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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. houptee

    houptee New Member

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    Removing upper arm not necessary

    If you use a long pry bar you can pry the upper control arm down as far as possible and put a scrap 4x4 wood block in to hold it down in that position so you can have 2 free hands.

    Then you can use the C clamp style press tools (either rented or buy one at Harbor Freight for $50 on sale). The threaded press bolt will be upward and touch the inner fender well but you can fit it in there even with a socket and ratchet on the bolt.

    I got a full set of upper and lower ball joints for both sides for $39 total with free shipping from Prime Choice auto parts on Ebay. They also have a website outside of ebay. The direct website doesn't have the combo deals they have on ebay for some reason tho. They are private branded parts made in china but seemed to be very good quality surprisingly and from what I read on here Ford used Chinese suspension components so figured it was worth a shot only time will tell but they feel nice and tight.
    Also got 2 rear bearings from them for $40 shipped and full set of front and rear ceramic pads for $40 shipped and all looked pretty dam good quality.

    Wish I had noticed the front driver side spring was broken before I ordered new set of 4 SENSEN struts from APXauto parts on ebay for $115 because Prime Choice sells them already assembled with springs as a combo deal front and rear all 4 for $289! Would have saved me tons of time I wasted struggling and pressing off and on the springs but got them on there finally!
     
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  3. 02XLS4WD

    02XLS4WD Member

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    What a pain living in the rustbelt and replacing the UCA on the right side today. Took 4 hours of pain staking wrenching on the UCA bolts. That was with PB Blaster for the past 8 days in preparation. I tried a universal socket on my impact, but it wouldn't budge the nut and blew apart. The only thing that worked was brute force with a cheater bar on the nut and it finally broke loose. I was thinking 1 hour with the impact for both and am disappointed with the time it took. Of course installing the new UCA took 5 minutes. I have a new impact universal on order and will tackle the left UCA next weekend. Plan on soaking the bolts every day until then in hopes it will help somewhat.
     
  4. natchomamma

    natchomamma New Member

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    The entire upper control arm is pretty cheap and plan on replacing mine.

    When replacing the upper arm do I need to have the alignment done or is it just bolt on?

    Thanks,

    John
     
  5. Limited02

    Limited02 Well-Known Member

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    I would have an alignment done. Also, are you replacing one side or both? I would do both and that way you only have to pay for an alignment once.
     
  6. mrau92me

    mrau92me Member

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    If you were to replace just the ball joints alone, an alignment is definitely not necessary. Inspect your tie rod ends, too, cuz if they need to be replaced like mine on my '02 Mountie, an alignment will be necessary anyway. I knocked mine out all at once.
     
  7. 02XLS4WD

    02XLS4WD Member

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  8. natchomamma

    natchomamma New Member

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    Just finished the driver side upper arm. Was a snap. Did have to wrestle the arm out a bit, but figured it out. On to the right side and then to the shop for an alignment. :) Shop quoted me $600 to do this. What a joke!
     
  9. 02XLS4WD

    02XLS4WD Member

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    Good deal, and yeah dealers want a ton, I think they quoted me at 187.00 per side.
     
  10. 03Mach1

    03Mach1 Member

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    I need to do both upper ball joints on my 03. Is swapping just the ball joint a realistic fix or is this hey it works so people keep doing it. My main worry is that if the whole arm is supposed to be switched obviously Ford did that for a reason. Even though this may work what are the chances of the ball joint popping back out of the top of the arm???

    I saw something in an earlier post about the new design of the upper ball joint comes with a retaining ring. Wondiering if they put the retaining ring in the new design because they kept popping out.

    Anyone got a pic of the new joints with the retaining ring and how it all goes together?
     
    Last edited: August 21, 2013
  11. houptee

    houptee New Member

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    No you don't have to replace upper arms, read my post above, you can swing it down far enough to fit a harbor freight or rented C clamp style ball joint press tool in there if u use a block of wood to hold it down while you work on it. I just did uppers and lowers on 2005 explorer wasn't too bad once you get the press on them they push in and out easy. I did rears too no problems.
     
