6 Common Bad Ball Joint Symptoms In Cars – Causes and Fixes

The suspension system of your car is made up of links, joints, bushings, and bearings. Thanks to this mechanism, your wheels may move independently in both the vertical and horizontal axes.

One of the most crucial parts of your car’s suspension system is the ball joint. A unique flexible connection that permits movement in multiple directions is the boil joint.

There may be an upper and a lower ball joint inside the wheel of your car. These ball joints have several purposes. For instance, the wheel is connected to the rest of the suspension system by ball joints.

The wheel may also swivel and move up and down while being driven because of the boil joint.

Due to wear in the ball or socket, the boil joints may get looser with continued usage. As a result, the wheel may disengage from the vehicle if the ball comes out of the socket. For instance, some cars may have their wheels folded in or out on the side of the road, which is an indication of a bad ball joint.

The most obvious signs of a bad ball joint are the loud banging noises and excessive vibrations you hear while driving. All modern vehicles include essential suspension parts called ball joints.

They perform the same functions as a human body’s typical ball and socket joints. All of the car’s control arms are connected to the steering knuckles via ball joints, which serve as pivot points for the suspension.

The most typical symptom is a clunking noise, which indicates that the ball joints have sustained more damage and are now loose. Your suspension may squeak while you drive due to the ball joints.

Most of the time, the clunking sound occurs when you hit a speed bump or travel on difficult terrain. Damage to the rubber boot containing the grease inside the ball joints, which makes the ball joints squeak, is what causes the bad ball joint sounds. The noise gets louder as the ball joints get increasingly worn out.

1. A ball joint failure no longer constrains the wheels angle
When you encounter a speed bump or travel over rough terrain, you hear a clunking sound. The squeaky ball joint sounds are due to damage to the rubber boot that houses the grease that makes the ball joints squeal. As the ball joints get more worn out, the noise gets louder.

Overview of the Ball Joint and Car Suspension System

The ball joint in your car is in charge of maintaining your wheel attached to the suspension system and enables up-and-down, turning, and left- and right-directional movement. Because of this, the wheel on your car has no trouble spinning while traveling over a bumpy road.

The ball joint might become worn down over time, especially after 70,000 miles of service. It is never advised to operate a vehicle with a bad ball joint. Thanks to the symptoms of a bad ball joint, you can identify the issue before it worsens.

Uneven tire wear, excessive suspension system vibration, clicking noise from the front of your car, and wandering and shaking steering are all signs of a bad ball joint. To prevent incurring expensive repair charges, you must take your car to a qualified mechanic as soon as you observe any of these symptoms.

A Ball Joint: What Is It?

In a snug, lubricated housing, ball joints’ studs and bearings are housed. Depending on the sort of vehicle you drive, either the rear or the front ball joints may be present. While driving, the joints help maintain the tires flush against the pavement while your suspension moves.

The lower and upper control arms’ furthest points from the steering knuckles are connected by ball joints. What damages the ball joints?

Ball joints require replacement since they deteriorate over time as other auto parts do. Failure to replace the worn-out ball joints could result in collision damage or even death.

The wheel can travel in any direction if the ball joint fails, damaging the tire, fender, and other suspension parts. Therefore, perform rapid repairs to your car before the issue grows worse. To take action, you must be aware of the symptoms of a damaged tie rod or ball joint.

Ball Joints: How Do They Work?

The suspension system of your car is made up of links, joints, bushings, and bearings. Thanks to this mechanism, your wheels may move independently in both the vertical and horizontal axes.

One of the most crucial parts of your car’s suspension system is the ball joint. A unique flexible connection that permits movement in multiple directions is the boil joint.

There may be an upper and a lower ball joint inside the wheel of your car. These ball joints have several purposes. For instance, the wheel is connected to the rest of the suspension system by ball joints.

The wheel may also swivel and move up and down while being driven because of the boil joint.

Due to wear in the ball or socket, the boil joints may get looser with continued usage. As a result, the wheel may disengage from the vehicle if the ball comes out of the socket. For instance, some cars may have their wheels folded in or out on the side of the road, which is an indication of a bad ball joint.

What are the Main Causes of a Bad Ball Joint In a Car?

As was previously noted, ball joints are delivered in an impermeable socket that is tightly sealed and thoroughly oiled. Although the socket ought to be able to shield ball joints from all external influences, it happens frequently that the socket tears and let everything that it had been attempting to keep out since it was brand new.

2. A ball joint and a cross section of one
The ball joint in your car allows for up-and-down, turning, and left- and right-directional movement in addition to preserving your wheel’s attachment to the suspension system. As a result, your car’s wheel spins easily while you’re driving along a rocky road.

