Product Profiles

The Ball Joint Press: An Unsung Hero Tool for Fixing a Lot More Than Just Ball Joints

All this ball joint press really consists of is a big, honkin’ C-clamp with a pass-through hole on one end and threaded shaft on the other. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

It all started when we noticed a telltale bearing squeak in our home’s HVAC blower motor.

Then, on the hottest day of the year…Squuuuuuuueeeeeeerrrrrrk! A bearing failed and the motor ground to a halt.

Disassembling the motor confirmed our suspicions—a roller bearing got toasted. We used a three-jaw puller to get the bad bearing off, but being a press-fit, we weren’t sure how to properly seat the new bearing back onto the motor shaft.

Here’s our disassembled HVAC blower motor’s rotor and shaft with the old bearings removed, but we needed to figure out how to install the new ones. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

After some thinking, the proverbial light bulb popped and we grabbed our trusty ball joint press.

As the name implies, the ball joint press is a specialty automotive tool that’s designed to properly remove ball joints that were pressed-in by the factory.

…Turns out, they’re equally good at installing bearings onto electric motor shafts.

Here’s our solution. With a drill press vise (blue) holding the C-clamp of the ball joint press, we were able to properly seat the bearing onto the shaft. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

After setting up a makeshift jig using a drill press vise, we positioned the large C-clamp upright, slipped the motor’s rotor and shaft assembly through the open end of the C-clamp, and begin turning the clamp’s threaded shaft. In just a few twists, both bearings slid right on and we could reassemble the motor. An hour later, our HVAC system was blowing frosty air again.

Voila—the bearing’s easily sliding down the shaft. Do the other side, reassemble the motor, and put the whole thing back into the HVAC unit. Quick, because it’s getting hot in here. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

But our little HVAC anecdote is only the beginning.

Since it’s basically a big C-clamp with a pass-through on one end, you can think of a ball joint press as a portable, yet hefty press for removing and installing small-size to medium-size bearings and bushings.

And while we delicately pressed-in our HVAC bearings using an ordinary box-end wrench, if you need more torque, you can always slip an impact driver over the nut on the end of the threaded shaft and go to town.

They’re relatively compact too, so you can often use them on individual components without having to remove a whole assembly from a vehicle.

A ball joint press can push-out crusty, frozen bushings like this one from the rear suspension trailing arm of a Nissan Sentra. And it helped us install the new ones too—though it required an impact gun instead of a hand-cranked wrench for a little more oomph. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

Do a lot of woodworking? Perhaps making temporary jigs, shelves, racks, or other structures? Then you can use the ball joint tool’s pass-through as way to insert screws too. And it’s especially handy if your wood is twisted and you need to correct the warp with a strong clamp. Simply tighten the ball joint press over where you need your joint secured, and you can place a screw right inside the pass-through.

A ball joint press is plenty handy when you need a strong clamp to hold down warped pieces of wood while you’re driving your screw too. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

It’s worth mentioning that there are a ton of different ball joint tools out there. Most of them are sold in kits with a handful of adapters for a lot of common ball joints. More robust kits include adapters for 4×4/four-wheel drive applications as well.

All told, the trusty ball joint press is truly an unsung hero tool that can help you tackle a lot of other odd jobs besides ball joints—inside and outside the garage.

Our particular kit came with a handful of adapters that’ll come in handy for a lot of random non-automotive jobs too. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

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