The lower ball joint should be replaced when play becomes excessive. Nissan/Datsun does not publish specifications on just what constitutes excessive play, relying instead on a method of determining the force (in inch pounds) required to keep the ball joint turning. This method is not very helpful to the backyard mechanic since it involves removing the ball joint, which is what we are trying to avoid in the first place. An effective way to determine ball joint play is to jack up the car until the wheel is just a couple of inches off the ground and the ball joint is unloaded (meaning you can't jack directly underneath the ball joint). Place a long bar under the tire and move the wheel and tire assembly up and down. Keep one hand on top of the tire while you are doing this. If there is over 1 / 4 " of play at the top of the tire, the ball joint is probably bad. This is assuming that the wheel bearings are in good shape and properly adjusted. As a double check on this, have someone watch the ball joint while you move the tire up and down with the bar. If you can see considerable play, besides feeling play at the top of the wheel, the ball joint needs replacing.
REMOVAL & INSTALLATION
The ball joint should be greased every 30,000 miles. There is a plugged hole in the bottom of the joint for the installation of a grease fitting.
- Raise and support the car so that the wheels hang free. Remove the wheel.
- Unbolt the tension rod and stabilizer bar from transverse link.
- Unbolt the strut from the steering arm.
- Remove the cotter pin and ball joint stud nut. Separate the ball joint and steering arm.
- Unbolt the ball joint from the transverse link.
- Install the ball joint to the transverse link. Grease the joint after installation.
- Reconnect the steering arm and the ball joint. Install a new cotter pin and ball joint stud nut.
- Connect the strut to the steering arm.
- Bolt the tension rod and stabilizer bar to the transverse link. Install the wheel.
The ball joints on these models are a press fit into the knuckle arm. Follow the Lower Control Arm removal and installation procedure. After Step 8 is completed, the knuckle arm ball joint must be pressed out of the knuckle arm using a special press. Most suspension specialists have this equipment.