The 2002 Ford explorer came equipped with a short/long arm suspension system that featured upper and lower control arms. Each control arm is attached to the steering knuckle by a ball joint. Over time, these ball joints wear out and cause symptoms including excessive tire wear and road wander. Replacing the worn ball joints will restore alignment control, and eliminate those symptoms. The ball joint press required for the installation of the lower ball joints can be found at auto parts stores, and in some cases are available for loan or rent.
Things You'll Need
- Wheel chocks
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Lug wrench
- Diagonal cutters
- Wrench set
- Ball joint press
- Grease gun
- Stiff wire or bungee cord
Upper Ball Joint Replacement
Set the parking brake, and place wheel chocks behind the rear wheel on one side of the truck and in front of the rear wheel on the opposite side of the truck. Raise the driver-side front wheel off the ground using the floor jack. Position a jack stand under the lower control arm and lower the Explorer onto the stand. Remove the front wheel using the lug wrench.
Straighten the cotter pin, located in the upper ball joint nut, and remove the pin using a pair of diagonal cutters. Remove the ball joint nut using a 1-inch wrench from the set. Apply a few sharp blows, with a large hammer, to the steering knuckle near the ball joint stud to release the stud from the steering knuckle.
Remove the bolts that attach the rubber brake hose to the control arm. Remove the two bolts that attach the upper control arm to the frame of the truck, and remove the control arm (the new upper ball joint comes as an upper control arm assembly). Install the new ball joint (upper control arm) in the reverse order.
Lower Ball Joint Replacement
Place the new ball joints in the freezer. Freezing the ball joint will cause it to shrink slightly and make installation easier. Raise and support the vehicle as described in the previous section.
Remove the cotter pin and nut on the lower ball joint, and separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle with a few sharp blows from a large hammer. Tie the steering knuckle and upper control arm up out of the way with a piece of stiff wire or bungee cord.
Drive the old ball joint out with a hammer. Clean the ball joint seat in the lower control arm, and apply a small amount of grease to help the new joint slide in. Tap the new ball joint into the control arm to get it started, then use the ball joint press to press it into place until it is fully seated.
Push the new ball joint stud into the steering knuckle, and secure it with the new nut that comes with the new joint. Install the grease fitting and cotter pin, and pump a few shots of grease into the joint using a grease gun.
Reinstall the wheel, lower the truck to the ground and perform a test drive.
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