A part of a vehicle's natural wear and tear is bad ball joint symptoms. According to experts, you need to be very particular of any signs of bad ball joints because when one joint begins to fail, it's very likely that the other side will start to fail as well.
This guide will help you identify the different ball joint symptoms and what to do when a ball joint fails.
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What are ball joints?
Ball joints are components that are located in all the suspension systems of most modern vehicles. These are very important as these connect the steering knuckles to the control arms of the car. Front ball joints help the front wheels and suspension to move front and backward and up and down, especially during uneven road conditions.
Inside a ball, the joint system is a ball-in, a socket design coated with thick grease. The ball socket component is covered by a dust boot to prevent dirt, grit and other impurities from affecting the joint. The cover also reduces the need for maintenance. Because the entire component is sealed and protected, you will need to replace the entire assembly in case of any ball joint problem.
You must recognize the early signs of ball joint problems, especially bad ball joint sound or bad ball joint noise, as these sounds reveal immediate ball joint repairs.
Related: how to press a ball joint
What are the Symptoms of Bad Ball Joints?
There are many ways to check for worn-out ball joints. You can check while you drive, you can make a visual inspection of your vehicle or check the overall driving performance of your car. Take note that most of the symptoms of ball joint issues may also be signs of other problems with your vehicle. It's still best to have your car checked by a professional.
1. Loud clunking noises from the front suspension
The most common ball joint symptom is loud and clunking noises from the front suspension. The noise comes from inside the ball joint system as the joints become loose inside the socket. The loose joint rattles and make loud noises as your vehicle moves up and down the road. The louder the noise, the worse the condition of your ball joints.
2. The vibration of the front of your car
If you notice extreme vibration at the front of your car, then this could be due to broken or loose ball joints. The vibration can be from the left or the right side of the vehicle and may even radiate to the steering wheel. Take note when the vibration happens, and where the movement radiates from to correctly identify which ball joint is the issue.
3. Wandering steering wheel
If you notice that the steering wheel moves left or right on its own, then you have a wandering steering wheel. The wheel should stay straight and must respond directly, but if your ball joints are starting to wear, the steering wheel will move from left to right without force. Take note: this is very dangerous. Take your vehicle to a repair shop right away!
4. Front tires reveal uneven wear
Another way to tell if you have ball joint symptoms is if you notice uneven wear on your front tires. If you find that the inner or outer parts of your front tires are wearing down quicker than other parts, then worn out ball joints could be the reason.
Check the inner threads. The wear should be on either side of the outer or inner part of the tires and not both edges of the tires, as this may be due to an under-inflated tire.
5. A squeaking noise while driving
Driving your car is also a good way to find out if there are any ball joint problems. Drive at the speed limit and drive over speed bumps at low speeds. Move over the humps, stop and then go, do it a few times, and then turn a few more times as you listen to noises.
Clunking noises are worn out ball joints while any squeaking noise is due to a damaged rubber boot that covers the grease inside the ball joint. The noises will become louder as the ball joints become more and more worn out.
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When a ball joint breaks, this can lead to the separation of the car's front suspension. When this happens, the affected wheel can fold under, and you can lose control of your vehicle. If the ball joint system breaks, you cannot steer your car properly, and you're more likely to meet an accident or a collision.
Replacing your ball joints
You cannot drive a car with a bad ball joint. The moment you notice any of the ball joint symptoms, take your car to a professional and have it checked. Are you concerned about the ball joint replacement cost? Contact a local shop or service center to get a quote.
If your car's ball joints need replacement, always go for quality replacement parts. Because ball joints support the weight of your vehicle, it's a must that these are the best quality and is best suited for your car's make and model.
Consider ball joint assemblies with protection covers. The cover will prevent sand and water from entering the ball joint system, which leads to corrosion of the parts. When a ball joint assembly is not properly covered, the ball pin may fail early, leading to premature ball joint replacement.
The ball and joint are a crucial part of a car's suspension system and should be working properly to ensure your safety and for a smooth ride. Any damaged part can severely affect your car's movement, braking, and steering, and thus, it's very dangerous to drive.
James is a certified auto technician specializing in commercial vehicles. With 30 years of experience under his belt, James has encountered almost every type of automotive issue there is! Besides his day job at the repair shop, he is also an amateur race car driver.