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Ball joints: How much to DYI vs have a shop?

Discussion in '1973-1991 K5 Blazer | Truck | Suburban' started by shum1, Dec 12, 2000.

  1. shum1

    shum1 1/2 ton status

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    I'm thinking that this job is a major pain in the butt. What does a shop charge? But then I'm thinking while I got everything apart, I might as well put new wheel bearings in right? I'm sure a shop would just add that to the ball joint cost rather than giving me some credit because the have to take everthing apart anyways to get the ball joints off. So it looks like I'll be doing it myself as usuall unless I can get a deal. My upper ball joints have about 1/16 of up and down play in them, can the be adjusted or are the just shot? My steering is good now, it must be great after I fix these babies.
     
  2. Grim-Reaper

    Grim-Reaper 3/4 ton status Author

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    Well decent Ball joints will run you a shade over $100 for all 4. Not a really bad job but it does take time. There is a few things I will warn you about. If those shafts have not been pulled in a long while there is a very good chance that the inner axle seals will give it up. Look at it this way. The last set lasted 10-15 years and you should get the same out of a new set.
    I personaly whould go ahead and replace them because your half way there. The booger here is it does require that the differential carrier be removed to get at the seals. On a 10 bolt you need to be very carefull about the shims on the outside of the carrier bearings and be absolutly sure that they go back in the side they came out.
    When getting new seals don't screw around. Get the real deal made in USA Dana Seals from NAPA. Open the box and look at them before you pay and make sure it says USA on the part. Even Dana is getting cheap and putting cheap jap or china seals in their box. Both these countries make horrible rubber products and they will not last half as long as the real deal. Same with all the wheel bearing seals if they look worn.
    Bearings only need to be replaced if they have signs that they have had dirt run though them or they have been incorrectly preloaded. if you see no blue on the bearing races and no pits in the rollers or race then you can reuse them.
    On assembly be very carefull not to drag the end of the shaft on the inside of the tube. If it picks up crud it may well dump that dirt directly into the carrier bearings and goof up the seal. Also when you replace those inner seals take a close look at where they are posisitioned before you remove them and get the new ones in the same spot. You can put them in to far or not far enough. While the carrier and seals are out stuff some rags up around the pinion gear and wrap a rag around a broom stick and clean out the tubes. Brake cleaner is good for cleaning out the pumpkin.
    It's not a horrible job to do this work but it will take a good solid day to do it. Best thing to do is get the truck jacked up as high as you can get it. Idealy you want to be able to sit on your butt when working on the diff. Sure saves your back and neck.
    Parts your looking about $100 in seals if you replace all the seals on the axle. About $100 for ball joints. About $25 a wheel if you replace the wheel bearings. I would throw in some new U-Joints and about $30 for that. The pinion seal can be done later if it's not leaking and only requires the drive shaft dropped and yoke removed so blow it off till it fails then worry about it.
    Like I said...once your done you can forget about it for another 10-20 years.


    Diging it in the dirt with my K5's
    Grim-Reaper
    http://grimsk5s.coloradok5.com/
     
  3. Blue85

    Blue85 Troll Premium Member

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    I will try to answer your question piece by piece:
    It is strange for the ball joints to have up and down play. Usally a bad ball joint develops mostly side to side play, so that it affects your camber. The ball joints can be adjusted, but you have to tear the front end down just as much as you do to get the joints for changing them. The adjustment requires a special socket. You have to turn a sleeve that sits inside pivot point for the upper ball joint. Generally you are supposed to adjust it so that there is a specific amount of torque required to turn the knuckle with out the tie rod or drag link attached to it.

    How much it costs to do it yourself depends on what tools you have. You will need the following in addition to the usual assortment of sockets, breaker bar, etc.:
    -Snap ring pliers: to get the snap rings out of the hubs to allow hub assembly removal.
    -Spindle nut socket. This is required to remove the hub and rotor assembly from the spindle.
    -Large sockets. The ball joints use a socket that is biggen than 1", but I don't recall the exact size
    -Ball joint seperator. This is a pickle fork in the right size to drive out the ball joints.
    -Big 'Ol hammer. You will need it to drive the seperator in between the axel pivots and the knuckle. Use at least 3lb.
    -Ball Joint press: You really really want this to drive the old ball joints out of the knuckles and drive the new ones in.
    -Ball joint adjustment sleeve socket.
    -Tie rod end seperator: This is needed to disconnect the drag link and tie rod from the knuckles. Unless you replacing the tie rod/drag link ends, use the kind with the two hooks and a screw instead of a pickle fork. The pickle fork will ruin the rubber grease boots on the tie rod ends and they are hard to find new without replacing the whole tie rod end.

    I know that Autozone has the spindle nut socket, ball joint seperator, ball joint press and tie rod end seperator for loan. You just pay for them (probably about $200 total) and when you return them, you get a full refund.

    Other than that, the cost is really just the cost of the joints, which are maybe $20 each. Try to get non-greaseables with a lifetime warranty.

    Ask the shop how many hours of labor they charge for ball joints and for wheel bearings. A reputable shop may have to quote you the sum of the totals for both jobs, but when they are done, they should reduce the total billed time to the amount that they actually spent, which will be significantly lower than doing both jobs seperately.

