Front End Rebuild-brakes,ball joint,shock,hub bearing,tie rods (Lots of Pictures!!) | Ford Explorer - Ford Ranger Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free! This box and some ads will disappear once registered!

Front End Rebuild-brakes,ball joint,shock,hub bearing,tie rods (Lots of Pictures!!)


Elite Explorer
October 14, 2012
Reaction score
City, State
New Jersey
Year, Model & Trim Level
Initially I planned to make about 10 seperate how to threads for this, but to make my life easier I decided to split it into only 2: front and rear. The rear will come in the next month or two. This applies to all 1996 to 2001 four wheel drive explorers and explorer sports. I am not sure about 1995. It is also similar to four wheel drive Rangers up through 2010 I believe, correct me if I'm wrong.

Sorry for the pictures being sideways, i have no idea why it did that....


This thread will show you how to repair/replace:
Lower ball joint (Upper ball joints are very straightforward)
Wheel bearing hub- 4WD only
Inner and outer tie rods
Sway bar links/ bushings
Brake pads/rotors/sliders

Assorted metric wrenches/sockets
Assorted U.S. wrenches/sockets
Various extensions
3/8" and 1/2" drive ratchets (or 1/2" breaker bar with ratchet adapter)
Torque wrench-at least 150 ft-lbs
Long screwdriver
Needle nose pliers
Grease gun and grease
Ball joint press (autozone rental part #27023)
1-7/16" wrench or pipe wrench(for inner tie rods)
32mm or 1-1/4" axle nut socket
Ball peen hammer
4 lb sledge hammer (3 isn't enough!)
Snap ring pliers
Ratchet strap
Loc-tite blue and red
Liquid wrench or equivalent
Caliper paint (optional)
Pickle fork (optional- I didn't have one)
Latex gloves(optional but very nice to have)
Jack- either 2 oem jacks OR a floor jack and 1 oem jack
At least 2 jackstands
Brake lube

This write up is organized so that each major step corresponds to one part, for those who are not doing all of the work I am.

1) Jacking up the vehicle:
A proper floor jack would make for much quicker work, but I elected to use 2 oem jacks and save some money- I have a second from my dads old 92 explorer. Begin by placing the jack(s) under the front crossmember. Use common sense when aligning the jacks. (don't put them right below a hole or where they might slip.) Jack up the front of the truck until both wheels are off the ground. Place jack stands under the body mounts that are about in the middle of the torsion bars.

Remove the hub caps using either the oem lug wrench or a large screwdriver. Use an impact wrench and a 3/4" impact socket to remove all 5 lug nuts. (if you don't have air tools perform this step with a breaker bar and with the vehicle still on the ground.) place the lug nuts in the removed hub cap to avoid misplacing them. Take off the wheel and put it underneath the frame rail, just aft of the jack stands. I would rather buy a new tire/wheel than lose an arm, leg or even my life.


Now you can lower the vehicle back down so it rests on the jackstands. I like to keep the jacks firm against the crossmember as double insurance in case the jackstands fail for some reason (the jacks should be supporting almost no weight- they should just be firm enough to stay still.!). My biggest fear is having a car fall on me while I'm working underneath it. At this point you will see this:


Apply liquid wrench or equivalent to all bolts a day or two prior to beginning work. This will save you a lot of headache.

2)Brake disassembly
Grab your 1/2" or 13mm wrench or socket and remove the bolts that mount the caliper to the caliper bracket.



It is a good idea to have a tray/ box to organize all the bolts you will be taking off.


Now remove the caliper and place it upside down on top of the rotor/ steering knuckle. (this step only applies if you are installing new brake pads). Use a c-clamp to press the caliper pistons back into their bore. Two tricks for this: 1) take off the cap on the master cylinder while pressing and 2) put a socket in the piston to shorten the distance you have to screw the c-clamp in.


To avoid damaging brake lines, the caliper must be hung somewhere. The torsion bar is a perfect spot. Hook the front part of the caliper over the bar, like this:


Perform this step only if you plan to re-lube the sliders: pull the slider boot off the caliper bracket and pull out the slider. Wipe off any old lube, and set
aside for future reassembly/lube.


