Replace 4 Ball Joints, 2 Tie Rods and 2 Stabilizer Links

Camdo

Well-Known Member
Keywords: UBJ LBJ OTR SSL UPPER BALL JOINT LOWER BALL JOINT STABILIZER SHAFT LINK FRONT ANTI SWAY BAR LINK



Job: Replace 2 upper ball joints, 2 lower ball joints, 2 outer tie rods and 2 stabilizer shaft links.

Vehicle: 2005 GMC Envoy SLT 4WD 4.2L 6 cyl. 217,857 miles



My friendly tire service shop changed my engine oil and informed me that my right outer tie rod was in need of replacement. I thanked them for the information and contemplated my next move. To spend or to fix it myself that was the question.



I reasoned that If one steering component was worn then others cannot be far behind. I jacked under the A-arm and pried with a 3 ft wrecking bar. The left lower ball joint was loose. Not a lot, just a little. I made the decision to replace all the ball joints and tie rods and while I am in there the stabilizer shaft links too. The decision to replace the stabilizer shaft links was from a past job where I needed to remove one and found the threads seized into a rusty unserviceable mess. Now is the time to clean it up.



I spent about 3 hours researching the subject on this forum (and that other one) and judged the job doable but hardy. The Powerbuilt 23 pc. Ball joint Service Kit 46 was successfully used in several threads. I will use it too and got it as a loaner from AutoZone.

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In review I found the kit could not remove one of my lower ball joints and did some damage to the lower ball joint boots. Read on for more details .

I was also curious about experiences with various manufacturer’s suspension products. There was nothing definitive in the threads except the usual rants and accolades. HARDTRAILZ liked Detroit Axle and that was good enough for me. The fact that the cost was one quarter other brands had nothing to do with my decision. I purchased them on ebay. 2 upper ball joints + 2 lower ball joints and 2 stabilizer links for about $75. I purchased a la carte because the hardware was not shown on the special combo deals. I have since learned that the combos do include the same hardware.

Here are some comparison shots of the new Detroit Axle parts against what I removed:

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My visual inspection and holding the parts in my hand could not reveal any substantial difference. Time will be the judge.



In the procedural descriptions, I have used the exact dimensions of the various tubes and cups of the ball joint press as the labels on the case were often approximate. Length refers to the outside wall length and does not include the receiver bump. The receiver is the end of the press with the hole, and the presser end is the screw side. The press elements are always listed from top (presser screw) to bottom.



I proceeded as follows:

1. Loosen wheel hub axle bolt, wheel lugs, jack car, remove tire.

2. Disconnect speed sensor wire at the plug on the chassis back to the steering knuckle. To disconnect the electric plug: first pull it straight perpendicular from the chassis frame(optional), then remove the grey safety lock by depressing the middle barb with a small screw driver while pulling, then disconnect the plug by squeezing the locking tab on the neck while pulling apart the plug assy. Disconnect the speed sensor cable clamps with a small screw driver prying up in the hood pocket.

3. Disconnect the brake line clamp on the back side of the steering knuckle.

4. Disconnect brake line mounting block on frame.

5. Outer tie rod removal: Before removing the outer tie rod, precisely measure the length from stud center to the inner tie rod jam nut junction. Use this measurement to adjust the new replacement tie rod. Pry loose the bellows squeeze clamp and push the bellows away from the inner tie rod shoulder. Adjust the steering so the bellows is not touching the parts about to be heated.

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Position a heat shield to protect the bellows.

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Use an oxy-acetylene torch to heat the jam nut to cherry red and balance some of the heat to the adjoining inner tie rod hex. Quickly remove torch and wrench the jam nut and inner tie rod free. Use a wet rag to cool the components. Don’t get water into the steering bellows. Don’t overheat the inner tie rod or melt the bellows. I did this without damage to bellows or inner tie rod. It is more heat resistant than one would think. Remove the outer tie rod from the steering knuckle and replace with new. Use tool GM J 24319-B

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Adjust new outer tie rod to the measured distance. Clamp the bellows in place with a new pinch clamp. McMaster Carr stock number 52545K57, diameter 1.125 – 1.250 x .281 wide stainless steel. https://www.mcmaster.com/catalog/125/337 and the tool 6541K67 https://www.mcmaster.com/catalog/125/338

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Leave the outer tie rod unconnected to the steering knuckle to facilitate ball joint replacement.

