Ball joint failure is not considered a common problem, but it can still happen. The lack of proper maintenance and lubrication tends to cause certain more common failures in the ball joint of your vehicle’s suspension , which is why this part tends to get damaged over time. Fortunately, there are ways to find out if your kneecaps have gone bad. Keep reading to know more.
A worn ball joint will significantly affect your steering and suspension. If the ball joint fails completely, the steering and suspension can partially collapse, causing the wheel and tire to roll off the vehicle. This is dangerous because it can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. In some cases, the wheel and tire assembly can come off completely.
What are suspension ball joints?
Ball joints work like ball joints. They function like the shoulder joints in people and allow the front wheels to move up and down and from side to side.
These ball joints allow the wheels to turn and change direction. They are also partly responsible for allowing the wheels to move up and down when driving over potholes or bumps in the road.
There are two types of ball joints, which vary based on the location of the ball joint and control arm. The ball joints are loaded with tension if the steering knuckle rests on the control arm. If the control arm rests on the knuckle, then the ball joints are compression loaded.
Symptoms and common failures of a damaged ball joint
In case you have a problem with this part, we have made a list of the most common failures of the suspension ball joint, so that it is easier for you to diagnose the problem.
1- Loud clicking or cracking
Hearing loud noises around the corners of your vehicle when driving on uneven surfaces can be a sign that you have loose suspension. The popping and/or screeching sound may be mild at first, but it will get worse if you don’t replace the defective ball joint immediately.
2- Steering wheel vibrations
A faulty ball joint can also cause steering vibrations while driving. This is because loose ball joints can send vibrations up the chassis and through the steering wheel.
When you start to feel noticeable vibrations in the steering wheel while driving, have your vehicle serviced immediately. If the problem isn’t one of the ball joints, it’s most likely something else with the steering or suspension system.
3- Problems with the direction
Worn, misaligned, or damaged steering components can cause steering drift. They can also cause excessive free play on the wheel.
Your suspension system is designed to keep your vehicle upright with even minimal effort. If your car keeps drifting or pulling to one side, your ball joints may be bad.
Steering problems not only make driving difficult and exhausting, but will also put you and your passengers in danger. Take your vehicle to an auto repair shop immediately to have the problem resolved.
4- Irregular wear of the tires
Inspect your tires. If their inner or outer edges are more worn than other areas of the tread, this could be a sign that your ball joints are loose or damaged.
Note, however, that this symptom is also associated with other suspension components failing, as any failure that causes misalignment can cause abnormal tire wear.
Have your suspension components checked once you notice irregular tire wear. If indeed it is the ball joints that are defective, have them changed immediately. There are many high quality ball heads available on the market today.
5- Misaligned or damaged parts
This is a common failure of the suspension ball joint, for this problem you must carry out a visual inspection that will help you detect most of the other symptoms of defective ball joints. Determine if a suspension component is bent or out of alignment using an alignment kit.
Look for signs of damage. Any scuff marks or rust can indicate contact with the road or other suspension components, which could cause your suspension to loosen.
If you are not familiar with mounting the suspension and wheels, it is best to let a professional do the checking for you.
What causes ball joints to fail?
Several factors can affect the life of your suspension ball joints, including harsh driving conditions, vehicle weight, and lubrication. Ball joints that are on the same side usually wear out simultaneously.
Even with proper maintenance, load carrying rod ends tend to wear faster than follower rod ends . For this reason, experts recommend changing ball joints in pairs to ensure better driving and long-term functionality.
Since ball joints are crucial components of your steering system, it’s important to make sure they’re in good condition at all times. Replace defective ones immediately.
How much does it cost to replace a suspension ball joint?
An aftermarket ball joint replacement usually costs around $50 to $500 for the part itself. Some can cost up to $1,000. Please note that this approximate figure is for replacement ball joints only. There are other additional expenses that you may have to pay, such as labor and installation costs.
Ball heads are often sold separately or in sets . They come in greasable and non-greasable variants, so make sure you check these things out first before settling on anything. Make sure that the ball joints you are going to buy are compatible with your vehicle.
Is it safe to drive with bad ball joints?
No. It is never advisable to drive with damaged ball joints. When your ball joints break or fall out, the steering and suspension can fall apart. This can cause the wheel and tire to move away from the vehicle, causing a loss of control.
Defective ball joints can also end up damaging other suspension components, which could lead to even more dangerous driving conditions .
Make safety your number one priority when you’re on the road. Prevent these potentially dangerous events from occurring by immediately replacing the defective ball joints.