1981 CJ7 Restoration - 2020.03.28

Getting back to the Jeep after about 3 months off - it's ski season, but it has been cut short due to COVID-19. As part of my social distancing and self-quarantine practice, I've gotten back to restoring the Jeep and have made some pretty good progress. Remember those front axles? Also, remember how I bought another Spicer U-joint to give me 4 more chances to get it right? Well, I managed to bugger up another end cap, but got the job done - whew!

Complete front axle shafts, finally!

To get the front steering knuckles completed, I decided to invest in a ball joint press kit. $90 at Harbor Freight and I had the kit in hand. It seemed like a lot of money, but I'm a big fan of having the right tools.

The photos aren't exactly matched to my procedures, but after seeing some anecdotes on the interwebs I decided I needed to remove the lower ball joints that I already installed and start fresh. It looked like the guidance was to install the upper ball joints first, using the hole for the lower ball joints to run the jack screw through. What no one mentions is that the upper ball joint area, inside the knuckle, is not flat, so there is nowhere to firmly anchor the tool to press in the upper ball joint. I tried this and ended up installing one of the upper ball joints cockeyed, partially. This was very alarming and I was able to knock it out, but wow, what am I going to do now?

I decided to reinstall the lower ball joints, which now don't fit as tight until you get to the end of the operation, so hopefully nothing has been compromised. The crappy thing is that I did not need to uninstall them, but such is life.

Putting the lower ball joints back in after taking them out, which I did NOT have to do, or did I?

The ball joint press is a very heavy duty C-clamp and it weighs quite a bit, making it very cumbersome to maneuver by yourself. After situating it in a vise, I got things lined up, but man does it take some force to get things to move. What you see below is an 18" breaker bar with a 3-foot steel pipe on the end to give me the leverage I needed to apply enough torque.

One of the most valuable tools in my garage, a 3-foot steel pipe.

Earlier I thought that the $90 ball joint press kit was too much money spent, but I take that back. Just the adapters and spacers alone are worth the money for a number of reasons. First and foremost, being able to create a straight line of force onto the upper ball joint, without damaging the part. Again, it took some effort - my 12-ton press was starting to lean and buckle, but it got the job done.

Installing the upper ball joints with the 12-ton press.

In hindsight, maybe I did need to remove the lower ball joints? The amount of force required to install the upper ball joints was impressive. Maybe it would've popped the lower ball joints out? Not sure, but it doesn't matter now. I used the ball joint press and breaker bar/steel pipe combo to reinstall the lower ball joints and it went quite smoothly.

Reinstalling the lower ball joints.

I was really concerned with how to get this done, but now it's done. Thank goodness!

Complete steering knuckles, ready to be attached to the axle yokes.

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