The ball joints in a Ford F-150 act similar to the ball joints in a human body. They contain a cup and a ball. The joint on your F-150 allows the suspension to move and flex without falling apart. You’ll know when the ball joints have failed or are going bad because you will hear a rattling or your steering will become stiff. You can also do a visual inspection of the ball joint in the wheel well to see if the protective ball joint rubber boot is damaged. Once the ball joints fail, you must replace them or you risk damaging the entire suspension.
1. Loosen the front wheel lug nuts by turning them 1/4 turn counterclockwise with a tire wrench. However, be careful that you do not unseat the wheel from the wheel hub and the full weight of the truck is still over the tires.
2. Place the jack under the front jack point and jack up the F-150. The front jack point is located near the radiator and is an extension of the frame. On the F-150, the jack point is essentially the front crossmember.
3. Finish removing the lug nuts and pull the wheels off.
4. Remove the cotter pin and axle nut that holds the outer tie rod end. This nut sits in the center of the wheel hub assembly. Pull the cotter pin out using a pair of pliers. The nut will require some force, but can be removed with a socket wrench.
5. Push the axle in by hitting it with a rubber mallet. Now that the outer tie rod end nut has been removed, the axle should slide in enough for you to slide the hub assembly forward.
6. Locate the ball joint. As its name suggests, it looks like ball and cup joint. It will have a rubber protective boot on it. There is an upper and lower ball joint on the F-150, so you’ll need to do them both, but the process is the same for both ball joints.
7. Remove the upper and lower mounting bolts on the caliper with a socket wrench and pull the caliper off the brake rotor. Secure the caliper assembly to the coil springs above the brake assembly with zip-ties and pull the brake rotor off the wheel hub.
8. Remove the cotter pin and mounting nut from the upper ball joint. The cotter pin must be pulled out with a pair of pliers. The nut can be removed with a socket wrench.
9. Wedge the ball joint removal tool-also called a pickle fork-between the ball joint and the steering knuckle. Bang on the handle of the pickle fork to separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle
10. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the lower ball joint.
11. Push the axle into the hub to back it out and pull the hub away from the axle. In the process, you should be removing the knuckle as well.
12. Remove the snap ring on the lower ball joint by pressing the clip apart and pulling up on the clip with a pair of pliers.
13. Place the head of the ball joint press tool over the top of the ball joint and tighten the clamp until the ball joint is pressed out of the control arm. Note the orientation of the ball joint as you are removing it
14. Install the new ball joint. Installation is the reverse of removal. When pressing the new joint in, make sure that the ball joint press tool is pressing the joint straight into the control arm.
15. Re-install the snap ring.
16. Repeat steps 11 and 12 for the upper ball joint.
17.Reassemble the suspension. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Tighten the axle nut you removed in step 4 to 254 foot-lbs with a torque wrench. Set the dial on the torque wrench to 254 foot-lbs and turn the nut clockwise until the wrench clicks.
18. Put the wheel back on, tighten the lug nuts, and lower the truck to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts to 100 foot-lbs.