Now it's time to remove the caliper bracket. It is held on by 2 15mm bolts. It is vital to use a 6 point socket on these bolts- I broke a $28 12-point snap-on socket and an $8 12-point Craftsman socket trying to get these bolts off, and finally a crappy 2 cent 6-point duralast socket pulled through. Place the bolts in your bolt tray to avoid misplacement.


At this point you should see this:


The rotor will now either fall off or need to be hammered of, which mine did. Only tap lightly, it doesn't take much. Use extra care if you are putting the same rotors back on.

3)Hub bearing removal
Now the dust shield can be removed. A 5/16" socket fit justttt over the three bolts that hold it on.


There are 5 points that hold the ABS harness to the vehicle:




The one closest to the hub is held by another 5/16" bolt. Unbolt it, remove the 3 frame clips, and disconnect the electrical connector. The connector is a little tricky because the clip is towards the front of the vehicle. After the harness is off loosely reinstall the one harness bolt in the knuckle to avoid misplacement.

Now take your 32mm or 1-1/4" socket and remove the axle nut using an impact wrench. If you do not have air tools, perform this step with the vehicle still on the ground.


Once the wire is out of the way, and the axle nut is off, you can remove the three 15mm bolts that attach the hub to the steering knuckle. Some creative work with sockets and extensions is necessary due to the CV axle being in
the way. Again, use a 6pt socket.


Only take these bolts out a few threads, because you can then LIGHTLY hit them with a hammer to unsieze the hub from the knuckle. After the hub is loose, remove the three bolts the rest of the way and pull off the hub. You will then see this:


Now ooh and ahh over how crappy and loose your old bearing is and how firm and smooth your new one is. Funs over, it's time to get back to work.

4) Tie rod (inner and outer) removal
Using needle nose pliers, meme your old rusty cotter pin enough to get the outer tie rod nut off.


With any luck, this nut will come off just fine. But not for me! My tie rod was so shot when I went to take the nut off, the whole joint spun. If this happens to you, just disconnect the inner and outer tie rods from each other and leave the outer on the knuckle for now. Once you get the whole knuckle off, you can hold it in a vise and then unbolt it using a 13/16" wrench/socket. On with removal: With the nut now removed, use a puller or a smaller hammer to separate the tie rod end from the knuckle. Result:


After turning the steering wheel all the way to the side youre working on, reach in with a longgg flathead screwdriver and break off the clamp holding the tie rod boot on. Pull the boot out as far as you can. Now comes the huge 1-7/16" wrench (pipe wrench works just as good).




Place it on the inner tie rod nut and give fast, hard jerks to pop it loose. Avoid applying force over a period of time to prevent damage to the power steering rack. Finish unscrewing by hand, and you're done. Be sure to put a rag or paper towel over the exposed steering rack to keep dirt out.


5) Steering knuckle removal
The steering knuckle is held on by both the upper and lower ball joints. A 15mm bolt and nut holds the upper, and a 1-1/16" nut holds the lower. Start by removing the upper bolt with a 15mm wrench and socket.


Once you have the nut off, use a small hammer to drive out the bolt. You may need to use a punch or equivalent to get it all the way through. Now take your big hammer and hit up on the upper control arm right next to the ball joint. This part often gives people trouble, as the ball joint becomes seized in the knuckle. Once that is separated, you should see this:


If you are replacing the lower ball joint you now have 3 choices, after removing the ball joint snap ring. If you are not you have 1- marked by an *:
*1) take the biggest hammer you can find and beat the ever loving s*** out of the top of the knuckle to seperate the knuckle from the ball joint.
2) Use a pickle fork and drive it between the ball joint and knuckle.
3) Unscrew the old grease fitting from the ball joint (of applicable) and use a 4lb sledge to beat the ball joint, with knuckle still attached, out of the lower control arm. The ball joint can then be easily removed from the knuckle.
You may be the luckiest person alive and the knuckle might just slide right off the ball joint.
For option 3, it will be necessary to pull the wheel end of the CV axle out of the knuckle. It can conveniently be rested on top of the sway bar: (ignore the fact that the knuckle is already gone)


6) Sway bar link and bushing removal
Sorry I have no pictures of this but it is very straightforward. The bushing is held on with a bracket and 2 1/2" bolts. The link has a 5/8" bolt on top, held on by an 11/16" nut. A saws-all or hack saw may be necessary to remove the old and rusted link.


