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Over the weekend I discovered that the ball joint on the left side of my '92 Legacy was shot.  I mentally prepared for the "drill" but for the first time in my life the pinch bolt unscrewed without any drama whatsoever!  Took a total of about 20 minutes to replace the ball joint.  I just had to share this. 

 

Hey, I haven't been around here lately. Another face lift I see.

 

Mike V.

 

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There's really honestly no reason to ever break the pinch bolt off. Soaking it for a few days with PB helps, but that's not always an option. I heat it good and hot (I don't have oxy/ace, just mapp gas), douse it with PB, heat it some more. And wrench on it CAREFULLY!!!! Don't go BAP BAP BAP BAP with the gun, go at it CAREFULLY by hand. If it's not coming with low to moderate force. Heat it more, PB blast it more, etc. Heat breaks rust bonds, cooling it with the oil draws the oil in lubricating things. This makes it come out easier, not gall the threads, and to break off. Breaking fasteners off on a whole can be avoided almost all of the time by patience and heat.

Breaking the pinch bolt is just plain stupid and can be avoided by being careful.

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I have followed your described procedures in the past and still had the pinch bolts break, stupid.

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The bolt won't break if you don't hamfist it. It's that simple.

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there is hope!!! 

 

penetrating oil doesn't always get it for me either, but it's only now and again that they're really bad.  it's just hard when it's random, like you do'nt expect it. even the $20 a can YIELD or other stuff.  some stuff is so rusted and compromised the head bolt is round thereby rending sockets useless and the shafts are equally decrepit. bolts are seized in bushings like rear suspension or older gen control arms, ball joints are rust welded into knuckles are probably my least favorite, i've seen those so bad that no trick online gets them out.  remove knuckle, bash joint, drill out the remaining top all integrated into the knuckle from corrossion.  no way those would budge with anything...or you'd have to heat the knuckle up i'm not sure i'd want that around the bearings.  granted those are one in a couple/few dozen that are that bad, no where near the norm, but i've seen it that bad even on 8 year old Subarus which are pretty new and in great shape....you just never know.

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GG - Random is right!  This '92 is older than the ones that I have done in the past and in past the bolt always failed.  On this one, I sprayed it with P B Blaster about 5 or 6 times over the course of about 8 hours.  I had the torch out ready to heat the area but first I decided to put some some gentle torque on it just for the heck of it.  I actually started out by applying torque in the TIGHTENING direction, and with just moderate torque it budged! It then unscrewed, no sweat.  I think the on the ones I have done in the past the shank of the bolt had become one with the "clearance" hole through the knuckle.  On those I tried PB Blaster, Kroil, heat, cooling, time, prayer, cursing and sweet talk all to no avail.

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I honestly don't understand the whole thing with tightening before even trying to loosen. If you're gonna go back and forth with it, at least start off going the right way.

I have had the pinch bolts with no heads left when I worked in the shop. I just welded a nut to it, heated it good and hot with the oxy/ace, and it came out. 

 

I hate getting ball joints out. Almost every time it turns into an ordeal, and flat rate doesn't account for things like using a die grinder to get the balljoint shell out of the knuckle after the whole assembly falls apart....

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I

I hate getting ball joints out. Almost every time it turns into an ordeal, and flat rate doesn't account for things like using a die grinder to get the balljoint shell out of the knuckle after the whole assembly falls apart....

boo on you!  you're supposed to have a good trick for me on that one!!!!  so you've seen those too...those are painfully slow and tedious.

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boo on you!  you're supposed to have a good trick for me on that one!!!!  so you've seen those too...those are painfully slow and tedious.

 

There is one trick I figured out in desperation changing a balljoint on the side of the road. Pull the dust boot off. And get a big pipe/monkey wrench. 

You can grab the balljoint shell just around the collar that sticks out from the bottom of the knuckle. Twist the piss out of it, and MOST of the time that'll snap it free and it'll just come out. 

