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freetors
freetors New Reader
1/7/18 5:12 p.m.

A year or so ago I bought the harbor freight ball joint press (the big c-clamp deal) along with the master adapter kit that goes with it. Since then I've tried using it on several vehicles and have so far found precisely zero cars that this works satisfactorily on.  I have a degree in mech engineering and this thing makes me feel like I'm a moron. First of all the myriad of adapters never seem to fit anything. Secondly, I'm pretty sure the people that wrote the instructions never actually had to use the thing because nothing really works like they say. Thirdly, it takes three or four hands to hold all the adapters together. Fourthly, I also believe that the machining on many of the adapters is incorrect. Some of them should (I think) have pockets machined into them to locate themselves on the rotating part of the screw. Others that have through holes should have something different I think. It just seems like none of the parts were really made to work with each other. IMO, most or all the adapters should have little nesting locating steps on them to keep everything lined up. And speaking of keeping things lined up, it's almost impossible to drive anything in straightly.

 

What I really want is a universal ball joint press that comes with enough pieces to do 95% of cars on the road and do it efficiently. Is there anything out there that does that? If I had a lathe I could probably whip up my own adapters  but I don't.

 

I also have the harbor freight front end service kit and have similar feeling about it. The majority of the time the tools can't even fit into the locations they need to fit in!

Cousin_Eddie
Cousin_Eddie Reader
1/7/18 5:30 p.m.

The OTC version is made in the USA and doesn't flex like the Chinese ones do. I've used mine to put ball joints into a whole lot of vehicles. It works well.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
1/7/18 5:35 p.m.

I haven’t had any issues with it on ball joints or universal joints.  It’s a pain with the adapters and cups but the American one I rented from the parts store had all the same bits

93gsxturbo
93gsxturbo Dork
1/7/18 5:37 p.m.

The OTC or even the Powerbuilt versions you can rent from AutoVanceReily's work really well.  A few tips:

This is one tool I prefer to rent rather than buy.  I always seem to inflict a lot of wear to it.

  • Make sure the screw part is well-lubed.
  • I prefer to use my trusty Ingersoll-Rand IR2135Ti  impact for all actual tightening and loosening, even though you are not supposed to - also why I like a rental.
  • Set the air line pressure as high as it goes - to 11 if possible.
  • The adapters are somewhat install or removal specific, and the only way I have figured it out is by experience and common sense.  I wouldnt bother with instructions other than righty tighty and lefty loosey.
  • Make sure you remove any snap rings or grease zerks before attempting removal of a ball joint.
  • A little heat on the part surrounding the balljoint can be very handy.  I like to get the item in compression then apply heat to the surrounding material with MAPP gas.
  • Freezing the new joints before install will help.
  • Deburr/emery the bores before attempting installation.  
  • Always wear your safety glasses.
Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro PowerDork
1/7/18 5:45 p.m.

I have the OTC one at work and the China one at home.

I've done plenty of 4wd and 2wd front ends with it as well as more universal joints than I care to remember.

They both work the same and they both work fine.

Are you sure you're using it correctly?

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
1/7/18 6:18 p.m.

"Some of them should (I think) have pockets machined into them to locate themselves on the rotating part of the screw."

 

The above suggests you are doing it wrong.  The only aggravation I ever have with my OTC is if the a frame is not flat. The only part that ever sits on the screw is the stepped pushing plate that is designed for it.  All the adapters go onto one of the two stepped plates.

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro PowerDork
1/7/18 7:13 p.m.

Are you trying to press the ball joint shaft out of the spindle with this thing? Because that's not what it's for.

This tool is built to remove ball joint assemblies from control arms and axle assemblies.

Like this:

 

If you're trying to get the balljoint shaft out of a spindle you need this:

Or this:

 

For what it's worth, I've NEVER had this method fail to work. It was shown to me by and old-timer and beats using a pickle fork by a mile:

DWNSHFT
DWNSHFT Dork
1/7/18 7:32 p.m.
 