7) Shock absorber removal
The shock can be removed without performing any of the above step, but removing the wheel makes it much easier. It is held on by two bolts at the lower control arm and a nut at the upper shock mount. Use an 11/16" wrench to hold the shock at the Factory attached nut on top of the upper shock tube. Take a 9/16" wrench and unbolt the top of the shock. If it seizes, the shock will need to be cut off. Now unbolt the 2 lower bolts. I cannot remember the sizes. Compress the shock and remove from the vehicle. Sorry I didn't get many pictures of removal, but the installation pictures apply. Note that the stock shocks do not have a hex bolt on the bottom mount, but rather a flat stud. Simply remove the nut on the underside of the control arm.




Now is a great time, if necessary, to replace the following: CV axles, front
differential seals, front bearings, front differential fluid, spark plugs/wires, lower/upper control arms and/or bushings. My truck needed none of these things, so I will not include them in this post. Awesome write ups can be found on replacing these parts by using the search function on this forum.


I like to have all the parts I will be putting back on the truck layed out, ready to be installed, in order of assembly along with the tools needed to install them. This makes for a smooth, clean and systematic reassembly process. It also reduces the chance of errors and lost time due to misplaced or unprepared parts. For this purpose, I will start the reassembly portion of this thread with parts preparation, in the order of installation.

Tie rods-
When replacing the outer tie rod, inner tie rod, or both it is vital that the overall length of the new part(s) is as close as possible to the overall length of the old parts. If only replacing the outer, measure the distance from the beginning of the threads on the inner tie rod to the end of the outer tie rod and match this measurement when installing the new outer tie rod. If replacing only the inner, or both, the process is slightly different. Use marking paint or equivalent to mark how far down the outer tie rod is on the inner tie rod. Then remove the outer tie rod, jam nut, tie rod boot, and finally the inner tie rod. Reassemble using the marking on your work bench without the boot. Put the boot on the new inner tie rod and then screw on the jam nut and new (or old) outer tie rod. Use anti-seize on the inner tie rod threads- you will thank yourself later. Use the old parts to match the length. It is very important that you don't just count threads because the lengths of the outer tie rods may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Temporarily screw on the nut and put the cotter pin loosely through (don't bend it!) to avoid losing it.

Sway bar links/bushings-
Not much to prepare here, just be sure to use anti-seize on the link bolt threads and bushing bracket bolts. Also use ample marine grade grease on the inside of the bushing when installing the new one.

Lower ball joint-
If you're like me, you had a hell of a time getting the old ball joint off the knuckle. For this reason I recommend you apply anti-seize to the collar that the buckle rests against on the new ball joint. Temporarily screw on the nut and put the cotter pin loosely through (don't bend it!) to avoid losing it. Also be sure to have the snap ring nearby.

I sanded and then coated my new shocks with rustoleum truck bed liner to prevent them from rusting out and looking like crap. Optional, but I recommend it. Have all the bolts and bushings ready to go. No Anti-seize necessary here.


Steering knuckle-
Just general clean up here- use a wire brush to clean out where the hub rests and apply anti-seize if you wish, although this is optional.


Apply di-electric grease to the 2 pins in the connector. Also use anti-seize on the 3 hub bolts if you wish. A small amount of grease on the drive splines also is not a bad idea. Inspect the axle nut for any damage and replace if necessary.


1) Tie Rod installation
Apply a tiny tiny amount of the supplied red loc-tite to the inner tie rod threads, and then screw in by hand. Tighten using 1-7/16" wrench or pipe wrench. Again using quick forceful motions to avoid damaging the power steering rack.


You can now install the grease fitting on the new outer tie rod.


