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Front Ball Joint Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Ball Joint Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

****

Tools:

Set of sockets (18mm, 21mm, 22mm, E12), floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, torque wrench, lug wrench, hammer

Applicable Models:

BMW X5 (2000-06)

Parts Required:

Front ball joint, self-locking nuts, ball joint bolts

Hot Tip:

Always tighten bushing with suspension at loaded position

Performance Gain:

Refresh and tighten front suspension

Complementary Modification:

Replace tension strut bushing

As you drive your car your suspension systems absorb the shock from bumps in the road. The strut absorbs the up and down motion of the suspension system. The front suspension has a front tension strut and a control arm, each helping to maintain a straight track down the road as the suspension moves up and down due to road surface changes.

The tension strut has two areas of trouble -- the ball joint that connects to the steering knuckle (it is bolted to the steering knuckle, not part of the tension strut) and the tension strut bushing. When replacing your front ball joint, I suggest replacing the bolts every time as well. Inspect your control arm or ball joints for looseness by jacking the front of your vehicle and moving the wheel side to side. If you feel looseness in the attachment points, this indicates a problem. You may need help from a friend to watch the control arm components while you wiggle the wheel. A bad ball joint may give you a knocking sound in the front end when braking or turning.

Remember, your car may have been serviced before and had parts replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches.

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Never work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

Our vehicle may vary slightly from yours as models do change and evolve as they grow older. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below.

In this tech article, I will show you how to replace the front ball joint.

Raise and support front of the vehicle on jack stands. See our tech article on jacking up your vehicle. You're going to want both wheels off the ground.

Remove the front wheel from the side of the vehicle you are replacing the ball joint on.

Remove the engine splash shields and reinforcement plate. See our tech article on engine splash shield removing.

The front ball joint (red arrow) connects the front tension strut to the wheel-bearing carrier (spindle).
Figure 1

The front ball joint (red arrow) connects the front tension strut to the wheel-bearing carrier (spindle).

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 22mm ball joint nut.
Figure 2

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 22mm ball joint nut.

Remove the nut (red arrow) and discard it.
Figure 3

Remove the nut (red arrow) and discard it. It is self-locking and has to be replaced.

The ball joints on E53 models are interference fit.
Figure 4

The ball joints on E53 models are interference fit. You need a pickle fork or a swift blow from a hammer to remove them. I like to use a hammer (red arrow) and strike the spindle. This usually breaks the connection free. At times, the nut on the ball joint may become stuck or spin the ball joint shaft. While loosening, the pressure is relieved from the connection. The ball joint may spin when you try to remove the nut. If this happens, place a jack under the ball joint and apply only enough pressure to remove the nut. Remove the ball joint from the steering knuckle by pulling it straight down.

You can remove the ball joint with the tension strut bushing side fastener tight.
Figure 5

You can remove the ball joint with the tension strut bushing side fastener tight. However, it makes it a lot easier to swing it out of the way. If you want to do this, working at the subframe, remove the control arm 21mm fasteners. Loosen the bolt (red arrow) while counterholding the nut (yellow arrow).

Pull the tension strut down and away from the ball joint and let it hang out of the way.
Figure 6

Pull the tension strut down and away from the ball joint and let it hang out of the way. Secure it in a place with a bungee cord if needed.

Working at the ball joint, remove both E12 fasteners (red arrows).
Figure 7

Working at the ball joint, remove both E12 fasteners (red arrows). Note the condition of the inner fastener. It is pretty chewed up, like someone tried to remove it with the wrong size socket. That is not an option here, as these fasteners can be quite tight. If you use the wrong socket the heads will strip.

If the ball joint is stuck or seized in the spindle, use a chisel to tap it free.
Figure 8

If the ball joint is stuck or seized in the spindle, use a chisel to tap it free. Be sure to only hit the ball joint (red arrow) with the chisel. Do not make contact with the spindle.

Once free, remove the ball joint from the spindle.
Figure 9

Once free, remove the ball joint from the spindle. When installing the new ball joint, install it with new bolts. Next, tighten the steering knuckle ball joint nut. Tighten the bushing fasteners. You will want your suspension in the loaded position when you tighten it. The loaded position is the angle of the control arm when the wheels are on the ground. You can do this by lowering your vehicle onto ramps or blocks. If you have uneven tire wear, have your vehicle professionally aligned.


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Comments and Suggestions:
Beoch Comments: Ball joints were a real PIA!! BTW these were original factory ball joints on vehicle with over 100k miles on it. After weeks on weeks, different methods constant heat, air hammer, pb blaster, cutting ball out; just finally ended up taking spindle completely off and just like bmwguy, use mini sledge hitting on a deep well socket to fit the diameter of the top of ball joint. Several hits it finally broke loose!! It's a lot more work but it'll save you the headache with the spindle removed! Trust us on this one! For me had to replace tie rod ends which ended up seized and nut would just spin. Had to use a grinder to cut off
March 20, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Scott ZHP Comments: You're not kidding that the ball joint bolts are installed tight. Even using the correct E12 socket, heat, PB Blaster, and gentle persuasion with an impact wrench, I could not remove one of the ball-joint bolts from the steering knuckle - head sheared off. Tried a left-handed drill bit and an extractor and neither would remove the stub. Had to drill it out as a last resort. Managed to save the threads at least. The new bolts are a different design, with a large flanged head an an internal Torx hex.
August 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Nice job.

Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Pilt Comments: We just did an e83 and had similar trouble removing the "tension arm" ball joint bolted to the swivel. We removed the upper end of the arm, removed the star bolts attaching the ball joint to the spindle, placed a wood block at the bushing end, and used a 5' "spud bar" to put a healthy downward pry on the ball joint. Ten or fifteen heavy licks with a 3# hammer on the tension bar broke it free. We used emery cloth to clean the recess in the spindle, soaped it up with dishwashing liquid, and installed the new ball joints.We recommend a rotary tool with a sanding drum to clean the rust from the spindle recess faster and easier. Once the upper tension ball joint was out, we used a pickle fork on the lower control arm ball joint. Once both the ball joints were out, the rest was straightforward.
June 28, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
bmwguy Comments: I had same problem. Had to remove axleshaft and heat area around the top of ball joint and drive out from top with 5lb hammer and brass driftabout 1 1/2' diameter.
June 16, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
ivan Comments: ball jointis stuck in the spindle.. like very hard. i have try with the hamer and chisel, and nothing happened. I use w-40 hammer chisel it does not move. like it were welded ..
i dont know what to do , any advice ???
May 30, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Have you tried using a ball joint press / extractor? - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:44:18 AM