How To Repair the Upper and Lower Ball Joints on Your Imperial

Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Suspension -> Upper/Lower Ball Joints

Question from Kne:

Does anybody out there know how to get them dang ball-joints off?  I just whack 'em off with a pickle fork, then put on new rubbers....  but, I believe that you can get a cheap little puller from J.C.Whitney  that is more gentle and does not hurt the seals.  But the pickle fork has lots of other uses, makes a good strong pry-bar and comes in handy for whacking other things too! 


From Robert:

Pickle fork? On a ball joint? That'll get them loose from the steering  knuckle, but the ball joints are about 2-1/2 inch items threaded into the  upper control arms. You get those out with a pickle fork, I'll see you  in the strongman booth at the circus. If you don't get (buy, rent,  steal, manufacture) the right tool for this job, you might get the old  ones out with a giant channel-lock pliers, but you won't get the new ones  in with the correct torque. If you lived in Austin, I'd let you borrow  mine (or do it for you). I just drive down to San Antonio and walk into  the Snap-On warehouse and buy what I need. 

From Bob:

Here's what I've done twice in my 17 years of owning a '64 convertible. And this is not based on theory, it's fact. When it comes time to replace upper or lower ball joints on an Imperial, go to a wrecking yard, and secure a whole arm in good condition. Worst you'll have to do is replace rubber bushings, while the arm is off, but if you're lucky, you'll find a whole upper or lower arm complete with bushings and ball joints for around 50 bucks complete. I know I have done this twice, with excellent results, and minimal knuckle breaking. I find this to be the quickest and most painless way of replacing an upper or lower ball joint. Forget trying to unscrew a ball joint from an arm. This is a fantasy......Replace the whole arm ,,, that's the reality, and just keep on rollin'..... Of course, you will need only a tie rod end separator, and a Ball joint separator (pickle forks), but only to do the disassembly. You'll probably need a sledge hammer too...

From Paul:

I have several references on which ball joint socket is required, and where to get them. But in the end, that is not how we did it. The ball joint socket is rather expensive, as you might have figured out, so probably not worth buying. Another option might be to rent it from a tool rental place. Probably still not worth it. What we did in the end was take the control arms and new ball joints to a spring and suspension shop and have them remove and replace the ball joints for a nominal fee. You might also want to do that with the bushings, particularly the one on the lower control arm. It is a real bear to remove and replace due to the configuration of the arm. In any case, for reference, here is some info I received on the ball joints/sockets that various Mopars use. The important thing to get from this is that Imperials use the extra-large socket (and ball joint), otherwise reserved for trucks and vans. Early ('60-62) and late ('74-78) C-body (of which Imperial is one) also used them. Just as another note on a discussion that I didn't follow to closely: Body, as in "A,B,C,D,E", is a different concept than car line, as in "Y, etc". All Imperials from '57 to '73 can roughly be called "D-body", even though Chrysler didn't use the terminology a lot until after 1965. The '67-73 Imperials (D-bodies) do have some very significant differences from the Chryslers (C-bodies) of the same era, as anyone that has fooled with the front suspension soon finds out.

From Kerry:

Make sure you have the keep the nut on the end of the threads or the spring will fling you and itself halfway around the county. Some people keep a floor jack supporting the lower control arm so they can EASE the arm down once the ball joint is loose.

Question from Tony (1961):

Does anyone have any tips for removing lower control arm ball joints on a  '61  with the average tool kit? In theory, it looks simple, but I have a  feeling  these babies are not going to come loose without a struggle. 

