This is a fairly straightforward repair, and only requires some basic tools along with a few specialty tools that you can rent at your local parts store – they usually refund your money once you return the specialty tools. I like to start by chalking the back tires before lifting the front of the vehicle just for safety. Once the back is chalked, use a floor jack to lift the front of the vehicle, (this was a 4wd so I decided to lift one side at a time) and then install a jack stand toward the front on both sides along the frame rail and allow the weight of the vehicle to rest upon the jack stands.
Next, remove the front wheels/tires using a 7/8″ socket. The order for removing and replacing the ball joints, upper control arms, and tie rods is not crucial as long as the repair is performed correctly. I start by: breaking loose the jamb nut on the inner tie rod using a 15/16″ end wrench, removing the outer tie rod nut using an 18mm socket, and unthreading the outer tie rod while counting how many turns it takes (I use this as a reference for installing the new one).
Once the outer tie rod is removed, remove the jamb nut using a 15/16″ deep socket and the inner tie rod boot clip. Next, break free the metal clamp that holds the inner part of the dust boot to the rack and pinion. I usually use a long pry bar by placing the end of the pry bar on the tab/tang part of the metal clamp and then tap it with a hammer; thus breaking the metal clamp free from the boot. After that, simply pull off the dust boot.
Then, use an inner tie rod tool, or a pipe wrench, and remove the inner tie rod.
Once removed, compare the old inner and outer tie rods to your new parts. Then, add the liquid, thread locker to the inner tie rod threads and re-install using either the inner tie rod tool or a pipe wrench. After that, install the boot with zip tie on the inside and clip on the outside, and jamb nut. Then, add anti-seize to the threads at the end of the outer tie rod before threading on the outer tie rod making sure to thread it on the same number of turns the old one came off.
Next, its on to the upper control arm and lower ball joint. Remove the CV axle jamb nut (36mm) and then, using an air hammer and punch, break free the CV axle from the wheel bearing hub as far as it will allow you to.
At this point, place a jack under the lower ball joint to support the lower control arm, and disconnect the ABS wire which is located on the engine side of the inner fender (just follow the wire). Loosen the upper control arm ball joint nut (21mm) and lower control arm ball joint nut (22mm) but make sure to leave both nuts still on the ball joints about three threads. Since the upper and lower ball joints usually stick in the knuckle, you’ll need to tap the side of the knuckle with a hammer until the knuckle breaks free allowing the knuckle to drop down onto the loosened ball joints. At this point, remove the upper ball joint from the knuckle and tie a rope around the frame and through the upper hole in the ball joint – somewhat snug.
Then, as you see in the pictures, I remove the lower ball joint nut and remove the entire knuckle assembly setting it on a few blocks of wood and cinching the rope tight.
Remove the upper control arm frame bolts (18mm), and then remove the upper control arm. Make sure the new upper control arm is correct, comparing it to the original – slightly different design but same fit and offset.
Now on to the lower ball joint! If it has been replaced before, you’ll need to remove the snap ring and grease fitting before driving it out. But, if it is the original, you’ll need to bend in the metal tangs before driving it out.
It’s a good idea to sand down the lower ball joint hole before installing the new one. Also, make sure to compare the new part to the original.
When installing the new lower ball joint, you’ll use a ball joint press (press uses a 21mm socket to turn). Some people leave the lower ball joint boot on when pressing it in, and some people take it off and re-install it once the ball joint is pressed in. If you can keep from tearing the boot when installing it, then leave it on, but if not, then take it off before installing it. Once the lower ball joint is pressed in, install the snap ring and grease fitting.
Replace the upper control arm – snug tight the bolts only as you’ll torque them after the assembly is complete.
Then, add anti-seize to the splines on the CV axle. Stabilizing the knuckle, remove the rope and re-install the knuckle assembly. MAKE sure to start the CV axle in the hole before sliding the lower ball joint into the knuckle followed by the upper ball joint.
Next, install the outer tie rod into the knuckle and torque the upper ball joint nut, lower ball joint nut (new nut is 24mm torqued to 60 ft. lbs.), and outer tie rod nut (55 ft. lbs.) – along with tightening the inner tie rod jamb nut against the outer tie rod. Once all the nuts are torqued to spec, install and bend the cotter pins through the lower ball joint nut and outer tie rod nut. Then install, and grease, all the grease fittings. Next, torque the CV axle nut to spec (185 ft. lbs.).
Almost done! Place the hydraulic jack under the lower control arm and lift up until the weight of that corner of the vehicle is resting upon the hydraulic jack instead of the jack stand. Now, torque both upper control arm bolts to spec. You can do this after installing the wheel/tire and setting the vehicle on the ground, but it makes it easier to do it this way since you have more room to work in.
Install the wheel/tire and torque the lug nuts to spec. Lift the vehicle one last time, and remove the jack stands. Then, level the steering wheel and, using a tape measure, measure the distance from the front of the outer tire edge and the rear of the outer tire edge making slight adjustments by rotating the inner tie rods until the two measurements are the same. This will not be exact but will help make it more accurate in order to lessen tire wear when driving your vehicle to have it aligned – which needs to be done before driving anywhere else. Then, tighten the jamb nuts.
Congratulations!!! You did it yourself, and saved yourself a chunk of money!