Replacing Ball Joints and Torsion Arms

Discussion in 'Steering, brakes & Suspension' started by OberonViking, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. OberonViking

    OberonViking Active Member

    Messages:
    1,809
    Location:
    Bathurst, NSW
    When I first bought the 79 Microbus the first thing I did was take it to the Chief at Indian Automotive for a quick check. One of the few things he noted was that the ball joints and shock absorbers need replacing. I decided that I quite like the whole DIY thing, so I set about learning how to do it. The Chief has very generously loaned me a set of torsion arms with new ball joints for exchange – I’ll get them back to him within two weeks.

    Reading through the Bentley, and the Muir books wasn’t all that helpful. There are some other threads based on this, but there’s no exacting How To. There was some very good tips that I utilised.

    When I picked up the torsion bars and shockies from the Chief he showed me on a bus that was already raised on a hoist a few little tricks, such as where to hit the steering knuckle to free the ball joint.

    Reading the manual again, and having had a brief go of the whole process, I sat glumly considering sending the bus to the Chief and paying for the job. Even Muir’s suggests that you’re better collecting aluminium cans to pay for the job than doing this one yourself.

    After a day or two I had a revelation – there’s no need to take the brakes and hub and tie-rod off the steering knuckle at all. I found this step-by-step account and decided to have a go. I printed it out and went to the garage – and I found a pen to note some changes. In writing this I have borrowed very heavily from Mike Gensler who wrote the proceedure I almost followed.

    I've written this on the night of having just completed the job. I hope it helps those who want to do their own torsion arm exchange. I felt good by the end of it, for having another part DIY.

    Tools needed: 19 mm socket, 2 x 17 mm spanners, 30 mm or larger shifter, 27 mm (1 1/16”) spanner, jack, stands, large multi-grips, G-clamp, large and small flathead screwdrivers, some hardwood blocks, cheat bar, 6 and 8 mm allen keys, 3 foot length of inch-and-a-half water pipe, extra set of hands, large hammer, and goggles.

    Also: degreaser, grease, and lots of rags.

    Prep: clean out the front underside of the bus. A high pressure cleaner would be ideal. I didn’t because it was raining.

    Steps: for each of these steps do both sides at once.
    1. Raise the bus onto stands and remove the front wheels. Place the wheels under the wheel arch, you’ll rest the brakes on this without undoing the tie-rod.
    2. Remove the front shockies (19 mm socket on front, 17mm nut on back). Free the top one first, and put the bolt and nut straight onto the new shock, and the nut from the bottom onto the new torsion arm.
    3. Remove the circlip that secures the speedo cable to the hub on the left side of the bus. Pull the cable out and reattach the circlip so that you don’t lose it.
    4. Remove the big nuts from the lower torsion arm (27 mm spanner). The top ones also need you to use the big shifter to hold the eccentric bushing in place. The top ball joints should just fall out of the steering knuckle, and bottom ones will be stuck, so do the bottom first. You’ll need to hit the steering knuckle where the ball joints passes through with the large hammer so that it will pop out. The top arm will still be holding the knuckle for you.
    5. Remove the big nuts from the upper torsion arm. The trick here is to have the spare tyre nearby so rest the brakes onto. It is really important the whole thing is not left to hang by the break line. It is heavy, and it is awkward to hold and to move about, but this way you don’t have to remove the brakes and bleed the brakes and all that. Make sure you are very careful about moving the hub, don’t let the brake line become tight. I found it easy enough to push and pull the spare tyre with my legs as I held the hub and manoeuvred it carefully. Once you’ve got one of the hubs off you can’t go changing the direction of the steering anymore – it could bring the hub to fall and pull on or break the brake line. [​IMG]
    6. Remove the nut and bolt from the end of the sway bay (2 x 17 mm)
    7. Remove the clamp from the bottom of the sway bar. First up you’ve gotta dig the tab on the rear of the clamp out of the rubber with a screwdriver, bend it all the way down. Then use the hardwood block to enable you to hammer the clamp towards the front of the bus, hammer it all the way off (goggles on – I had a few bits of dirt fly back and hit my face).
    8. Remove the set screw from both the upper and lower torsion arms (19 mm for the lock nut and 8 mm allen key for the screw). These are hidden beneath a thick layer of muck, on the top of the arm, slightly forward and nearest to the centre of the bus. You’ll need to use the little screwdriver to dig out the muck to fit the allen key in. I needed to use the cheat bar on the allen key – but think about which way is undo before using the cheat bar.
    9. Remove the bump stop for the upper torsion bar. Call for the extra pair of hands. Use the screwdriver to pull the clip towards you (goggles on) that holds the bump stop on – its in the hollow under the bump stop. Insert the 3’ water pipe as shown and lift. The extra hands can get in there and remove the rubber relatively easily, but make sure you have lifted the arm far enough first. The whole thing tends to slip a little as you lift and that freaks out the extra set of hands. The upper torsion arm will now rest quite firmly on the metal there. [​IMG]
    10. Clean up where the arm meets the torsion arm so that gunk doesn’t fall in as you remove it.
    11. Hammer the upper torsion arm till it just clears the metal it is resting against then stop! Do not remove it from the torsion bar yet. You need to get the torsion arm on the other side to this same point before removing either of the arms. Be careful on the backswing that you don’t damage the brake line or anything else. [​IMG]
    12. Remove one upper arm at a time. Take the grease seal (its like a big o-ring) from the old one and put it on the new one in the same way. Stick some grease inside the arm, and around it. Any excess grease will come back out, but that is better than not putting enough in. Replace the new arm in just far enough so that it was where the old arm was as you took it off. You can feel it catch the torsion arm when it is in the right position. If you can’t remember you’ve still got the other one attached to compare.
    13. When both upper arms are in this position you can now hammer them home. Using the water pipe again raise the arm and hammer it into place. I was able to do this by myself, having an extra person wouldn’t be a bad thing.
    14. Clean up the excess grease and replace the set screw and locking nut.
    15. Raise the arm again with the water pipe and have the extra hands replace the rubber bump stop. Replace the clip with a hammer. I used a ratchet extension bar to help with hammering the clip cleanly.
    16. Hammer out the lower arms, one at a time. Swap the grease seal over, add grease and reattach.
    17. Clean up the excess grease and replace the set screw and locking nut.
    18. With the new lower arms in place reattach the sway bar bolts. Do one side up most of the way, then tighten the other side. Get them both in place and tight before nipping them up.
    19. To reattach the clamp that you hammered off previously you need to hold the big clamp together. This is how I did it. [​IMG]
    20. Hammer the tab back up into the rubber.
    21. Align the ball joints straight down so that you can replace the steering knuckle. I was able to get the lower one through enough to get the nut on by hand.
    22. Jack up the lower arm a little to help get the upper ball joint in place. Don’t forget the holder for the brake line. Things stack in order of: eccentric bushing, steering knuckle, brake hose holder, washer, nut.
    23. The eccentric bushing has a notch in it that should face the front of the bus. This is used in setting the wheel alignment, and it is notched rather than painted so that you can feel it as you tighten the nut. My new ball joint had a 6 mm allen hole on the underside so that you can stop the shaft spinning as you tighten it. It gets difficult to hold the eccentric bushing in the right direction with the large shifter, whilst tightening the big nut with the 6 mm allen key stick out.
    24. Put in the new shockies, bottom first. Make sure you prime new shockies – I shove a screwdriver through the top and bottom holes. Standing on the bottom one I raised and lowered the top till I could no longer hear the gurgling noise, then I did a few more. By squatting I could lever the movement of my arms by resting my elbows on my knees, rather than using/hurting my back.
    25. Remove the circlip from the speedo, reinsert it and replace the circlip. It took me 4 or 5 goes to get the square piece through the square hole.
    26. Double check everything. Have you any nuts or bolts left over? Is everything tight? Do the brake lines and speedo cable have enough movement?
    27. Replace the wheels and lower your bus. Cautiously drive directly to get a wheel alignment. Do not pass GO.
     