The interior components of the ball joint are gradually worn out when dirt, salt, grit, and moisture penetrate the joints. These joints also leak the enclosing lubricant (oil/grease), which causes the ball joint, which would otherwise move smoothly, to prematurely fail and seize.

Automobile accidents are another frequent cause of early ball joint failure. Ball joints are susceptible to damage or bending in even minor auto accidents, such as crashes into or off of steep curbs.

Which are the Common Bad Ball Joint Symptoms In Cars?

The front ball joints enable the front wheels, suspension, and steering to move up and down when the vehicle is in motion. A bad ball joint can be checked in several different ways. Drivers can examine the symptoms visually or while driving by evaluating the general functioning of the vehicle.

1. Unusual Clunking Sounds from the Suspension

A bad ball joint is what you have if your front suspension is making grinding noises while you’re driving. The ball joints lose their tight fit in their sockets as they deteriorate. The movements of the vehicle are the main reason for the joints to ratchet and knock. When driving over speed bumps, on bumpy roads, or when turning, worn-out ball joints clunk or knock.

When something wears out more, it makes loud clunking noises until it breaks and stops working altogether. How much time can you drive with squeaky ball joints, then? It doesn’t take you long to cause an accident.

2. Very Strong Vibrations In the Vehicle

You might have an issue with a loose or cracked ball joint if the front of your car vibrates a lot. Your steering wheel may vibrate and slide from left to right, making it less stable and more challenging to retain control. As it emanates, pay attention to the vibrations and movements.

Because the suspension system is causing vibrations, you can feel them in your steering wheel. The lower ball joint loosens due to wear and corrosion, which causes vibrations. As you drive, the loose ball joints continue to vibrate. Any form of shaking is a symptom that the ball joints aren’t working properly.

3. Car Tires Wear Unevenly

A bad ball joint is indicated by uneven tire wear. Examine the inside and outside edges of the tires for unusual or severe wear that may indicate a worn-out tire. The front tires’ outer and inner edges wearing down more quickly than other treads is one reason for the alarm. This is proof that your ball joints are worn out.

Loose ball joints cause the entire suspension to be out of line, which affects steering and causes the rubber treads to make uneven contact with the ground or road. Depending on how many bad ball joints there are, the issue may only affect one tire at a time or both tires at once.

4. An Unsteady Steering Wheel

The only reasons your steering wheel is straight are a decent suspension alignment and functioning ball joints. As a result, the steering wheel is responsive and straight.

However, you have a bad ball joint if you detect an independent drift to the right or left of your steering wheel.

3. An inner tie rod end cut open to expose the ball joint 1
When moisture, grit, salt, and grime get within the joints, they gradually wear out the inside parts of the ball joints. Additionally, these joints leak the lubricant (oil/grease) that keeps the ball joint from prematurely failing and seizing. Without this leak, the ball joint would normally operate smoothly.

Tire feathering and the aforementioned signs of damaged joints are brought on by swiveling the steering wheel. You are compelled to make up for the lack of suspension control as a driver.

Visit an auto shop right away to inspect the vehicle and have it fixed or replaced. The ball joint will be taken out and a new one installed by the mechanic.

5. Frequent Suspension Problems

When a worn-out suspension locks up, it can no longer absorb shocks from driving over bumps and uneven surfaces. Normal motion is typically compensated for by ball joints when it is transmitted to the suspension because of wear.

Due to a bad ball joint harming the suspension, other suspension components are unable to absorb the additional force and motion. The rubber control arm bushings, which are prone to damage, are where the damage begins.

The vehicle shakes when traveling at high speeds and on rough roads because of the damage to the control arm bushings.

6.  The Steering Wheel Becomes Unresponsive

Your suspension completely breaks down as a result of severe ball joint wear, and the wheels start to spin in opposite directions. Different types of ball joints might break, leaving you unable to control the steering.

At the control arm or steering knuckle, your wheel may separate. Take action if you notice any uneven car movement because doing nothing will result in an accident.

Which are the Recommended Management Strategies for Ball Joints?

Keep an eye on the aforementioned bad ball joint symptoms, as well as the wheel alignment and how it feels when you’re driving. Examine the tread of the tires frequently for indications of a bad ball joint.

Plan a suspension inspection to accurately diagnose the issue. Through the check, you can identify the issue and improve your driving performance while receiving flawless wheel alignment.

It is risky to drive on a bad ball joint, so check them for wear. If you don’t know anything about the suspension system, talk to a reliable mechanic.

Which are the Possible Diagnostic Tests You Can Carry Out on a Bad Ball Joint?

