Repairing my ball joint press

I bent my Harbor freight ball joint press while pressing in the bottom joint. I did not notice that it got a little crooked and I kept pressing. I should have pressed it back out and started over, but I kept going. I hoped just a little more pressure would straighten it out. It did, but my press frame bent in the process.

Despite assurances by my millwright friend that it could never be brought back to parallel, I was able to straighten the c clamp in my Dad’s press.

Using a press to fix a press
Using a press to fix a press

I pressed each end slightly and measured the distance between the two sides of the press. I had to over compress a bit as it would spring back slightly when released. I suspect it has lost some strength in all the bending but I think it will still be strong enough to do the other two ball joints if I am careful. If not, Harbor Freight has them on sale now.

Ball Joint Replacement – Jeep Cherokee Repair

How to replace the Ball Joints on a Jeep Cherokee

While I don’t fully understand the mechanism, our off road group has found a strong correlation between worn ball joints and broken front axle shafts. I did not really believe the theory until my ARB shaft broke. See the video of it breaking.

Shaft broken due to bad ball joints.
Shaft broken due to bad ball joints.

With the weight off the wheel you can see the joint separating.

Note gap in the ball joint
Note gap in the ball joint

I got my new ball joints from Crown Automotive. I installed the driver’s side ones last night.

Before I began, I coated my hands with Market America Clear Shield.

First, I lifted up the Jeep and removed the wheel.

Removing Jeep Cherokee wheel
Removing Jeep Cherokee wheel

Then, since this is an AMC Jeep, I used my 7mm hex bit to remove the brake calipers. Mopar Jeeps will use either a 12 or 13 mm socket.

Jeep Cherokee brake rotor
Jeep Cherokee brake rotor
using 7mm hex to remove caliper bolts
using 7mm hex to remove caliper bolts

Next I removed the brake pads and rotor hat.

brake caliper removed
brake caliper removed
storing the brake caliper
storing the brake caliper
brakes removed
brakes removed

I stored the brake caliper on top of the lower control arm and removed the pads and the rotor to expose the bearing.


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Next I used a 13mm 12 point socket to remove the three bearing retainer bolts.

13 MM 12 point socket used to remove bearing bolts
13 MM 12 point socket used to remove bearing bolts

I carefully tapped the carrier out of the knuckle. I left the axle in the bearing since it will go right back in.

removing the bearing and axle shaft as a unit.
removing the bearing and axle shaft as a unit.

Next, I used a 3/4 inch wrench to remove the tie rod from the knuckle. This step is not absolutely, necessary but makes it easier.

Cherokee tie rod removal
Cherokee tie rod removal
tie rod removal tool
tie rod removal tool

Next I removed the retainer bolts from both ball joints.

ball joint nut
ball joint nut

I used my tie rod separator to separate the ball joints from the knuckle. It came off rather unexpectedly and hit the floor. Glad it missed my foot.

ball joint removal tool
ball joint removal tool

Next I used a wire brush to clean up the surfaces where the press would rest.

clean up
clean up

I collected the correct adapters to press out the upper joint.

ball joint press
ball joint press

The upper joint pressed out easily

upper ball joint removed
upper ball joint removed

Next I collected the correct adapters to press out the bottom joint. Note that the screw for the press had to pass through the upper ball joint hole.

lower ball joint press
lower ball joint press

The lower joint was very worn.

worn lower ball joint
worn lower ball joint

Then I collected the correct adapters to press in the new ball joints. Note that this is a newer Dana 30 and the surface for the press is slanted requiring a tapered adapter. Some of the older axles had this surface machined flat.

upper ball joint press in
upper ball joint press in

Pressing in the lower requires a tapered receiver cup on this axle.

lower ball joint press in
lower ball joint press in

With the new joints installed I began to put it all back together. There is not enough clearance for a grease fitting on the lower joint. The kit came with a fitting that I put in temporarily and grease the joint. I then replaced the plug.

ball joints installed
ball joints installed

I then installed the knuckle and tightened the bolts. I then inserted cotter keys to keep the nuts from turning.

ball joint nut and key
ball joint nut and key

I then replaced the tie rod and keyed it.

tie rod nut
tie rod nut

Next I greased the inside of the knuckle and reinstalled the bearing and axle shaft. I used the bolts to pull the carrier into place.

installing bearing jeep Cherokee
installing bearing jeep Cherokee

Next I reinstalled the brake rotor, pads and caliper.

caliper installed jeep Cherokee
caliper installed jeep Cherokee

With the wheel back on I am done and ready to do the other side. Well maybe later.

Wheel back on
Wheel back on


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Septic System Sump Pump Installation

Septic System Sump Pump Installation

My friends needed a septic system that pumps uphill. Their house is at the low point on their plot and for years the septic system has not worked well. They needed to fix it so that they can have toilets that actually flush in the rain. An unusually wet Spring season has accented the problem so that they made the decision to spend the sizable sum of money to correct the problem.

The system consists of the regular septic tank then a septic effluent pump tank and then a distribution tank located at the top of the hill. The new septic tank had to be placed so as not to disturb the old tank so that the existing system could still be used during construction. The pump tank had to be located slightly below the septic tank so that gravity would flow the waste water to it. The septic tank effluent pump sits inside the pump tank and pumps the water to the distribution tank high on the hill. From there, the water will drain into the field lines by gravity.

My job was to connect the sump pump and alarm to the electrical supply. The alarm is required by the local sewer codes to make a visual and audible alarm should the water level in the pump tank exceed a certain level. This gives an early warning that there is something wrong with the sewer pump.

