Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Replacing Ball Joints and Control Arm Bushings

Replacing Ball Joints and Control Arm Bushings

1955, 1956, 1957 Chevrolet Tri Five

  -Alan Arnell


Disassembly of ball joints, upper and lower control arms (A-arms) and cross shafts in a 55, 56, 57 Chevrolet and the reassembly of the Chevy parts.  

In the Spring of 2006, I was ready for a new project to start on my 1957 Chevrolet Model 150 2-door Sedan. The a-arm/control arm bushings were all worn out, cracked and squeaked.  The ball joints seemed to work okay, but if I were to change the bushings I may as well change the ball joints as

well.  In my repair and replacement I found that the bushings were original.  The ball joints had the holding rivets removed thus implying they had been changed at some point in the car’s life.

A Tri Five Chevy’s front steering system provides stability and handling for the car.  There is a series of rubber bushing used on the Tri Five Chevy that dampens the road vibrations and establish overall control over metal on metal friction the steering joints would have if there were not rubber bushings.  The control arms have bushings at each end.  There are bushings on the axle side and another along the frame of the car.  As you can imagine the bushings will wear out and will cause serious problems over time.

New bushings will restore a car’s factory handling capabilities.  I used Polyurethane bushings.  These bushings are made to allow less deflection than rubber bushings.  If I were to have a completely stock car I would use rubber, however I was looking for a better than stock handling of
my ‘57.  Some will say the polyurethane bushings will make for a harsher ride.  I never noticed any difference after my repair and replacement of the bushings.  My handling improved after the retrofit.  The better handling may have been just better bushing, the Poly or both, I can not say for sure.

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Tools that are needed:
Floor jack, Jack stands, SAE wrench set, SAE Ratchet set, A press or a hammer may be used, Flat head Screwdriver, Optional: Coil spring compressor, ball joint fork, big hammer

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On March 14, 2006, I pulled on the emergency brake and chocked both sides of one rear wheel. Before jacking up the car, I removed the front shock absorbers that are placed inside of the springs.  I had already replaced the shocks by this time and removal was uneventful.  However putting in the shocks earlier had been very eventful.  Check back later to read about my “Shocking Story LINK” of replacing the shocks.  

Using my floor jack, I raised the front of the car and used jack stands to hold the car up.  Never just use a jack when working under a car.  With the car on the stands, I grabbed a hold of the headlight eyebrow and gave the car a good shake to see if it was stable.  

From the Chevrolet Master Shop Manual for 1957 Chevrolet:

The 1957 Chevrolet Passenger Car Models utilize the S.L.A (short and long arms) type of front suspension with ball type joints connecting the control Arms and steering spindles.


Removal of the coil springs:
  1. The wheels should be hanging free and not taking any weight of the car.  
  2. Remove the tire and wheel assembly.  If the wheel is not removed its weight will damage the joints during spring removal.
  3. Loosen the four lower control arms cross shaft bushing bolts.
  4. Install a coil spring compressor through the shock absorber mounting hole in the cross member.  The compressor uses holders on both ends and a nut to compress the springs.  You have to be really mindful of the compressed spring.  If something were to happen, just imagine the power that would be released by a compressed spring.  Remember this spring is made to hold up the weight of the car.
  5. Tighten the compressor nut to slightly compress the spring.  I have seen this done with a floor jack, however i will stay true to the Chevy Shop Manual for instructions.
  6. Remove the lower ball joint cotter pin and nut.  I could not get my pin out.  I had to cut the eye off of the pin and take it out backwards.
  7. Remove the lower ball joint (where the ball joint attaches to the spindle) with a stud puller #6627. I could not find the 6627 tool. I used a ball joint fork and beat the ball joint in two.  I had a tie rod fork but it was not wide enough. I borrowed a wider fork.
  8. Remove the upper ball joint the same way. Before you take this apart you have to wire or zip tie the spindle or as the manual calls it the drum and spindle assembly, so it will not fall and tear off the rubber brake line.  Remove the brake drum when the wheel is removed will make spindle lighter to hold up from falling.
  9. Remove the four lower control arm inner shaft to crossmember nuts and bolts.  I had a real hard time removing the lower a-arm.  The studs were stripped and turned when I tried to loosen the nuts.  I used a pry bar to hold the cross shaft in place.  
  10. When trying to take the nut off you have to put a  ⅝” inch wrench on the other end to keep it from just turning.  The wrench kept falling off.  I taped it in place. Getting to the driver’s side upper a-arm off required that I had to remove the power steering pump.  The cross shaft was also hard to get out because of the exhaust header.  After a great deal of jiggling the cross shaft was removable without removing the exhaust header.
  11. Unscrew (slowly) the spring compressor and
    remove the spring and then the lower control arm from the car.

Removal of the lower control arm ball joint, cross shaft or bushings:

Note:  The lower control arm ball joint stud is a loose fit in the assembly when not connected to the steering spindle.