To begin, rock the tires. Push the top and bottom portions in and out while lifting the car to make sure the wheels are dangling. You have a bad ball joint if the tires rock and the movements are accompanied by clunking sounds. Ball joint press tools and standard toolbox supplies are examples of diagnostic equipment.

Your wheel bearing is damaged, according to the test, and it will vibrate and whine as you drive straight. To hear clunking sounds or see other tires and ball joints on your steering end-link, try swaying your car tires from side to side as if you wanted to turn them.

4. Ball joints are part of car suspension system
Ball joints are part of the car suspension system by Hustvedt / CC BY-SA 3.0. When the vehicle is moving, the front wheels, suspension, and steering may all move up and down thanks to the front ball joints. There are various ways to assess if a ball joint is damaged. Drivers can visually inspect the symptoms or test their vehicle’s general functionality while they are on the road.

You have a wear issue if the tire is just moving your steering end-link and not the other tire or linkage.

Keep an Eye on the Ball Joint Wear Indicators

Here’s how to examine ball joints. At the bottom of lower ball joints are wear indications. The socket case glides into the ball joint and sinks up as the ball joint ages.

Instead of resting on the sides of the joint case, the joint should rest on the shoulder (exposed projecting section). The ball joint is worn out if the shoulder is depressed or the joint bottom is fully flat.

What Could Take Place If the Car Ball Joints Go Bad?

Ball joints keep the suspensions going up and down while keeping the tires flat on the ground. Thus, the following will occur if there is a bad ball joint:

Uneven tire wear is caused by irregular wheel movement. You will therefore change your tires more regularly as a result.

When your ball joints lock up, the motion they normally absorb is not eliminated, which forces it to be transferred to other suspension parts like the control arm bushings, which are unable to resist the additional motion. This damages the suspension.

Rubber control arm bushings wear out more quickly than metal ones do on your car, and replacing them is expensive.

When driving, a broken ball joint can have disastrous effects on the road. The breaking occurs when the stud snaps or the ball slips out of its socket, which causes the wheel to spin outward or slam into the fender, dragging the tire down the pavement.

You encounter difficulty with your state’s safety inspections. A bad ball joint can spell trouble if you reside in a state that mandates an annual car inspection. In the USA, no state will permit a car with a broken suspension part.

Significantly uneven tire wear from a bad ball joint can lead to numerous alignment problems and poor handling when driving. Additionally, a bad ball joint might harm your suspension system and perhaps cause auto accidents.

A destroyed ball joint might also result in safety problems, such as your wheel coming off your car and endangering your life.

Last but not least, if you have a bad ball joint, you won’t pass the inspection or roadworthiness test.

To drive your car smoothly and keep yourself and your family safe, you as the driver must keep the ball joints in your car in good condition.

Is It Possible to Drive a Car with a Bad Ball Joint?

Even though a bad ball joint does not necessarily result in catastrophic issues, when the ball joints are extremely loose, the wheel can come off the car while it is in motion. Additionally, under stress, the front suspension could fail, which would impair your car’s overall control.

5. Tire showing uneven tread wear
Uneven tire wear can be an indication of a damaged ball joint. Look for unusual or severe wear on the tire’s interior and outside edges that can point to a worn-out tire. The alert is caused, in part, by the outer and inner tread edges of the front tires wearing down more quickly than other treads. This is evidence that the ball joints need to be replaced.

Take your car to a reliable repair right away if you think you have a bad ball joint or if it is worn out. Never ignore a broken ball joint since it can destroy your suspension and cause you to lose control of your car.

Driving a car with a poor or shattered ball joint is therefore not advised. To ensure your safety and enhance your driving experience, replace the damaged ball joint. Ball joints should typically be replaced between 70,000 and 150 000 miles.

Before further harm to your suspension, steering wheel, or wheel alignment happens, communicate with your mechanic to remedy the issue as soon as possible.

What Is the Lifespan of the Ball Joint on a Car?

If there are no faults, the ball joints should be replaced when the vehicle has more than 70,000 to 150,000 miles on it. However, this figure varies considerably based on the state of the road, your driving style, and your exposure to salt.

If you experience severe vibrations while driving or hear clunking noises, you should replace the ball joints. Although it is difficult to notice, the ball joint is essential for a comfortable driving experience.

For effective movement, ball joints attach the suspension to your wheel. Understanding the signs of a bad ball joint, such as uneven tire wear, will help you decide whether to replace the ball joints.

Car tires have a predetermined lifespan and shouldn’t degrade quickly before it. If only one set of tires is degrading while the others are in excellent condition, or if only one tire is broken, your ball joint has to be replaced.

