MKIII Golf/Jetta Ball Joint Replacement.
This "how to" assumes you have some basic tools, and safety gear. Safety glasses should be worn at all times when working with tools and automotive fluids. Always use a hydraulic jack and safety stands when lifting or getting under a vehicle. If you are unsure on where to safety lift your vehicle, refer to its owners guide. Steering and Suspension components should never be heated with a torch, bent, or welded. Replacement parts must be direct matches and should be torqued to specification. The writer of this how to assumes zero liability in how to use this guide, or any damages that may come from it to you, your property, or others and others property. If you are uncertain at any point, refer to a qualified automotive technician.
Ball joints have a hard job. They have to twist, arc, and hold the weight of the entire car on them. Ball joints sounds like a major suspension job, but its really pretty easy. The MKIII model line has a total of two ball joints one at the end of each front lower control arm. Generally they last a long time, and don't complain much. I'd say 100,000 miles is not unheard of in the life span of them. They are much like a simple ball and socket that is in your shoulder. There is a rubber boot, and they are "sealed for life".
You may have heard that some cars have "upper" and "lower" ball joints. Since your MKIII has a McPherson strut deigned (named for Earl McPherson, a Ford engineer in the 50's). you only have lower ones. More complex suspension designs have both. The top of your strut (bearing) is in effect the upper ball joint.
Never add any type of grease to a sealed joint. Some aftermarket types may have a grease fitting, if so they are not the original ones and may be greased. If the boot is torn, I'd just install a new joint, I don't think you can get new boots. The reason why you should not just shoot grease, or WD-40 into them is because they have a plastic "socket" that the ball sits in. Adding a petroleum based grease will only cause the joint to fall apart sooner.
How can I tell its bad? Well, testing for a bad ball joint is easy.
1 - Noise, if the joint, squeaks or squawks on turns and
2 - The boot is torn open
3 - When you grab the tire/wheel at 12 and 6 o' clock and move it back and forth and the joint has free play...
4 - You've lowered your car and the joint is stressed at abnormal angles, hey I love the look, but your ball joints now take a real beating, check them often.
5 - There is a clunking sound over bumps and poor steering control.
Installing a new joint is cheap, easy, and can be done with simple hand tools in a driveway in less than an hour. No special tools or presses are needed. Shop around, German OEM Meyle ball joints can be had for as low as $30.
While a trip to an alignment shop is a good idea after installing a new steering or suspension component, I don't feel its 100% needed after this job. The fact is there is only a very slight amount of wiggle room that the ball joint needs to be installed. Sure its going to change camber *a little* a very small amount. So small I'd skip it. - However, if this were a *Customers* car, I'd say they should get one.
Ball Joint Hardware Kit (nut plate, bolts, and lockwashers)
Step 1 - Lift and support the car on jack stands. Give the car a good shake to make sure its not going to fall on you when your working on it.
Step 2 - Get to know the parts Spray some penetrating oil on the parts with arrows on them, make sure not to get any on the brake rotor or pads.
Step 3 - Loosen and remove the Ball Joint Pinch bolt nut. (removed)
Step 4- Remove the caliper carrier bolt, and then slide (without a major hammer here...) the ball joint pinch bolt out. If its sticks a light tap is fine but don't damage the threads.
Step 5 - Pry Down
Step 6 - Remove the 3 small 13mm bolts (the nuts as shown are welded to the plate). If the heads of the bolt(s) break, don't worry.
MAKE A MARK TO LOCATE THE UPPER PLATE SO THE NEW ONE CAN BE LINED UP!
Step 7 - Remove the nut plate.
Grab that friend and have them pull out on the steering knuckle. Then you can slide out the joint. Don't pull more then you have to. You don't want to blow the CV joint apart.
Step 8 - Add blue thread locker to the threads of the new ball joint bolts. Make sure you install the lock washers on the bolts.
Step 9 - Grab your friend again, and reinstall the joint, nut plate, and bolts. Torque the 3 ball joint bolts to 26 ft lbs, and the main ball joint pinch bolt to 37 ft lbs, and the wheel to 81 ft lbs.
A job well done.
Review the Pre-alignment tips.