This also works when you have a knuckle on the bench, you can do it in a vice.

If you have a spanner wrench or chisel, etc you can CAREFULLY and VERY SLIGHTLY open the crack in the knuckle. Like 1thou, or you'll break it. But that's often enough to get a bit of PB blaster in there. This is probably not recommended.

Another thing I've done is use a saw or thin cutting disc and cut the balljoint shell open between the slit in the knuckle (you know where the pinch bolt goes through). Now you can shove a screwdriver or punch or whatever and bend the casing a bit, this can help break up the rust and then you can twist it out.

The thing I usually try first is a bigass prybar between the control arm and bottom of the knuckle. A lot of the time this will break it free.

 

I did however break 2 ribs doing this when the prybar slipped out and I landed down on the front bumper of my GL....

 

Oh I almost forgot. I have a tool I made. It was a steel sleeve that was just bigger than the OD of the balljoint that sat down against the knuckle. It had a screw with a coupling that attached to the threads on the balljoint. And I had a hex head made to the top of the threaded rod. Hold it still while tightening a locknut and it would just suck the thing straight out. That worked fairly well most of the time. Sadly I have no pics of the tool, and it's in storage.

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The tool you describe can be bought from Snap On for about $125.

 

Oh really? Huh. I didn't know such a thing existed. I thought it was a unique invention. Heh. Mine only cost a couple bucks because I had most of the bits in the scrap metal pile.

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There is one trick I figured out in desperation changing a balljoint on the side of the road. Pull the dust boot off. And get a big pipe/monkey wrench. 

You can grab the balljoint shell just around the collar .

 

that sounds like average rust.  doesn't sound like you've seen a really bad one yet.  there's a similar method to your tool, pic's are online - wedge a socket between the knuckle and control arm...and it does the same thing. nut draws ball joint out.  unless it's really bad rust - then the bolt turns, threads strip, shear off...

 

really bad ones i've seen would never come out by simple twisting or tool.  with knuckle removed and dozens..if not a hundred....blows to that same ridge with huge hammer/chisel the ball joints don't budge and the ball joint just begins to break away and shatter into small pieces.  there's no way i could apply twisting force with my hands anywhere near what that chisel can do after a 100 impacts of a massive hammer.  it's a huge investment in time to chisel them out piecemeal and it sucks.

 

but truthfully most aren't like that - most are just annoying and take some extra grunt, tool, etc - it's only one every dozen or few that are that bad, so most people probably haven't seen them.  but when I do...it's a PITA because i don't plan for it.

 

i'm surprised you're not seeing rust of this sort being in maine..coastal?  odd.  we have it down here that's for sure and i'm not under the impression that our area is as bad as others since they don't use as much salt here. it's awful and no tool will get those ball joints out.  maybe a blue wrench if you want to test the bearings.

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I honestly don't understand the whole thing with tightening before even trying to loosen. If you're gonna go back and forth with it, at least start off going the right way.

It does work sometimes, Before I break out the torches, I always try tightening something if it won't budge at all the 'right' way. It actually compresses the rust just a bit so it can fracture and free up just enough.. Once you get a little movement, you can go back and forth and pick up some heat just from the friction and a little penetrating oil helps once it's hot enough...  I have pulled some very crusty fasterners off some very old cars that way. Often I just tighten first.

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the tightening thing doesn't make sense in my head either - but it does seem to work.  most frequent use i've had for that is on older generation intake manifolds which are notorious for shearing off and there's no access to get penetrating oil to them.

 

i generally avoid heat on those - that makes them shear quicker on the intake manifold.  continuously work them and they shear...work them just a few turns, come back later, let them cool down, work a few more, come back later....work a few more...at least for intake manifold bolts that's more successful.  maybe depends on alumninum, metal, length, installation, what's exposed, how it's rusted, etc.

