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How To: Replacing Upper Ball Joints on a 3rd Gen 4x4 [Pictures]

Discussion in 'Stock 2002 - 2005 Explorers' started by thepotroast, July 11, 2009.

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    1. thepotroast

      thepotroast Well-Known Member

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      There have been a lot of posts on here and some other Ford forums regarding the replacement of upper ball joints on a 3rd Gen (2002-2005) Explorer. In the past few months, a few members have reported that they have been able to successfully replace the ball joints by themselves, and not the entire control arm/ball joint assembly. If you have a Haynes manual for your Ex, take a look at it....even it tells you that the upper ball joints are not serviceable and you must replace the entire arm assembly. FALSE!

      ** Note ** This vehicle is a 2003 4X4 XLT. It will apply to any 2002-2005 Explorer, 2wd AND 4wd.

      This is just a very brief rundown of how I changed my upper ball joints on my 2003 4x4 XLT:

      Total time for me: 2 hours (only air tools used were to remove wheel, everything else by hand).

      Mechanical difficulty: Medium (I am mechanically inclined and if you can undo some nuts you will be fine. The "medium" rating is because the press does take some strength, however use some leverage and you will be ok!)

      Tools needed
      :

      Service Manual: Good for reference and a must for any vehicle you own. (Haynes demonstrates the steps to remove the upper arm, but not the upper ball joint)
      Ball Joints: I used Moog K80008's which were purchased at Advance Auto Parts for around $42 ea. Moog's are a very trusted brand...
      Ball Joint Press Tool and 4wd adapter set; I rented mine from AutoZone...FREE...you need rental tool #27165 (press) and #27023 (4x4 adapters). ** They do have an adapter set for Ford SUV's Part #27163 however I found it was not necessary in the process.
      Wrenches/ratchet/sockets: 18mm and 13/16" wrench or ratchet/socket, 1/4" wrench, 5/16" hex-head socket.
      Other Tools: Worklight, Hammer or mini-sledge (what I used), Liquid Wrench spray, and a metal coathanger (very important!!).

      Step 1: Uninstall

      *We all know how to jack up your truck, parking brake, jack stands, wheel chock, etc. Whatever your method, do it and make it safe.*

      • This is what you should be seeing after you take off your wheel. Perhaps your upper ball joint is as bad as mine....

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      • Disconnect your ABS sensor plug located on the top of your fender well accessible from the hood, and let it hang free away from your work area. It likely is routed through your upper arm. It looks like this:

      [​IMG]

      • Remove the nut that secures the upper ball joint to the knuckle, using an 18mm wrench.

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      ** This step is imperative if you have a 4x4....you MUST secure the knuckle assembly so that it stays in place. You do not want to extend your CV axles or damage brake lines if you have not secured this....because once you free the upper joint, an unsteady knuckle assembly could do some damage! **


      • Tie back your knuckle assembly using a metal coat hanger, wrapped around the coil spring, so that it will not move around, and will pretty much stay in it's original position. The Haynes manual also recommends using a coathanger around the coil spring!

      [​IMG]

      • Once your knuckle is secure, use a hammer (I used a mini-sledge) and tap the ball joint out of the knuckle assembly from the underside, where the threaded shaft is.

      ** Note ** You can use a ball joint separator here as well, however the resistance you are feeling is likely not that of a stuck ball joint, but rather the resistance of the control arm bushings...I preferred not to use a seperator because I didn't want to put any down-pressure on the knuckle which was being stabilized by a coathanger...

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      • Using a 13/16" wrench, remove the nuts that hold the upper control arm, to the frame. Also note that in the 2002-2005 models, shims are used here. I will picture them below. They MUST be put back in when re-installing!

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      ** Note ** Do not remove the nuts on the side, they are the bushing nuts. Only remove the nuts from underneath, as pictured above.


      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      ** Again, you do not need to loosen the above bolts on the sides of the upper arm, they are for the bushings. **

      • Remove the upper arm (you may have to move it around a few different ways to clear everything)...be sure to not snag any brake lines, your ABS wire, etc!

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      • Your ball joint press tool set should be something similar to this...I used the tools in the top left and right set from AutoZone FREE rental tool program (see top of post for part #'s), the bottom set is the "Ford SUV set" which I did not use.

      [​IMG]

      • Preparing to press it out. Using the cupping tool from set #27165 and the medium receiving ring from set #27023 on the receiving side for the ball joint to be received into.

      [​IMG]

      • This balljoint was toast! The top split through only because I was using too small of a diameter receiving cup the first 'go-round', but the medium sized one I used in the above picture was the correct one. Trial and error... :cool:

      [​IMG]

      • Prepare your new balljoint to be pressed in. I used some liquid wrench around the outside flange to make things smooth when pressing in. It's very important that you press it in evenly....you don't want to bend the control arm! The new ball joint should press in much easier than the old one pressed out....make sure it has a good seat all the way around!

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      • Reinstall upper control arm just the way it came out. Remember those shims!!! If you loosened the bushing bolts on the side to replace the bushings, make sure to tighten them back!

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      • Secure ball joint with the provided nut. The ball joint will twist when you start to tighten the nut, so you must use a hex-head socket to keep it from turning, while tightening. Tools I used: 18mm for nut, 5/16" hex-head socket, and 1/4" wrench to hold socket. I positioned the wrench so that the knuckle did the "holding" for me while I tightened the ball joint nut.

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      • Re-route your ABS wire and plug it back into the socket, unhook your coathanger, and this is the final result!

      [​IMG]
       
      Last edited: June 11, 2014
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    3. Cozmik

      Cozmik Well-Known Member

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      Great write up!!! This will come in very handy. Maybe a mod could sticky this one?
       
