A ball joint is a small metal component that attaches your wheel and tire to the steering and suspension systems of your vehicle. They are the final component of your steering system that transfers the motion of your steering wheel to the wheels and tires, allowing your wheel to move in the desired direction. Most modern cars have two ball joints in the front to control the steering, while many trucks will have four ball joints in total.
The ball joint itself is a hard sphere with a stud sticking out of it. It is encased in a steel casing that also provides grease for lubrication. There is also a rubber boot to protect it from debris as well. A ball joint works similar to the joint in your shoulder or hip – twisting and pivoting to allow for the desired movement. Almost every car will have a “lower” set of ball joints at the front called front lower ball joints, but in certain cars with more advanced suspension systems, they may also have an additional pair of ball joints placed higher than the lower joints called upper ball joints. The ball joints are connected to the steering knuckle or spindle on one side and attached to the control arm on the other. The ball joint acts as a pivot point that can move in all directions, making it so that your steering wheel rotations are translated to the movement of the front wheels.
Signs of a bad ball joint
Since roads are not perfectly smooth, your ball joints will wear over time and require replacement. If ignored for too long, worn ball joints will eventually snap, causing you to lose control of your car and posing a significant safety hazard. Below are signs that you may need to replace your ball joints:
- Metallic clunking – As your suspension moves up and down, you will likely notice the sound of clunking metal when going over bumps or rougher road surfaces. This is a telltale sign that one or more of your ball joints needs to be replaced, as this noise is caused by the worn joint rattling around inside the socket.
- Squeaking noise – The ball joints contain grease to lubricate them as they move around, which also keeps them silent as well. When one of your ball joints runs out of grease, you will hear an audible squeaking noise produced by the joint. This noise will be especially noticeable as you turn the steering wheel or go over a bump or pothole.
- Car starts pulling to one side – Worn ball joints can cause your steering to start to wander. Excessive wear on a ball joint will cause it to loosen up, throwing off the alignment of your car and causing the steering to be loose as a result.
- Uneven tire wear
Ball joint maintenance
The vast majority of ball joints are not serviceable, but they should still be inspected from time to time and be replaced with brand new ones when they get too worn. Your vehicle’s owner manual may specify a particular interval to have your ball joints inspected. If you aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to have them inspected during every oil change.
Ball joints can wear at different rates depending on a variety of reasons, such as rough road terrain, highway versus city driving, and more. The most important thing to remember is to have them inspected if you notice any of the signs above. During replacement, your car care professional may advise changing both ball joints at the same time, even if only one is damaged. It is also recommended that you get a wheel alignment done after your ball joints are replaced.
The best way to get your ball joints replaced is by booking an appointment through CarAdvise. CarAdvise makes car care simple and guarantees that you will pay less than the shop price for all car maintenance.