No need to remove wheel hub to change ball joints. | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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No need to remove wheel hub to change ball joints.


Well-Known Member
July 8, 2012
Reaction score
City, State
Concord, NC
Year, Model & Trim Level
2003 Explorer Eddie Bauer
When I did the driver's side lower ball joint and tie rod end all of the videos and instructions I found indicated that I had to remove the wheel hub by getting at those 3 15mm bolts hidden behind the steering knuckle. I figured out that you don't need to remove those or the hub. Here's how;

So this morning I set out to do the passenger side lower ball joint and tie rod end. I found a much easier way to get this job done.

My Explorer is 2003 4 wheel drive.

Set the parking brake and chock the wheels.

Pop the little hubcap and loosen the axle nut.

Loosen the lug nuts.

Jack the front end up and place it on jack stands.

Remove the wheel.

Remove the brake caliper and wheel speed sensor and tie them up on the upper control arm with wire or zip ties. DO NOT let them hang by the brake line.

Remove the brake caliper. 2 bolts in the back.

Remove the upper ball joint from the steering knuckle. Usually a couple of whacks on the outside of the top of the knuckle will loosen it. If not you can use a pickle fork but it will ruin the boot and you will need a new one so be careful.

Brake the tie rod adjusting lock nut loose and finger tighten it back against the tie rod end.

Remove the tie rod end cotter key and nut and knock the tie rod end out of the steering knuckle. If you are replacing it don't worry about beating it with a hammer or use a pickle fork.

Remove the lower ball joint cotter key and nut.

Remove the axle nut.

Heat the lower portion of the steering knuckle with a torch and then using a pitman joint wedge give it a few wacks with your 3 lb. hammer until it pops loose.

Using a large 3 jaw pulller grab ahold of the wheel hub and pull it off the axle. Make sure you don't pull the axle out of the transfer case.

When you get the steering knuckle loose you will need to pull it aside and place the axle up on the stabalizer bar for safe keeping.

Wiggle the steering knuckle out of the lower control arm.

Using a ball jont press rented from the parts store press out the lower ball joint.

Install a new ball joint with the same press and the proper adapters. You will need to ask for the 4 wheel drive adapter kit to get the correct height mandrels.

As an alternative you can use a small floor jack and carefully position the new ball joint and then apply upward pressure with the jack while beating on the top of the control arm equally around the circumference of the top of the ball joint.

Make sure you get the joint all the way seated and place the snap ring on it and insert the grease zerk if it came with one.

Install the new tie rod end and snug it up against the locking nut that you DID NOT move during disassembly. Insert the grease zerk if it came with one.

Re-install the steering knuckle by first inserting the axle so the splines match up with the hub. A little vienerschlider helps here.

Move the steering knuckle down to get the stem of the lower ball joint inserted and then finger tighten the nut for it.

Raise the steering knuckle up to catch the upper ball joint stem and finger tighten that nut.

Install the axle nut and pull it snug.

Torque all nuts to factory specs and insert cotter pins on both the tie rod end and the lower ball joint.

Reinstall the wheel speed sensor and the brake rotor and caliper. Torque those bolts to spec.

Reinstall the wheel and torque the lug nuts to spec and let the car down off the jack stands.

Torque the axle nut to spec and reinstall the tiny hubcap.

Check alignment.


There is NO NEED to remove the hub by taking out those 3 impossible bolts hiding behind the steering knuckle. NONE.