I did a front-end refresh recently where I replaced all the bushings, bearings, ball joints and other rotted, worn-out bits in the front suspension. As you may know, the suspension on our cars is a world-class, 4-wheel double-wishbone setup. It is a Formula-1 design and very few cars that mortals can afford have it.
Itís complicated and works marvelously. When it wears out, you have to fix it, which can be more difficult than on lesser cars. There are more bushings to replace. Thereís more stuff to disassemble, more parts to have pressed in at a machine shop.
The process of having your stuff pressed in rarely gets much mention, but it can be protracted and difficult. You have to remove the part from the car, then find another car in which to transport those parts to the shop. You have to go when the shop is open, which is often the same time youíre supposed to be at work. Rarely is it on a Saturday when you have a full day to work. Never on a Sunday. All the while you're negotiating this, your awesome car is sitting idle, lonely, and sad.
Nor does the shop work for free. They charge a lot and the price seems to go up each time I go in.
Thatís your best case scenario. Which seldom happens. Often you get your new parts back battered and broken. About a decade ago, I spent several weeks fighting with Pep Boys before convincing them to replace the bushings they destroyed while installing them into some control arms off my BMW.
Again, when I first replaced the lower ball joints on the Red Car, I took the knuckles to a shop downtown. The guy took my knuckles into the back. I heard a lot of clanking, banging and swearing.
After a looong time, he emerged with my knuckles. I asked about the commotion and he admitted that he didnít really have the arbors he needed to complete the job properly. He got them in somehow and they held up well enough. Still, that kind of thing never inspires confidence.
Who wants to deal with this? I want to install my stuff myself, on my schedule. And I can. And I did, on this job.
Hereís what I used.
- A 5-lb sledgehammer from any hardware store
- A ball joint kit from Harbor Freight (here)
- A 3/4" socket kit, also from Harbor Freight (this one is no longer available, but this one is close)
Hereís how I removed the old wheel bearing.
You can see that my working conditions are far from ideal, but I can still remove the wheel bearing by beating it out with the sledgehammer and a large socket (donít forget to the remove the snap ring first like I did). It took about 30 seconds, even on that wobbly wooden deck. You only need to support the knuckle on some blocks to level it out and give the bearing a space to fall.
Here is the lower ball joint removal.
A few good whacks with the sledgehammer and an appropriately sized socket will do the trick in about 15 seconds. Again, Iím working on dirt here.