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How to Test Ball Joints for Movement on Dodge Ram Trucks and Jeep SUVs

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The Issue

Certain Dodge Ram trucks and Jeep SUVs with solid four-wheel-drive front axles use a telescoping upper ball joint. The stud telescopes a small amount to compensate for manufacturing variances in the tolerance of the axle and knuckle ears.

This telescoping effect may result in the stud appearing:

  • As if it is too long, or too short.
  • As if it has excessive play.

The stud is engineered to slide in and out of the housing. Technicians should be aware that these ball joints can exhibit a fair amount of radial play – OE spec for replacement on this application is 0.060". This DOES NOT indicate excessive play or any other issue with the part; the part is within specifications and will perform reliably on the vehicle. This feature is necessary for correct part installation and function.

The Solution

Performing a pre-alignment inspection is key to avoid condemning a good part as defective, including units that have been just replaced. Affected models and MOOG part numbers include:

Description Years Make/Model MOOG Part Number
Telescoping Upper Ball Joint 2000-2002 Dodge Ram 2500/3500 4WD K7394
2000-2002 Dodge Ram 3500 RWD
2006-2008 Dodge Ram 1500 4WD K7460
2003-2018 Dodge Ram 2500/3500 4WD
2010 Dodge Ram 2500 RWD
1994-2001 Dodge Ram 1500 4WD K3134T
1994-1999 Dodge Ram 2500 4WD
1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee
1986-1992 Jeep Comanche
1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1993 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
1984-1990 Jeep Wagoneer
1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ
2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK
Front Lower Ball Joint 2006-2008 Dodge Ram 1500 4WD K7467
2007-2010 Dodge Ram 2500
2003-2006,
2011-2013
Dodge Ram 2500 4WD
2003-2013 Dodge Ram 3500
2002-2012 Dodge Ram 1500 K7411
1990-2001 Jeep Cherokee K3161T
1990-1992 Jeep Comanche
1993-1998 Grand Cherokee
1993 Grand Wagoneer
1990-2006 Jeep Wrangler
1990 Jeep Wagoneer
1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee K3185
2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK
1984-1989 Jeep Cherokee K3137T
1986-1989 Jeep Comanche
1984-1989 Jeep Wagoneer
1987-1989 Jeep Wrangler
1994-1999 Dodge Ram 1500/2500 4WD K8195T
1974-1983 Jeep Cherokee
1984-1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Upper Ball Joint Inspection Procedure

Follow these steps to determine if the upper ball joint is within manufacturer specifications for total ball joint movement.

Step 1 – Safely raise and support the vehicle.

Step 2 – Attach dial indicator.

  • Rest dial on either the front or back of the steering knuckle.
  • Put dial as close to the upper ball joint as possible.
how-to-test-ball-joints-for-movement-dodge-ram-jeep-1

Step 3 – Set dial indicator to zero.

Step 4 – Get first reading.

  • Push in the top of the tire and pull out on the bottom of the tire. Write down the reading on the dial indicator.
how-to-test-ball-joints-for-movement-dodge-ram-jeep-3

Step 5 – Reset dial indicator by turning it back to zero.

Step 6 – Get second reading.

  • Pull out on the top of the tire and push in on the bottom of the tire. Write down the reading on the dial indicator.
how-to-test-ball-joints-for-movement-dodge-ram-jeep-2

Step 7 – Add and analyze the readings.

  • Get the total upper ball joint movement by adding the two readings together. If the total is above 1.52mm (0.060"), then replace the upper ball joint.

Lower Ball Joint Inspection Procedure

Performing a similar examination of the lower ball joint can also be helpful. Follow these steps to determine if the lower ball joint is within manufacturer specifications for total ball joint movement.

Step 1 – Safely raise and support the vehicle.

Step 2 – Attach dial indicator.

  • Place the dial indicator on the flat part of the steering knuckle by the lower ball stud.

Step 3 – Set dial indicator to zero.

Step 4 – Get first reading.

  • Apply pressure using a pry bar between the knuckle and the axle tube yoke. Write down the reading on the dial indicator.
    • Helpful Hint – Be careful to not damage the upper ball joint grease seal.
how-to-test-ball-joints-for-movement-dodge-ram-jeep-5

Step 5 – Reset dial indicator by turning it back to zero.

Step 6 – Lift knuckle assembly.

  • Rest a long pry bar on a jack stand and use the pry bar to lift the knuckle assembly.

Step 7 – Get second reading.

  • Using the jack stand as leverage, pull up on the flat part of the steering knuckle located next to the ball joint stud and nut. Write down the reading on the dial indicator.
    • Helpful Hint – Only use enough force to overcome the weight of the rotor and knuckle. Excessive force could cause damage or false readings.
how-to-test-ball-joints-for-movement-dodge-ram-jeep-4

Step 8 – Add and analyze the readings.

  • Get the total lower ball joint movement by adding the two readings together. If the total is above 2.29mm (0.090"), then replace the lower ball joint.

Learn more about premium steering and suspension parts, find your car part, or find where to buy your auto part today.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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