For reliability, the alarm has to have its own separate circuit. If the alarm was powered by the supply to the pump and the breaker tripped to the pump, there would be no alarm. I installed the alarm inside the house so that it can be easily seen and heard as suggested by the local plumbing inspector. I connected the wires directly to the alarm panel and ran them all inside conduit so that it would be tamper resistant.

This house had an exterior breaker box originally installed for the AC addition. This box had a couple of extra spaces in it that made a perfect place to pull power for the new septic pump system. I used a 20 AMP GFI breaker for the sump pump service and a 15 AMP standard breaker for the alarm. Their local ACE hardware had the right breakers for this older Square D box.

The most labor intensive part of the job was running the underground wires from the box at the front of the house to the septic field behind the house. Much of the trench had to be dug by hand due to close proximity of the AC compressor, flower beds and a sidewalk. The majority of the trench was dug by the plumping contractor using his backhoe.

A 12 gage wire was run for the pump and a 14 gage wire for the alarm. The wire used was rated for direct burial so conduit was not needed. I did run conduit for extra protection from the box down to the bottom of the 24 inch deep trench at each end of the wire. I used the same 14 gage direct burial wire to extend the float wiring from the alarm unit to the field.

At the pump tank, I installed a weather proof single 20 AMP outlet on a 4×4 post. This is where the Myers Sewer pump is plugged in. The plug provides the required local disconnect since the breaker is not within sight of the pump tank. The float wiring was placed in a separate junction box on the same post.

A piece of conduit was cut to fit into the neck of the tank so that the cord to the septic pump and the alarm float wiring would be protected. The conduit ends slightly below the outlet for the septic pump.

Our local inspector was happy with the details and water proofing. I used a compression fitting at the bottom of each conduit run and sealed it with silicone as well to prevent critters from finding their way into the junction boxes.

I tied a length of rope to the sump pump, fastened the alarm float to the outlet pipe and carefully lowered the sewer pump into place. I secured the free end of the rope to one of the lifting lugs of the sewer pump tank. Now the plumbing contractor can finish his work to get their system operational.

I am sure they will enjoy being able to take baths and flush the toilet even when it rains.

Ed McMann, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson

Celebrity deaths and the meaning of life

This week three major icons of my youth have passed away. Ed McMann, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson.

I have learned that events like this have a deeper meaning in life. Each death represents loosing a part of my self. I am looking into what each of these represent to me.

I mostly remember Ed McMann as being the guy with the big checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. I guess to me he represents the quest for easy money. Money from winning a sweepstakes rather than earning if by creating and delivering value. This part of me needed to die to help me learn how to make money. If I won money randomly, I would not know how to make more and would still be stuck in a scarcity mentality.

I most fondly remember Farrah Fawcett as the pin up girl. Her perky posters were every where during my pubescent years. And the popular girls copied her hair style. To me she represented the girls who were totally out of reach. My childish ideas of relationships made me think the only way to attract a girl like that was to have fame or fortune or both. This was the idea pushed on my by the marketers who used her photo to sell their products. “Buy our widgets and have a shot at this girl.” Now, I know that no woman is out of my league. People are just people and we all have the same basic needs and desires. It is simply a matter of generating attraction and has nothing to do with possessions or position.

I was never really a fan of Michael Jackson and I was somewhat surprised at how popular he was. I remember him as part of the Jackson Five. I never paid much attention to him when he painted his face to look like a clown. I guess that fact that he had his own amusement park meant that he never really grew up. He really just wanted to be a kid. And that is how I most fondly remember him: The little spunky kid in the Jackson Five upstaging his older brothers.

Combined, these deaths all seem to represent the loss of part of my youth. Maybe it is time to let go of some of the childish ideas that have been holding back my progress. I need to let go of the idea that some things are out of my reach. I need a bigger vision for my business. No one is going to bring a big check to my door; I have to go create my own. There is nothing wrong with my being a kid at heart as long as I realize I am also capable of making my own decisions and accepting responsibility for my own actions.

All week long, I have had the son Barracuda by Heart running through my head. I read today where that song was written in response to their manager trying to force the band to go in a direction that did not feel right to them. I think that is what is happening in my business. I have to choose the path that feels right to my heart. I am trusting that the money will come. Maybe not in the form of Ed McMann bringing me a big check, but it will come.

I may have to make some side trips along the way, but I will always be pursuing my true path. Having multiple streams of income is a good concept to work with as I do tend to get bored with doing the same thing all the time. So for now, I plan to continue building a safety training program, giving advice on Jeep repair, learning about dog behavior and studying metaphysics. Somehow, they all will fit together.

Throttle Body Cleaning

Cleaning the throttle body on a Jeep Cherokee.

One of the most common questions I see on Yahoo Answers is about a Jeep that won’t idle. They complain that it dies at traffic lights or won’t start.

Often the cause is simply a sticking idle air control valve. This valve mounts to the side of the throttle body and allows a small amount of air to bypass the closed throttle plate to regulate the idle speed. The valve is actuated by a stepper motor controlled by the ECU.

I don;t know why but using fuels high in ethanol seems to make this gum up. It makes no sense to me since the fuel does not pass through the throttle body – only air. However, I have noticed that on many of the Jeeps I have serviced, high ethanol equals a sticking throttle body.

Cleaning it is simple. Remove the rubber air inlet tube. Locate the slots int he back of the throttle body. Spray throttle body cleaner in the slots. Do it with he engine running and you can make the valve cycle while spraying the cleaner in. This will help get it unstuck.

Here is a video of how it is done: