Friday, October 21, 2011

Installing the baja's ball joints

I decided to get the worn front end parts changed on the baja before it gets really cold here. It needs new ball joints, tie rods, shocks and tires. I am really trying to go as cheap as I can on this so I bought ball joints that I am just going to press in. On my lowered bug I bought all new spindle arms that had new ball joints installed in them already so I didn't need to hassle with pressing them out. When all is said and done, I figured it saved me 37 dollars to press them in myself. Doesn't seem like it's worth it but my labor is free and it was an interesting project. If I haven't said it before, this baja is a rusty mess. Everything I look at has rust and the front end was no different.

This shot is looking from the spindle on the drivers side through to the passenger side. You can see the tie rods, the steering coupling, the master cylinder and the bottom of the gas tank.
I had to get my rivet gun out and cut a nut off the ball joint because it was rusted on. I have removed the torsion arms here and you can see the torsion leafs. One bad thing I found was that one of the grease Zerk's is broken off the lower tube and it has let a lot of dirt and water in it. I am going to clean it out as best I can and install new grease and see where that gets me. Luckily the torsion arms look OK and the bearings and bushings look to be OK.
Here the torsion arms are off and on the ground. Lots of years of dirt and crud are built up on them. I can't tell if the ball joints have been changed in the past but with it being 42 years old I would suspect they have. If you look at the lower torsion arm you can see a piece of the shock. It broke right off when I was trying to slide it off.
Cleaning them up in the solvent tank. Lots of nasty grease came out of them.
Back in the day VW had a special tool to press out the ball joints. I tried to rent a generic press from auto zone but they were out of them. There is no lip on the torsion arm itself to grab onto so you can press them out. I ended up going for the rivet gun again. I had an easy time with 3 out of the 4 ball joints. The fourth (and last one) was a real pain in the butt. I had my friend Obin help back up the arm as I tried to drive it out. We got it to move about a 16th of an inch and then it wouldn't budge. Moving it out just that little bit allowed me to fit a press fixture on it so I could put it in the press and press it off. It still took a lot of pressure and some heat from a heat gun before it finally broke loose. It sounded like a cannon going off when it finally went.
 Here is the rivet gun. Everyone in the shop was irritated at me. Oh Well.
 Here is the new joint I am going to put in. I wasn't very impressed with the grease job from the factory. It had one little dab of grease on it. You have to remove the boot to press them on (otherwise you will rip it) so I packed them full of grease before putting the boot back on.
When you press these in the arms, make sure you line up the notches with the marks on the arms. Here is a picture. If you don't they will bind up when installed on the car. If you forget, you need to buy a new joint because you should only press these once.
 Here is the set up in the press. You can see I had to get a little creative with the tools to press it on. It all worked out really good though.
 This press works great. I would hate to have to beat a new joint in with a hammer or rivet gun. You can also see if a machine shop will do this for you. I suspect they will charge anywhere from 20 to 60 bucks to do it.
Here they are all done and ready to be installed. I reinstalled all the boots after filling them with grease. I just need to clean out the inside of the tubes on the front end and install everything. I am going to powder coat the bumpers and the tie rod tubes this weekend and then get it all back together soon.


Debbi Duffy said...

The tool you are thinking about is called a Time Pirate. I ran a foreign car shop in Kansas from 1975-1987 and the press works great. About 15 minutes Max per joint, on the car.

The Bug Boys said...

I wish I could find one now. I would buy one in a minute. I forsee lots of b/j changes in my future!