  12. 03Mach1

    03Mach1 Member

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    I know that the arm does not need to come out. My problem, or better yet concerne is the possibility of the new balljoint popping out of the top of the arm later on down the road. See what I bolded in your above post. When the suspension is loaded up you probably have 3,000 lbs trying to push that ball joint up out of the control arm, the fact that we can press them in and out with a simple C Clamp leads me to believe that over time the ball joint will press itself back out. What happens if the ball joint popps out doing 70+ on the highway. I realize that alot of people have done this without issues but there have been cases shown in this thread where the new balljoint has popped out. Is the $80.00 or so saved on parts worth the risk.

    What I am really wondering is if this is an appropriate and safe way to fix the balljoints. Were the pre 02's not replaceable so everyone just figured the same thing held true on the 02 an ups until we realized that they could be pressed out?? Are the balljoints that you can buy really made for the aftermarket control arms and just so happen to fit the OEM arms even though it was not designed that way??
     
  13. mrau92me

    mrau92me Member

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    03Mach1,
    Hopefully, I can address your concerns…I pressed on my '02's balljoints (bj). As I said in a previous post here, I used to be a mechanical engineer at a Federal-Mogul plant that supplied parts to Ford's (and other brand's) assembly plants or even to other suppliers who then put them on their sub-assembly before shipping them to Ford's plant. The reason Ford says the bj is not replaceable is because they only purchase pre-assembled control arms (CA) from an OEM supplier; therefore, they purchase and use the same parts at the dealer. It's just logistically simpler and cheaper for them to keep up with one assembly than to piece them together at the dealership. The reason the Haynes manual says the bj alone is not serviceable is basically because they generally follow the manufacturer’s protocol, plus it’s simpler for them, too.

    Besides, how do you think the OEM puts the bj in the CA in the first place? They don’t wave a magic wand. They don’t build the CA around the bj either (magic would be easier). They press the bj on and probably do so using a mechanical or hydraulic press due to the high volume of parts they do. I’d rather have my Mountie’s bj pressed in by-hand using a C-clamp type tool because it’s a slow and steady process. You can watch to see if the bj starts to shift out of alignment and correct it before the CA is damaged. For those whose bj came out while going down the road, I’d bet they were sloppy or hurried when pressing their bj in and distorted the hole in the CA.

    In the case of the pre-’02 control arms, they are much less expensive so it makes more sense for the consumer to just replace the whole thing.
     
  14. houptee

    houptee New Member

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    Yes I understand your concerns about the press fit design loosening up but pretty much every car manufacturer on the road uses a pressed ball joint now. Moog sells the rear and front ball joints separately and I do not think they would offer them at all if there was any problems foreseen in pressing them in for liability reasons. You can call Moog tech support and talk with their engineers see if they can give you more peace of mind 800-325-8886.
    On my 99 Dodge Dakota the front upper ball joints failed after 32k and they would not recall the trucks after 98 model years even tho I had the same problem. Dealer solution is complete upper arms since the ball joints are attached with 3 rivets, but Moog came out with a problem solver ball joint that has grease fitting and comes with 3 bolts. I ground off the rivet heads and drilled hole thru center then punched out the rest. 10 years later they still are nice and tight and greasable design works great.
     
  15. 03Mach1

    03Mach1 Member

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    Also I am seeing that MOOG has different designs, one with splines and one without. I read something about 3 different diameters of them as well.

    mrau92me, I am not doubting you in any way here so please do not take it as such. While the plants that make these parts do not have magic and they do not form the CA around the ball joint they do however probably have fixtures that hold everything in place in perfect alignment and so on.

    Another thing to consider is lets just say for numbers sake the OEM hole in the CA is 1" when the CA is made. The ball joint has a thickness of 1.005". Once the original Balljoint is pressed into the 1" hole I am sure that hole now measures more than 1". The replacement balljoints are made to 1.005" same spec as OEM. Since the factory opened up the hole putting the original ball join in you loose some of the tightness on the balljoint that it had when it was made originally.

