I am going to show youthe easiest way (IMO) to replace the factory upper ball joints on a 2004(may be the same on other models) Dodge Dakota CC 4wd 4.7.
1. The first thing you want to do is park on a flat level area and making sure the truck is in gear(manual) or park. Chock the rear wheels.
2. Then you want to break the wheel lugs loose before you jack up the vehicle but dont remove them yet. Get a floor jack and position it under the lower control arm.
3. Once the wheel is jacked up high enough so it can be removed, take and put a jackstand under the frame behind the tire somehwere. Preferably just in front of the tranny/tcase crossmember area of the frame
4. Then you may fully remove the wheel from the vehicle. This is what you will be looking at.
5. You need to remove the circle cotter pin and nut from the bottom of the ball joint.
6. Next you want to use a pickle fork as shown and slide it between the upper ball joint and the steering knuckle and hit it with a big hammer. Once it is all the way in there you may need to hit down on the top of the pickle fork to pop it loose.
7. Should pop loose and look like this
8. Next you will need to remove the rivets from the top of the ball joint where it mounts to the upper control arm. I used a oxygen/acetylene torch but you can use a grinder, sawzall, or drill. Torch was the easiest to me. If you use the torch make sure you have proper eye protection and put something over the CV axles below it to protect the boots from the flame. I used two pieces of plate steel. Be sure to not damage the upper control arm either.
9. You may need to give it a couple of good smacks with the hammer to finish knocking out the rivets but it should look like this when removed. When it cooled down, i shot it with some rustoleum paint.
10. Here's the ball joint removed. NOTE* make sure to keep a little water close by as the old grease may catch fire on you.
11. Then it's time to install the replacement ball joint. Note that the new on is much easier to replace as there are just bolts instead of rivets to mount it to the UCA. The small silver thing that is in the new box screws into the middle of the top of the new ball joint. It is called a zerk fitting and is so you can service(pump in fresh grease) the new ball joint
12. Take the provided 3 bolts and nuts and secure them to through the existing holes
13. After you have it securely mounted the upper control arm, pump the jack up a few more times and position the lower threaded part into the hole on top of the knuckle. Make sure to have the nut handy once you get enough of the threads through for it to catch. Tight all the way down and install the cotter pin like so. You may need a hand to help you on this step if you cant get it.
14. After all is reattached, then reinstall the tire(lift with you legs not your back). Remove the jackstand and lower the jack to the ground and pat yourself on the back. you just saved yourself hundreds of $$$$
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It is a nice write up. Just to make it a little easier. Don't use heat, instead with a die grider with a cutting wheel. Cut cross's on top of the rivets and then knock them off with a air chisel. And i also agree, use a swing press or BFH (hammer) to remove the upper ball joint from the spindle. I will go ahead a make this post into a sticky as you request.
Well as i said it was the easiest way in my opinion. I dont have air tools. I did try to use my grinder but i didnt have any cutting wheels. I did list other things that could be an option. It didnt take me any time with the torch. Also if you are removing the ball joint from the spindle and reusing them then no do not use a pickle fork. But otherwise what does it matter? it is what it is designed for.
When removing the upper control arm the other day I did just whack the UCA a couple of times and the ball joint popped out bc I didn't want to damage the boot on the new one. But if you are replacing them then I just use a pickle fork. It's a lot easier to me too.
Just jack up the front wheels and shake the tires. Notice any play and where the movement is coming from. I always like to try and replace them at the same time(upper and lower) if time/ money allows bc you already have everything apart. But at least do the uppers or lowers at the same time if you are going to do once. Uppers usually come first in my opinion.
I'll have to check for that, I've got a good amount of play in my steering wheel and I'm working from the outside in to eliminate the play, these will probably be my next point to check, thanks for the help!