I've been slowly working on a front suspension rehab. I was going to do one epic post about the teardown, rehab, and buildup of the it all, but it's taking so long that I'm going to post just the teardown now. At this rate, I'll post about the rebuild in a year or two.
This started because I needed to replace the ball joints up front. But it was obvious that the rubber bushings up front needed replacement, too. And while it's all apart, let's upgrade the swaybar. One thing snowballed into another and now the whole front end is in pieces.
Both ball joints are completely worn. The rubber is cracked and broken. I know that they are original to the car because they are riveted to the control arm. When the ball joints get replaced, those rivets have to be drilled out and replaced with bolts. No bolts here means they're 37 years old. Definitely in need of replacement. The last thing I want is one of the wheels to literally fall off the car while driving.
Job number one was to remove the front swaybar. This was quite easy. Swaybars are only under stress when the car is cornering, so removing the bolts was a breeze. One of them was even broken already, making my job easier. Normally, that would make me angry, but I have a shiny new swaybar from Ireland Engineering (with new hardware) waiting to be installed. I'll dedicate a whole post to that.
With the swaybar off, the first order of business is to remove the tension rod. The tension rod is under very little stress, and attaches to the subframe up front with only a single bolt. Only one bolt attaches it to the control arm, also. Neither of mine were difficult to remove.
Getting the ball joint off the pitman arm wasn't difficult. However, since these ball joints are the original factory ones, each was riveted to its control arm. Removal required drilling out the rivet, with persuasion from a hammer. Care had to be taken not to over-drill the rivets and expand the holes in the control arm. New ball joints come packaged with hardware for attachment.
The only thing remaining in this teardown is the tie rod on either side that is responsible for moving the pitman arm, and thus turning the front wheels (picture here, attaching the pitman arm to the car). Each tie rod has two small ball joints and they all looked in a bad way, too. I ordered some now tie rods, and they come with new ball joints on them. I just need to pick up a tool or two to remove the old ones. After that, it's just a matter of cleaning (maybe painting) the parts and putting them back together. There will be new ball joints and new urethan bushings all around.
Update: I got a set of pickle forks and the right sized fork made removing the tie rods a breeze. I used the blow torch to heat up the outside of the ball joint (mind the rubber boot!) and after a few swift blows with a heavy hammer, the ball joint popped right out. It's all about having the right tool for the job.