Reply from Mike:

Yes, as Bob Merritt mentioned, you should be able to get both sizes of ball joint socket (need the larger one for your '61) at NAPA. BTW these look like a square drive with large radiused corners. Here's what I recommend with the average tool kit: Follow the FSM procedure: 1. Place a jack under the lower control arm and raise the vehicle. 2. Remove the wheel and tire. 3. Here the FSM calls for a spreader tool to separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle (after removing the nut), but instead you'll probably use a pickle fork to wedge this apart. Your auto parts store should have two sizes of these forks, the larger one for ball joints, and the smaller one for tie-rod ends. 4. Remove the ball joint dust cover and seal. 5. Here the FSM says to simply "unscrew the ball joint from the lower control arm and remove". In reality, these babies can require 1000 lb-ft of torque to unscrew. This translates into 250 lbs. of force on the end of a 4-ft. long cheater, so use a 1/2" breaker bar or a 3/4" drive ratchet if you have it, and a long pipe, and have faith that it WILL actually turn at some point. These things cut their own threads into the lower control arm, so they can be tight for several turns coming out, and going in. I recommend having a friend help turn the end of the cheater while you make sure the socket is securely engaged on the ball joint. {On my '60 Chrysler, my 6'-7" brother-in-law, Don Stratton ('62 Crowns, hardtop and convertible) helped supply CONSIDERABLE force on the end of a floor jack handle.} 6. FSM says to "screw the ball joint into control arm as far as possible by hand." Unless you're Arnold Swarzeneggar, that won't be very far, so it's critical to have the ball joint started squarely before applying torque from the wrench/cheater. Even if it's straight, you're likely to think you've got it cross-threaded. That's just the nature of these things: they have fine threads that will cut their own way back in to some degree. 7. Tighten the ball joint until it is seated against the control arm (I guarantee this will be more than the 125 lb-ft minimum suggested by the FSM!). You really want to have the front end solidly supported with jack stands during this whole procedure, because you will once again be pulling pretty hard on the wrench. 8. Slide the seal into position, over the stud, (carefully use channel locks to stretch the seal flange over the ball joint until seated against the bottom of the lower control arm), then position the stud in the steering knuckle. Install the washer and nut. Tighten to 135 lb-ft and install the cotter pin. 9. Lubricate the ball joint. 10. Reinstall the wheel and tire. I'm just an occasional hobbyist mechanic, but I've successfully rebuilt several of these suspensions, so you'll be able to do it, too. While you're at it, do you need/want to replace the control arm bushings, etc.?

Question from Elijah (1965):

What size socket will I need to replace a ball joint on my '65 LeBaron? 


From Larry:

I purchased just such a tool from -OTC- in February- I don't have the phone number- but- I did find the "packing slip" - the p/n is- MLR-C-3561 - WRENCH, UPPER BALL JOINT - one HD socket that requires 3/4" drive- (also fits lower ball joint)..-... (fits '65,'66,'74, Imps and '72 3/4 ton Dodge van too, probably a whole lot of other Mopars as well)....$27.27 plus S+H - very nice people to deal with as I remember.

From Ron:

Several tool manufacturers make these sockets. They are used on all
Chrysler products and Imperials..............If you don't want to purchase a socket and you are rebuilding the front suspension,
just pull the upper control arms and have the machine shop OR local front end shop remove the ball joint at the same time they are replacing the control arm bushings.
As long as you have the front end apart are you replacing the lower control arm bushings? It's a wise time to do it.

From Bob:

Moog is the name of the company that made the ball joint socket, not Miller. I bought the large size (for Imperials) and the small size (for Chryslers) from my local NAPA. Although that was 5 years ago, I imagine they can be obtained without much trouble.

Question from Bob (1968):

Does any one know what size socket I need to replace my upper ball joints on my '68 Imperial. Year One list two sizes but does not have 68 c body cars listed the sizes are . 1-15/16 2-1/8 


From Bill:

The correct ball joint size for Imperials is 2 9/64", Snap On part number S9479A, Miller/SPX part number C3561. I think the Year One socket size 2 1/8 is just a sloppy nomenclature and would probably work, because the next size down for Mopars is 1 59/64 for B, E, and disc A bodies. Miller was cheaper than Year One last time I looked,

 From Rob:

The 2 9/64", Snap On part number S9479A, Miller/SPX part number C3561 you specified for the '68 works for the '64-'66s as well.

