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'03 Disco SE
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573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been dealing with dangerously vague steering on my '03 for the better part of the past year. After adjusting (and then replacing) the gearbox didn't settle it, I bit the bullet and final decided to go through the track rod, drag link, and ball joint replacement.

I'd been putting it off thinking that it would be a gigantic nightmare, but in the end it was one of the easier jobs that I had undertaken on my Disco - no more difficult than working on a tractor. In fact I'd rate plug/wire/coil replacements at a higher difficulty than this job.

I was an idiot to have waited this long, and I really think anyone that has iffy steering should look into doing this - there is nothing about it that a driveway mechanic can't do. Air tools certainly helped, but just in terms of speed - every bolt is easily accessible and if you have a decent set of hand tools and a couple of big hammers, you're good to go. The ball joint press rents from Advance for free and has all the fittings we need.

I'll do a write-up if there are any interested parties, but the gist of it is.

1. Place truck on jackstands, remove wheels.
2. Unbolt steering damper, remove track rod and drag link. (4 nuts, 1 bolt)
3. Undo caliper bracket bolts and remove caliper. (2 bolts/side)
4. Remove rotor and dust shield. (1 screw, 3 bolts)
5. Undo ABS sensor bolt. (1 socket cap bolt)
6. Undo hub bolts (4 bolts)
7. Separate hub from knuckle, remove with half-shaft attached.
8. Undo top and bottom ball joint nuts (2 nuts)
9. Using pickle fork and hammer, separate knuckle from ball joints.
10. Using press, remove top, then bottom ball joints.

Reassembly is the reverse.

After about 2 hours of work I got to this point:



Both dust boots were completely shot, and while the top joint was still usable, the bottom joint was so utterly destroyed. There was no resistance in it at all, and there was tons (1-2mm) of free play in the up/down and side/side axis. This explains my dead steering and clunking over bumps.

After a few more hours:



New units are in. I opted with the Lemforder units available from Miami British for $115/4. Yes, you can find cheaper kits, but only $30 or so cheaper, and you really don't want to skimp. Chinese bearings of any sort notorious for low grease quality, low metal quality, and bad tolerances. The new joints were made in the UK, use a high quality moly grease, and high quality silicone boots. Measurements were taken with a caliper and they were pretty much identical to the OEM measurements. They fit perfectly and went in without a problem. They don't feature grease nipples but I figure if I got 115K miles out of the old ones this should be a one-time job.

This is where air tools help:



RAVE calls for the removal of the axle stake nuts when pulling the hub, but it is only necessary if you are servicing the hub. Otherwise, the hub/shaft assembly will pull out of the axle in one piece - just remember to replace the oil seals when you're doing the reassembly. I wanted to pull my hubs anyway to check for play and replace a stud, so I did the removal. Left side was a breeze, right side would not budge. I used PB blaster, 400ft/lb air impact, 4ft breaker bar, torch, and couldn't get it to move. Eventually I broke down and used a rotary tool. Fortunately the nuts are made of soft steel and cut quickly.

Replacement track rod/drag link.



Terrafirma heavy duty set - available from Miami British for $255. Yes, they are COMPLETE overkill (they weigh probably 3 times as much as OEM), but it is in fact CHEAPER to buy this than the OEM versions. Furthermore, it comes with 4 nuts and the tie rod ends have grease nipples. No-brainer I think.

Like I said, I'll follow up with a more photo-heavy DIY, but for now I just want people to realize that it's pretty simple to do this job and the results are outstanding. It makes the truck handle better, the suspension is quieter, and it's just so much more pleasant to drive.

If you guys have any questions, feel free to ask.
 

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Re

Thanks for the info. This job came on my radar a few months ago when I noticed a worn tie rod end and Ball Joint, frankly it seems a daunting task to me. I don't have any play in my steering yet but will have to take on the job at some point. Your words and write up are encouraging but I feel like I would need a full weekend to accomplish the task.
 

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Joe Btfsplk
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86 Posts
Bosnian:
I will be doing this within the next year on my car. A question; does Moog not produce these parts? I have always had good service from Moog parts and would like to use them.
 

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'03 Disco SE
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573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@Disco-Team: Yeah you're looking at a minimum of a weekend downtime. One day to strip the parts and press the old joints out, and then another day to reverse the process. Depending on the severity of rust on your axles you might want to spray everything with PB Blaster the night before you begin. If you start early in the day and don't run into any issues you can get it done in a day, but there's no need to rush when working on steering components.

@Joe: Yes - Moog does produce the parts, but they're on the lower end of the quality spectrum and of course "Made in China". I looked into them as I too like Moog, but the quality and tolerances aren't quite there so I decided to opt against it. Certain people have complained that when they installed aftermarket joints and torqued them up, the knuckle became very hard to turn. It's possible that this is because the internal tolerances are too loose and cause the joint to bind when under load. My kit torqued up easily and spin freely.

The RAVE manual specifically states that you can replace the ball joints a maximum of 3 times before the mounting holes become oversize and you need to replace the axle, so this is definitely a job you don't want to do twice. The Lemforders are stamped "Made in the UK", look quality, and pressed in perfectly. They're only about $30 more than a Moog kit and I recommend them.
 

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128 Posts
Bringing up old post: I have the fork but it seems to hit the knuckle at every angle and won't allow me to hammer fork all the way in, any suggestions? Thanks
 

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'03 Disco SE
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573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You actually do want it to hit the knuckle. The faces of the fork should come in contact with both the axle and the steering knuckle - the trick is to try and avoid hitting the ball joints directly. Using a fork will definitely destroy the rubber boot, so hopefully you're doing this with the intention of replacing the ball joints.

Compressed air is a real time saver here, if you can get an air hammer with a fork attachment they'll pop off after minimal coaxing.

