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Dana 50 balljoints... and a whole lot more.

Discussion in 'IDI Tech Article' started by BrandonMag, Apr 19, 2011.

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  1. BrandonMag

    BrandonMag Dana 50 rebuilder Supporting Member

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    I bought a set of Toyo M/Ts from Les Schwab's (a fairly large West Coast tire chain for you easterners) last year and racked up about 7K miles on them. They offer a free rotation service and recommend you rotate your tires every 5K miles. So a couple of weeks ago I took the F250 in and had them rotated. When the tire guy was finished, he called me up to the front counter and told me that my tires were rotated but two of my four balljoints were shot and since one on each side needed to be replaced it'd be a good idea to replace all four. Made sense to me. He hands me an estimate for how much it would cost, and I was looking at a $500 bill. Sweet! :rolleyes:

    Seeing as how I've got some time off right now, I figured I could replace the balljoints myself and save a few bucks. Turned out I was right, but what a job this turned into! I'm glad I boned up on my D50 knowledge here before I attempted to do this, otherwise I would never have been able to complete this task! One of the more informative posts I've come across: http://www.frontiernet.net/~jmray/F250BallJoints.htm

    (These pics were taken from the passenger side unless otherwise noted.)

    This is what it looked like when I started:

    [​IMG]

    Pretty typical front tire shot. When I went to NAPA earlier to pick up tools and parts, this is what they sold me for the Dana 50 locknuts:

    [​IMG]

    And this is what it looked like when I tried to use it:

    [​IMG]

    It's kinda hard to tell, but the inner diameter of the socket was too small to go over the axleshaft. Back to NAPA I went, and they had the larger diameter socket in stock, but it was in their 'Service Tool' line and they wanted $50 for it. That's a bit much for a specialty tool I'm only going to use once. I finally tracked the proper sized one down at O'Reilly's for $20. It's made in China, but at least I could now move forward. Here's where it got interesting:

    [​IMG]

    I read up on how if the spindle isn't coming off, 'more violence is needed.' I figured that I'd follow the tips and tricks that I'd read about on here and after some struggling I'd have the spindle off. HA! Getting that damn spindle off involved two pullers, a jack, multiple blocks of wood, cold chisels, two ballpeen hammers, screwdrivers and a whole lot of Kroil. And even with all of that it was probably one of the hardest things I've done (in terms of auto maintenance). I don't think it's an exaggeration to say I spent at least three hours of hands-on wrenching time to get it off. After I'd struggled for a couple of hours, I called up a local 4X4 shop and talked to one of their shop techs to get some information that might help. He recommended using a puller to put outward force on the spindle and rapping on the spindle at the same time. Bingo! After another hour (or so), the spindle finally came off. I was stoked, to say the least.

    The good news about the driver's side spindle was that it almost fell off once I removed the nuts. Not really, but all I had to do was tighten the puller and it popped right off. After the struggle with the passenger side spindle, I was pleasantly surprised.

    Once I got the spindle off, I had what I thought was the downward slope of the job staring me in the face:

    [​IMG]

    Once again, I was proved (seriously) wrong. The outer u-joints on both sides were shot. The driver's side u-joint had about a 1/2" of slop in one of the caps. The needle bearings were completely gone and I couldn't believe the u-joint was still in one piece. The outer passenger side u-joint was really stiff. And since I had bought all three u-joints for the Dana 50 a couple of months ago, I decided that I'd replace the inner u-joint on the passenger side as well. I've got the later model Dana 50 with the internally retained stub shaft. I called up RJ (lotzagoodstuff) and chatted with him for a few minutes about possible solutions to removing the inner u-joint without dropping the carrier. He told me that you can use a Harbor Freight balljoint puller and get it out without having to drop the carrier. He generously offered to let me borrow his (I'll get it back to you soon, RJ), so I ran over to his house and picked it up. Once I got it back to my house, I tried to fit it up into the confined area that surrounds the inner u-joint on the passenger side. For those of you who either own a two wheel-drive or an F350 with the D60 (lucky you), here's a pic:

    [​IMG]

    Not a lot of room. I wrestled the balljoint clamp around for at least 20 minutes, and the best I could come up with was this:

    [​IMG]

    I could get it up behind the axleshaft yoke, but I couldn't turn it to line up the press with the caps. So I called up Calvin (towcat) and he told me that Lisle sells a tool (a pneumatic u-joint removal tool) that you attach to an air hammer. He said it would have that u-joint out in no time. I ran over to CarQuest and picked one up:

    [​IMG]

    I then stopped by Harbor Freight and picked up their $12.99 air hammer. (I paid for this decision later.) I got back home and went to work. After hammering on that u-joint off and on for about 45 minutes, I had managed to get it to shift about 1/64". So I got out my trusty bottle of Kroil, hosed it down and let it soak for about a day.

    I started the day with a serious determination to get that damn u-joint out, one way or another. I hammered on it for over an hour, with both the u-joint removal tool and one of the punch attachments that came with the air hammer. It did not move at all. The realization slowly sank in that I now get to deal with smelly gear oil and an awkward front axle carrier to remove in the gravel. Sweet.

    Truthfully, removing the carrier wasn't that bad, but getting it separated from the axle housing took some brute force. I'm pretty sure my carrier hadn't been off since it had been assembled at the factory, and the gear oil in there looked pretty gnarly. (This pic was taken from the driver's side.)

    [​IMG]

    It's hard to tell, but the inside of the axle housing had about a 1/4" layer of goo built up on it. As you can see, whoever assembled this axle used the RTV liberally.

    For all that work, this is what I was after (the carrier is on the workbench):

    [​IMG]

    Why Dana decided to go with an internally retained passenger side stub shaft on the later Dana 50s will have to be one of those unexplained mysteries of the universe.

