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Well I just replaced the upper and lower ball joints, tie-rod ends and idler arms on my 2005. This was the first time I have done this. Two years ago, the upper ball joint on my 99' broke and I had a shop replace them..... $1400.00. This time, I decided to take it on myself. Thanks to Lumpy and his response with pictures, it went rather smoothly. So I decided I would put together a step by step explanation with pictures to help anyone who might be thinking of doing it themselves, and save yourself $1000.00+ dollars.

First off I researched parts and found RockAuto had the best price around. 2 upper and 2 lower Moog Problem Solver ball joints, 2 inside and 2 outside Moog Problem solver tie rod ends and 2 Moog Problem Solver idler arms, Moog Stabilizer bar bushings and End link kit came shipped to my door for $275.98.
Next, I needed a tie rod separator, ball joint separator and ball joint press. I rented the Ball joint press from Auto Zone for a $100.00 deposit. A buddy already had a tie rod separator and ball joint separator, so that was a freebie, but you can rent them too.

First things first...safety. Set the emergency brake, chock the rear tires and jack up the beast and put her on jack stands. I went with the second to lowest position on the stands, you need room to be able to jack up the lower control arm when installing the lower ball joint, otherwise the you wont be able to get the ball joint press in the correct position when installing.
Option: I don't like working on greasy, dirty things, so I took some heavy duty de-greaser and a parts brush and scrubbed the heck out of everything, washed it down, then ate lunch while it dried. I'm kinda anal that way.

Step 1. Sway Bar: Remove the end link bolts and bushings. If you are going to remove the sway bar, be prepare for a fight, it is an awkward SOB to get out. When installing it back in, make sure you have it right side up, or you have to go through all that fight again... trust me!

Step 2. Brakes. Remove the brake caliper. My 2005 has a T-55 Star unlike my 99 that used an Allen for the retaining bolts. Use something to support the caliper or tie it up so you dont put stress on the brake line. I then used an 18mm socket to remove the caliper mount from the spindle and removed the disk. I wanted everything out of the way, so I also removed the speed sensor wire from the clip on the spindle and used an Allen to remove the sensor from the spindle. I taped over the hole and sensor to protect them.
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Step 3 . Tie rods. Remove the cotter key and using a 17mm socket, remove the nut. I like s separator apposed to a pickle fork, more control, less beating. Just a few turns and it came loose. Be prepared for a loud pop when it lets go. If your not going to replace the tie rod ends, this is as far as you need to go. If your replacing them, the same procedure applies to the inside tie rod end. One piece of advise I got from my local mechanic... measure the distance between the ends, so that when you go to install the new complete tie rod, your close to the original setting and your alignment isnt way off and you keep from tearing up the tires on the way to the alignment shop.
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Step 4. Upper Ball Joint. I tried both methods (Grinding and chiseling) to remove the 4 rivets heads holding the ball joint to the control arm. I liked the chiseling method better. A nice sharp cold chisel and the heads popped right off. If you do this while the spindle is still attached, the control arm will stay nice and solid. If you remove the spindle and then try to remove the rivets, the control arm moves around and makes it a bit more difficult. Trial and error. I also left the rivets in until I got the spindle removed.
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Step 5. Spindle removal/Ball Joints. Take a piece of wire, twine, rope and tie the spindle to the upper control arm, because when you break the upper ball joint loose, it will drop hard and fast, its a heavy piece of steel. Place a floor jack under the lower control arm and jack it up to remove the pressure from the spring pushing down and leave it there. I started with the upper ball joint, removed the cotter key and using a 7/8 socket remove the nut. Then using the ball joint separator, slide the fork part under the rubber dust boot and the press bolt onto the ball joint stud. It takes a few turns and be prepared for the POP when it lets go. Then I used a punch and drove out the rivets holding the ball joint to the spindle and removed the upper ball joint.
The Lower ball joint uses an 1 1/16 socket, remove the cotter key and nut. Once again, the ball joint separator fork slides under the boot and the press bolt on the ball joint stud. POP! and its loose. Remove spindle.
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Now the ball joint press comes into play. Its kind of a pain in arse to get everything sitting nice and square, but take your time. Tighten a little, loosen it, re-set the position and tighten some more until it feels nice and solid. Go eat some Wheaties and get a good breaker bar. Remember, it was pressed in, it doesn't want to come out, so your gonna have some grunting to do. But eventually it will drop out the bottom and the press will fall with it so watch out, its heavy too.
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I took this time to clean everything up, control arms, springs, etc... wiped everything down with a rag and some lacquer thinner and threw on a couple coats of Rustolium satin black, just to make it look nice and new. Also, this is a good time to replace the shocks. you can push up the upper control arm and get to the top of the shock real easy and remove that pain in the #$% nut.

Installation Time!