Your other option is to get a pair of heavy hammers (I used 2lb sledges) and hit the knuckle where the ball joint pin goes through it from opposing (180 degree) sides at the same time. Essentially like you're trying to hit the hammers together but with the knuckle in the middle. The shock created by the impact will make short work of pretty much any ball joints.
 

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2002 DII w CDL Retrofit, Engine Top O/H 2013, Engi
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19 Posts
Bosnian, I have to do this job on my '02 D2 as both lower ball joints have boots in tatters. The vehicle drives superbly with no steering issues but I'm thinking that the ball joints will go sometime as dirt migrates into them. Since you are volunteering, I would very much like to have the whole step-by-step photo supported description.

I'm planning to change the springs and shocks all around as well as I have a broken spring on the front passenger side; one coil at the bottom of the spring has collapsed. Strangely, it doesn't seem to affect the ride or steering but my front tires are showing some wear on the inside portion of the treads.

Question: I would like to do the spring/shock replacement as a high priority and the ball joints later, but would I be doubling up the labor significantly if I do them as separate projects?

Appreciate your advice and looking forward your photos.

Thanks,

hab...
 

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270 Posts
Thanks for the write up. My dust boots are shot so I'm sure after some winter here in MI, the ball joints will lose the battle against the salt.

How much total in parts did you have into this?
 

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'03 Disco SE
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573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sorry for the late reply guys - I've been abroad for work.

@World Traveller - The photos I took are on my old iphone and for whatever reason they didn't migrate to the new one. But I'll try to get them loaded for you to see. Fortunately the whole process is really easy - there's no trick. I may miss something, but here's the basic writeup:

1. Raise and support vehicle.
2. Remove Tires.
3. Remove caliper (2 bolts)
***Leave brake line connected, just zip tie caliper to spring so it doesn't hang.
4. Remove caliper bracket (2 bolts)
5. Remove rotor (1 retaining screw - maybe)
6. Remove dust shield (3 bolts)
7. Remove ABS sensor (1 hex bolt)
8. Remove track rod (2 nuts)
9. Remove drag link (1 nut - leave the steering box end in place)

After that point, you can approach the removal of the hub one of two ways:

Option 1:

Leave stake nut in place on the axle shaft, remove the 4 bolts holding the hub to the knuckle, then remove the hub/shaft assembly as one. You will need to replace the axle seals.

Option 2:

Partially loosen stake nut (32mm), remove 4 hub bolts, then use a 3-arm puller to separate the hub from the axle shaft. Once it breaks loose, remove the stake nut and pull out the hub, leaving the axle in place. This was you don't have to replace axle seals.

I personally started with option 2 but ended up having to pull the axle shaft anyway because there wasn't enough clearance to remove the ball joints with it in the way. Don't think you can get away without replacing the axle seal!

10. Remove bolts on upper and lower ball joints
11. Remove steering knuckle. It'll be held in FIRMLY by the taper connection. You'll need to get creative with your use of pickle forks, mallets, sledges, spreaders, etc. Some come off easier than others, but there will definitely be some frustration.
12. Remove ball joints.

Reverse procedure and move to the other side. Keep in mind the whole process is in the RAVE manual, so if something isn't clear it's a great reference point.

Regarding the shocks/springs - I've done both jobs and they're completely isolated. The only similarity is that you'll have to remove the tires, so you won't waste any time by doing suspension first. However it will more than likely exacerbate any handling issues you already have because of the lift.

@stb616 - Not a terribly expensive job.

All 4 ball joints - $115. Use Lemforder or some other high end unit.
Axle seals (2) - $20

As for tools, air tools certainly help, but you can do without. Everything else (pickle fork, large sockets, puller, ball joint separator, press) can be rented at Advance or Autozone for free. You can get some of the stuff dirt cheap at Harbor Freight, but the quality isn't quite good enough to cope with Land Rover levels of torque.
 

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2002 DII w CDL Retrofit, Engine Top O/H 2013, Engi
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19 Posts
Bosnian,

You are a treasure of really good info. I followed your other post on the timing cover gasket replacement last Spring and did that job. I had been tempted to dump the vehicle after having done a complete head gasket and top overhaul including all new ignition components then found this massive coolant leak a month later and thought the head job had failed. Anyway I followed your post with great enthusiasm and I replaced every item in the front with new parts as I dug into the timing cover gasket. Took my time and think that was also a perfect job. Spent about $1,000 in parts and untold fortune in personal time for labor!!

Now for suspension. Springs/shocks first, then ball joints a little later.

I had the prop shaft replaced by the dealer about 6 years ago at 100,000 miles, unfortunately with OEM part and I now have 170,000 miles on it. No grease nipples on the rear double cardon; so probably need to replace the u-joints or buy a reconditioned shaft from Lucky8. Working OK so far but getting nervous as I want to drive down through Central America (5,000 miles, one-way) sometime next year.

Sorry for rambling on. Thanks again for walking this road ahead of me and sharing your experience in such a generous way.

Cheers,

hab...
 

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'03 Disco SE
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573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Not a problem - I'm glad I could help. This forum is getting a bit quieter so I'm just doing my best to keep it going and helping to share experiences where I can.

Regarding the drive shaft - I replaced my u-joints on my OEM unit about a year ago after the stock (sealed) units failed pretty spectacularly. It didn't make sense for me to upgrade to a heavy duty unit since I'm in Florida and I rarely do any wheeling that warrants it.

You can get the 3 joints and centering ball kit from O'Reilly's for something like $125 - it's quite an easy job to do if you have a big enough vice or c-clamp. Just make sure you use quality parts (Made in EU or USA) as the quality control on the Chinese units is so bad that I think they'd fail before the first oil change.
 
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