6. Remove stabilizer link with cutting torch. Don’t bother trying to remove old rusty nuts. If you do, an odd ball 7mm allen wrench is required, and will probably strip during the removal process. Torching off the nuts is a whole lot easier.

7. Replace the upper ball joint. Separate upper ball joint from upper control arm by removing the pinch bolt. The steering knuckle can now be tilted sideways so the ball joint press can project away from the vehicle fender. Use a lead hammer to knock the axle shaft inward while tilting the steering knuckle outward.

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Remove the C-clamp from the old ball joint. Setup the press as follows: small presser stud, 15mm socket, receiver cup 2.160/2.240 OD x 1.982 id x 2.20 L

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The 15MM ½ inch socket is placed over the ball joint stud to act as a bearing surface to prevent the stud from cocking sideways.

The Powerbuilt press requires a 7/8 inch socket. Use a breaker bar with a 2 ft pipe extension and a 3 ft wrecking bar as a counter torque element. The use of a ¾ in breaker bar would be recommended, but I used a ½ inch breaker bar and prayed that it would not snap. Luckily it did not.

To install the new upper ball joint set up the press as follows: small presser stud, presser adapter, tube 2.50 OD x 2.25 id x 1.70 L and receiving cup 2.125 od x 1.81 id x .84 L Sorry no picture. Install snap ring. Point grease Zerk towards the rear of the vehicle.

8. Separate lower ball joint from lower control arm. Use tool GM J 43631 Got it on ebay years ago.

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The steering knuckle assembly weighs about 50 lbs. I could easily handle it alone but be ready for it to drop as soon as the ball joint nut is removed. Tip the assembly to clear the axle. Support the steering knuckle assembly on a block positioned in the rear of the wheel well, The brake line remains connected. Use some wire ties to lift the axle shaft out of the way.

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9. Replace lower ball joint
Use a hammer and cold chisel to bend the lower ball joint flared retainer flange straight.

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continued
Replace 4 Ball Joints, 2 Tie Rods and 2 Stabilizer Links: Part 2
 
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Camdo

Well-Known Member
Replace 4 Ball Joints, 2 Tie Rods and 2 Stabilizer Links: Part 2

To press out the lower ball joint, set up as follows: small press stud, presser adapter, 1 7/16 x 3/4 id x 1 L remover, tube 2.75 od x 2.42 id x 2.24 L, receiver adapter

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This setup worked on the passenger side but did not work on the driver side. The problem on the driver’s side was lack of a pressing land between the perimeter of the control arm forging and ball joint flange. The Powerbuilt tube 2.42 id had too much clearance around the ball joint flange and so would slip off the edge of the control arm perimeter. There was only about 1/32 inch of land on the perimeter of my control arm.

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To solve the problem I had to make a special receiver tube that closely matched the diameter of the lower ball joint flange which measured 2.312 diameter. I machined a tube 3.50 od x 2.316 ID x 2.24 L of SAE 1020 cold rolled steel. Luckily I had a piece of stock and a lathe in my garage. If I were not so well equipped, I would have purchased a new lower control arm with ball joint installed. With the specially made receiver tube, the lower ball joint pressed out without a problem using 18 inch breaker bar and 2 ft pipe extension. The control arm served as counter torque element.

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CAUTION TO ANYONE THINKING OF REMOVING THEIR LOWER BALL JOINTS. FIRST EXAMINE YOUR CONTROL ARM TO SEE IF YOU HAVE A SUFFICIENT PRESSING LAND ON YOUR CONTROL ARM AND A PROPER RECEIVING TUBE. The Powerbuilt kit worked on one side but did not work on the other. Check both sides of your vehicle. You will need at least 3/32 – 1/8 perimeter land to use the Powerbuilt kit. The closer your receiver tube is to 2.216 id the better. It would be worthwhile to explore other brands of presses to see what they have. You will need an inside micrometer to check as the labeled dimensions are only approximate. GM J 45105-2 may be the correct tube but measure before you buy.

Upon first release the ball joint heaved 1/4 inch from its bore with explosive force. Keep your jaw loose while wrenching to avoid breaking your teeth.