The suspension system is moving too much because the ball joints are worn out, which is indicated by the steering wheel swaying or experiencing intense vibrations. The vehicle wanders instead of traveling straight due to the loose suspension. When you experience any of the symptoms, replace the ball joints.

What Is the Cost of a Ball Joint Replacement?

The price to replace a ball joint ranges from $20 to $150 for parts only. However, when labor expenditures are taken into account, the cost may drastically rise. The estimated total replacement cost for a ball joint ranges from $100 to $400 given that the procedure takes around an hour.

To save on labor costs, many consumers decide to replace the ball joint at a small repair shop as opposed to a dealership. Another option for those with strong mechanical skills is to replace their ball joints utilizing internet DIYs.

6. A cars steering wheel system

A car’s steering wheel system by Lukas 3z / CC BY-SA 4.0. Your steering wheel is straight only because your suspension is properly aligned and your ball joints are working properly. The result is a responsive and straight steering wheel. If, however, you notice an independent drift to the right or left of your steering wheel, you likely have a faulty ball joint.

How Can You Inspect a Bad Ball Joint Before Replacing It?

To confirm a bad ball joint, you can conduct several examinations. When your car is moving, first listen for any clunking or squeaking noises.

After that, conduct a visual examination by examining the ball joints behind your wheel. The boots of a bad ball joint may be fractured, allowing water and debris to enter the ball joint socket. Unfortunately, if the upper ball joint is injured, the complete arm must be replaced rather than just the ball joint.

You can jack up your car for a closer look and hold the wheel from 6 to 12 o’clock as you try to move it back and forth to check for play.

You can also try the wheel position at 3 and 9 o’clock; while any wiggle there might suggest a bad ball joint, it might be the bearing or other suspension system parts.

Finally, try to position a long bar under the wheel and push it up and down while listening for any clicking noises.

Finally, going one step further, you can examine the ball joint directly and make an effort to press and move it. A bad ball joint appears to be excessively corroded, worn out, uneven, and loose.

How Is the Ball Joint Replaced?

It takes an hour to replace a ball joint, and compared to other mechanical repairs, it is not a very challenging issue. To replace the ball joints in your car, follow these simple steps:

  • By parking on a level place and locking the wheels, you can prepare the car and the work area.
  • Make use of a jack to raise your car.
  • Check the ball joints quickly to see whether they need to be replaced.
  • Check the owner’s manual for your car to make sure you have the right kind of ball joints installed. To ensure that the new and old ball joints are identical, you can always compare them. You can locate a copy of your vehicle’s owner manual online or ask your mechanic to print one for you if you don’t already have one.
  • The wheel with the bad ball joint should be removed.
  • It is advised you use a PB blaster or WD-40 to clean all the nuts before attaching the new ball joint.
  • Install the new ball joint after removing the old one.
  • Drop your car and have a test drive.
  • As you listen, keep an eye out for any of the aforementioned bad ball joint indications. If you observed any of the aforementioned symptoms, your suspension system either has another faulty ball joint or you did not install it properly.

7. The wheel alignment process on a car
The wheel alignment process in a car by Mike Peel / CC BY-SA 4.0. Set up a suspension inspection to precisely identify the problem. Through the inspection, you can locate the problem, enhance your driving abilities, and receive perfect wheel alignment. Driving on a damaged ball joint is dangerous, so inspect them for wear.

What Kind of Sound Does a Bad Ball Joint Make?

As you drive, you experience strong vibrations on your steering wheel or through the ground. When you cross speed bumps or bumpy roads, you hear a squeaking sound. As your suspension rises and falls while you’re driving, the rattling of the ball joints is what makes the squeaky sound.

The ball joint squeaks because of a worn-out rubber boot that serves as protection for the grease fitting. As the wear continues, this noise gets louder until you replace the ball joints. Always be alert for any unusual noise.

The Conclusion

The car has a lot to learn, and if you don’t know much about it, it could be overwhelming. For an accurate diagnosis, look at the wear signs on the built-in ball joints. The moveable grease fitting on the wear indicators makes it simpler to identify loose ball joints.

If you notice a flush in the collar of the grease fitting or below the ball joint housing, replace the ball joints immediately. Every component of the car experiences wear and tear, and it shows up in numerous ways.

The purpose of the ball joints is to keep the tires level against the uneven pavement while the suspension moves about. When ball joints wear out, they must be replaced to preserve your steering and driving experience.

If the ball joints aren’t replaced, your suspension and other components will be harmed, which increases the risk of accidents that might be fatal. Mevotech offers comprehensive advice on auto parts and how to fix issues with defective CV joints.

8. Bad Ball Joint 9. Bad Ball Joint