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that sounds like average rust.  doesn't sound like you've seen a really bad one yet.  there's a similar method to your tool, pic's are online - wedge a socket between the knuckle and control arm...and it does the same thing. nut draws ball joint out.  unless it's really bad rust - then the bolt turns, threads strip, shear off...

 

really bad ones i've seen would never come out by simple twisting or tool.  with knuckle removed and dozens..if not a hundred....blows to that same ridge with huge hammer/chisel the ball joints don't budge and the ball joint just begins to break away and shatter into small pieces.  there's no way i could apply twisting force with my hands anywhere near what that chisel can do after a 100 impacts of a massive hammer.  it's a huge investment in time to chisel them out piecemeal and it sucks.

 

but truthfully most aren't like that - most are just annoying and take some extra grunt, tool, etc - it's only one every dozen or few that are that bad, so most people probably haven't seen them.  but when I do...it's a PITA because i don't plan for it.

 

i'm surprised you're not seeing rust of this sort being in maine..coastal?  odd.  we have it down here that's for sure and i'm not under the impression that our area is as bad as others since they don't use as much salt here. it's awful and no tool will get those ball joints out.  maybe a blue wrench if you want to test the bearings.

It does get that bad up here. Seen it many times, but I used to work in a Subaru specific shop for a few years, and have worked on a lot on my own time as well. 

 

It does work sometimes, Before I break out the torches, I always try tightening something if it won't budge at all the 'right' way. It actually compresses the rust just a bit so it can fracture and free up just enough.. Once you get a little movement, you can go back and forth and pick up some heat just from the friction and a little penetrating oil helps once it's hot enough...  I have pulled some very crusty fasterners off some very old cars that way. Often I just tighten first.

I have seen several veteran mechanics use the tighten first method, and been successful with it.

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I just failed my inspection due to a bad ball joint.  My shop quoted me $150 to do the job.  What do you guys think?  I have had many horrible days with sheered off bolt heads on the this car in that general hub, caliper, and suspension area.  I'm in the seacoast area of NH where we salt things liberally.  Is $150 worth the money to let someone else deal with it?  I figure about $50 in parts to do it myself for a ball park so I'm giving up $100 in savings and maybe a lot of frustration and grief.  Thanks for any opinions.

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A balljoint costs $15, so you're saying they're charging $135 on labor to do a balljoint... That seems kinda steep to me. It depends how much you wanna frig around with it.

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I guess it doesn't hurt to give it a try.  Maybe I'll get lucky and the bolt will come right out????   Do I need any other parts/supplies or just the ball joint and maybe a new cotter pin?  Grease?  Prescription drugs?

 

Thanks 

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DO NOT BREAK THE PINCH BOLT. You'll hate your life if you break it.

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I'll start soaking it tonight and maybe give it a try on Thursday or Friday.  If the pinch bolt doesn't go easy I'll leave it for the pros.  Thanks for the advice and I'll come back with the results.  Any other advice is always welcome, of course.  

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The last one I did someone had used some sort of epoxy on the threads. The knuckle had a fine crack in it at the top of the ball joint hole where they had used a chisel to spread the ears where the pinch bolt goes through, so I knew someone had been in there before. I tried everything, including heating the tab where the threads are glowing hot. The bolt would not move. I ended up snapping it off where the threads start, so i got that half of the bolt out. Then I drilled the core out of the other half until it was just threads, then used a pick and chisel to pull out the remaining bits of the bolt. The threads in the knuckle were still fine, they just had a thin hard layer of black stuff on them. I ran a tap through them and the new bolt torqued down fine, with anti-seize this time.

 

It's not the first time I've found the black hard layer of mysterious bonding agent on this car. They had put it on the axle splines on the other side. We ended up having to make a puller to press the axle out of the hub and it took so much pressure it mushroomed the end of a 5/8" grade 8 bolt pushing on the end of the axle. When it finally popped, no rust, just the black layer.

 

I don't know what they were thinking applying this stuff, but they deserve a swift kick in the nuts for doing it. I just hope it doesn't turn up in more places on the car.

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