Well, it will happen someday. Your RWD LX'es lower ball joint boot will tear or get torn, let water in and eventually get noisy then loose. The one on the left:
Currently, Chrysler will not service the ball joint seperately, although the special tools and service manual directions exist to do the procedure. Chrysler makes you buy a $700 spindle to replace it, which to many out of warranty, is just too expensive. And that doesn't include labor!!!
A solution??? Enter the aftermarket. A few different manufacturers now produce replacement lower ball joints for RWD LX vehicles. Currently, the majority of them are a special adjustable offset type, which allows increased caster and camber adjustment by repositioning the tapered stud before tightening the retaining nut.
I personally don't like this concept on an LX, where a craddle shift corrects most caster/camber issues. MOOG now makes a factory style replacement ball joint, so you don't have to go through the trouble of aligning the car after (Yes, it's probably still a good idea to get one, but a conventional ball joint isn't going to change the alignment as much as the adjustable offset one). Enough about that, lets get to work. The one I installed was a Napa Chassis part, the adjustable offset type.
So start with removing the wheel. 5 21mm lug nuts, and slip it off. Next, remove the 2 18mm caliper bracket bolts and swing the whole caliper and bracket off the rotor and hang it aside with a coat hanger. Next remove the rotor, if stuck on the hub, lube the hub center with penetraiting lube, then strike in-between the wheel studs with a hammer (32 oz. works best). Next, remove the 10mm bolt that holds the flex hose/wheel speed sensor bracket to the spindle. Next, remove the 3 10mm rotor dust shield bolts. The wheel bearing doesn't have to be touched. remove the 10mm bolt that holds the wheel speed sensor on. If the sensor will not pull out easy, using a flat bladed screwdriver against the tip of the sensor and a rubber mallet, lightly tap the screwdriver and push the sensor out. Repositioning the dust shield gives you an easier view of the sensor tip. Here's how far you should be at this point.
Now, remove the 21mm outer tie rod end nut. Using your trusty hammer, strike the hex postion of the tie rod stud swiftly to break the taper, or strike the side of the spindle where the tie rod stud inserts. Now remove the 18mm upper ball joint nut. Thread it back on a few threads, then strike the side of the spindle where the ball joint stud inserts with a hammer until the taper breaks, the nut will keep the spindle from dropping and hitting you in the face. Now, if your tension strut isn't going to be replaced at this time, loosen the 21mm tension strut retaining nut until the top of the nut is flush with end of the stud. Now you can either strike the spindle to death until the taper breaks, or get this seperator tool, Miller 9360:
The forcing screw is a 3/4" size. Insert the tool as shown, hooking the safety chain somewhere close:
Using a 3/4" 1/2" drive socket on a long 1/2" drive ratchet, tighten the forcing screw until the taper pops. Be forewarned!!! The long ratchet is so you don't stand right next to the tool while tightening the screw. The tension strut stud taper is extremely tight, and does take quite a bit of force to pop. Once it pops, remove the nut, and slip the tension strut out of the spindle. Now, loosen the 21mm lower ball joint nut until just a few threads are still engaged. Strike the side of the spindle where the ball joint stud inserts with a hammer until the taper breaks. Now, pull down on the upper control arm and remove the retaining nut. Let go of the control arm and allow the spindle to drop. Now remove the lower control arm nut, while holding the spindle up. Now lower the spindle off of the lower control arm. here is whats left of the car:
And what you're going to work on:
Now, the ball joint is press fit into the spindle, but as a safety measure, has a snap ring on it to keep it from pulling out. Using a pair of pointed tip snap ring pliers, or pointed tip needle nose pliers, expand the snap ring and remove.
If the snap ring sticks and won't completely expand, using a screwdriver and a small hammer, tap the side of the snap ring where it's sticking, and in a few other places. Now, you need the correct tools to remove the ball joint. Moog and Napa do sell the tools to do the job, but I'm using Miller Kit 9320, along with a ball joint C-Frame press.
Continued in next post.
Last edited by Tbird100636; 05-13-2010 at 10:30 PM.
Now, Install the support clamps halves, 9320-1 and 9320-2 on the spindle as shown.
The support clamp halves have allen head screws. when tightening, tighten evenly. If after tightening the bosses of the lower half aren't flush with the upper half, unbolt the halves, and rotate the lower half 180 degrees. Re-tighten the screws. Now, mount the C-Frame press in a large vise. The amount of torque needed to remove the ball joint cannot be attained with the press unrestrained, even with a good 1/2" impact gun. Now. insert 9320-5 receiver into the cup area of the C-Frame. Install 9320-3 remover onto the screw-drive of the C-Frame. Insert the spindle as shown into the C-Frame as shown. Not in a vise yet in the picture:
9320-5 engages in 9320-1 & 2's recess. Now, tighten the forcing screw until the ball joint is all the way out. If you have a 1/2" impact gun this helps, but this ball joint was in there so tight, my IR Titanium gun didn't have enough power to get it to at least pop loose. So enter the long 1/2" ratchet. This will take some muscle and brute force. Tighten until the joint pops, then go the rest of the way out. Make sure to lube the forcing screw threads. Hitting the side of the spindle where the ball joint is pressed in helps sometimes, but if it just won't come out, enter a torch. Heat the spindle until it starts turning red, then continue tightening the forcing screw. If it still isn't budging, keep heating until the joint explodes (loud pop, don't worry about it, won't hit you, contained in the receiver), then tighten until it comes out. Luckily, I didn't have to use the torches, just brute force. Ball joint removed:
Now here's the factory joint, and the Napa replacement side by side. The replacement is taller than the factory one:
The stud is slightly taller, as well as the bottom, where there is also grease fitting. Now, remove 9320-1&2 from the spindle, and remove 9320-5 from the C-Frame, and install 9320-4 installer in it's place. Reverse 9320-3 on the screw-drive. Insert the new ball joint into the spindle. Remove the grease fitting to prevent damage. Lube the boot of the ball joint with petroleum jelly, and insert the spindle in the C-Frame as shown.