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To install the lower ball joint set up press as follows: small presser stud, receiving cup 2.240 od x 1.886 id x .70 L, receiver cup 2.161 / 2.238 od x 1.981 id x 2.38 L (labeled 2 1/4 od x 2 id x 2 L) press in the lower ball joint to around flush with top of control arm and then replace the presser receiving cup with: presser adapter and tube 2.50 od x 2.25 id x .79 L. The switch is necessary because the press is too small to take the final setup from the start. Install snap ring. Point grease Zerk towards the rear of the vehicle.

Initial setup

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Final setup

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There is another problem with the Powerbuilt kit installing the lower ball joint. The receiver cup labeled 2 1/4 od x 2 id x 2 L actually measures 1.981 id and is slightly too small for the Detroit Axle ball joint. The ball joint requires 2.015 id. I forced it in anyway thinking the rubber boot will squeeze, but what happened is the boot was shaved and may have been damaged. Here a picture of the shard that was shaved off

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The boot is bonded to the metal of the body. Although I examined it, I could not tell if the seal had been broken or not. If the joint fails prematurely, I will blame it on myself for using an improper receiving cuo. There is no other receiving cup in the Powerbuilt kit that can be substituted. Note the the Powerbuilt cup is labeled 2 id but actually measures 1.981. It would have worked okay with the OEM ball joint I removed, but it was too small the Detroit Axle replacement.

ANOTHER CAUTION: CHECK THAT YOU HAVE A RECIEVER CUP appropriately sized for your replacement ball joints. For Detriot axle it should measure between 2.015 to 2.050 ID. GM tool J 41435 may contain the proper cup. Check before you buy.

10. Reassemble the steering knuckle and wires and brake line clamps. Torque ball joint nut to 81 lb-ft, upper arm pinch bolt to 30 lb-ft and outer tie rod nut to 33 lb ft. Install castle nut cotter pins.

11. Install stabilizer links. Torque bolts to 107 Lb-ft. The GM manual states for replacement of lower control arm bracket: “Important: There is a washer between the stabilizer shaft link and the lower control arm made of hardened steel and has a felt inner liner. Only replace this washer with an identical washer, standard washers should not be used. Interesting, the GM manual does not mention this washer in the section on stabilizer shaft link replacement. Since I torched off the old stabilizer shaft link, destroying the washer underneath, and Detroit Axle providing no washer with their link, I used no washer to install the new link. The GM parts diagram shows no washer in the parts list. I conclude that the washer is specific to the purchased stabilizer link an so to trust Detroit Axle it is not needed with their unit.

12. Replace wheels and axle nuts.

13. Lower vehicle to ground and torque axle not to 103 lb-ft and wheel studs to 103 lb-ft.

14. Replace hub caps and drive to a tire shop and get a front end alignment.

15. Done.



Post summary:

Research time: 3 hours, maybe more than I care to admit.

Shop time: about 22 hours spread over 3 days includes shop setup, cleanup and fabrication time of special tube.

Costs:

$27 4pc Upper and lower Ball Joints, Detroit Axle, ebay

$25 2pc Outer Tie Rods, Detroit Axle, ebay

$21 2pc Stabilizer Shaft Links, Detroit Axle, ebay

$0 Powerbuilt Press kit: free loaner from AutoZone ($145 deposit refunded upon return)

$0 36mm Wheel nut socket: free loaner from AutoZone ( $20 deposit refunded upon return).

$100 Alignment

$173 Total Cost


Thank you AutoZone.


Other considerations: Most shop time was spent in the squatting position because of limited lift height of floor jacks. My legs were seriously sore after job completion and required a day of rest. I drank Gatorade to prevent leg cramps.


Things I would have done different: Get a 3/4 breaker bar with 7/8 socket. More patience. Would have made a special receiver tube for lower ball joints installation. Add an extra day or two to the job to reduce physical toll.


Powerbuilt Press kit 46 evaluation: Good quality, adequate for upper ball joints, possibly inadequate for lower ball joints. Receiver cup 2 1/4 x 2 id x 2 L needs a check fit with your replacement lower ball joint. See that the cup will fit over the ball joint stud and boot without damaging the part. Inspect the lower control arm for presence of an adequate pressing land around the ball joint flange. This is a show stopper point.


Detroit Axle: I liked the parts and will purchase them again.
 

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Mooseman

Moderator
Very nice and detailed write up. Adding to FAQ's.

Just a note for the lower ball joint removal. The typical tool set at most auto parts stores do not have the appropriate lower adapter, which is actually larger and notched so it rests on the two small ears on each side and the inner part of the A-arm. I had my own tool set from HF and took one of the adapters and notched it myself. It worked until one of the ears bent. Why couldn't GM add just a little more lip around there?
 

