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daveman
Dodge Dakota
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5/11/2004
10:22:55

Subject: Changing own ball joints
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Okay, so I too have the dreaded premature ball joint failure problem. The service manager at my local Dodge dealer acted confused when I mentioned that I am aware this is a common problem, and that some customers have even had their ball joints repaired for free. He said he would check to see if there was a recall, but that would be the only way I could get the repair done for free.

I need the upper ball joints replaced, plus an alignment.

After getting a $535 estimate at one place, and a $400 estimate at the Exxon station, I am leaning towards purchasing the $42.79 MOOG BJ's from rockauto and doing the job myself. I spent a few years repairing diesel generators, but I do not have any professional automotive mechanical experience.

What else do I need? Is the ball joint removal tool specific to this truck, or will any such tool do? When I asked one mechanic if it would be easier/faster to just replace the control arm/BJ assemblies, he said, "no, because it's just as fast to remove the rivet heads with a pneumatic chisel." I noticed that most of you do-it-yourselfers used grinders. Has anyone tried a power chisel?

Also, where should I place the jackstand when doing this job?



Deep Purple
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5/12/2004
07:41:24

RE: Changing own ball joints
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You will need a ball joint (pickle) fork to remove the ball joint from the spindle after you remove the nut that holds it. A good collection of drill bits and a chisel. I started with a small bit and drilled down through the center of the ball joint rivets. Keep increasing the size till you get to about 1/4 to 5/16 of an inch. Then use the chisel to pop the heads off. Clean the holes and follow the instructions that are with the ball joints. It looks like a hard job, but with a little sweat you can do it. Bottom ones are a little harder but you do the same thing. Good luck.



daveman
Dodge Dakota
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5/12/2004
08:15:02

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Well, I picked up some TRW upper ball joints at Advanced last night. Was going to order Moogs from rockauto.com, but the TRW's were comparably priced and have a lifetime warranty, so... The TRW's look awfully small. In fact, the ball joint pickle fork they had looked too wide for the ball joint. They also sell (no loaner tools) another pickle fork which is narrower, so maybe that's the one I need.

Hmmm...was planning on getting a grinder, but maybe the drill/chisel method would be better. It's also a good excuse for me to buy myself a new 18 or 19-volt cordless drill. ;-)

Should the control arm be supported by a jackstand or something while you are removing the ball joints?



uh dave?
Dodge Dakota
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5/14/2004
20:21:17

RE: Changing own ball joints
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if you gotta ask "Should the control arm be supported by a jackstand or something while you are removing the ball joints?" maybe it would be best to have an experienced friend help you.




Jeff W
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5/15/2004
11:22:36

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Jack up the front and support it with a jack stand under the frame.

Remove the tire and put a jack under the lower control arm until it has some weight on it. I used the jack that came with my truck and it worked fine.

Loosen the castle nut on the upper ball joint but don't remove it yet. Seperate the ball joint from the control arm with the pickle fork.

Remove the castle nut from the ball joint. At this point the coil spring tension is on the jack so make sure it's secure!

Drill or grind out the rivets on the ball joint and remove it.

Install the new ball joint and reassemble the front end.

Take your Dak to the alignment shop.

The hardest part of the job (for me, anyway) was drilling out the rivets. I wore out several drill bits. It might be easier to grind 'em out. If not for the rivet drilling it's about a 2 hour job for both sides.

'02 Sport 4.7 auto, Gibson exhaust, homebrew K&N cold air, 275/60 BFG Radial T/A's, Infinity CD w/Pioneer & Infinity spkrs & Kenwood powered sub.

daveman
Dodge Dakota
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5/24/2004
15:02:16

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Thanks to all for the advice and tips. It took me 2 hours to change the first ball joint, and one hour to change the second one. I guess I got quicker with "experience." Hehe. The alignment was definitely off and needed to be adjusted. I bought TRW "lifetime warranty" ball joints, so hopefully, I won't be changing them again.



Kev
Dodge Dakota
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5/29/2004
14:13:43

RE: Changing own ball joints
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If you have a Big-O tire shop in town, go to them to get the labor done. I ordered the Moog ball joints from rockauto.com, then had Big-O put them on. Big-O only charged me $90 per side. The whole deal only cost about $450, and that is for the uppers, lowers, and a front-end alignment.

Good luck!!!



srfncoastie
Dodge Dakota
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6/04/2004
19:41:10

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Kev,
Where are located is that a standard Big-O price or did they give you a deal?

-Thanks



texdodge
Dodge Dakota
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5/15/2006
19:02:51

RE: Changing own ball joints
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I knew my Dak needed ball joints when I bought it with 127000 on it.
Thanks for all the tips here.
Here's a few things I did that I think made it easier.
1- I'm a big fan of liquid wrench. I soaked the spindles and the rivets with it overnight (DON'T use a torch on it after this!)
2- ground off the tops and bottoms of the rivets with a 3-1/2" angle grinder (luckily I cheaped out and bought the small one a few years ago. It fits in the area just right)
3- knocked out the rivets with a punch and a sledge.
4- The lowers are a bit harder to get at then the uppers. If I'd had an air chisel, it would be easier -- but I'd be worrried about hitting the brake line.

First upper and lower on pass side took me 3.5 hrs. Driver side took me about 2 hours.

Here's the kicker. My local shops were going to charge anywhere from $750 to $850 for this job. I bought the Moog ball joints at O'reillys for about $52 each. That's nearly a $500 dollar savings. I'll still have to get a FE alignment, but can get that for about $50.

BTW - I used to be a fairly active shade tree mechanic. This is the first serious work I've done in more than a decade. If I can do it, anyone can.





shatto
Dodge Dakota
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5/20/2006
18:25:55

RE: Changing own ball joints
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If you plan having more than one alignment in the life of your vehicle;
Firestone lifetime alignment. Cost about $135.00. Good at any store.
Others also offer lifetime plans.




jerry
Dodge Dakota
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5/29/2006
02:23:22

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Er, what's with the rivets everyone is talking about? If the rivets hold something together, don't the new ball joints have to have rivets that need to be installed? Or is there something else to take their place?



Shatto
Dodge Dakota
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5/29/2006
03:20:58

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Take a look. The lower, or is it the upper ball joints are riveted on the A-Frame.
Doesn't matter; grind or chisel or burn them out and bolt the new one in place.



New R/T owner
Dodge Dakota
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9/12/2006
21:40:20

RE: Changing own ball joints
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Greetings From Canada!!
In Reply to Jerrys question about the rivets...The factory Ball Joints are always rivited in. Upon removal of the factory rivets clean and deburr the holes. The aftermarket ball joints will be attached via Grade 8 or better bolts and Nylock nuts. Never hurts to put a drop of loctite on the bolts for good measure.
New R/T owner..Red 2001 with 32,000 origional kms....Dyna flow true dual exhaust..and a chip for good measure.
Being a True Chevy guy..took some flack from my friends...Nicest truck iv'e ever owned. Good luck!



MedicPat
Dodge Dakota
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9/17/2006
03:17:38

RE: Changing own ball joints
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So I'm in the middle of changing mine, used a cheap air hammer and it popped the heads right off without a problem, but I'm having a hell of a time with the lowers. I can't seem to hammer or drill out the rivets even with good drill bits, what the hell am I supposed to do short of replacing the lower control arm (which I'm not gonna do)

Also I tried to remove my upper control arm to replace the bushings and it would not come off. Heat, prybars, everything, wouldn't work. Bolted it back up cuz I'm gonna have to take it somewhere and overpay for labor.



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