The inner boot clamp can be replaced with a large plastic zip-tie. It's a little tricky to get in there, but doable. Make sure the vent tube is fully connected/seated.

2) Lower Ball Joint Installation
Some have said that the lower ball joint can not be installed using the autozone press, but I found with a little creativity it can be done. I unfortunately did not get pictures of the set up due to the awkwardness, but I will describe it as best I can. There are 2 stages for pressing in the ball joint:
1) Place the conical side of the top cup support? (not sure what you call the 2 disks that press on the cups) facing down over the lower ball joint hole. Put the middle size cup around the lower ball joint and the "cup support" underneath that. Clamp down on this set up until you feel the resistance skyrocket. BE SURE TO STOP PRESSING AT THIS POINT OR SOMETHING WILL BREAK. The top of the ball joint should now be flush with the lower control arm.
2) This part can be tricky. It requires that stage one above was fully completed. The lower side setup will be the same as stage one. The top now changes. With the bottom side already setup, and you supporting the c clamp, place the smallest cup evenly over the ball joint. Now take the top "cup support", conical side up, and fit it as far as you can in between the top of the c clamp and the small cup. It will be a very tight fit. Use a small hammer to hammer it in the rest of the way. Double check that everything is aligned and then take your 7/8" wrench and slowly press the ball joint in the rest of the way. DO NOT USE AN IMPACT WRENCH. It is important that you feel how the ball joint is going in. Remove the press setup and if all went well, you should have enough room to install the snap ring. If not, no worries. Just put the press back on and go a little further. Sometimes the resistance goes way up without the joint being seated all the way. It's better to double check than to break something.

If this doesn't work for you, Mountaineer Green has a thread on replacing the ball joints using a floor jack, which can be found here:



The ball joint grease fitting can now be installed. The hole for the grease fitting on one of my new Moog ball joints was too big to thread the included grease fitting into, but this was nothing a quick trip to lowes couldn't solve.

3) Knuckle installation
Start by attaching the knuckle to the lower ball joint. You did put anti-seize on that collar right?? There is no torque spec for this nut, just get it as tight as you can while still being able to install the cotter pin. Insert the cotter pin and bend it around the castle nut. Before going on to the next step, ensure that the end of the CV axle is through the knuckle, as it will be impossible to install after the next step.


You may find a ratchet strap useful in getting the upper ball joint back into the knuckle. Use it to pull the upper and lower control arms closer to each other. A hammer may also be helpful to get it into the knuckle. Once its in, slide in the thoroughly anti-seized pinch bolt and torque to between 35 and 46 ft-lbs. Keep in mind anti-seize throws off torque numbers. My general rule of thumb is to add 5 ft-lbs when using anti-seize.




Next attach the outer tie rod to the knuckle. Again no torque spec on this nut, just get it as tight as you can while still being able to insert the cotter pin.


Get in the truck, turn the key on and turn the steering wheel from full left to full right a few times to ensure everything is smooth. If it checks out, move to the next step.

4) Hub installation
Start by aligning the splines in the hub with the cv axle. Push all the way in, ensure the ABS harness is facing the front of the vehicle, and then screw in the three hub bolts by hand. Now is also a good time to loosely screw on the axle nut. Firm up the three bolts with a 15mm socket and ratchet. Then torque down to between 74 and 86 ft-lbs. Keep in mind anti-seize throws off torque numbers. My general rule of thumb is to add 5 ft-lbs when using anti-seize. Attach the new ABS harness at the same 5 locations that you removed the old one from. Don't forget to reinstall the dust shield!









5) Shock installation
Not too much detail necessary here. Install the top mount first, correctly clamping the bushings. Then, jack up the lower control arm to meet the lower shock mount. Tighten down the 2 bolts good 'n' firm, remove the jack, and you're done.





6) Brake Reassembly
After cleaning using brake cleaner or carb cleaner to clean your new rotor, put your new rotor(if applicable) on your new hub and mount the caliper bracket. Use red loc-tite on these bolts: (I know I used blue-it's all I had)



Snug them down with a 15mm socket and ratchet, then torque to 80 ft-lbs.


