January 25, 2006
This weekend's project was to replace all the bushings in the front suspension...in the process I discovered that the ball joint dust covers were shot so I decided I better replace the ball joints as well. The Haynes manual says you should replace the control arm/ball joint as an assembly, but since the assembly is $141 from MazdaTrix, and the ball joint is $45 from RockAuto.com, I decided to replace the ball joints.
This can be done on the car, but I think it's a lot easier off the car, and it really isn't difficult to remove the control arm anyway (remove sway bar end link, remove 2 bolts attaching tension rod to control arm, remove bolt through bushing on inboard end, remove two bolts through steering knuckle, remove cotter pin and castle nut from ball joint, use puller to remove ball joint from steering knuckle). After removing the arms and cleaning them up, I borrowed a ball joint press from AutoZone. You have to pay a deposit, which is actually the cost of the tool, then when you take it back you get all your money back. If you don't take it back, they don't care, since you've paid for it. They said I could keep it for up to 3 months, but I plan on having it back by this weekend.
I thought I had taken pictures of using the ball joint press to press the old ball joints out, but apparently not. Removing them was really quite easy, but I doubt it would be so easy without an impact wrench.
Here's a shot before I started removing one of them
and one with it part way out
and here it is removed
The new ones arrived today, so tonight I put them in and installed the control arms on the car.
Here's a new one next to an old one.
First I started the new one into the hole by lining it up straight, and lightly tapping on the edges with a hammer. I't important to make sure it gets started straight. Then I put the ball joint press on and hand tightened it, making sure the adapters were straight and centered.
Then I hit it with the impact wrench, first with it turned down as low as it would go, and gradually increasing it, so I could keep an eye on it and make sure it was still going in straight, until it seated completely.
Then it was time to reinstall the control arms. I started by inserting the ball joint into the steering knuckle and installing the castle nut. Then I torqued the nut and installed the cotter pin.
Then the steering knuckle is reattached to the bottom of the shock with two bolts (torqued, of course). One is longer than the other...it goes toward the rear of the car.
Finally, the other end of the control arm is reattached to the crossmember with a bolt through the bushing, torqued appropriately.
All the previous pictures were on the passenger side of the car. Here's the finished product on the driver's side.
Tomorrow night I'll reinstall the sway bar and tension rods, then it'll be time to see how bad I messed up the alignment...and what to do about it.