    Anyone have info on the replacement balljoint that has a clip that comes with it?
     
  16. mrau92me

    mrau92me Member

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    You are correct that the OEM uses fixtures. And if the C-clamp tool & tooling is used correctly, the balljoint goes in straight. After I did mine, I was very confident with it...I could tell that the balljoint was securely pressed in.
     
  17. houptee

    houptee New Member

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    The 05 explorer i just did had retainer clips on the front lowers, same as the oem, the uppers just pressed in, no clips same as oem design. Rear uppers were moog and were same design as oem no clips. They require pretty good effort to press in/out I had to use a breaker bar, but once they start to move its not too bad. If you put the BJs in the freezer overnight it contracts and makes it easier.
     
  18. xlt03

    xlt03 Elite Explorer

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    Thanks to "thepotroast" for your great contribution and clear pictures. I just finished replacing both of my upper ball joints as the boot was blown on one side and the boot on the other side is starting to tear. I used the loan-a-tool from AutoZone. I used the 27023 press and the 27165 adapter. The third kit mentioned is not needed.

    I wanted to clarify a few things for those that are using the press for the first time. As thepotroast mentioned, you only need four pieces from the kits. From 27023 you will use the press, drive screw and the pressure disk (the tapered sided inside one and it goes facing upwards to the ball joint). From 27165 as mentioned, use the middle sized cup. The cap on the pressure screw is removable and you will need to remove it so the threads of the ball joint can go down the inside.

    For the new ball joints I got Moog's K80008 from Amazon for $31.00 each which was cheaper than O'Reilly which was going for $55.00 each. The ones I received were the spline (knurl) and greaseable ones. They went in fine. I did check at AutoZone for their Duralast ball joints and they were not Moog's. They were not splined or greaseable and was stamped Made in China. A side note regarding the ball joints, Napa offers over sized ones also.

    For the installation, you use the press in the same direction but move the cup to the bottom of the new ball joint. You do not turn the press upside down. Do use some form of lubrication on the splines and hole of the upper control arm, spray more on as you seat the ball joint. The Moog replacement hardware kit will come with castle nut, washer, Zerk fitting, cotter key and snap ring. The snap ring is not used on our trucks. You may want to position the ball joint so the hole for the cotter key is facing you so you can insert the cotter key easier and nip off the ends easily. The torque for the castle nut is 41 ft. lb.

    I did mines on the vehicle and only removed the tires. I did not remove the ABS sensor wire as the flex brake line was next to it and that was shorter and has little movement. As mentioned, use coat hanger or wire to lasso the steering knuckle to the coil spring so things don't flop. I also did not remove the calipers or rotors.

    One comment on the posting regarding the concern of the ball joint popping out. I'm not sure how that can happen, the top of the ball joint head is larger than the hole of the upper control arm so it would not pull thru the hole. The threaded portion of the ball joint goes thru the hole of the steering knuckle and is bolted together with the washer and castle nut. They are all bolted together as a unit. The only way I think it would pull thru (pop out) is if the hole of the upper control arm is larger than the ball joint or if the control arm cracked and split. I do see that may be a possibility for those of you living in the rust belt.

    Happy motoring to all.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  19. jc5205

    jc5205 New Member

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    Thank You for this,
    started the drivers side upper. What a pain to get the arm out, but its back in.
    I hope the passenger side is easier.
    I have the Moog 80008 with the spline, first time replacing at 190,000 miles.
     
  20. 02XLS4WD

    02XLS4WD Member

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    Update - I did the driver's side a couple weekends ago. Piece of cake with the impact and universal adapter. As a side note, I did have to loosen the bracket for the brake line and move aside the best I could to get to the bolt on the right side.
     
  21. thepotroast

    thepotroast Well-Known Member

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    Great to see so many people still benefiting from this information!

    Cheers!
     

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