I purchased a brake rebuild kit from rock auto which included new slider boots, new retention springs and those clips that the pads mount in. Installation of this kit is very straightforward. Use ample brake lube on the sliders and retention clips and ensure the new boots are seated properly. Also apply anti-seize on the caliper bracket underneath where the caliper mounting clips go.




You can now install the new pads(if applicable). I chose Wagner severe duty semi-metallic brake pads for extended brake life. Use brake lube on all of the pads contact points.




Now it's time to reinstall the caliper. I painted mine, but I will not include that process in this write up because my prep work was shoddy. Other threads can be found on this forum detailing this process. Rest the caliper over the pads and line up the keyed sliders. BE SURE THE CALIPER IS EVENLY SET. I cross threaded both the caliper bolts on the drivers side because the caliper was not on all the way. If you don't have rethreading tools and do this, you'll be up a creek without a paddle. Assuming your installation goes according to plan use blue loc-tite on the caliper bolt threads and torque to between 20 and 25 ft-lbs. NO anti-seize on any of the 4 brake bolts.




At this point, inspect all of your work. Double check torque specs, visually inspect, and mentally go over everything you did to ensure nothing was missed. Rotate the rotor by hand and listen for any rubbing or grinding. Post back here if anything goes wrong and I will help you as I can. If everything checks out, reinstall the wheel and hand tighten the lug nuts. Reverse the above jacking process and torque the lug nuts to 100 ft-lbs. Set the parking brake (unless it doesnt work, like mine) and torque the axle nut to between 157and 213 ft-lbs.

As far as alignment goes, in my opinion you have 3 choices. Many on this forum will disagree, and rightfully so, but I am confident in my abilities. You can:
1) Drive the vehicle directly to an alignment shop
2) Since you only threw off the toe adjustment (unless you also replaced the upper control arm, in which case take it to an alignment shop) you can align the vehicle yourself, at home. I will take you through that process here. Start by parking the vehicle on a level surface. Center the steering wheel, shut the car off, and then turn the steering wheel either to the left or right just enough to engage the steering wheel lock. The wheel should remain center. This will prevent the wheel from moving while you adjust the outer tie rods. Now the next part is hard to explain in writing so a video description can be found here, at 1:14: To adjust on our trucks, loosen the jam nut on the inner tie rod and either turn the inner tie rod clockwise or counter-clockwise to turn the front of the wheel closer or farther from the truck, respectively. Adjust until the wheels align as shown in the video. Tighten the jam nut and take the vehicle for a short ride to check your work. It may take multiple tries for you to get it just right. On a flat, smooth highway, a properly aligned truck will have a perfectly straight steering wheel and will not pull to either side when you take your hands off the wheel.
3) Do both. This is probably the best option.

Once it is aligned, drive it around a little bit and become confident in the work you did and be proud about how much money you just saved.

Some other pictures:

Old Timken hub:

Old grooved rotor:

While it was in the garage, i painted the front grille with rustoleum trim and bumper paint:

My truck with the newly painted front grille:

My workspace. Cramped yet comfortable:

Autozone ball joint press:

All the new parts. Everything to the right of the spray cans in for the front, to the left is for the rear:

Please feel free to point out any mistakes or add anything- I will edit it into the original post. I truly hope this write-up helps someone, even if just one person. It represents a significant amount of time spent on my part and that would be the best pay back.

Happy repairing and enjoy saving $85/hour in labor costs:D

:usa::salute:Thank you for all the help Explorer Forum- This write-up is to give back!:salute::usa:

EDIT: moderators- sorry if this is misplaced. Please move as you see fit.


Explorer Addict
December 27, 2009
Reaction score
City, State
Vermillion, SD
Year, Model & Trim Level
Quality write-up, good job.


Elite Explorer
April 3, 2009
Reaction score
City, State
Kailua-Oahu, Hawaii
Year, Model & Trim Level
'05 Sport Trac XLS (RWD)
Great work, thanks for taking the time. Can never have enough suspension tutorials. :thumbsup: