GM Buick/Oldsmobile/Pontiac/Full-Size 1975-1990 Repair Guide

Upper Ball Joints


See Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4


Before performing this inspection, make sure the wheel bearings are adjusted correctly and that the control arm bushings are in good condition. All models covered in this guide are equipped with wear indicators on the lower ball joint. As long as the indicator extends below the ball stud seat, replacement is unnecessary; if only the lower ball joint is bad, however, both upper and lower ball joints should be replaced.

  1. Raise the vehicle by placing the jack under the lower control arm at the spring seat.
  3. Raise the vehicle until there is a 1-2 in. (25-51mm) clearance under the wheel.
  5. Insert a bar under the wheel and pry upward. If the wheel raises more than 1 / 8 in. (3mm), the ball joints are worn. Determine whether the upper or lower ball joint is worn by visual inspection while prying on the wheel.


  1. Raise the vehicle and support securely. Support the lower control arm securely with jackstands. Remove the tire and wheel.
  3. Remove the upper ball stud cotter pin and loosen the ball stud nut just one turn.
  5. Procure a special tool designed to press out ball joints. These tools are available at most automotive parts stores. Locate the tool between the upper and lower ball joints and press the joints out of the steering knuckle. Remove the tool.
  7. Remove the ball joint stud nut, and separate the joint from the steering knuckle. Lift the upper arm up and place a block of wood between the frame and the arm to support it.
  9. With the control arm in the raised position, drill a hole 1 / 4 in. (6mm) deep hole into each rivet. Use a 1 / 8 in. (3mm) drill bit.
  11. Use a 1 / 2 in. drill bit and drill off the heads of each rivet.
  13. Punch out the rivets using a small punch and then remove the ball joint.
  15. Install the new ball joint using fasteners that meet GM specifications. Bolts should come in from the bottom with the nuts going on top. Torque to specifications included in the ball joint kit.
  17. Turn the ball stud cotter pin hole to the fore and aft position on models up to 1981. 1982 and later models use no cotter pin. Remove the block of wood from between the upper control arm and frame.
  19. Clean and inspect the steering knuckle hole. Replace the steering knuckle if any out of roundness is noted.
  21. Insert the ball stud into the steering knuckle, and install and torque the stud nut to 60 ft. lbs. (81 Nm). Install a new cotter pin. If the nut must be turned to align cotter pin holes, turn them further. Do not back off!
  23. Install a lube fitting, and fill the joint with fresh grease.
  25. Remove the lower control arm support (jack, etc.) and lower the vehicle.

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 1: Ball joint cotter pin installation

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 2: Drilling the upper ball joint rivet heads

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 3: When installing the new upper ball joints, make sure the nuts are on top

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 4: Ball joint removal tool