Question from Robin (1972):

Anyone know where I can get ball joint boots for a '72 Imperial? Normal places like NAPA don't seem to have them.


From Kenyon:

There is an international conspiracy to prevent you from getting them anywhere but atop a brand new ball joint, which is $40.

Call Energy Suspension, the polyurethane bushing people. Ask for the largest that they have, perhaps it was full size chrysler. You'll have to use a blade to hollow out the hole, but they work fine. Ask for black or you'll get red. It won't look like it will work till you get it on and smash it down, splaying the skirt out.

It's not expensive, either.

From William:

Considering that if the boot has deteriorated and cracked, it could well be that foreign materials/liquids have gotten inside and might be deteriorating the internal workings too--maybe even allowed some grit to be embedded in the wear surfaces that will cause quicker wear than normal. Considering that if you already have to disassemble things to install the new boot, you're already most of the way "there" to replacing the joint, might it also make good sense to go ahead and replace the joint with a new one and be done with it? A small investment might lead to greater piece of mind in the future too, even if you need to figure in the cost of a fresh front end alignment into the mix too.

Otherwise, you might find some via the "HELP" parts rack at most auto supplies, or listed in the MotorMite catalog. I somewhat doubt that they will be of the same quality rubber that would be used by Moog or Perfect Circle or similar. Maybe you need to find an auto supply with an older catalog and someone that knows how to use it, with all due respect? In the current times of large scale consolidations and buyouts of auto supply stores and distributors, finding an old line, entrenched auto supply that does a large volume can be a real find, especially if they have "motivated" employees AND a stack of old paper catalogs archived somewhere.

One distributor told me that Moog had a warehouse of nothing but New Old Stock parts they used to make. Not everyone knew about it either, but those that did dare to go ahead and order some of the older parts from them got things they figured were long gone. Only restriction is that if it is bought, all sales are final. I'm not sure if it's still around or not, but it might be worth a try.

As "universal" as NAPA might be, the stores might have some regional restrictions of where they can get some of their parts. For example, a store owner in East Texas told me that they would not let him buy his AC-Delco items from a warehouse distributor in Dallas (which had more stock, was cheaper, and gave better service) but instead had to use a distributor in a Texas/Louisiana border town (smaller, less stock, poorer order fill rate, etc.). Similar situations might exist with other product lines they carry too.

Question from Mike (1981-1983):

Does anyone on the list have experience with the replacement of ball joints and front end parts on the 81 Imperial? My Imp road wanders as if it were very loose in the front end. I have checked alignment and that isn't the problem. There is no play in the power steering unit. If ball joints are the problem, should I try to do this myself, or have a mechanic do the job?

Reply from Imperial 1981:

It just may be the K frame isolators..........they get old and crack and allow the frame to move around. There are two fixed and I have done both......polygraphite or cast iron. Personally I like cast iron better. One of the suspension places has them ...............either Just Suspensions or PST.........

Follow-up question from Rob:

What are the drawbacks of each? Do they squeak or just give a harsher ride?

Reply from Jack:

I had the cast iron ones on my last '81. I really liked the feel overall. It gave the front end an 'all of one piece' feel, and significantly improved steering precision, etc. you lose that sense of more than one mass vibrating separately over large bumps and "Brooklyn pot holes" Since there's nothing that really moves relative to each other (unlike a suspension bushing) there's nothing to creak or squeak. downside?? not much by my taste. A bit more vibration in the wheel, (which coupled with the increased sense of being connected to the road, was actually welcome) also a bit more aware of the engine vibration, though not too much.

Loses that road mush feel.

Mopar Performance used to make the cast iron ones, and I haven't seen them around since I got my most recent Imperial. I'm going to be having this done soon, so I'll probably go with the poly bushings... I'll submit a full report when completed.

Reply from Imperial 1981:

The only drawbacks I have found are that it will hold a front end alignment, it will handle much better, you have more road feel.................basically there are no drawbacks that I have seen going either preference is the cast you back that old torsion bar ride..........and the handling is way improved!

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