Howe recommends that you grease your ball joints every 300 to 400 laps with low-friction grease such as Citgo MP Lithoplex 3 or Red Line CV2. Because of the dirt buildup and need to wash the car after every race, I grease my ball joints after every race with AMSOIL Series 2000 Synthetic Racing Grease. This high-quality lube will push any dirt from racing, or water from washing, out. Unlike conventional ball joints, a Howe ball joint will only accept grease until it's full (typically, one pump or less is required). Once the grease passages are full they will not vent, the pressure from the grease gun can make it difficult to remove the gun from the zerk. To relieve the pressure, work the ball stud around to vent grease onto the ball. If the ball joint is on the car, bounce the suspension for the same result. Finally, disassemble annually or every 2,000 laps to adjust the lash.
Disassembly, assembly, and setting the lash are very simple if you follow these few steps:
Use a 3/32-inch Allen wrench to remove the setscrews from the housing.
2. With a 1/2-inch drive ratchet turn adjuster cap counterclockwise to remove.
3. Clean moving parts to inspect for excessive wear. Replace any parts that are worn or damaged. The ball stud is concentric and should be checked for straightness. To check this, install the ball stud upside down in the housing and spin the stud against the side of the housing with your fingers. If the ball stud is bent, you will see it wobble.
Install the housing into the A-frame or gently clamp the housing by the flats into a vise.
2. Install the ball stud into the housing without grease
3. Apply a small amount of light lubricant to the threads of the cap, install and tighten until it contacts the top of the ball.
4. Set the lash on the ball by loosening the cap 1/8-turn.
5. Install the setscrews into the housing tightening them evenly. If you have a steel adjuster cap, apply blue Loctite to setscrews before installing.
6. Using a grease gun. Grease and rotate the ball stud by hand until the grease is visible on the bottom of the ball.
Earlier I mentioned the subject of task-specific tools came up during my conversation with Howe. It offers two tools to help change your ball joints--a ball joint spreader and the sockets to fit the screw-in upper and lower ball joints. Now, like a lot of you, I have a method passed down from generation to generation of taking a hammer and something softer than steel and smacking the you know what out of the ball joint to get it out. I'm happy to report that there is a lot better, safer, and smarter way of doing this. Howe's Ball Joint Spreader is so fast and easy that I feel like an idiot for not getting one sooner. You simply place it between the studs or on the stud and against the spindle and turn a 9/16 nut and it simply pushes the stud free. It's that easy and quick.
The other tools we talked about were the sockets for the screw-in upper and lower ball joints. Because of the large size, most of us don't have wrenches to fit these just lying around, so we use pipe wrenches. The problem with pipe wrenches is they slip and if nothing else, they mar the shoulders of the nut and make them rough and sharp.
Now I'm not sure how many of you have gone to your local tool dealer and priced wrenches big enough to fit these ball joints, but I have and can tell you that, if you can find them, you have to mortgage your house to afford one. OK, maybe they're not that bad but they are costly. However, you can buy a set of sockets in the correct sizes for the ball joints from Howe for what one wrench will cost and you'll still have money left over.
With our ball joints and required tools ready to go, there was one other item from Howe that I knew we had to have on Project DLM by the time the new racing season started, the Precision Max A-Frames. These A-frames offer the same low drag and low friction as other Howe products including a sealed dual-row ball bearing design that allows bind free movement under severe braking conditions even if the A-frame becomes damaged.
They also come with easily removable cross-shafts for use with tower mounts. The cross-shafts are replaceable and available in three different styles--aluminum shaft with holes, steel shaft with holes, or steel shaft with slot and key. You can also get any of the A-frames from 7 to 11.75 inches and 0-degree, 7-degree, or 15-degree. The ball joint mounting ring is also reinforced to prevent flex and distortion of the housing.
Like the ball joints you just read about, these upper A-frames are also user rebuildable. If you're involved in an accident or feel any kind of bind, you can replace individual parts saving you a couple of bucks.
Once we received our new upper A-frames, right out of the box we were amazed at how smooth the cross-shaft moved and when Howe says low-drag and low-friction, it means it.
The other thing we noticed was when installing the ball joint was there was no bind at all. The ball joint screwed in very smooth, unlike other upper A-frames we have used in the past that you needed to put a wrench to force the first thread in. And if you're wondering if these A-frames are as good as I say they are, keep in mind Howe builds A-frames exclusively for some of the top chassis builders, such as Rocket, Bloomquist, Swartz, and Pierce.
7 Here’s the Howe Precision Max A-Frame installed on the car. Check it out, I have to hol
8 Howe also makes correct size sockets for the ball joints, which you can see here alread
9 Prior to installing the ball joint in the A-frame, antisieze is applied to the threads.
10 Be sure to coat all threads evenly.
11 Then screw the ball joint in by hand.
12 Torque the ball joint in to 110 pounds.
13 Be careful at this point. As you can see, the hole for the cotter pin on the ball join
14 What I do is use a small screwdriver to spin the ball joint shaft around so that I can
15 See how easy it goes in?
16 A pair of needle-nosed pliers help bend the pins arms back.
17 The finished bend on the pin. This whole process will be duplicated for the ball joint
18 But before the lower ball joint is tightened up, we used this nifty trick from Bob Bol
19 The lower ball joint is torqued to the same 110 pounds as the upper.
20 With the shocks and springs in place, the finished product is ready to race.