Tighten the forcing screw until the joint stops and won't pull the rest of the way. Here's where a problem exists...sort of... since the bottom of the ball joint is taller than original, it jams against the inside of 9320-3, preventing full insertion. This is where a full ball joint kit comes in handy. My C-frame is part of the OTC Jeep/Dodge Truck ball joint set, which includes various adaptors for different applications. Most ball joint kits do include a wide variety of adaptors, so you can figure out which adaptor works best to clear the bottom of the joint. This is what I used, shown next to 9320-3:
Tighten until fully seated, and remove from the C-Frame. Install the new snap ring, and the grease fitting. Installed picture, showing the adjustable offset:
Now the new ball joint stud threads are slightly beefier, so the top of the control arm hole needs a little love with a round file.
Now re-assemble. Insert the lower ball joint into the lower control arm and thread on the nut. Pull down on the upper control arm, and insert into the spindle, thread on the nut. Insert the tension strut into the spindle, thread on the nut. Insert the outer tie rod end, thread on the nut. Using the correct allen socket, hold the tension strut stud and tighten the nut. Repeat the same with the upper ball joint nut. Hold the tie rod end stud with a 10mm wrench, and tighten the nut. Now if you have a conventional ball joint, hold the stud with an allen socket and tighten the nut. If you have an adjustable offset, like this one, do not fully tighten the nut. Doing so will set the taper, and you will not be able to adjust the stud for correct alignment. Run it down enough to be able to turn the stud with the allen socket. When you align the car, set the stud to desired spec. then tighten the nut. A note, the Napa ball joint uses a 22mm nut instead of the factory 21mm nut.
Now re-assemble the rest. Grease the ball joint with a grease gun. I will point out one area of interest. The rotor dust shield bolts. Got a funny tinny ringing over bumps, but no loose suspension parts??? Look no further than the rotor dust shield bolts. You do not have to remove the rotor to get to these bolts, and open end 10mm wrench works here. Here is the bolt locations on the left side, symmetrically the same on the right side.
Hope this helps many people out.
Last edited by Tbird100636; 01-11-2010 at 12:51 AM.
Wow, very detailed well photographed post.
Great info thanks for sharing!
K&N CAI, Jet 180Tstat, Predator,Magnaflow HF cats and cat back, Mopar strut brace, Billet catchcan, Eibach front and rear sway bars, Eibach ProStreet S Coil Overs, Pedders bump steer kit, Comp XFI273H-14 Cam, Comp Beehive valve springs, Arrington pushrods, SLP underdrive pulley.
Very well done, thanks for taking the time to heplp us out!
Excellent write up, you indicated that the dealer way to replace this cost $700 not including labor, what did this cost to replace? any idea how much the moog part cost? If you have an R/T would this be something you wanted to do if you were swapping out the knuckles for the SRT brakes? How long did this take you to do?
what were the symptoms of the bad ball joint? Clunking, squeaking, stiffness when steering in a certain direction, etc.?
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This sounds exactly like my problem! This rattle has been driving me crazy and have had a lot replaced on my frontend. I have 94k on my car now. On grooved concrete (like in a parking garage or on the Expressway here in Boston) the rattle on the drivers front is now so bad it feels like something is about to fall off my car. It started small, and 20k miles ago sounds about the right timing, and its now insufferable for someone as anal as me. I have an appointment with Rob from Wretched MS next Monday to hopefully diagnose and solve the problem.
2008 300C SRT8
Previously: 2005 Bright Silver Magnum R/T
Dodge is going to replace again, tie rods,rear springs, (3rd time for springs) shocks & struts! (2nd time for rear shocks) She started walking again so I had to utilize the warrenty.
I'm working on them to fix the stearing rack, any body ever notice how soft it is, or hor how easy to flex?
Great Post. The dealer has replaced my rear springs 3 times. rear shocks once and the front tie rods. Now shes walking again, so lets see what they will do this time.
Update. We did another LX lower ball joint at work the other day. The conventional type. The old ball joint popped right out easy compared to the one I did back in December. The new MOOG joint slipped into the spindle with limited resistance.
This sounds like something I might be doing soon, I just ticked over 50K and she rattles like crazy.
Awesome how-to! Following it now. Searched for a thread when I couldn't figure out how to get the damned thing out and didn't think of removing the entire spindle. Hopefully this is the reason why my left front makes loud "popping" sounds when I go through turns (especially right-handers) when braking! Knew the joint was toast when I saw the torn boot and grease.
Just wondering if the part# for the non-adjustable ball joint on rockauto is K80996? $38 seems like a good deal compared to the adjustable versions for $102 I'm installing some Pedders lowering springs, would it behoove me to get the adjustable ones?