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DIY camry lower ball joint replacement in situ *PICS*

89580 Views 99 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  glenn14
*** Do NOT attempt this if your car's suspension is badly rusted or you may run into serious trouble! ***

Pre-requisites (based on tools I use):
-21mm deep wall impact socket (for wheel lug nut loosening/removal/re-installation) + a 3/8'' drill with 1/2'' socket adapter and/or with a 1/2'' dr torque wrench
-12mm socket 3/8'' drive (for brake line bracket on strut)
-17mm socket 1/2'' drive (for caliper bracket bolts to knuckle and ball joint bolts/nuts to Lower Control Arm) - a 3'' or 4'' extension comes in handy
-19mm crowfoot 3/8'' drive like this set from HFT, with an adapter from 3/8'' dr to to 1/2'' dr (90ft-lbs calls for 1/2'' dr torque wrench)
NOTE: if you are using or planning to use aftermarket ball joints, then you will need a 22mm (for Beck & Arnley BJ) or 25mm (for Moog BJ) combo wrench or proper crowfoot for torquing it down (or loosening if you have them on car now)
-4'' extension 3/8'' drive (for 19mm crowfoot)
NOTE: for this job to work flawlessly you NEED a 1/2'' dr torque wrench being able to work in both forward and reverse direction!
-needle nose pointed pliers (for cotter pins)
-16oz home repair hammer is handy for bending cotter pins legs or hammering on pliers or pins to push/pull them out
-ball joint separator (with side arms like this one from HFT)
NOTE: a Pitman Arm puller or Tie Rod End puller WILL NOT work here
-19mm combo wrench with long handle (open end for initial tightening/loosening of castle nut, box end will be handy for ball joint separator bolt), this metric wrench set from HFT is great
-PB Blaster for rusted/seized bolts/nuts
-paper towels & rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) to clean things up from old spilled grease
-small wire brush to clean off the rust (optional)
-1/2'' breaker bar (totally optional, I used my 1/2'' click-stop torque wrench to loosen what I needed)

You might consider borrowing those tools from Autozone or O'Reilly in case things go wrong and you need to unbolt the whole steering knuckle (just loosen the castle nut on ball joint first if possible, easy to do with knuckle still bolted on while using a long handle wrench):
-1/2'' breaker bar 2 feet long
-1/2'' torque wrench going up to 250ft-lbs
-22mm or 23mm 1/2'' dr socket for knuckle to strut nuts (162ft-lbs torque on Solara)
-30mm 1/2'' dr axle nut socket (217ft-lbs torque)
-Front Axle Puller (makes it a snap to remove the knuckle off the axle after it's been unbolted).

Click-stop torque wrenches used here were both from HFT:
3/8'' drive
1/2'' drive

gen4 Torque specs:
-caliper bracket bolts: 79ft-lbs
-brake hose bracket to strut: 22ft-lbs
-ball joint:
a) lower 17mm nuts/bolt: 94ft-lbs
b) 19mm OEM (or 22mm B&A BJ or 25mm on MOOG BJ) castle nut: 90ft-lbs
-alloy wheels lug nuts: 77ft-lbs
-steel wheels lug nuts: 100ft-lbs

1. Loosen the wheel lug nuts.

2. Jack up ONE corner of front end and secure it with a jack stand if possible.

3. Remove the wheel on corner you are working on.

4. Unbolt the brake hose bracket 12mm bolt from the strut.

5. Unbolt the caliper with its bracket (2 17mm bolts) and pull it out of rotor. Once the brake hose is unbolted from the strut, you can rest the caliper on the ground (if car is raised low, but enough for wheels to be off the ground, using a 2t compact jack here).

6. slide out the rotor and rest it against the wall somewhere (do NOT put it flat on ground, to avoid collecting dirt and pieces of rocks!)
You should end up having something similar to this:

7. use pliers (and hammer on it if necessary) to bend and remove the old cotter pins from the old ball joint castle nut.

8. loosen the 19mm (OEM) / 25mm (MOOG in picture, used actually a 1-1/16'' combo wrench to loosen it) castle nut so it spins freely. Loosen it until it touches the dust shield deflector ring right above it.
NOTE: you NEED the other wheel to touch the ground now! it won't work if you raised the whole front axle up (things will just start turning on both sides).

