Ball Joint Removal

I have a 1991 Toyota Pickup; 4x4, 22re. I am in the process of replacing the lower ball joints.

The main nut (not on the holding plate) is slotted, with a cotting pin locking it in place. I bent the pin straight, but can’t seem to pull it out, even with vice grips.

I am thinking about drilling it out. Has anyone tried this? Since I am replacing the ball joint, do I have to worry about any damage?

Grab the loop of the cotter pin with a pair off-side cutters. Now pry on the cotter pin as if you’re prying to remove a nail with a claw hammer. If this doesn’t remove the cotter pin then it may have to drilled out.

If you’re using an impact gun, cut the cotter pin so its flush with the castle nut. Then zip the nut off with the impact gun. The nut will shear off the cotter pin.


Spray some PB-Blaster on it and let it sit for half an hour…Remember to support the lower control arm as that torsion bar is loading the lower ball joint and would love to slam the control arm down as you release the nut you are working on…

My next problem is the opposite of what you’re describing. I drilled out the fat end of the cotter pin and removed all nuts no problem. I then proceeded to snap my pickle fork trying to leverage the ball joint stud out of the lower control arm.

I think it would help to disconnect the tie rod end, but now I’m back in the same cotter pin situation and I couldn’t find any replacement castle nuts on memorial day. What do I do?

Hmmmmm…On My '91 2WD, the “stud” with the castle nut on top goes into the spindle, not the control arm…The joint is simply bolted to the end of the control arm. Your 4WD must be set up differently to allow for the half-shafts…Tomorrow is another day…

The pickle fork is not a lever, as you noticed. It is a wedge and should be struck on the end with a hammer. Don’t pry with it, they usually break if you do. It’s a common mistake. Save the next one.

Try a locking nut or drill a hole through a regular nut after it is tightened. Then file some slots. Drilling and filing was the first lesson in auto repair class. We were making our own steering wheel pullers out of solid stainless. The Joe G. special.

Are your ball joints press fit? If so, you’re going to need a ball joint tool to install the replacement. The ball joint tool (it looks like an overgrown C-clamp) can likely be used to push the stud out of the control arm. But first, make sure that you have all the retainers out of the ball joint. For example one car we once had had a groove in the ball joint that lined up with a three inch bolt that didn’t look like it was retaining the ball joint, but in fact kept it from either rotating or moving up/down. I spent a lot of time hammering and prying before the light dawned.

The stud on these ball joints is threaded with a castle nut and cotter pins on the end.

The pickel forks were useless, plus it slit the boot on my tie rod end which I now have to replace. The ball joint puller works great, but it won’t fit in the space for my upper ball joint.

Unfortunately I just couldn’t get enough clearance to pull out the lower ball joint. That’s why I was trying to disconnect the upper. When I couldn’t fit the ball joint puller I tried unscrewing the backing plate and snapped a bolt off in the control arm. I think I’m stuck at the drill stage now.

I think it’s time you had it towed to a front-end shop before you get hurt or render your vehicle undrivable and needing major repairs…You are just digging the hole you are in deeper…

The upper ball joints have a mounting bolt that is threaded with a round head and tapered grooves near the head. This meant I was able to pound out the upper ball joint. This allowed the axle and steering knuckle to swing free so I could remove the lower ball joint.

For the upper ball joint, since the mounting bolt on the back plate was dead, I was able to unseat the ball joint with a pickle fork and some sideways whacking.

I have replaced both pieces. After some lower first upper second, upper first lower second trials I was able to get both seated properly. Now I am just struggling to pound the above mentioned bolts in far enough to get the nuts on.

As soon as I can safely put wheels on it I’m driving it to the shop for a once over and alignment. If it doesn’t seem safe to drive, at least it will be towable without crazy sideways winching, which only seems to work in the winter.

The smartest thing I did was to use a ratchet strap to pull down on the lower control arm.