    4. kshicks

      kshicks Member

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      Perfect, going in my favorities list!
       
    5. rileyrs

      rileyrs Active Member

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      great write up!!!
      sticky anyone?!?!
       
    6. thepotroast

      thepotroast Well-Known Member

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      Thanks for the replies guys.

      I just got back from doing the other side, got it done in about an hour using my own write-up!

      A sticky would be awesome, as this applies to both 2wd and 4wd models :thumbsup:
       
    7. Hitchhikingmike

      Hitchhikingmike Well-Known Member

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      Awesome! it covers a little information that I forgot to include, like the socket sizes. good job.
       
    8. EasyRhino

      EasyRhino Well-Known Member

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      Awesome post. :thumbsup:

      I am looking at doing this job w/i the next few months.
       
    9. EasyRhino

      EasyRhino Well-Known Member

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      Anybody else think that would be a good time to also replace the struts, tie rod ends, sway bar links, and sway bar (squeaky) bushings?

      And while I am in there, might as well do replace the discs (mine have been turned once already) and pads.

      Thoughts?
       
    10. clarks2001

      clarks2001 Active Member

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      Sway bar bushings can be replaced without removing the sway bar. I just jacked my front end up, unbolted the brackets and slid the old bushings off and greased up the new ones and slid it on and bolted it all up.
      This deserves a sticky for sure. Now when my ball joints go, i know where to look up the how to. hehe.
       
    11. yellowford

      yellowford Active Member

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      I'm just curious as to why you removed the arm every other ball joint I've done the contol arm was left in place.
       
    12. thepotroast

      thepotroast Well-Known Member

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      Because you cannot fit the press into the space with the arm still attached. Removing the arm added 5 minutes to the job ;)
       
    13. yellowford

      yellowford Active Member

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      Your right I should have looked before i opened my mouth as I am about to tackle this and realize the upper arm doesn't have very much movement.
       
    14. jcv400ex

      jcv400ex New Member

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      Might be a dumb question, but I don't see a snap ring, how's the new balljoint stay in place?
       
    15. thepotroast

      thepotroast Well-Known Member

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      They are pressed in, no snap rings. :thumbsup:

      Just use the ball joint press to press the old ones out, and press the new ones in. Only thing you have to be absolutely careful of pressing them in is that you are doing them evenly....which should be common sense, but sometimes you just have to put that reminder in there :p:
       
    16. northside

      northside New Member

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      Great post, I never knew how easy it looked to diy.
       
    17. yellowford

      yellowford Active Member

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      Don't expect it to go extremely easy all of the nuts on mine were rusted so I spent close to 3 hours total, with about 2 hours on each side with a breaker bar moving all the nuts a fourth a turn to get them off.:frustrate
       
    18. thepotroast

      thepotroast Well-Known Member

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      Which nuts were seized? Spraying the bolt or threads around the nut with liquid wrench and letting it sit for a little while normally helps. I didn't run into any nuts that were hard to get off, on mine. Perhaps your truck has been around a lot of salt in the past?
       
    19. yellowford

      yellowford Active Member

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      I sprayed all of them with a good couple coats of pb blaster and it still didn't make much of a difference, and living in Kansas there is a lot of salt used on the roads in the winter. The nuts that took so long were the ones that hold the upper control arm on. I ran into the same problem with my rear struts as they were extremely hard to remove as well with the rust on them.
       
    20. Gf0rc3

      Gf0rc3 New Member

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      Greaseable ball joints

      Hey everyone, I just got my ball joints and plan on putting them in tomorrow. I ordered the same moog part number from OReillys and got one that is sealed and one that is greaseable. So I called them back and exchanged the sealed one for a greaseable one. Yay me! Also the greaseable one just looks like better quality.
       
    21. ryno_rx8

      ryno_rx8 Member

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      anyone have a part # on the whole control arm by chance? I've searched the net and can't find a number.
       
    22. Extremistno9

      Extremistno9 New Member

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      thepotroast, very nice write up. I have been searching the forums with no luck trying to find the answer to my question. Hoping someone watching this one may know. I am getting a noise from what seems to be the front end thinking it is a ball joint but am not sure. I followed the haynes manual for checking the ball joint for wear. There was no movement when I applied force at these areas.

      The sound occurs when I am going over a large bump or dip and can be felt as well. Almost seems like a rubbing but only occurs when the suspension is compressed more than normal. Also occurs when going down the highway around a turn that drops. So the truck raises and then compresses quickly while turning and dropping in elevation.

      This is hard to describe. Any ideas? Is this a ball joint or something else? Look forward to hearing back.

      Thanks in advance.
       
    23. laffslast

      laffslast New Member

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      I was in the same situation, received one sealed and one greaser. Were you able to get the greasers to work? There's a .05" difference in size of the collar.

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]
       
    24. thepotroast

      thepotroast Well-Known Member

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      You have an incorrect ball joint there. The one with the grease fitting is the wrong one. You want MOOG K80008's. See those splines on the body of the wrong ball joint....ya, those aren't gonna press in too nicely to the smooth control arm!

      Get your money back... :cool:
       
    25. Gf0rc3

      Gf0rc3 New Member

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      Actually the greaser does work

      Sorry I took so long to respond laffslast. Thepotroast, you may be right, technically. If I were using the tools you were using it may not have worked. But I used a 70 ton shop press to press mine in and it worked just fine. So laffslast if you have access to a shop press or can get someone to press them in for you, then go for it. By the way these are the same Moog part numbers.
       
    26. DenverExp

      DenverExp New Member

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      Thanks for writing this up. I especially appreciate the photos.
       

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