At 318K Miles (2007 4CYL SE) my lower ball joint (factory original) started squeaking when driving over bumps and there was visible play in the joint. I replaced the ball joint and learned a lot along the way. In the hope that it might save others from some hassle, here's what I learned:
Complete step-by-step write-up, Lower Ball Joint Replacement (PDF):
A few items of note:
1. On my vehicle the failing ball joint made a slight squeaking noise when going over bumps. The video clip below depicts the sound it made which could be readily reproduced by pushing down on the hood of the car:
2. With the car jacked up off the ground, there was NO noticeably play in the wheel (when grabbing it and shaking it at any position or when using a lever to push up under the wheel). This is due to the fact that when the car is jacked up, the strut expands and puts downward pressure on the ball joint making it very difficult to see any play in the joint. A better way to check the ball joint on this vehicle is to support the vehicle's weight by the lower control arm and then check for play in the ball joint (by prying between the knuckle and lower control arm, or prying up on the knuckle). Using this recommended method, the play in my failing ball joint was readily apparent. Here is a video clip to demonstrate:
Zoomed-in video clip which shows the play in the joint better:
3. The commonly available (for purchase and borrow from many automotive stores) Honda Lower Ball Joint Tool Set (PowerBuilt Kit 76, Model 641321) does NOT work with this vehicle (nor, to be fair, is it advertised to support this model year). There are two reasons: (a) the ball joint base does not fit into the receiver cup (the cup is too small in diameter) and (b) the shank of the ball joint does not fit into the pushing adapter (the shank of the ball joint is too large).
4. The "OTC 6734 Ball Joint Adapter Update" kit DOES work on this vehicle but unfortunately does not appear as commonly available (for borrowing) at this time and is not cheap to purchase (~$80).
5. It can be very difficult to remove the ABS sensor from the knuckle -- it is far easier to simply disconnect the ABS sensor at its connector (under the hood) and leave the ABS sensor in the knuckle.
6. The long thin split (cotter) pin in the tie rod end may be impossible to remove and might need to be drilled out (if you live in "rusty" areas).
7. Getting the old ball joint out can be a little tough. I found that using a little heat (plumber's MAP gas torch) around the outside of the knuckle ring holding the ball joint made the task much easier.
8. On this vehicle, there is NO snap ring (C-Clip, retaining ring) holding the ball joint in, at least for the OEM ball joint and OEM replacement (however, I believe some after market ball joints for this vehicle might have a snap ring).
Hope you find this information useful,