    Okay, so I now had the spindles and the carrier off the axle housing. It was time for the knuckles. I tried using a 40 oz. ballpeen hammer on the pickle fork for about five minutes (hitting it almost as hard as I could) when I realized more violence was necessary. I got out a 10 lb. sledge hammer and beat that pickle fork like it took my fruit roll-up at recess. After about 15 solid whacks it let go. I had the upper balljoint nut on a couple of turns so the knuckle didn't end up in the dust. The sound of the knuckle coming down on the nut was so sweet. Wash, rinse and repeat. Same story on the other side for the knuckle.

    I tried using the balljoint press I borrowed from RJ on one of the knuckles with a crappy 1/2" drive impact wrench I had but couldn't get it to go anywhere. I then tried using a ratchet with a two-foot long cheater bar but the bench vise I had it in kept spinning in its clamps. I acknowledged defeat and called up a local machine shop. $100 later and I had my old three u-joints and four balljoints replaced with Spicer balljoints and Federal Mogul u-joints.

    Did I mention that the drag link and all three tie-rod ends were all worn out? Oh yeah, they were. I went with Spicer components there too. I took it down to a local alignment shop where I was told by the owner that the correct way to lift these Ford IFS frontends (I put an 1 1/2" add-a-leaf in about a year ago) is to install drop brackets at the axle housing attachment points on the crossmember so the axle sits level. I hadn't realized that 1 1/2" of frontend lift was enough to warrant that, but the cams he installed in my Dana were the most radical ones you can get (for camber adjustment). The guy did what he could to get it all lined up, but now my truck pulls slightly to the right. And he didn't put a cotter key back in the drivers side upper balljoint! :eek:

    One thing that I should mention: if you end up needing to pull the carrier off your Dana 50, when you reinstall it apply the RTV to the axle housing, NOT the carrier. Believe me, this will prevent a serious headache.

    All told, I spent close to $800, but I've now got a rebuilt frontend and a whole lot more knowledge about Ford IFS systems than I did a couple of weeks ago. I've learned about the importance of greasing your zerk fittings, too. LOL
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
  2. biggin92

    biggin92 Yeeeee Haaawwww

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    Nice writeup this needs to go in the tech articles ,however i would have rolled a dana 60 under there for $800 but thats just me , good job though. You sir deserve a case of beer after that battle:cheers:
     
  3. BrandonMag

    BrandonMag Dana 50 rebuilder Supporting Member

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    I considered it, but I thought I was just going to need balljoints when I started this. I expected to spend $300-$400. Had I known that I'd end up rebuilding my frontend, I would have more strongly considered the D60 option.

    Truthfully, to get a (pretty much) rebuilt Dana 60 would have cost more than $800.
     
  4. biggin92

    biggin92 Yeeeee Haaawwww

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    yeah an $800 dana 60 here normally needs $600 worth of work but i paid $900 for my superduty dana 60 and 10.5 rear so that is the route i went, cause my dana 50 needed an overhaul also.
     
  5. biggin92

    biggin92 Yeeeee Haaawwww

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    oh and the socket they gave you first fits the sterling rear spindle nuts
     
  6. rhkcommander

    rhkcommander Full Access Member

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    I am going through the same thing, I've got all the parts ordered just need time to do it now. maybe thursday :sly
     
  7. bike-maker

    bike-maker Full Access Member

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    Man, the Ford gods (Dana gods?) of the Northwest must be angry. I'm next in line.


    Portland Craigslist there's a Dana 60 for $500.................
     
  8. Brianedwardss

    Brianedwardss Registered User

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    Man, what a PITA! That's the first time ive heard 2wd owners called 'lucky', but after reading your report, I see why. Guess if I want a 4x4 idi, it's gonna be an F350!
     
  9. Brianedwardss

    Brianedwardss Registered User

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    I almost posted that truck here on OB's, IIRC it's an IDI too.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2011
  10. Brianedwardss

    Brianedwardss Registered User

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  11. pennsylvaniabo

    pennsylvaniabo Full Access Member

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    Yeh my truck need all new ball joints last year......needless to say i put in a D60 for $500....best move i have ever made!
     
  12. riphip

    riphip Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Would have been a great time to install a drain plug on that D50.

    Rick
     
  13. SparkandFire

    SparkandFire We're drinking beer

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    Top quality write-up!
    ;Sweet

    Any idea what the part number was for that O'reilly's tool for the front hub nuts?
     
  14. 82F100SWB

    82F100SWB Full Access Member

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    I have done the inner U-joint in the truck a few times. The key to getting the press in the right position is that you HAVE to pull the outer axle.
    Once you have done a few of these, and have some experience, and all the tools you need, you can have it down to around 1.5 hours a side for BJ's and U-joints, 1 for just balljoints. I have done it in less time than that before, but, everything went smooth and there were no fighting parts on that one.
    One of the most important tools in my arsenal is my 4lb mini sledge, it is much handier than a fullsize one, and usually is still plenty weight to get the job done, it's my primary hammer of choice.
    I usually skip using the pickle fork unless absolutely necessary, a few good whacks on the side of the the housing around where the balljoint is retained usually knocks 'em loose, same trick works for the tie rod ends.
    I usually hammer out the lower balljoint too, unless it's really rusted in there it usually takes 1/4 of the time the press will.

    When re-installing spindles, I always clean up the spindle and inside of the knuckle, and apply large amounts of never sieze.
     
  15. Diesel_brad

    Diesel_brad Dunce

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    Very good write up,;Sweet and I agree it should go in the tech library, for the not so experianced
     
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