The ball joint should be replaced when play becomes excessive. Nissan does not publish specifications on just what constitutes excessive play, relying instead on a method of determining the force (in inch lbs.) 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 raise the truck until the wheel is just a couple of inches off the ground and the ball joint is unloaded, which means that you can't jack directly under 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 doing this. If there is over 1 / 4 in. (6mm) of play at the top of the tire, the ball joint is probably bad. This assuming that the wheel bearings are in good shape and properly adjusted. As a double check, have someone watch the ball joint while you move the tire up and down with the bar. If considerable play is seen, besides feeling play at the top of the wheel, the ball joints need to be replaced.
REMOVAL & INSTALLATION
See Figures 1, 2 and 3
- Raise and support the front end with jackstands under the frame rails.
- Remove the front wheels.
- Support the lower control arm with a floor jack (this service step is very important) and remove the upper ball joint-to-knuckle nut.
- Using a ball joint separator or gear arm puller, such as tool ST29020001 (2wd) or HT72520000 (4wd), remove the ball joint from the knuckle.
- Unbolt the ball joint from the upper arm.
- Install the ball joint in the upper control arm and tighten the bolts to 12-17 ft. lbs. (16-23 Nm).
- Press the ball stud into the steering knuckle and tighten the nut to 58-108 ft. lbs. (78-147 Nm). Be sure to use a new cotter pin.
- Install the wheels and then lower the vehicle.
- Check the front end alignment.