While I waited for the engine to get back from the machine shop I decided to do more front end work. I installed the Pro Comp 4-inch lift on the front suspension and thought this would be a good time to inspect and repair the Jeep’s front end, especially with easy access like this.
By the look of things I was convinced none of this has been touched since the Jeep was new. I decided to replace the 36 year-old ball joints, the U joints in the front axles, go through the front hubs, repack the wheel bearings and check the brakes. I also want to drain the front axle, replace the pinion seal and refill the axle with new gear oil. I plan to use this Jeep as a daily driver so fixing things now will save me headaches down the road.
The first step, after jacking it up and removing the tires, was to remove the brake calipers, the brake rotors, disassemble the front hubs, remove the spindles and the axles. Other than dealing with some rusty bolts it came apart fairly easy, and I was surprised to see a good amount of grease on the bearings and front hubs. But now that it’s apart it only makes sense to clean the wheel bearings and races so I can check their condition and then repack the bearings and replace the wheel seals.
I realized the only way I was going to remove the lower ball joint was by removing the entire steering knuckle. I used a small pitman arm puller to separate the tie rod ends from the steering knuckle. I usually use an old pickle fork but this new puller worked great. I did need to use the fork to break the ball joints loose from the steering knuckle though. Eventually I got the steering knuckles removed and can do the rest of the job at the vice.
I rented a ball joint remover set from the auto parts store and soon discovered it wasn’t ideal for removing Jeep CJ7 ball joints. It took a little creativity to make the tool work and to figure out which ball joint to remove and then install first so I had room for the tool. After getting the new ball joints pressed in I decided to use the ball joint tool to remove the old U joints from the front axles before turning the tool in.
I got the new ball joints pressed in. Now it will take another day or so to clean all these parts up, sand, prime and paint some things and to do the reassembly. All in all I’ll be glad I did this after the Jeep is all put back together. Next I want to remove the T176 transmission and try to figure out why it’s popping out of gear. I never rebuilt a manual transmission, but I am considering it after seeing how much they charge for a rebuild. I can get the rebuild kit for about $130 and they want $800 to $1000 for a rebuilt T176. That seems ridiculous to me unless it’s a lot harder than it looks.
Mark J. Polk
Auto Education 101