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Old 04-01-2004, 01:39 PM   #1
eljefino
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1995 SW1
2000 SL1
Wrench Replacing Lower Ball Joint/Control Arm on an S-Series

I did this on the passenger side of a 96 SL. Driver's should be similar. Car failed state inspection for loose ball joint.

First, to inspect the lower ball joint, jack the car up so the wheel is hanging. Pry between the control arm and steering knuckle; I used a tire iron. If the distance between the two changes, you've got slop and a bad ball joint. Mine was not awful as the "grab tire and shake" procedure didn't pick up on this issue.

Anyway if you or your mechanic decides it's time for a new one, you must buy the lower control arm with the joint. I got a TRW from Advance auto for $66. It matches the factory one exactly, even the lack of a grease zerk.

I recommend, before taking all the wheels off, that you have a shade tree, garage wall, curb, etc., approx three feet away that one can brace themselves against when pushing against the hub. If you don't have an 18mm wrench (most sets go 17, 19) go buy one.

Break the lug nuts loose on the side you're working on.

Jack the front of the car up on BOTH SIDES and rest it on jackstands. You will be BEATING on the car so make sure it's secure. You'll need an assistant holding the brake pedal, an impact wrench, or foot against the tire to get the lug nuts off-- the other wheel will spin. Again, you need NO WEIGHT on either tire so the sway bar will be slack.

I first loosened the 24mm nut on the sway bar b/c it looked the hardest, but didn't remove totally. The engine cradle bolt holding the inner control arm has a 15mm head facing rearward and 18mm nut in front. The control arm really would like to come out 1/2 inch so there's fricton on that bolt. If the nut is welded on, I busted it.

The ball joint is held onto the steering knuckle with an 18mm castle nut with cotter pin. Remove the cotter pin, loosen the nut. I didn't have clearance to get the nut out until the ball joint was broken from the tapered shaft. I used a pickle fork for that.

I took a 3/4" by 4" by 12" piece of pine and drilled a hole near an edge, stuck it on a lug stud, and held it on with a lug nut. The control arm is being pushed out quite handsomely by tension in the sway bar. This piece of wood I pushed against with my shoulder or knee while finagling the cradle bolt. Once that bolt came out, rearwards, the old control arm came out.

Installation is merely the reverse of removal. Draw the ball joint stud up with the castle nut until snug; attach the sway bar nut and washer with the concave dishiness facing rearward. Push with all your might against your board/the hub and slip the cradle bolt through. Once together torque everything and put the safety cotter pin in the castle nut. If no parts are left over, torque everything down and take a test drive. My steering doesn't pull so I'm not going in for any alignment.

Torque: ( (c) Haynes)
sway bar to control arm: 106 ft lb
ball joint to steering knuckle: 55ft lb
control arm to cradle nut: 74 ft lb
control arm to cradle bolt: 92 ft lb

Others on this bbs say it's easier if the sway bar-to-cradle bolts are removed. I would consider this optional if you get in over your head with the car in pieces. I am in horrible physical shape, male 175 lbs, but can do a pushup.
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Old 04-01-2004, 04:44 PM   #2
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Pictures of the "shoulder saver" wood block and what the part looks like...
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File Type: jpg woodtool.jpg (11.0 KB, 463 views)
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Old 12-06-2004, 09:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: lower ball joint/control arm s-series

I just replaced both of the control arms on my sister's '94 Saturn LS1 as per these instructions, and thought I would add a couple of time/frustration savers that I came across by trial and error. These may only applicable if you are replacing both control arms at the same time.

First, break the lug nuts loose before you jack the car up. Don't take them off, just loosen them so they will spin with your hand once the car is in the air. It saves the trouble of having someone having to stand on the brake with the car in the air to get the wheels off.

Second, remove the swaybar to chassis saddle bolts, remove the control arm-to-chassis bolt on the side you will be working on first, and remove the swaybar from the control arm that you *won't* be working on first. This saves a lot of huffing and puffing later as you will only have to be forceful with one side, not both.

By having the swaybar loose all around, the first side you work on will come apart and go back together with absolutely no effort. Re-assemble the first side you worked on completely, including torquing the swaybar into place on the control arm.

When you work on the second control arm, the swaybar will already be out, so pulling the control-arm to chassis mount bolt will be effortless. Put the new control arm in place (swaybar in the mounting hole, ball joint stud sticking up through the steering knuckle hole, loosely fasten the castle nut, loosely fasten the swaybar nut, make sure the control arm chassis bushing is above the lower lip of the mounting point on the chassis, right about where it should fit in).

Here is where much frustration and physical anquish, and makeshift tools like the shoulder saver can be avoided. When reinstalling the chassis-to-control arm bolt on the second control arm, you need to use a short screwdriver, and muddle the control arm (I found the most effective spot to push on the control arm was from the lower corner closest to the front of the car) close enough so the hole in the bushing for the chassis mount can slip in the small screwdriver from the rear hole. This will hold the bushing close enough in place to allow you to pry with the screwdriver and align the front hole in the bushing to slip one of the bolts that hold the swaybar saddles to the chassis in. Remove the screwdriver. This is done to make it align, or almost align, enough that you can push the control arm-to-chassis bolt through the rear. You may need to muddle with the control arm to get the rear bolt hole to line up, but it will line up fairly easily since the pressure is on the front hole, being held in place by the saddle bolt. Once you get the control-arm-to-chassis bolt through, the saddle bolt will pop out, and you can put the nut in, re-assemble and torque everything down, and don't forget to re-install the swaybar saddles. I hope that helps someone. Thanks for reading.

-rich

'86 951
'86 AW11 4A-GTE WIP
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Old 12-06-2004, 10:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: lower ball joint/control arm s-series

Quote:
Originally Posted by ribs
First, break the lug nuts loose before you jack the car up. Don't take them off, just loosen them so they will spin with your hand once the car is in the air. It saves the trouble of having someone having to stand on the brake with the car in the air to get the wheels off.
This is standard procedure ANYtime you're removing a wheel from a car under any circumstances. Even (or perhaps especially) when changing a flat, ALWAYS break the lug nuts loose while the car is frimly on the ground on all fours. Same goes for torqueing them down afterwards.
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Old 12-07-2004, 05:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: lower ball joint/control arm s-series

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue
This is standard procedure ANYtime you're removing a wheel from a car under any circumstances. Even (or perhaps especially) when changing a flat, ALWAYS break the lug nuts loose while the car is frimly on the ground on all fours. Same goes for torqueing them down afterwards.
I know this...thought I would clarify as the original poster suggested not loosening the lugs until the car was in the air.
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Old 12-08-2004, 12:36 AM   #6
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Default Re: lower ball joint/control arm s-series

Right. My post wasn't directed at you, ribs. More directed at anyone thinking about loosening lug nuts with wheel(s) off the ground for whatever reason (rotating tires, serp belt, etc.).
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