Suspension refurb. Anyone done it?

Dealing with all subsystems specific to the diesel powered Datsun-Nissan 720 pickup trucks.

Moderators: plenzen, Nissan_Ranger

Post Reply
Old Smokey
Posts: 22
Joined: 14 years ago
Location: Corvallis, OR

Suspension refurb. Anyone done it?

#1

Post by Old Smokey »

Howdy folks,

I was wondering if anyone had replaced ball joints on the 720 and could lend some advice as to how it goes down.

I know my passenger's side joints are shot, but want to replace all of them at once. Also, I should probably swap out the shocks. How do you know when the shocks and struts are in need of replacement?

I'm sure this is a big undertaking and would probably be best left to a shop. If that's the case, what can one expect to pay for a suspension overhaul like I mentioned above? Oh and also, anything else I would do well to replace while I'm at it?

Thanks,

Andy
1982 720 KC
bacho
Posts: 121
Joined: 14 years ago
Location: Greenville South Carolina

#2

Post by bacho »

Its not too bad, I have done it several times on the pathfinders and the 720 is about the same. Just rent a pickle fork from the parts store where you buy your ball joints, you just need that and a big hammer to get the old ones out which is the hardest part to me.

For the shocks, bounce the truck and feel if its just spring or if there is some damping action. If its just spring replace the shocks.

this shouldnt take you more than a saturday afternoon.

A pic of the tool I talking about, It will destroy the boot in most cases but your replacing it anyways. I found these to be much faster than the press type tools.


Image
Last edited by bacho 14 years ago, edited 1 time in total.
1992 nissan pathfinder 4x4
1985 KC 720 4x4
1982 KC 720
User avatar
philip
Deceased
Posts: 1494
Joined: 15 years ago
Location: Southern California, USA

#3

Post by philip »

bacho wrote:Its not too bad, -SNIP- you just need that and a big hammer to get the old ones out which is the hardest part to me. SNIP.
KD offers the right tool ... often at Rentals and auto stores. Just unscrew the nut one or two turns and then apply this separator tool. The same but sometimes slightly larger size tool applies to the lower ball joint.

Image

Frankly, I would suggest you take the truck to a shop because there are a couple of potential hazards to your PERSONAL ... ie dropping the vehicle on the ground ... or risking the lower control exploding down ... stuff like that.

The upper A-frame rubber bushes are usually bad. And while the front ball joints do not support vehicle weight, they do stabilize the king knuckle. And while you're at it .... steering idle arm.

Do check ... suspension tale forum
-Philip
Passed 08May2008
My friend, you are missed . . .

1982 Datsun 720KC SD-22

"Im slow and I'm ahead of you"
Old Smokey
Posts: 22
Joined: 14 years ago
Location: Corvallis, OR

#4

Post by Old Smokey »

Thanks for the info guys. Philip, I did read your suspension tale and hope I'm not in for that kind of mismatch.

Would a bad passenger's side ball joint cause the truck to veer right while driving? Or is that an alignment issue?

What would a thorough suspension replacement include?

-ball joints
-shocks
-idler arm
-A arm bushings

Anything I missed?

Should I take it to a suspension specific shop or a nissan specialist...and what can I expect to pay?

Thanks much
1982 720 KC
bacho
Posts: 121
Joined: 14 years ago
Location: Greenville South Carolina

#5

Post by bacho »

TRE's go bad commonly too. Expect to pay $300+ to have this done at a shop. Here is a simple way to check some of these problems.

Jack the front of the truck.

Grab the top and bottom the tire and try to shake the top in or out, if you have play it in the ball joints are bad.

Grab the front side and back side of the tire and shake it that way to determine if your TRE's are bad.
1992 nissan pathfinder 4x4
1985 KC 720 4x4
1982 KC 720
bacho
Posts: 121
Joined: 14 years ago
Location: Greenville South Carolina

#6

Post by bacho »

TRE's go bad commonly too. Expect to pay $300+ to have this done at a shop. Here is a simple way to check some of these problems.

Jack the front of the truck.

Grab the top and bottom the tire and try to shake the top in or out, if you have play it in the ball joints are bad.