    Yes, this job is a pain in the butt. You have to remove the wheels, hubs, spindles, axleshafts and knuckles. You don't have to open the front differential, though, because it is full floating and has no C-clips. You will loose some gear oil out of your axletubes, though, so get some more to top off the diff again.

    I don't think that a press is needed to change the wheel bearings. It seems to me that mine always fall out of the hub when I have it off. You will need to work new grease into them, however.

    "If it aint broke...Make it work better!"
     
  4. ftn96

    ftn96 1/2 ton status

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    Hey Shum,
    As I've already posted to you before. These other 2 posts from Blue and Grim are about right on. Everything will differ on each truck and person. But you'll end up sepnding more money on getting the tools you need than you will the parts, if you dont already have them. And money is usually the issue. The old "you might as well since your in there" saying is greatly true. But with that in mind, a normal $150 job for ball joints, just turned into about $500 or more, if you go thru and replace everyhting you come across, so you don't have to go back in there. You just need to be honest with yourself as far as what you do with the ride, now and in the future and, DO YOU ENJOY WORKING ON THESE OLD BEASTS?" I like it, love it, addicted to it. So If I don't have the money to do everything. I dont mind taking everything apart again if need be. Take it to a shop, get an estimate adn ask how bad they are.

    I miss my Ex, but my aim is getting better!
    http://mccordhouse.freeservers.com
     
  5. istallion88k5

    istallion88k5 1/2 ton status

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    I got a quote from a really good quality shop here in Cinci, to do my ball joints and tie rod ends and bearings, came to 600 bucks, I know I can't reliably get it done cheaper so I am going to do it myself route soon as it is not so freakin cold, my Blazer dont fit in the garage so its all outside work.

    If it aint a Chevy don't raise it up!
     
  6. MudFrog

    MudFrog 1/2 ton status

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    Hey ya'll,
    I just helped a friend put some new bearings on his wrangler last night. It really wasn't that bad of a job except for the fact that we broke two 1/2" breaker bars and a massive pry bar that I had. We ended up having to go to Sears and buy a 3/4" breaker bar. It was the nut holding the assembly (wheel bearing, sheild) together. He had ran the thing till the bearings didn't have any balls in them at all, and the heat had forged everything together. We heated the nut for about 5 min. lubbed the heck out of the nut and me and him finally got it to break. Just thought it was kind of on the subject and wanted to share [​IMG]. Good luck!

    89 K5 Silverado
    http://mudfrog.coloradok5.com
     
  7. ftn96

    ftn96 1/2 ton status

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  8. Cavalry

    Cavalry 1/2 ton status

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    If you do them your self harbor freight has a cheap ball joint press kit (like $35) Same thing everyone else charges $99 for. Makes the job MUCH easier.
     
  9. shum1

    shum1 1/2 ton status

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    Why do you have to tear everything apart to adjust ball joints? Cant you just take off the ball joint retaining bolt and cotter off and then tighten the adjustment sleeve (with the special socket) until the play goes away? Am I missing something? I thought I'd try this before I replaced them. This 1990 has never been off road and is totally stock, is it possible that the joints are not wasted yet? If i buy this press from harbor can I do the job entirely at home?
     
  10. Blue85

    Blue85 Troll Premium Member

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    shum,
    That is right. You can adjust the ball joints without taking everything apart. If you want to set them according to spec, you'll have to disconnect the tie rod ends and drag link. The cost of getting the tools isn't that bad if you use a loan-a-tool from Pep Boys or Autozone, like I talked about in my previous post. Just put them on a credit card and you'll get it all back when you're done. I've even broken these loaner tools and still gotten my money back. The only special thing that you'll have to buy is the ball joint adjusting socket, assuming that you have or can borrow a torque wrench, sockets, a big hammer and a breaker bar.

    "If it aint broke...Make it work better!"
     
  11. HarryH3

    HarryH3 1 ton status Author

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    I'd be VERY cautious about trying to adjust out any play in a worn ball joint. As it wears, there's less metal holding the stud into the housing. It would be pretty ugly to loose a ball joint at speed. I'd fix it right the first time. Losing a wheel and/or steering control is not my idea of a fun time. [​IMG]

    <font color=black>HarryH3 - '75 K5</font color=black>
    http://ThunderTruck.ColoradoK5.com
     
  12. shum1

    shum1 1/2 ton status

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    Ya, what the hell. Ive done everything else by myself so why not become a ball joint enthusist. I've got a garage with air tools. Whats this fork tool used to get the tie rods off? Is this difficult? I think I'll do this job before I lift it so I can get it in my garage. Also, the socket that adjusts the sleeve, can I rent that one? They didnt seem to have a loner at the local checker parts store.
    How do you get the old joints out? Thanks guys.
     
  13. shum1

    shum1 1/2 ton status

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    I forgot to ask. What brand ball joint. I dont really want to buy the super expensive aerospace grade parts but I dont want junk either. Thanks
     
  14. HarryH3

    HarryH3 1 ton status Author

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  15. Executioner

    Executioner 1/2 ton status

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