SECTION 4 - Everything's off the car, but more disassembly
4.1 Take your half-shaft (axle) to a good work space (or the floor if you want to do it the hard way).
4.2 Remove the clips holding the boot on the outer CV joint. It's the side with the threads at the end if you forgot already.
4.2.1 These things really suck. If you want to be cheap and remove them so that you can use them again, read on. Otherwise cut them off and skip to 4.3
4.2.2 Get a screw driver just bigger than the squeezed part of the band, use a hammer to wedge it into that gap. See the picture.
4.2.3 Once you've got it in, give it a good hard turn to open it up a bit. You'll probably have to do this several time before it even starts to loosen.
4.2.4 Once it's loose enough that you can get the band to turn against the axle, take the same screwdriver and work along the end of the band, where the hooks are, see the picture again.
4.2.5 Work both sides carefully and you'll be able to release the hooks without severely damaging the band. You will have bent it up a bit. Use your hammer to straighten it out if you have to. You can do this to both bands on the axle.
4.2.6 Some axles come with solid bands. The axles I got from a Grand AM (N-Body axles above) have solid bands. Technically you can slide these without taking them off. I didn't care, so I cut them with an angle grinder. Use your own discretion. You can always buy new bands (at a couple bucks each).
4.3 Pull the boot back down the shaft so that you have easy access to the CV joint. Don't think you can skip this step, this crap is hard enough with the boot slid down, let alone without sliding it.
4.4 Remove the outer CV joint. Easy, right?
4.4.1 If you have the "proper" tools to remove the CV joints, good for you, you wasted money on a tool you'll rarely use. Be extremely careful doing all this that you don't contaminate or loose the grease. It is NOT normal grease. Do NOT put normal grease back in here. Use good quality bearing grease only. This is a one time deal, don't cheap out on me now. If you're confused, go to any auto store worth it's oats and tell them you need grease for a CV joint, they'll point to you the right stuff. As of Nov 22, 2005 I have 6 tubes of grease I'll sell for $1 Shipping if anybody's interested, e-mail me Chris_At_Stoneyforest_Dot_Net.
4.4.2 Grab the needle nose pliers. Take a good hard look around the axle shaft where it goes into the CV joint. The CV joint is made of a few parts: Outer Housing, 6 Ball Bearings, Race, Cage. The Cage is the innermost part, the race holds the ball bearings in place, and the outer housing should be self explanatory. Take a good hard look at this picture. You can see all the parts, including a snap ring holding the shaft to the cage, the ring ends are circled.
4.4.3 It really helps if you position the axle so the CV joint is hanging over the edge of your work space. So the shaft/boot is supporting the axle, and the outer CV joint is hanging in midair.
4.4.4 With the pliers closed, put them between the ends of the snap ring. Open the pliers as far as you can (about 1/4 inch, 6mm). Take a screw driver, and push on the ends of the snap ring. If you're careful about all this, there will be a little sound, and the joint will move ever so slightly.
4.4.5 Pull on the CV joint and it should pop off the shaft. If it doesn't come fairly easily, try 4.4.4 again.
4.5 Repeat with the N-Body CV joint. Swap them. Put the N-Body Outer CV on your J-Body Shaft. You can put the N-Body shaft back together with the J-Body End if you wish, they're easier to keep good this way.
4.5.1 Use some new grease when putting them back together. You only have too much if you cant get it to go back together. Simply push to get the new end on the shaft; no-brainer here.
4.5.2 Push the boot back down the shaft so it is back in its original position.
4.5.3 If you have the original bands, put them back in place. Use wire cutters to crimp them tight again if you don't have the crimping tool. Don't cut them with the wire cutters, in fact dull cutter should be used if you have a set.
4.5.4 Make sure you wipe any grease off the outside. It's flammable, 1" from the 600* brakes, and god knows what else that could light it up. Fire is bad, 'nuf said.
4.6 Thought the stupid axles were going to be the whole section didn't ya? Wrong again!
4.7 Take that control arm over to your work bench. If you have a vise, strap it in.
4.8 Remove the ball joint.
4.8.1 If you've replaced ball joints before, you can just unbolt it, then put the new one in. No prob. I'm not that lucky, I had factory originals, with rivets. Skip to 4.9 if you have bolts.
4.8.2 Use a good drill, NOT a cordless one. And some good high-speed steel bits. Do NOT use wood bits, yes there is a difference, no wood will not work.
4.8.3 Drill a small hole in all three rivets. This will take a while. Take breaks every few minutes and let the drill and bit cool. If you have cutting oil, use it; but it's not necessary. Your bits will be completely dull by the end of this if you don't take breaks or use cutting oil.
4.8.4 If you have a full set of bits this will be easier. Put the next size bit in the drill, and drill out the holes larger. They will drill very quickly if you go one size at a time. Caution that powerful drills may get stuck as they come through the end of the metal, twisting your arm/wrist/whatever. Be careful using drills.
4.8.5 Keep going until you've drilled a 1/2" or 12mm hole. The bolts are actually 7/16", so you'll have just a little bit of slop, that's a good thing cause your holes probably aren't perfectly centered.
4.8.6 Once you've got them all drilled out the ball joint should come out, use the hammer if it's being stubborn.
4.9 Put the new ball joint (N-Body ball joint) in. Bolt it down. Torque the crap out of it. If you over tighten (without power tools), give yourself an award, it takes like 600ft/lbs of torque to over tighten these things. Minimum recommendations vary by manufacturer, but I would say 100ft/lbs minimum.
SECTION 5 - Reassembly! The easy part, sorta...
5.1 Put the control arm back in place, hammers help here. Bolt it all back in.
5.2 On the drivers side only: Reattach the brace that goes from the sub frame to the radiator support.
5.3 Put the axle back in. A good hard shove it all it takes.
5.4 Grab the new N-Body knuckle. Put the axle end through the hub. Put the bottom on the lower ball joint. Put the nut on the axle, don't try to tighten it yet (unless you have an impact wrench).
5.5 Reattach the steering end link. Put the nut on, tighten it down.
5.6 Reattach the ABS wire in the clips on the control arm. Plug it back into the sensor. It's the same plug, works the same way.
5.7 If you're simply reusing the old strut, take it off the old knuckle, impact wrench and a 2# sledge do this very quickly. If you're replacing anything (I put new KYB AGXs and B G springs on) do that now. Follow any manufacture instructions that came with your new stuff.
5.7.1 If you disassembled your strut (for whatever reason) they go back in this order: Strut, Bump stop in shield, The bottom hat is attached to the shield (usually), bearing set, mount body, top hat, nut. This applies to 95-99 cars. The 2000 are slightly different. Learn to pay attention to the order you take thing apart in.
5.8 Gut that buddy of yours again. Put the strut up in position.
5.8.1 Put the top nuts and bolt in loosely, at least two full turns.
5.8.2 Put the knuckle-to-strut bolts in the holes, as far through as you can, give them a good tap with a hammer, but don't try to beat them into place. Put the nuts on and tighten them down basically as tight as you can.
5.9 Tighten the top nuts/bolt to 70ft/lbs torque. If you don't have a torque wrench barrow one. Don't just guess. And DO NOT over tighten them. You'll ruin the mount, like they don't die fast enough already.
5.10 Put the new rotor in place.
5.11 Put the new caliper in place. Make sure they have pads...
5.12 Use the bolts that came with the caliper brackets to secure the caliper to the knuckle. This is pretty basic stuff.
5.13 Tighten the bolts down to 50ft/lbs torque.
5.14 Attach brake line to caliper. I highly recommend using new copper washers here. It takes two per caliper. Use the F-Body caliper-to-line bolt. You stock J-Body bolt doesn't fit, don't try to force it!
5.15 Tighten the axle nut now if you didn't have an impact wrench before. Put a screwdriver through the caliper, into the rotor to hold if from turning.
5.16 Double check that everything is tight. Ball joint, Control Arms Bolts, Axle nut, steering end link, Strut bolts, strut mount, ABS Sensor, Drivers Side bracket.
5.17 Put the new wheel on. You have a 5x115 bolt pattern now. The stock 5x100 wheels will not fit anymore. Don't forget to get a spare from a N-Body, W-Body, or similar; or you'll end up on the side of the road somewhere far from home when you realize you don't have a spare.