Eventually those stock ball joints on the front axles of your Jeep JK Wrangler will need replacing. If you’re a typical off-road enthusiast and your JK has at the very least been moderately modified, runs 35-inch or larger tires, and gets a regular dose of trail hazards, it won’t be long before they could be bent or worn out. As a matter of fact, if you use your modified Jeep JK as hard as most of us do, then you should periodically check them out to make sure they’re not loose or unusually worn; also check any time you notice symptoms of wandering, decreased steering feel, wobble, or abnormal tire-tread wear patterns such as cupping or feathering.
When the day does come to replace your Jeep JK Wrangler’s ball joints, you could swap them out for another set of OEM ball joints, go with cheap knockoffs, or do a proper upgrade. Our subject was a 2012 Jeep JK Unlimited set up with Dynatrac ProRock 44 axles, RCV shafts, Reid Racing knuckles, and 37-inch tires. The rig had already received a set of Dynatrac HD Ball Joints, and after about 30,000 miles of use that included a good deal of fairly severe off-road activity, we decided it was time for a rebuild. Yes, you heard that right. Instead of replacing the ball joints again, we rebuilt them with a Dynatrac HD Ball Joint rebuild kit.
The Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joint kit features a heat-treated, high-strength billet steel body with a chromoly stem; heat-treated, precision-ground stainless steel (mil-spec) ball; proprietary seals to prevent contamination from fluids and dirt; a greaseable fitting; Teflon-coated wear points for a long duty cycle; and it’s made right here in the USA.
This cutaway example of the Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joint reveals its key features, which include a chromoly stem; heat-treated, precision-ground stainless steel ball; heat-treated, high-strength billet body; and grease fitting for serviceability.
If you throw in the time to drain the front axle of fluid, remove the wheels, get the brake calipers out of the way and hang them from the frame, take off the rotors and backing plates, remove the knuckles, and pull the axle shafts (all of which you need to accomplish so you can effectively get to the ball joints and rebuild them), it took us about six hours. So if you have all the right tools and equipment, you can rebuild or install a pair of Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joints in your garage in what will be a long day. However, the benefits will be grand.
It makes no sense to show you all of the 40-or-so steps of the rebuild. You will get all of that in the instructions that come with the rebuild kit, or you can preview the full instructions on the Dynatrac website. Be sure to read the instructions carefully before you begin your installation of new Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joints or before rebuilding your Dynatrac ball joints. The steps shown here go through some of the benefits and features of the Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joints, as well as some details about and highlights of our rebuild using the Dynatrac HD Ball Joint rebuild kit.
We removed the wheels and tires, brakes, knuckles, and the driveshafts in order to have access to the Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joints for the rebuild.
This JK had seen about 30,000 miles since the installation of the Dynatrac HD Rebuildable Ball Joints and had gathered a thick coating of road grime and grit on its undercarriage. In order to see what we were working on, a serious shower of brake cleaner was applied, and then with some elbow grease and shop rags, the ball joints were cleaned up prior to disassembly for the rebuild.
The next step was to remove the upper stud and ball sockets from their ball joint cups. Removal involved a number of steps, including taking out retaining clips, unscrewing threaded cap plugs, and pulling out spacer bushings, before a hammer was used to knock the stud and ball socket assemblies upward and out of their cups. The studs will be reused, so placing the old castle nut back on the bottom of the studs allowed a hammer to be used to pop the studs and ball sockets out with no damage to the threads on the studs.
While the upper stud and ball socket assemblies are removed upward, the lower assemblies are removed downward through their ball joint cups. After removing the zerk fittings, roll pins, the threaded plugs, and the lower seals and snap rings, we then used the pointed end of a pry bar to pass through the upper cups (now empty), and after a few good hard blows with a hammer, the lower stud and ball socket assemblies came loose from their cups. We made sure the pointed end of the pry bar (you can also use a punch if you have enough of a hammer swing between it and the upper part of the axle’s steering knuckle yokes) was positioned in the center hole on top of the lower studs to avoid damaging the ball joint studs.
The lower ball joint studs were removed from their sockets by securing the sockets in a vise, and then using a punch placed in the studs’ top holes to knock them out of the sockets using a hammer. The same was done with the upper ball joint studs, but in reverse, with the sockets held in the vise, and a hammer applied from above to the castle nuts threaded onto the end of the studs.
The Dynatrac HD Ball Joint rebuild kit includes all-new ball sockets, seals, snap rings castle nuts, roll pins, and cotter pins to rebuild the lower ball joints. New ball sockets, seals, threaded locker tabs, E-clips, castle nuts, and cotter pins are included for the upper ball joint rebuilds.
Being the clever people we are (insert laughter here), we thought there might be a good chance that one or more of the ball joint studs could have sustained damage during the extremely hard trail use this Jeep has seen. Indeed, one of the ball joint studs had, and we just happened to have on hand a couple of new replacement studs from Dynatrac for just such an occasion. The new replacement upper stud is shown here (lower of the two in the photo) with its new ball socket already pressed on.
Having pressed the remaining new ball sockets onto the cleaned up lower and upper studs, installing the snap rings in the groove around the top of the studs, and after greasing the outside of the sockets and the bores of the ball joint cups, the lower ball joint and socket assemblies were inserted into the lower cups from below. The lower snap rings and the rubber seals (seen being placed in this photo) were installed.
The lower threaded plugs were installed in the top of the lower ball joint cups, screwed down until they bottomed out, then backed out about an 1/8th of a turn until the slots of the plug were lined up with two holes in the cups. Then the roll pins were tapped into the holes in the sides of the ball cups and into the two aligned grooves to lock the threaded plugs into place.
The new upper ball joint stud and ball socket assembles were greased (as were the bores of the upper ball joint cups) and inserted from the top into the upper ball joint cups until they were fully seated against the bottom of the cup. The seals were then gently tapped in place into the bottoms of the ball joint cups.
Both upper ball joints have a spacer ring with a grooved and ungrooved end. The spacer rings must be inserted so that the grooved end is on top. These grooves allow grease to flow freely throughout the ball joint cups. The upper ball joint threaded plugs were installed on top of the spacer rings.
The threaded upper ball joint plugs must be tightened to 30 ft/lbs; then tightened to the next locking position in which the slots in the threaded plugs are aligned with the slots in the upper ball joint cups so that the thread locker tabs can be installed properly. Once that has been accomplished, the E-clips can be installed on the threaded upper ball joint plugs. Except for filling the upper and lower ball joints with grease, the installation of the Dynatrac HD Ball Joint rebuild kit has been completed.
New upper (seen in photo) and lower ball joint stud castle nuts and cotter pins were included in the Dynatrac HD Ball Joint rebuild kit and were used to secure the knuckles after the axleshafts were reinstalled in the front axle.
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Dynatrac JP44-2X3050-C Pro Steer Ball Joints (low profile) 2007-2014 Jeep JK