For what it's worth, I've NEVER had this method fail to work. It was shown to me by and old-timer and beats using a pickle fork by a mile:

Are you simultaneously banging opposite sides of the spindle?  I want to know all the secrets of this.

Donebrokeit
Donebrokeit SuperDork
1/7/18 7:38 p.m.

After going through 6 different ball joint presses I broke down and bought the Snap on press. Yes it is very expensive but it's the best one I have ever owned.

 

https://store.snapon.com/Ball-Joint-Presses-Set-Master-Ball-Joint-Universal-Joint-Press-22pc-P644058.aspx

freetors
freetors New Reader
1/7/18 7:41 p.m.
Streetwiseguy said:

"Some of them should (I think) have pockets machined into them to locate themselves on the rotating part of the screw."

 

The above suggests you are doing it wrong.  The only aggravation I ever have with my OTC is if the a frame is not flat. The only part that ever sits on the screw is the stepped pushing plate that is designed for it.  All the adapters go onto one of the two stepped plates.

Actually I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it right! I've done some research and it looks like my kit was assembled incorrectly. Those two big stepped cone things that it comes with, my kit has two identical ones, the one with the giant hole in it. So the pressing end of the screw just goes right through. That's just great.

freetors
freetors New Reader
1/7/18 7:47 p.m.
Trans_Maro said:

Are you trying to press the ball joint shaft out of the spindle with this thing? Because that's not what it's for.

This tool is built to remove ball joint assemblies from control arms and axle assemblies.

Like this:

For what it's worth, I've NEVER had this method fail to work. It was shown to me by and old-timer and beats using a pickle fork by a mile:

Yes, I'm definitely using it for its intended purpose.

And as for the hammer trick, I do it whenever I can but it seems like most of the cars I've worked have had insufficient room around them to do that. The vehicle that started today's tirade was the upper ball joint of a 2000 silverado 1500 with coil spring front suspension. I don't think you could do that with this spindle because A) there's no room for a hammer and B) the casting around the taper is like 3/4" thick in the radial direction.

TenToeTurbo
TenToeTurbo Dork
1/7/18 7:48 p.m.
DWNSHFT said:
 

For what it's worth, I've NEVER had this method fail to work. It was shown to me by and old-timer and beats using a pickle fork by a mile:

Are you simultaneously banging opposite sides of the spindle?  I want to know all the secrets of this.

I was taught this method as well. Just beat on the vertically flat curved surface with a BFH. Always works for me. 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
1/7/18 7:52 p.m.

In reply to freetors :

Yeah, that'll do it!

rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
1/7/18 9:00 p.m.
Cousin_Eddie said:

The OTC version is made in the USA and doesn't flex like the Chinese ones do. I've used mine to put ball joints into a whole lot of vehicles. It works well.

Agreed, the OTC press works pretty well.  Makes a good u-joint press too. 

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
1/7/18 9:36 p.m.

Ball joint presses are very much like shop presses in that they are only as good as the tricks you come up with to MAKE them work. 

Many tricks mentioned already. One thing i tend to do when pressing is to load it up and then hit the part you are pressing into/out of with a hammer, and smack the hell out of the drive end of the threaded rod (where you're turning it).  There have been many, many times where i loaded the press up to the point i was worried about something breaking, and then started tapping around with the hammer and progress resumed. 

But yes, it is awkward and unintuitive pretty much every time. You just get used to the fact that your brain does most of the work, not the actual tool. You just work with it and figure it out. 

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro PowerDork
1/7/18 9:57 p.m.

Yes, your kit sounds messed up. 

The stepped plate with the small hole gets used for just about everything.

SkinnyG
SkinnyG SuperDork
1/7/18 10:34 p.m.

Not surprising.  I've opened more than a few kits where parts were packaged incorrectly.  If at all.

Would Harbor Freight be kind enough to recognize your issue and help? I mean, if you have TWO identical parts, you're likely not trying to scam them.  Doesn't cost anything to ask.

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
1/8/18 12:25 a.m.
Donebrokeit said:

After going through 6 different ball joint presses I broke down and bought the Snap on press. Yes it is very expensive but it's the best one I have ever owned.

