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Front Suspension: Ball Joints

Replacing the ball joints early is a preventative measure and a good safety practice. They are only $30 each so it's a not big investment.
The part number and price changes for 2002+ cars as the front suspension was improved. The main difference is that the ball joint has bigger bolt holes for more support. In addition to the ball joint, the lower control arm was revised with a new rear bushing.
The good news with ball joints is that they can be replaced in about 10 minutes and you will not need an alignment afterwards!

After jacking up the car and removing the wheel, you are only 4 bolts away!

If your car is from a salt area, you probably should spray down the bolts with some penetrating spray.
Remove the main 18mm bolt and the 3 10mm attached to the lower a-arm.
You can push the ball joint off of the spindle with a screw driver and hammer

The ball joint has a groove on the shaft where the bolt needs to sit. Line up the groove of the ball joint with the bolt and it will slip through.

In some cases you may find that the groove does not go all the around the pin and is not centered properly. This is actually harder to fix than it seems. The joint is very stiff and difficult to turn by hand. I ended up putting the pin with the groove in a vice, then attached one of the bolts to the joint and used the wrench to spin the whole housing around until the groove was lined up with the three bolts.
Before installing the ball joint, now is a good time to check out the lower control arm bushings. First, do a visual inspection and check for rubber cracks and splits. Then grab the control arm and try to pull it out, push it in, and move it up and down. You are trying to feel for any slop in the arm. If you feel slop, you can still put everything back together, but you should realize that any alignment will be skewed due to the slop in the arm.

Now reinstall the new ball joint:
  • First insert the pin into the hub.
  • Second, loosely install the three small bolts.
  • Third, insert the big bolt. You may have to slightly raise or lower the pin to line up the groove with the bolt.
  • Fourth, tighten everything up to spec.

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