Mounce

Well-Known Member
Very nice and detailed write up. Adding to FAQ's.

Just a note for the lower ball joint removal. The typical tool set at most auto parts stores do not have the appropriate lower adapter, which is actually larger and notched so it rests on the two small ears on each side and the inner part of the A-arm. I had my own tool set from HF and took one of the adapters and notched it myself. It worked until one of the ears bent. Why couldn't GM add just a little more lip around there?
Right, and kit 46 like he had has that adapter. Just had to rent it last weekend. I also had the issue of different sized lowers. One I was able to use a receiver tube on but the other took the specialty adapter. Driver side was larger, all factory as far as I know so it makes me wonder.

I had bought a full kit like that off Amazon (ASTRO copy cat) and the specialized adapters bent forcing me to rent the kit after all and return the kit I had bought. The power built kit was leaps and bounds above what I had.

Side note on your J-tools, this kit includes the tie rod puller and a different style but equivalent lower ball joint separator and both worked terrific for me and I imagine you can get this whole set for the same price of one J-tool.


Edit: one last note, I removed the knuckle from the get go and mounted them in a bench vise to do the upper joints instead of fighting with it still on the vehicle. That's what I had done three years ago the first time I did the uppers and I didn't remember it being any fun. Might be a little time consuming if only doing uppers but if doing upper and lower its all gotta be disconnected anyways.
 
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Camdo

Well-Known Member
Very nice and detailed write up. Adding to FAQ's.

Just a note for the lower ball joint removal. The typical tool set at most auto parts stores do not have the appropriate lower adapter, which is actually larger and notched so it rests on the two small ears on each side and the inner part of the A-arm. I had my own tool set from HF and took one of the adapters and notched it myself. It worked until one of the ears bent. Why couldn't GM add just a little more lip around there?
It never occurred to me to try that notched adapter. But now that you mention it I can see it working. I can also envision it bending with the 3 ft wrenching action required. If I understand Mounce's reply, it worked for him. People should report back their experiences with this setup.
There is a cost benefit calculation here. Loner converts to owner VS. buy new control arm.

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Mounce

Well-Known Member
It's actually the next one to the right of the one circled.

Very good write-up though! Always good to see more helpful info being added to the site.
 

Stugar

Member
I did this same job plus a wheel bearing two weekends ago, even used Detroit Axle stuff. I have access to a lift so total time only took me 16 hours, but still wasn't a whole lot of fun.

One thing I found was that it's generally easier to remove the lower control arm, bring it over to a hydraulic press, and I used a section of female threaded pipe, I'm not sure on the size because it's been sitting next to my press at work for a long time, but the ball joint pressed out into it just about perfect, it destroyed the threads in the pipe, but it worked great, your mileage may vary.

Also, another tip I've picked up for removing tapered ball joints and tie rod ends, instead of pressing on the thread or shaft, use a hammer and hit what it goes through. EricTheCarGuy and SouthMainAuto on youtube use the technique extensively, and it saves a lot of time and never damages boots.

For instance you'd hit the knuckle at the arrow below to remove the tie rod end.
Tie rod picture.JPG
 

MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
About your serious Leg Cramps... From regular personal experience with the problem:

The Solution is called ....Theraworx.... It is a Hand Pumped, Foaming kind of Magnesium Sulfate (...essentially, its Epsom Salts) that gets easily applied to the affected areas; Forearms, Legs, Lower Back, Buttocks... or wherever needed. It works Best if applied Before You Start the Job. It goes on as Foam in less than 30 seconds and dries in less than a Minute... It's good for around 8-10 Hours and WILL Prevent ALL Cramps from ever getting started.

The Foam is Odorless, Non-Greasy. Not Sticky and I found out that this stuff is the Perfect Solution to a Painful, Nagging and Worrisome Problem for any Mechanic to have to deal with. The stuff is available at Walgreens, Rite-Aide, etc. and will do the job immediately on Sudden Cramps and will prove to be much faster and better at relieving them than Gatorade or any other kind of Electrolyte Drink. Look at the Reviews here... 2,031 people thought it was good enough to give it an average of 4.3 out of 5 Stars:


PS In my case... 'Cramps... Rhymes with Gramps...' ;>)
 
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MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
I think your Write Up is Very Well Done... But... Since No one else has said anything about "The Elephant in The Room,,," I may as well mention that my only concern with these procedures is the use of: CINDER BLOCKS as Jack Stands. Cinder Blocks should never be used to Support ANY Vehicle in this manner. Cinder Blocks are so porous that, if you were to heave one overboard from a Boat... It will FLOAT momentarily due to all of the Air Pockets hidden within the Concrete Rubble Matrix inside of them all.