Lower Ball Joint: The dreaded press comes to play again, this time upside down from the removal position with the press bolt under the control arm. This why you want the jack stands up a little higher than normal. Important!, DO NOT press on the inside of the new ball joint, use the cups provided that will sit on the thick, outside edge. Once again, take your time and make sure you have the ball joint going in relatively straight and the press is sitting nice and solid. More Wheaties are required here, pressing it in is going to take more muscle than pressing the old one out. I did a few turns to get it started, backed it off, reset the position and pressed it in some more until it was pressed all the way in.
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Upper Ball Joint: Easy... bolt it in.
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Reattach Spindle: Just the reverse of removal. Pre grease the ball joint shafts and spindles, set the spindle on the lower ball joint (supported with wire, twine and/or rope again), install new nut and cotter key. Using the floor jack, jack up the lower control arm until the upper ball joint shaft slides into the spindle and install the new nut and cotter key. Torque to req. specs.
Install the speed sensor
Install disk.
Reattach caliper mount.
Install Caliper.
Install sway bar end link. When installing a new link set and bushings, tighten the bolt to about the same position on the bolt as the old one, mine was about 3/4 ".
Get out the grease gun and fill them up.
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Once I got both sides finished, I straightened out the steering wheel and visually looked how straight the tires were to each other. I had to go down and do a little adjusting of the tie rod sleeve to get the tires looking like they were going relatively straight for the trip to the alignment shop. I was only off by 1" according to the mechanic.

I know I probably missed, forgot or didn't include something and hope some of your guys and gals will point these spots out and add them to a reply. I just wanted to do this to help out our fellow Astro/Safri owners who want to take this on and save some labor costs. It really wasn't all that hard, just took some time and effort and ALOT of Lava soap! If it hadn't rained, It would have taken me 2 full days, and I don't move to fast. Hope this helps !
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
P.S. " A picture is worth a thousand words". I have a bunch more pictures, there were just to many to post. So if anyone who hasent done this before and is skeptical, I can email you a file with all the pictures to help you get a better visual idea.
 

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Quickie note: the instructions that came with my Moog upper ball joints said to install the heads of the bolts down, the nuts on top. This makes sense since the heads are thinner and don't chew on the spindle or the boot...did yours not have this?
 

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Thanks for taking the time for pictures, just something about pics. that helps so much. I may need to do this somewhere in the future & this will definitely help

Thanks again
 

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Nice job! Esp the painting of all the components.
It's a clean machine.

Ya, I think you want those bolts pointing up like LeAnn's.

Also, there's a "grease relief valve" on Moog (and some other) boots. It's simply an
area of the large side lip that doesn't have the "ledge" in it. If you keep this "valve"
pointed toward the inboard side of the van, excess grease will squeeze out onto the control
arm instead of drop down toward the brakes or get on the inside of the tire. The boot
is labeled but of course it's black on black in tiny text "this side away from brake" or
something like that. Hard to see, esp once you've got it on the joint. I put a little dot
of white paint on mine so I'd know which side goes in.

Another satisfied DIY ball jointer AND steering linker... :bouncy:

Lump
 

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It should be noted that on AWD vans, the Ball joint press is not needed, but you have the addition of a drive axel to deal with.

Thanks for showing the ball joint seperator though, I always had a hard time envisioning how they actually worked with the ball joint for some reason. I may have to pick on up and not fight with the pickel fork...although generally, if you are replacing parts, the damage a pickel fork does is a moot point.
 

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On separating ball joints from control arms...

If you haven't already, look around (YouTube etc) for the hammer method.
It really is quick. Essentially it's loosen the nut (but leave it connected) and
strike the control arm at the joint with a hammer. Takes just a couple of hits
usually. I don't have a ball peen, a regular carpenter's claw hammer did it for me.
My 3 lb sledge was too big. It needs the concentrated ping of the smaller hammer.
Couple hits and it pops free, no damage to the boot or the joint or the control arm.

REALLY quick. And you don't have to mess with the separator tool.

Lump
 

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Might want to also note that you should put the castelated nut on upside down so you don't damage the nut if you plan to reuse it. :)
 

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one thing that i have found that help with press in ball joint installation over the years is to put the new ones in your freezer for a day or 2 before you start the job. this will shrink the ball joint a little. you can also heat the lower a-frame with a rosebud tip which will expand the hole slightly. installation goes a little easier then.

john
 

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Both ball joints are riveted in, and you MUST support the lower control arm as the torsion bar is under pressure.

There is no spindle to remove, but you should remove the cv axle and brake assembly.

I think you can do it with the cv in, the more room to work the better off you are.
 

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good day to you.....thank you very much for the very descriptive step by step procedure on how to remove the ball joints. I see the lower ball joint you remove is using a size 1 1/16" socket. My old 1986 astro van is in need of the ball joint replacement too. My problem is that I can't seem to be able to find the right size ball joint or lower control arm with a ball joint with the castle nut size 1 1/16". All I find is the 15/16" for the lower control arm. So I would like to ask you who did you deal with to get the parts. Because you know like me that the new lower ball joint has to be the same size than the old one. I hope you can help me on that one. Thank you again and hopefully my message is clear for you to read and understand.
 

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I read again your post and notice where you got your ball joints. Sorry about me being blind here. The castle nut of your new ball joint on the lower control arm is smaller in size than the old one. Old one is 1 1/16" socket size you are using to dismantle from the knuckle and the new ball joint castle nut seems to be a 7/8" socket to put it back together. When I did go to Napa to get a new ball joint the castle nut of the new is smaller in size so is the spindle. After some investigation Napa said that it is the right one that he brought me. But the spindle of the new ball joint is smaller than the old ball joint spindle. I could take the castle nut of the old ball joint and slide it through the new ball joint spindle. Would the new ball joint spindle compromise the driving once reattached to the steering knuckle and let's not forget about the alignment too. Thank you again.
 

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Just replaced the upper and lower ball joints on the passenger side of my 2003 AWD Astro using this post as a guide. I was a bit intimidated at first but this post gave me some confidence. Luckily both ball joints had been previously replaced so I didn't need to fight any rivets. Thanks for the detailed steps and clear pictures.
 
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