King Pin vs Ball Joint - Front Suspension Tech TipFilter By
There are a few easy ways to tell the difference between the early King Pin and late Ball Joint style front ends on your air-cooled Beetle or Dune Buggy project.
Check out our Youtube video at the link below for a quick video on this topic:
King pin spindles mount with a large verticle king pin on which the spindle rotates. This pin is held onto the torsion arms with two horizontal link pins on the top and bottom of the king pin.
Ball joint spindles mount directly on two ball joints, and have threaded bolts visible underneath the ball joints. On a stock beetle spindle they face each other, on a Thing spindle they will both be facing down.
King pin shocks have an eyelet mount at the top and bottom. Ball joint shocks have an eyelet bottom mount and a stud top mount.
King pin beams measure 7" in height. Ball joint beams measure 8" in height.
Model Year: (may not apply to all vehicles or buggies)
King pin beams were used on all VW Beetles until 1965. In 1966, Volkswagen started switching their VW Beetles over to ball joint front ends.
Pros and Cons:
Even with heavy off-road use, king pin front ends are very strong and rarely break - typically you can still drive a buggy with a bent king pin back to your campsite or trailer. They are a little more difficult to work on, requiring a special reamer & press tool to replace.
Ball joint beams typically have better road manners, allowing smoother suspension articulation. The downside - break a ball joint and you will find yourself trying to strap and support the torsion arm back in place. Torn boots, water and dirt intrusion will also wear the ball joint out more quickly - keep the boots in good shape and free of dirt.
Generally, we would recommend sticking with whichever beam you already have in the car or buggy. You can swap a beam by welding new head mounts on, but it is usually best to use the suspension already on your car and use quality components to replace anything worn or broken. Keeping your suspension clean and lubricated is the key to smooth operation with either front end style.
Thank you for reading. Get out and finish that project!