GM Cutlass RWD 1970-1987 Repair Guide

Upper Ball Joints

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INSPECTION



See Figures 1, 2 and 3

Before performing this inspection, make sure the wheel bearings are adjusted correctly and that the control arm bushings are in good condition.

  1. Raise the vehicle by placing the jack under the lower control arm at the spring seat.
  2.  
  3. Raise the vehicle until there is a 1-2 in. (25-51mm) clearance under the wheel.
  4.  
  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.
  6.  

REMOVAL & INSTALLATION



  1. Raise the vehicle and support securely. Support the lower control arm securely with jackstands. Remove the tire and wheel.
  2.  
  3. Remove the upper ball stud cotter pin and loosen the ball stud nut just one turn.
  4.  
  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.
  6.  



Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 1: Ball joint removal tool



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

  1. 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.
  2.  
  3. 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.
  4.  
  5. Use a 1 / 2 in. drill bit and drill off the heads of each rivet.
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  7. Punch out the rivets using a small punch and then remove the ball joint.
  8.  
  9. 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.
  10.  
  11. 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.
  12.  
  13. Clean and inspect the steering knuckle hole. Replace the steering knuckle if any out of roundness is noted.
  14.  
  15. 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!
  16.  
  17. Install a lube fitting, and fill the joint with fresh grease.
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  19. Remove the lower control arm support (jack, etc.) and lower the vehicle.
  20.  



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

LOWER BALL JOINT



See Figures 4 and 5

INSPECTION



Before performing this inspection, make sure the wheel bearings are adjusted correctly and that the control arm bushings are in good condition.

On 1970 to 1974 models ball joint inspection is as follows;

  1. Raise the vehicle and position jackstands under both lower control arms as close as possible to each ball joint.
  2.  
  3. Position a dial indicator against the wheel rim.
  4.  
  5. Place a prybar on the lower control arm and pry gently up and down on the upper end of the steering knuckle.
  6.  
  7. Reading should not exceed 0.025 in. (0.635mm), with no visible lash in the lower ball joint.
  8.  

All 1975 and later cars have visual wear indicators on the lower ball joints. The lower ball joint grease plug screws into the wear indicator which protrudes from the bottom of the ball joint housing. As long as the wear indicator extends out of the ball joint housing, the ball joint is not worn. If the tip of the wear indicator is parallel with, or recessed into the ball joint housing, the ball joint is defective.



Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 4: Lower ball joint wear indicator

REMOVAL & INSTALLATION



  1. Raise the vehicle and support it securely. Support the lower control arm with a jack or jackstand. Remove the wheel.
  2.  
  3. Remove the lower ball stud cotter pin, and loosen the ball stud nut 2-3 turns.
  4.  
  5. Install a special tool designed for such work between the two ball studs, and press the stud downward in the steering knuckle to free it. Then, remove the stud nut.
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  7. Guide the lower control arm out of the opening in the splash shield with a putty knife or something similar. Lift up on the upper control arm and place a block of wood between it and the frame. Be careful not to put tension on the brake hose as you do this.
  8.  
  9. Remove the ball joint seal by prying off the retainer with a prybar or driving it off with a chisel.
  10.  
  11. Remove grease fittings and install a tool designed for this purpose and press the ball joint out of the lower control arm. On some models, you may have to disconnect the tie rod at the knuckle to do this.
  12.  



Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 5: Pressing out the lower ball joint

To install:
  1. Position the ball joint in the control arm so that the grease purge on the seal faces inboard. Press the joint in with a tool designed for this purpose until it bottoms on the control arm. Remove the block of wood and then insert the ballstud through the steering knuckle hole on the control arm.
  2.  
  3. Turn the ball stud cotter pin hole so it faces fore and aft. Install the nut on the ball stud and torque it to: 90 ft. lbs. (122 Nm) on 1970-74 vehicles; 105 ft. lbs. (140 Nm) on 1975-77 vehicles; 83 ft. lbs. (112 Nm) on 1978-79 vehicles; 90 ft. lbs. (122 Nm) on 1980-81 vehicles; 70 ft. lbs. (95 Nm) on 1982-83 models; and 90 ft. lbs. (122 Nm) on 1984-87 models. Then, as necessary, turn the nut tighter to line up one of the castellations with the cotter pin hole. Finally, install the cotter pin and bend both prongs down and back against the nut. Lubricate the joint until grease appears at the seal. Remove supports and lower the vehicle.
  4.  

 
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