Ball joint shenanigans

Over the last week or so I started hearing a slight knocking/clicking intermittent noise from front right of van. I had a look under van yesterday and found I could produce the noise if i bounced the front of the van. I narrowed it down to the upper ball joint by levering upper A-arm with pry bar (see pic), the joint would move and make the noise.
So today I set about replacing the joint. I looked at the manual and at Tom Forhan’s excellent description, bought a nice German ball joint, looked forward to one of those satisfying and straightforward repairs.

Oh, I did spray penetrating oil on the joint the night before, and also I heeded the warning on the ball joint box not to do this naked but rather wear overalls, a hat, and carry a huge wrench.

All went according to Tom’s instructions until I tried to “pop” the joint out. No way would it budge. Ideally what happens is that you drive the pickle fork in then strike the side of the assembly the joint goes into. On the syncro there is a suitable flat on the aft edge of the steering knuckle. I was using a 4 lb hand sledge. I ended up destroying the socket part of the joint leaving the ball part firmly in the steering knuckle. Believe me, I whacked that bugger a lot.

This was the time in these kind of jobs where the calm demeanour turns into hatred of mechanical things. Time to get the torch. I didn’t really want to heat up the knuckle, I thought that heating the ball then pouring water on it would break whatever unholy bond had been formed. Nope, still no luck. Finally broke down and “gently’ heated the upper portion of the knuckle, not red hot mind you, and then the pickle fork would drive the bugger off.

Installation of the new joint was simple (and slathered in anti-seize), apart from the fact that you have to hold the end of the threaded shaft (12 mm wrench) from turning as you tighten up the nylocked nut. Only closed ended 15/16” wrench (my 24 mm substitute) would fit and even then only allowed a few degrees of turning, grrr.

All this took 4 hours, including a few calming down breaks.

I’ve included a pic of my “Jack-All” high lift type jack with my home made adapter that fits in the vanagon jacking points.

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