As Very Strong Building Materials... Cinder Blocks are always Laid with the 'Air Holes" facing UP because their only Strength lies in being Weight Bearing in One, Single Direction: Straight Up and Down... and Never laterally...as they will tend to Shatter and Crumble like Christmas Cookies if moved sideways or suddenly stressed by any concentrated weight ; such as in the case of the sharply shaped areas and edges of the Under bodies of Vehicles, grinding and cutting into them like Knife Edges as the Truck gets leaned against or moved around time and again from above.

I know it is hard for you to feel this kind of criticism after putting your Heart, Soul and Energy into such Good Work. But unfortunately, all of your images showing the use of a Cinder Block standing on its end in this manner ....might encourage others to follow suit... and I'm sure that the last thing you would want would be for some unsuspecting person to crawl under any Vehicle... and while Yanking and Pulling on Breaker Bars and Torque Wrenches down there... have the whole damned thing give way... and injure or kill them. One might think... "Well, Hell this is the way I've done this all of my life and nothing ever happened like that to me..." and the honest reply would be, "Yes. You were Lucky... Brother."

This Link provides similar reasoning that, for the Sake of Good Auto Repair Safety... is worth reading and some consideration:

 
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Eric04

Silver Supporter
I think your Write Up is Very Well Done... But... Since No one else has said anything about "The Elephant in The Room,,," I may as well mention that my only concern with these procedures is the use of: CINDER BLOCKS as Jack Stands. Cinder Blocks should never be used to Support ANY Vehicle in this manner. Cinder Blocks are so porous that, if you were to heave one overboard from a Boat... It will FLOAT momentarily due to all of the Air Pockets hidden within the Concrete Rubble Matrix inside of them all.

As Very Strong Building Materials... Cinder Blocks are always Laid with the 'Air Holes" facing UP because their only Strength lies in being Weight Bearing in One, Single Direction: Straight Up and Down... and Never laterally...as they will tend to Shatter and Crumble like Christmas Cookies if moved sideways or suddenly stressed by any concentrated weight ; such as in the case of the sharply shaped areas and edges of the Under bodies of Vehicles, grinding and cutting into them like Knife Edges as the Truck gets leaned against or moved around time and again from above.

I know it is hard for you to feel this kind of criticism after putting your Heart, Soul and Energy into such Good Work. But unfortunately, all of your images showing the use of a Cinder Block standing on its end in this manner ....might encourage others to follow suit... and I'm sure that the last thing you would want would be for some unsuspecting person to crawl under any Vehicle... and while Yanking and Pulling on Breaker Bars and Torque Wrenches down there... have the whole damned thing give way... and injure or kill them. One might think... "Well, Hell this is the way I've done this all of my life and nothing ever happened like that to me..." and the honest reply would be, "Yes. You were Lucky... Brother."

This Link provides similar reasoning that, for the Sake of Good Auto Repair Safety... is worth reading and some consideration:

I believe he used the block to support the knuckle only, as he positioned it off to the side.
 

MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
I am VERY Happy for your Correction... I can see his Jack Stand... There... Behind the Cinder Block... I circled it in Red as I initially thought it was a Shadow... Thanks, Brother... and even still... this is probably worth mentioning if the secondary utility of a Cinder Block is used... just to avoid any confusion and be on the Safe Side. ;>) ... And Cinches it for me that @Camdo 's Write Up is well worthy of a F*VE ST*R Rating.

CINDERBLOCKS1.jpg
 
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Camdo

Well-Known Member
....the use of: CINDER BLOCKS as Jack Stands.
Just so there is no doubt, my vehicle was supported by 2 ton jack stands and the cinder block shown was only supporting the removed steering knuckle with the brake line still attached.

When I was around 16 years of age and just starting to work on cars, a respected adult warned me not to use cinder blocks to support a car as they can collapse unexpectedly and cause horrific bodily injury. I never forgot his advice.
 

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