The great thing about cars is that you can do a lot of maintenance with simple tools. Cars are, in a sense, just a bunch of items held together with nuts and bolts, after all. Even suspension work can be done with nothing more than some sockets and ratchets... unless you have to deal with ball joints, that is. Then things get a bit more complicated. That's why I always keep a ball joint separator on hand whenever I'm touching my car's suspension.
Take one look at a ball joint separator and you get the gist of how it works. The cupped end of the tool fits between the ball joint and the metal it's pressed into, while the other end sits on top of the stud sticking out of the joint itself. Both ends are attached to a lever, which is leveraged by a bolt that goes through and puts pressure on the stud as it's tightened. Tighten it enough while it's sitting on a ball joint, and pop, out comes the joint.
I've lost count of how many times ball joint separators have saved my ass while tackling DIY jobs. Whether it's a coil-over install, control-arm maintenance, or a good old fashioned tie-rod replacement, the separator always comes in handy. It's a must-have if you're serious about doing anything beyond super-basic work on your car.
I know what you're thinking. "Brian, I already own a pickle fork . Why would I also need a ball point separator? Don't they do the same thing?" Well, yes and no. Pickle forks are a blunt tool, you see. Sure, they'll separate ball joints from hubs, but they'll almost assuredly destroy the ball joint in the process—it's just the nature of the tool. Using a proper ball joint separator means you'll have a better chance of re-using the joint after it's been removed.
Because ball joint separators aren't wildly complex pieces of machinery, they're not terribly expensive. Amazon carries one from Dasbet for under $20, perfect for the occasional use on most suspension arms. If you think you'll be popping a lot of ball joints in the near future, Orion Motor Tech sells a five-piece kit with separator tools that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, perfect for tackling a wide assortment of jobs.