Grab the front side and back side of the tire and shake it that way to determine if your TRE's are bad.

Lastly put the passenger tire back on the ground and have someone turn the wheel while you watch the idler arm, if you see it move up and down its shot.
1992 nissan pathfinder 4x4
1985 KC 720 4x4
1982 KC 720
User avatar
asavage
Site Admin
Posts: 5369
Joined: 15 years ago
Location: Duvall, Wash.
Contact:

#7

Post by asavage »

A Nissan specialty shop is not needed for front suspsension work on the 720. It's a std design.

Slop in the ball joints can be tested on the 720 by jacking under the lower control arm as close to the tire as possible. This takes the spring load off the ball joints: the jack pushes on the control arm, the arm pushes the spring, the spring lifts the truck via the top end of the crossmember or frame (I forget which, and I'm too lazy to walk outside and look). You cannot just jack up the truck anywhere to do a ball joint check, you must jack almost directly under the spring, or as far outboard as possible. That is the only way to unload the ball joints.

Then grasp the tire at 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock, push with one hand and pull with the other, then switch directions and pull/push. You will feel the tire/rim shift when you do this. Some of the movement is normal: wheel brg play. It's best to have a second person do the push/pull whilst you lay down low from the front and watch the spindle/balljoint relationship. If the wheel/tire moves but the spindle does not, the ball joints are not sloppy (though they could be seized). If the spindle moves too, you can see which ball joint is allowing the movement.

Constant pull to one side: check brakes first (dragging caliper, rusty caliper slides). Next, rotate the front tires side to side. Members Clay and Caxambu have both found bad tires causing their pull (I have seen over a dozen over the years). If brakes and tires are ruled out, caster may be off on one side, usually the result of wear in the control arm bushings or a collision that changed the relationship of the mounting points (or sometimes a bent lower control arm).

On the 720, the idler arm is "always" bad (loose bushings). See this thread for details.

Tie rod ends and steering box check: bad tie rod ends won't cause a pull, but will cause excessive tire wear and a lot of lost movement in the system, symptom is having to move the steering wheel a lot back and forth to keep it aimed down the road -- masked by your pull, in your case. With tires on the ground, engine off (except Chrysler w/PS), get a helper to use two fingers to move the steering wheel constantly one direction and then another. Move the wheel just until it's too hard to turn with two fingers, then switch directions and go the other way. Frequency of about one change of direction per second (0.5 Hz). You do not want to actually move the tires, you only want to load or move everything up to the spindles. Then you lay on ground and watch the entire linkage, starting at the steering box. The arm coming off the box is called the Pitman arm. You can see the box's input shaft (the rag coupling) as it moves back and forth. How far does the rag coupling move before the pitman arm begins to move? If "a lot", you may have a worn steering box. On the 720, some of the box's internal wear can be compensated by an external worm gear/sector shaft lash adjusting screw. You can easily overadjust it and cause the box to lock up when it's turned to either extreme, so be very careful playing with that. See this thread for more info. Philip & I had a good post on this topic elsewhere, but I apparently didn't copy it over to this site: one big reason I left there was due to the lack of a Search facility! (Philip: do you want to try to find it over there? Probably Aug-2004 or so.).

If you wanted to go through the whole front suspension, you'd touch:
  • Idler arm (or idler arm bushings)
  • Tie rod ends (outers)
  • Center link (which contains the inner tie rod ends: these rarely go bad on the 720)
  • Upper A-arm bushings (two per side)
  • Lower control arm bushings (inners)
  • Radius arm bushings (frequently bad/rotted, but very cheap to replace)
  • Upper & Lower ball joints
If you pay someone else to replace all of that, I would expect the bill to run $600-800. The idler arm alone is $100. Alignments run $30-80, depending on the shop. But it's unlikely you need the whole shebang replaced, and I would only go that route if you were in a special situation.

IMO, the idler arm (bushings) is the most common problem. The outer tie rod ends are reasonably durable, and a lot of them are greaseable, as are the ball joints -- grease them periodically to flush out the dirt.

