Change a ball joint and a damper

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How to change a Ball Joint and a Damper

This procedure details how to change the offside lower front ball joint and damper assembly. The nearside front is an identical procedure and the upper front ball joints follow a similar procedure. The rear ball joint and damper replacement are slightly more complicated as they require a different method to remove the brake calipers.

Safety Notice: I did not use a fixed support to prevent the car from dropping if the trolley jack hydraulics failed when performing this procedure. It is far safer to jack up the car and then use an appropriate fixed support that cannot collapse before performing these steps.


Step 1. Measure the height of the lower wishbone. You will need to use this measurement at step 28 when you torque up the upper and lower damper bolts (later stage of this procedure).

2. Measuring Lower Wishbone Height.JPG


Step 2. Loosen the bolts on the road wheel

3. Loosening Road Wheel Bolts.JPG


Step 3. Jack up the car on the front jacking point using a trolley jack and remove the front road wheel.

Safety Notice: It would be much safer to use the rear jacking point to raise the car and then place a fixed support under the front jacking point and lower the jack to use the fixed support for the car.

4. Road Wheel Removed.JPG


Step 4. Remove the brake pipe clamp.

5. Removing Brake Pipe Clamp.JPG


Step 5. Remove the brake caliper using an 8mm hex driver or allen key and then remove the rotor.

6. Removing Front Brake Caliper.JPG


Step 6. Secure the brake caliper so that it does not get in the way of removing the ball joint. Ensure that the brake line is not under strain and taking the weight of the caliper. You may wish to use a cable tie to secure the caliper out of the way.

7. Securing Front Brake Caliper.JPG


Step 7. Remove the ball joint nut . Use a 19mm ring/open ended spanner for the lower ball joint. You need to start with the ring end and transfer to the open end after winding the nut half the way up, otherwise the ring spanner will get stuck between the nut and the hub carrier and you won’t be able to remove the nut or the spanner.

8. Removing Lower Ball Joint Nut.JPG


Step 8. Split the ball joint from the hub carrier. You may wish to use a fork splitter with a few hard hits with a club hammer. Alternatively you could use a scissor splitter.

9. Splitting Lower Ball Joint.JPG


Step 9. When the ball joint is split from the hub carrier move carrier out of the way. You could use a trolley jack handle as a prop for the hub carrier under the track rod end bolt.

10. Lower Ball Joint Split From Hub Carrier.JPG


Step 10. Turn the steering wheel to full lock to move the hub carrier out of the way, so you can fit a ball joint removal tool.

Remove the ball joint rubber dust cover and circlip. This is important because the dust cover and circlip can bind up in the ball joint removal tool and the bolts could snap when you are tightening them.

11. Steering Wheel Set To Full Lock.JPG


Step 11. Assemble the ball joint removal tool and make sure that you coat the bolt threads with plenty of copper grease. This is an Elise Parts ball joint removal tool.

12. Ball Joint Removal Tool Assembled.JPG


Step 12. Using a 19mm socket/ratchet, tighten the bolts 2 turns each keeping them even.

13. Removing Ball Joint.JPG


Step 13. The ball joint pops out very easily.

14. Ball Joint Removed.JPG


Step 14. It is a good idea to put new ball joints in the freezer for a day or two. This ensures an easy fit into the wishbone. Grease the rubber dust cover so that it does not snag.

15. Greasing New Ball Joint Rubber.JPG


Step 15. Hand fit the new ball joint into the wishbone. It should go in easily if it is frozen as it will be slightly contracted.

16. Fitting New Ball Joint.JPG


Step 16. Fit the ball joint assembly tool and hand tighten the bolts making sure everything is evenly spaced.

17. Ball Joint Assembly Tool.JPG


Step 17. Tighten the bolts two turns at a time until the ball joint is seated. The heat created during fitting will defrost the ball joint.

18. Ball Joint Fitted.JPG


Step 18. Now it is time to remove the lower damper bolt using a 17mm socket and open/ring spanner.

19. Removing Lower Shock Mount.JPG


Step 19. Followed by the upper damper bolt. You will notice that the brake hose is straining in this photograph and I had to reposition the caliper so that the strain was removed from the hose.

20. Removing Upper Shock Mount.JPG


Step 20. The assembly is now off the car and is waiting for the spring to be removed.

21. Shock Assembly Removed.JPG


Step 21. In this photograph, the spring is compressed using compressors designed for bigger diameter springs. These work o.k. but more appropriate spring compressors can be purchased. Once the spring is compressed enough the bottom spring plate can be removed.

22. Removing Spring From Damper.JPG


Step 22. If you use oversize spring compressors you will need to unclamp the compressors to remove the spring from the damper.

23. Spring Removed From Damper.JPG


Step 23. Here is the new damper alongside the old one ready for the spring to be assembled.

24. Spring Ready To Be Fitted To New Damper.JPG


Step 24. Fit the spring to the new damper using the spring compressors.

25. Fitting Spring To New Damper.JPG


Step 25. Here is the spring compressed on the new damper.

26. Spring Compressed On New Damper.JPG


Step 26. Here is the spring fitted to the damper. Take care to ensure the end of the bottom part of the spring is 180 degrees away from the slot in the bottom spring plate.

27. Spring Fitted To New Damper.JPG


Step 27. Refit the damper assembly and grease the upper bushes. Do not tighten the upper or lower bolts at this stage. Lower the jack supporting the car to it’s minimum position and jack the suspension to the measurement at step 1. This is to ensure the damper is in it’s correct position to be torque tightened. It is important to do this so the damper bushes are in the correct position when the wheel is on the ground, otherwise the bushes will be twisted.

Torque the upper and lower damper bolts to 45 NM

29. Jacking Lower Wishbone To Ride Height.JPG


Step 28. With the suspension under compression tighten the lower ball joint nut to 45NM (S1 55Nm). If you only have a basic tool kit you will not be able to use a 19mm socket and torque wrench because the hub carrier will be in the way, so you will need to estimate the right amount of tightness using a 19mm ring spanner.

30. Tighteneing Lower Ball Joint.JPG


Step 29. The damper and lower ball joint are now fitted. Note that the caliper is now repositioned to alleviate the straining on the brake pipe back in step 19.

31. Damper And Lower Ball Joint Fitted.JPG


Step 30. You can measure the thickness of your brake rotor using a micrometer. My measurement was 24.4mm which should last until my next pad change.

32. Measuring Brake DiscThickness.JPG


Step 31. Refit the brake caliper and torque down to 45NM (I don’t use retaining compound on these bolts as they are frequently removed).

33. Refitting Brake Caliper.JPG


Step 32. Secure the brake pipe to the top wishbone.

34. Securing Brake Pipe.JPG


Step 33. Refit the road wheel and nip up the wheel bolts. Check that there is no side to side play by trying to rock the wheel at a quarter to three.

35. Tightening Wheel Bolts.JPG


Step 34. Lower car to the ground and torque wheel bolts to 105NM (S1 80-85Nm). Depress brake pedal a few times to get the pressure back.

36 Torque Wheel Bolts.JPG


This is an example of a badly leaking damper.

37. Leaking Damper.JPG


Here is an alternative ball joint splitter.

39. Scissor Type Ball Joint Splitter.jpg


Here are alternative coil spring compressors.

38. Alternative Coil Spring Compressor.jpg

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