9. remove 2 nuts and 1 bolt (all 17mm) on the bottom of ball joint.

10. Pry down on the LCA until you are able to slide the bottom of ball joint out of holes and put it UNDER the LCA (you may need to turn ball joint body to sides to achieve that, I had to, it should turn to sides easily), like this (pic taken before swinging the ball joint bracket under the LCA):

Note: the scissor jack supporting the spindle is totally optional and actually unneeded as the knuckle is still bolted to the strut, nothing is coming apart so skip that.

11. Use the ball joint separator like in picture to lock it on the castle nut (loosened) and right below the steering knuckle arm, tighten the 19mm bolt until you hear a LOUD POP which will create a noise ringing in your ears for 5 seconds ;) - that means the ball joint has popped out from the knuckle :)


12. remove the castle nut pulling the ball joint down at same time, eventually it will come off and you should be able to swing the old ball joint out:
FR side:

FL side reference pic:

13. clean things a bit with paper towels and/or alcohol and wire brushes (rust).

14. insert the new ball joint and catch it with the new castle nut until snug.

15. pry down on the LCA to insert (may need to turn the ball joint body to sides) the new ball joint into the LCA holes, once there, tighten them ALL to specs (17mm nuts+bolt all at 94ft-lbs)

16. tighten the BJ castle nut to specs using 19mm combo wrench and eventually the 19mm crowfoot on the extension and torque wrench (NOTE: access it from bottom and the front bumper side, accessing from top or the other side will NOT work unless you have the swivel extensions, I don't)

When tightening the new castle nut to specs with a crowfoot, extension and a torque wrench, generally you need to put it from the bottom (torque wrench on reverse setting), and on the front bumper side and it will work fine.

here is an example video how to do this:

17. once the new castle nut has been tightened to 90ft-lbs you may notice that the cotter pin holes are NOT aligned anymore. That's OK! The torque is needed to insert the cone shaped ball stud into the steering knuckle hole, not to hold it down. You can loosen the nut now, e.g. with a 19mm open end wrench until holes get aligned, insert the cotter pins and lock it. Then tighten the castle nut until snug (doesn't need to be 90ft-lbs anymore, nothing is going anywhere anyways).
*official guides say that the cotter pin should be inserted ONLY if holes are lined up at or above the OEM specs.
I did it this way for the castle nuts on outer tie rod ends (was initially ending up half way between slots when using OEM torque, not always though and only on old tie rods, new ones lined up instantly), but the ball joints castle nuts lined up "almost" (literally 0.5mm past the ideal slot position after 90ft-lbs was applied, could be that precision of my 1/2'' dr torque wrench was coming into play here), tried tightening more to the next slot, but it was impossible to do with my setup, it called for waaaay more torque than 3/8'' crowfoot or extension/adapter could handle before breaking apart, so I did it my way (loosen the nut to insert the pin, then tighten it to snug).
Another explanation could be that 90ft-lbs has already seated the stud fully into the taper and there was no way to tighten the castle nut more (and pull the stud higher at same time), because it was already fully seated. Consider this if you come across the same trouble.

PIC of new FR side OEM ball joint installed:

PIC of new FL side OEM ball joint installed:

18. Re-install rest of stuff in reverse order and ENJOY YOUR NEW BALL JOINTS installed with no hassle of steering knuckle removal and using a bench vice and/or replacing the deflector dust shield (old one may get broken this way)! :D

19. Test drive the car and Have a cold one later :chug:

Reference pic of an old ball joint (driver side, 6-month old Moog ball joint in pic):

Reference pics from doing ball joint job on 13yrs old '00 Solara (old OEM ball joint) in passenger side, the more interesting one as I ended up having to unbolt the steering knuckle:

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So, I'm like the poster above with the sienna. My castle nut stripped almost the instant I put the 19mm wrench on there.

I am going to get a dremel to cut it off.

I don't have the HFT puller but I do have a pickle fork (borrowed from work). This whole job has been a PITA. I hate northern cars (mine came from Chicago).

I also regret starting this job - the ball joints looked ok. Except on cold mornings I was getting creaking and stiff steering.
I used a metric ton of PB blaster (I have a whole case here). :(

The 19mm wrench went on, it turned... only because it was stripping the castle nut - and no it was just a plain old combination wrench.

Whoever last did these must've torqued the hell out of them. The caliper bracket bolts needed an impact gun to move them.
Yeah I'm going to have to get a crowfoot for torquing it up.

Mine's a 94 and they may be the original BJs (heh heh).

The Moog/FedMog's I got from AZ have the 22mm nut on them.
My car's steering wheel feels loose when turning and wobbles around going straight. I am going to replace all the major suspension components back to OEM spec (well that was the plan).

And no, the boot got all messed up too. And I'm not sure I'd want to put it all back together. The nut could be weakened... :( That's all that holds the car together LOL.

going to have to dremel/sawzall it off and install the new ones.
I'm deciding if I should walk to home depot (it is just within walking distance) or wait for the wife to come home with a borrowed dremel... hmmm...

I think whoever did the work on this car in the past didn't know what torque specs are. That or its just years and years or road grime and corrosion?
I should also say, the cotter pin is either missing or corroded away.

Which is probably why it was stuck on/in there. Only thing I haven't tried yet is heat, because I don't have a torch. Plus I'd likely fry the CVboot. As it is the inner is tearing a little...sigh.
I couldn't even see the hole for the pin, so maybe it was corroded/broken off inside.

I'll see if I can find it and drill it out, but the nut is all but rounded off.
Ok.. I went out there (dark now) and felt for the cotter pin. It's at 90 degrees to where it should be. Facing along the CV axle and not along the line of the body. *sigh*.

On the passenger side ball joint the cotter pin is facing the right way.
So I attacked the castle nut with the sawzall... finally got it to turn... ugh!

Eventually got the ball joint out of the knuckle...

Ok.. How the heck do I get the new ball joint onto the LCA???

I can't pry on the LCA enough to get it to come down enough to get the BJ bolts to get into the LCA. I can't jack up the strut because it is pulling on the inner CV joint (I have a sneaking suspicion we may have already busted that... I hope not.).

Any clues?
Ok, I'll try... its getting dark and I am exhausted from working on this damn thing all week. LOL.

So I managed with the combination of a jack, a bar and me on my back pushing with my feet, to get the ball joint into the LCA.

I bolted the two nuts on there, but when I come to get the bolt in for the center hole, it doesn't line up! Oy!

I don't know if I have to jack up the whole thing to get it all level, or if the ball joint was manufactured wrong. If that's the latter I am not happy LOL.

I will never buy this old a car again unless its from somewhere that doesn't salt the roads.
Ahhhh... I don't know why, but that makes sense I guess.. LOL.

I'm done for the day. I'll try that tomorrow.. I'll loosen everything up and jack the car in the middle...

I am NOT attempting the other ball joint just yet. :( Although I DO need an alignment anyway - the drivers side tire is scuffed on the inside almost all the way to the radials. Just like the original one was (this is a rotated rear that I have on the front).
The sway bar is no longer a factor... I removed the sway bar link in preparation to replace it.

So it's not putting any pressure on the LCA as far as I can tell. But I'll try it anyway once I get off work.

That or my work buddy is going to come over and we're going to just remove the steering knuckle from the strut and do it the right way.
Ok. Buddy from work came over and I think he loosened the ball joint nut in the steering knuckle and managed to bolt the Ball joint to the LCA.

Installed a new sway bar link, my new rotor and bolted it all back together. Car feels a lot better right away (even though only one side is done).

Anxious to get the other side fixed now too - that's for another day though.

We had to cut the bolts off the old sway bar link with a dremel and a cutting wheel. They were completely rusted/fused. The new ones went in with plenty of anti seize.

I really wouldn't reccommend doing the ball joints in situ unless your car is from somewhere that doesn't use salt on the roads. It would've been a simpler job had everything not been rusted.

Edit: I forgot to say, we broke two breaker bars trying to get the CV axle nut off. 1/2 in drive.
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I am still scared to attempt the other side ;) I am not an idiot when it comes to working on cars its just this thing is rusted/corroded so badly.

I NEED new tires and something is out of whack in the alignment department so I have to get all this squared away before new tires - no point spending $$$ on tires to have them ruined by relatively cheap suspension components.

It's also 30% off at work so I am loading up on parts.
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