If you replace the idler arm or adjust the steering box gear lash, no alignment is necessary. If you touch anything else, you have to have it aligned -- and no reputable alignment shop will align a rig with any worn parts (it can't really be done, and besides parts replacement is how alignment shops make a living -- it's not on the profit in the alignment, which is nearly a give-away).
Regards,
Al S.

1982 Maxima diesel wagon, 2nd & 4th owner, 165k miles, rusty & burgundy/grey. Purchased 1996, SOLD 16Feb10
1983 Maxima diesel wagon, 199k miles, rusty, light yellow/light brown. SOLD 14Jul07
1981 720 SD22 (scrapped 04Sep07)
1983 Sentra CD17, 255k, bought 06Jul08, gave it away 22Jun10.
bacho
Posts: 121
Joined: 14 years ago
Location: Greenville South Carolina

#8

Post by bacho »

With proper pre-load should you really feel any movement on the tires? I always considered a movement on the spindle as an bearing too loose, as in unseated. With pre-load the bearing should be slightly tight.
1992 nissan pathfinder 4x4
1985 KC 720 4x4
1982 KC 720
User avatar
asavage
Site Admin
Posts: 5369
Joined: 15 years ago
Location: Duvall, Wash.
Contact:

#9

Post by asavage »

Even preloaded, you will often be able to move the wheel with your hands. No kidding.

In the old days, front wheel brgs were never preloaded. It's hard for me to get used to preloading front wheel brgs. But even so, just because you can move the wheel with only your hands, and the spindle doesn't move, does not mean that the brgs are loose.
ffdjm
Posts: 18
Joined: 15 years ago
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

#10

Post by ffdjm »

My 720 just rolled past 300000 miles all of them with me behind
the wheel and I've installed new front ball joints twice.
It's work, but you learn a lot about your vehicle and you can take
the time to do things right. 720 front ends are solidly built
and don't mind pot holes. But rapid wear takes place when
things that should stay lubricated aren't.

Wheel bearings: still using original bearings with occasional
inspection and regreasing.

For removing the ball joints: I was advised to beat on the steering
knuckle where the tapered part of the ball joint goes to jar it
loose, while hammering on the threaded end. Eventually the old
ball joint will come out.

Installing new ball joints: I lightly grease the new ball joint taper
to make future removal easier. Have had no reason to regret this.
I clean and loctite the nuts on the ball joints just in case the
cotter pins fail. Mindful of the rapid failure of the rubber
gaskets on the ball joints I install grease fittings. With frequent
greasing my ball joints have gone 100000 miles in dust and mud.

The lower control arms will go down so far that getting
everything together may be impossible. My truck was up on
blocks, so I raised the lower arm with a bottle jack and assembly
was possible. This strategy may be necessary for initial
disassembly.

A-arm and radius arm rubber bushings: These have held up well
and not required replacing.

Idler arm bushing: replaced once.

All the small ball joints involved in steering and alignment:
Clean the threads and use lots of anti-seize compound (or grease)
before reassembly. Makes future adjustment/disassembly a lot
easier. These also get grease fittings.

Toein adjustment after assembly: Not as hard as you think.
I can't remember the details but I placed a straight edge along
each tire, noted where the edge pointed, did geometry to
determine where it should point with correct toe-in, and
fiddled with the tie rods until toe-in was correct. This worked
fine. There's no sign of unusual tire wear on the front tires.
Don't try this with a loose front end though.

Douglas
User avatar
asavage
Site Admin
Posts: 5369
Joined: 15 years ago
Location: Duvall, Wash.
Contact:

#11

Post by asavage »

Douglas:

What year is your 720, and is it 2WD or 4WD? Would you put that info in your Signature (select "Profile" at the top of any page, scroll down to Signature)? Adding that info will deflect future Qs like this.
Regards,
Al S.

1982 Maxima diesel wagon, 2nd & 4th owner, 165k miles, rusty & burgundy/grey. Purchased 1996, SOLD 16Feb10
1983 Maxima diesel wagon, 199k miles, rusty, light yellow/light brown. SOLD 14Jul07
1981 720 SD22 (scrapped 04Sep07)
1983 Sentra CD17, 255k, bought 06Jul08, gave it away 22Jun10.
Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest