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Checking GM Ball Joints For Wear

There is a lot of confusion over what makes a ball joint good or bad. Here is a simple way to check your GM ball joints and determine whether they are, indeed, good or bad.

Tools Required:
  • J 8001 Dial indicator
Important:
  • The vehicle must rest on a level surface.
  • The vehicle must be stable. Do not rock the vehicle on the floor stands.
  • The upper control arm bumper must not contact the frame.
  1. Raise the vehicle. Support the vehicle with safety stands. Support the lower control arm with a floor stand or jack, as far outboard as possible, under the stabilizer bar bracket. Important: If a seal is cut or torn, replace the ball joint.
  2. Wipe the ball joints clean. Check the seals for cuts or tears.
  3. Adjust the wheel bearings, RWD only.
  4. Check the ball joints for horizontal looseness.
4.1 Position the dial indicator against the lowest outboard point on the wheel rim.
4.2 Rock the wheel in and out while reading the dial indicator. This shows horizontal looseness in both joints.
4.3 The indicator reading should be no more than 3.18 mm (0.125 in). If the reading is too high, check the lower ball joints for vertical looseness.
  1. For RWD vehicles, check the lower bail joints for wear and for vertical looseness using:the following procedure:
5.1 Inspect by sight the lower ball joint for wear. The position of the housing into which the grease fitting is threaded indicates wear. This round housing projects 1.27 mm (0.050 in) beyond the surface of the ball joint cover on a new ball joint. Under normal wear, the surface of the ball joint housing retreats inward very slowly.
5.2 First observe, then scrape a scale, a screwdriver, or a fingernail across the cover. If the round housing is flush with or inside of the cover surface, replace the ball joint.
Important:
  • Do not pry between the lower control arm and the drive axle seal. You may damage the seal.
  • If the indicator reading is more than 3.18 mm (0.125 in), replace the ball joint.
  1. For S4WD vehicles, place the vehicle on jack stands. Place a dial indicator (1) against the spindle in order to show vertical movement.
  1. Pry between the lower control arm (2) and the outer bearing race (1) while reading the dial indicator. This shows vertical looseness in the ball joints. The lower ball joint is not preloaded and may show some looseness.
  2. If the lower ball joint is within specifications, and there is too much horizontal looseness, check the upper ball joint for wear.
8.1 Disconnect the ball joint from the knuckle.
8.2 If you find any looseness, or if you can twist the stud with your fingers, replace the ball joint.
Additional Information provided courtesy of
ALLDATAdiy.com and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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