    Syncro27 likes this.
  2. StevieVW

    StevieVW Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,468
    Location:
    Somerset, Tasmania
    Awesome thread. I'll be having a go at this tomorrow. You've made it all look easy.
     
  3. OberonViking

    OberonViking Active Member

    Messages:
    1,809
    Location:
    Bathurst, NSW
    How did it go?
     
  4. StevieVW

    StevieVW Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,468
    Location:
    Somerset, Tasmania
    I painted instead, ball joint tomorrow since I have a *friend* then.
     
  5. StevieVW

    StevieVW Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,468
    Location:
    Somerset, Tasmania
    I now understand why people charge so much to do ball joints. I did it all; inc pressing in and out old and new joints; and what a long haul. Whew I'll sleep well tonight! Very good thread but! Step by step easy as.
     
  6. BrianK

    BrianK Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,158
    Location:
    Mount Gambier, SA
    excellent post rob, :cool:
     
  7. OberonViking

    OberonViking Active Member

    Messages:
    1,809
    Location:
    Bathurst, NSW
    Thanks guys, I tried to comprehensive. I guess my training as a Maths teacher (read: anal) can be useful ;)
     
  8. OberonViking

    OberonViking Active Member

    Messages:
    1,809
    Location:
    Bathurst, NSW
    I replaced the torsion arms, the ball joints were already installed.
     
  9. dan_b

    dan_b Member

    Messages:
    570
    Location:
    mackay-
    am doing tis as we speak,1 problem,how to you remove the bush off the old ball joint?i dont have a press, i was going to cut the joint off,putt it in the vice -holding the bush and tap through the cut of bit of ball joint?
    any ideas?
     
  10. grumble

    grumble Active Member

    Messages:
    867
    Location:
    Taree
    If you don't have a 2 jaw puller,use 2 bits of I/2" plate across the vice jaws,slide them snug on the ball joint shaft and give the ball joint shaft a whack with a good sized hammer,you will need 2 people to do this,one to hold and one to hit.
    Please use safety goggles and common sense as it is easy to injure yourself. Or if you aren't this brave take it to a workshop and get them to put it in the press. Good Luck
     
  11. cankombi

    cankombi New Member

    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Bellingen, NSW
    Holy cow, just found this old thread as I was looking into justifying the cost of getting the ball joints done - cost is now justified! I choose to collect aluuminium cans (or at least put off ownership of a stand up paddleboard) and pay someone with the expertise and equipment to do it. Super kudos to you for doing it yourself.
     
  12. DC in TZ

    DC in TZ New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Arusha
    Am doing a total rebuild of my front beam. What are folk doing for the inner bushes that the torsion arms ride in. There is some sort of heavy duty nylon spacer and then the metal bush sits inside this, the book I have says that if the Nylon bush is worn replace the entire beam - can't be right.
     
  13. rstucke

    rstucke Active Member

    Messages:
    319
    Location:
    Wamberal NSW AUS
  14. SuppsByJase

    SuppsByJase Member

    Messages:
    81
    Location:
    Adelaide, SA
    What prices have people been quoted to replace all 4 ball joints?

    The workshop I called charge around 6hrs to do the job so around the $900 mark!
     

Share This Page