We get asked about ball joints all the time. In fact, ball joints might be the one part of the car we get asked about the most when talking about suspension and steering as they seem to be a mystery to most people. It seems that ball joints present a surprisingly high number of challenges when trying to replace suspension components for these people. The usual problem is that they just don’t have the right tool to separate ball joints.
We’ve heard of some pretty crazy things people have tried to do to get a ball joint separated. Giant pry bars, sledge hammers, torches…the list goes on. We aren’t saying that those tools don’t have their place and use in the garage, but there is a much faster, easier, and safer way to deal with ball joints!
One type of ball joint separator is the traditional “pickle fork” style, which is basically just a long, heavy duty fork that you drive in to a ball joint with a hammer. The ramped fork end separates the ball joint as it is driven in. Sometimes, these work fine. Often times, though, you won’t be able to access the ball joint with a pickle fork because there is just too much stuff in the way. Also, a pickle fork has a tendency to destroy ball joints if not used carefully, so if you’re looking to reuse your ball joint after you make repairs, a pickle fork likely isn’t going to be the preferred tool to use.
Don’t worry! There is another way to separate a ball joint! A scissor type ball joint separator is compact and easy to get to ball joints that are tucked up inside upper control arms or hidden by other suspension components. The scissor type separator is hands down our favorite type because it is easy and safe, and doesn’t require heat or hammers.
The Best Ball Joint Separator
Knowing that the scissor type separator is our favorite tool for the job, it should come as no surprise that our testing for the best ball joint separator involved only the scissor style tools. Honestly, pickle forks are pretty much perform the same so long as your tool is of decent quality, and while they have their place in every tool box, we wanted to focus on the scissor type tool.
So, for our pick as the best ball joint separator, we are happy to recommend the GearWrench 3916D Universal Ball Joint Separator. We’ve all heard of GearWrench, and know that they build some pretty amazing tools. That being said, we never pick a favorite based on brand name and this test was no different.
One of the things that is important to us is build quality. The universal ball joint separator from GearWrench is built tough. Right away, you can tell that this isn’t a cheap piece of junk. The casting is smooth and the edges are shaped nicely. The threaded holes for the pivot and the drive bolt are clean and precise. Both the pivot and drive bolts turn very easily, but are not at all sloppy in the threads.
This separator has two settings for the pivot pin. This enables you to keep the tool as compact as possible at all times. In its lower setting, the jaw can open to a maximum of 1 1/8”. Simply move the pivot pin to the other pivot hole, and the tool opens up to 2 1/8”.
We have been very impressed with this tool from GearWrench, and highly recommend you pick one up for yourself if you are in the market for the best ball joint separator around. Believe us when we say it will definitely save you a lot of headaches when you’re working with ball joints.
As with all scissor style ball joint separators, the use of impact tools is not recommended. In fact, we never find the need to use an impact driver with these tools. Simply use the separator to put a decent amount of pressure on the ball joint and tap the control arm with a hammer a few times, and normally, the joint will pop free.
As far as best price around, Amazon’s price is pretty attractive compared to local auto parts stores. Overall, we think you’ll be extremely happy with the GearWrench ball joint separator and we give it a stellar recommendation. Happy wrenching!