so much better now. And if you have installed new greaseable lower ball joints, don’t forget to get under there and grease them occasionally! I like that idea much better than the non-greaseable factory crap. We all know how well that stuff usually works out. Anyway, I may have missed a few things, but I hope this helps anyone else who tries this project in the future. Cheers!
 

Pops

New Member
Sweet writeup NBH!!! Just curious,, is a ball joint press really necessary or can the old ball joint just be pounded out of there with a hand sledge??
 

NBhunter80

New Member
I would say use the press for sure. The old ones were really in there good and we had to use a 3 foot breaker bar on the ball joint press in order to get the old ones out. They popped out really hard, so I'd imagine it would be really difficult to get them out with a hammer. You would still need to have the press to get the new lower ball joints into the LCA without damaging them.
 
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