 

https://store.snapon.com/Ball-Joint-Presses-Set-Master-Ball-Joint-Universal-Joint-Press-22pc-P644058.aspx

QFT. I may have been $600 when I bought it but it still has yet to not work. And it’s taken impacts without flinching, even when it clearly says not to use them....

daeman
daeman Dork
1/8/18 4:22 a.m.

In reply to DWNSHFT:

No need to bang both sides simultaneously in a lot of instance's, a good solid whack or several with a bfh on one side is usually enough to jar the taper loose. Essentially you're temporarily knocking the hole out of round which forces the round peg out. Probably don't do this on aluminium parts....

Just a tip, leave the nut threaded on the end of the ball joint a few turns so if you miss with the hammer, you don't bugger up the threads 

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
1/8/18 5:13 a.m.

I had the HF unit pictured above and did several vehicles with it over the years including the F250. I eventually broke it in half doing the Mustang. After breaking it I learned about greasing the threads, lol. I also learned when you get it really loaded up lightly tapping the side of the threaded area of the clamp body encourages the screw to rotate without binding. Since then ice just been getting the Powerbilt one from advance auto.

 

Figuring out which adapters I should be using always takes a while and always makes me feel like a bumbling idiot. You really have to think about the movement involved, access, and all that. Holding them all in place to make it happen is then also a pain in the ass. 

 

The BFH method was actually listed in the Ford factory service manual for the F250, including hammer size and detailed drawings of where to hit it. I found on the Jeep that tightening up the press and then whacking the press with a BFH in line with the screw load was required.

 

Bottom line is that it's always a PITA and the most important part is your ability to figure out the method. Oh, and that part your kit us missing.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse UltraDork
1/8/18 7:26 a.m.

OP said in the first post that he has a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  That right there tells you all you need to know about the source of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

devil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(written by a guy who has not just one, but _TWO_ degrees in Mechanical Engineering.)

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
1/8/18 7:59 a.m.

Even with the stupid factory SSTs, a lot of ball joints are just PITAs.  Ultimately, the best track record is 2 people...have one pry down on the arm with a LONG prybay and have someone else give a good sharp thwack on the side of the control arm with a 3lb hammer.  If that doesn't work, hit it harder.  

Obviously this only works on cast iron pieces.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
1/9/18 10:35 p.m.

No need to bang both sides simultaneously in a lot of instance's

As far as the two hammers thing, i would say USUALLY you are not actually swinging both hammers. All you're really doing with the second hammer is adding mass/inertia to the thing you are hitting with the first hammer.   

All of these suspension components we are smacking are mounted on flexible bushings and have other forms of flex. Some of these components can move around a LOT with a hammer blow, especially if the suspension is already partially unhooked/disassembled. Often times, the hammer blow will essentially go right into a piece of rubber bushing instead of deforming the metal where you are actually  hitting it.   

The other hammer is a backstop. It's supposed to stop the struck piece from simply moving away from the hammer blow.  

Another thing about the word deforming here is that it's mostly temporary/instantaneous. All metal has some amount of elasticity to it. These hammer blows may be superficially deforming the spot that we're hammering on in a permanent way, but the deformation of the hole the ball joint goes through is usually tiny and temporary. When you separate the ball joint from the spindle/arm,  you'll find the hole will have 'bounced back' and still be acceptably round. Not much worry of permanent damage to the arm/spindle, much more worry of permanent damage to the things you hit when you miss, like back of a brake rotor, dust shields, CV axle boot, wheel speed sensor, etc.

freetors
freetors New Reader
1/9/18 10:37 p.m.

I ended up buying another kit at harbor freight. This one actually had all the correct pieces in it. And as a bonus all the parts seemed to be machined MUCH better. Even the c-clamp looked beefier. I'm going to give it another go soon and try returning the junk set.

docwyte
docwyte SuperDork
1/10/18 8:53 a.m.

I tried the hammer trick on my M3 front control arm ball joints.  Hammered the ever loving crap out of one, no go, had to pick up the pickle fork.  Other side the hammer trick worked fine?

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