Ball joint removal:
  1. Chisel or drill then push out the the rivets that hold the ball joint in place to the control arm if original.  Ball joints that have been replaced will be bolted on the control arm.
  2. Again use the 6627 tool or the ball joint fork and remove the ball joint and seal.
  3. If rivets were removed for the first time drill out the holes to 21/64” so the control arm will accept the new ball joints later.  

Cross shaft and Bushing removal:
There is a special tool #5888 that is used for this removal step.  What the tool does is to keep you from bending and flexing the control while removing the bushings and allows the bushings to be easily pressed out.  Well, I know of absolutely no one who has one.  What you will have to do if

you are unable to secure a 5888 tool is either burn the old bushing out, pull them out, saw them out, bang them out with a hammer and/or chisel all the while not damaging the stamped sheet metal control arms.  I made a centerpiece out of wood and push some of the bushing out with a borrowed press. The piece of wood kept the control arms from collapsing from the force of the press.  I also had to use all the methods listed to get the bushing all out.  You have to be creative.  Also, one bushing I was able to be pull out with just my fingers, the remainder were not that easy.  Fun city!

Repeat for the upper Control arms.

With everything apart now is a good time to clean and paint the parts.  

My springs were good.  They were new and still had the stickers and paint on them.  I reused the springs.


Ball joint assembly:
  1. Install the new ball joint with flange against the underside of the control arm.
  2. Attach the ball joint with the supplied new bolts and nuts.  Note:  Only use the supplied nuts and bolts because they are
    made to handle the stress that will be place on them during normal driving.
  3. Tighten the nuts with a torque wrench to 10 to 12 lbs.

Bushing installation:
  1. Coat the outside sleeve of the bushing with a thin coating of grease. Keep the grease off the rubber bushing.
  2. With the cross shaft in the control arm and a three piece spacer in place, place the control arm on a support.  Hand start the bushing into the control arm and over the end of the shaft.  Note:  The end of the shaft with the greatest distance from the end of the shaft to the bolt holes should be toward the front of the control arm.
  3. There are special collars to use with tool # 5888.  I used sockets and a wrench to complete this task and my piece of wood.  Place the collar over the bushing.  Be sure that the three-piece spacers is not overlapping the bushing holes in the control arm.  I placed a piece of wood over the inside of the a-arm to keep the press from smashing the control arm.  
  4. Press the bushing into the control arm until the flange contacts the control arm.  I have known of people installing the bushings with a hammer.
  5. Turn the control arm over and repeat the process with the other bushing.  After the bushings are in place the cross shaft should be able to be rotated by hand.
  6. Install the collar, lock washer and cap screw in each end of the cross shaft.  Do not tighten.

The upper control arm goes together basically the same way.

Install the control arms:
  1. Install the spring compressor and compress the spring. Insure that the compressor can be removed through the top shock mount.  Do this by placing the compressor shaft through the upper shock absorber hole and tighten the nut on the shaft to barely contact the spring with the cross member.
  2. Rotate the spring to make sure it fits in its round holders and seats in the lower control arm and crossmember.
  3. Tighten the spring compressor to draw it to compressed height.  (Again, this can be done with a floor jack.  I use a floor jack because it is a hassle to get the compressor out after use.)
  4. Install the nuts and bolts fastened to the lower control arm to the crossmember and tighten.
  5. Install new rubber seals on the joint stud.
  6. Install the spindle to the control arms.
  7. Releasing the spring slightly to allow the spherical joint studs to enter the spindle bosses.
  8. Install the spherical joint stud nuts and tighten securely and install cotter pins.
  9. Remove the spring compressor.
  10. Place the weight of the car on the front suspension.
  11. Bounce the front of the vehicle to
    centralize the bushings
  12. With weight still on the wheels tighten all lower bushing collar bolts to 45 to 55 foot pounds and upper collar bolts to 35 to 40 foot pounds.  Note: Failure to follow this last step will allow the collar bolts to loosen and fall off!

That is it!

My musing:  I do not want to come of as negative in regards to classic/vintage car projects, however a person could easily become negative.  Nothing ever goes as planned.  But, that is part of the fun.  Thinking of solutions to problems is the real challenge of restoring a car as much as anything.  Invariably, a car part will not fit. The old part will not come off due to rust or ware.  There will be other items on the car in the way that will have to be removed or moved.  Don’t get mad when this happens.  Just accept the fact that this will alway be the case no matter if you Chip Foose or Mortimer Snerd. (A real 50’s reference, look it up.) Be the biggest nut on your car and celebrate when you have beaten the offending part or bolt.  Sometimes when I really have to really fight a part to get it on the car and then become successful, I feel really triumphant.  I have been known to yell out I beat you, you Mo#@$% F@$%&r!  Remember, there is no pressure.  You are doing the project for fun.  Hopefully, you have more time than money!

Get a front end alignment after all suspension repair.

Coming soon: Replacing the tie rods on a Tri Five Chevy.


#Classicchevy #TriFive #ClassicCar #Chevy #Chevrolet #Belair #Carshow #Custom #Musclecar   #HotRod #StreetRod #DragRacing #55Chevy #56Chevy #57Chevy

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