Ball joint replacement doesn’t happen frequently, but when a car is driven on uneven or bumpy road surfaces, it’s prone to ball joint failure. In such a failure, there could be an unusual noise from the car and may affect steering and suspension. When it deteriorates, it causes accidents as the wheel can fall off the car.
What are ball joints?
Consider the ball and socket joint connects the hip bone and the leg bone to enable the movement of the leg side to side and up and down. This is the scenario with the ball and socket joint(s) of the car to enable the suspension and wheel move together and at the same time. The steering knuckles are connected to the control arms using the ball joint. Depending on the suspension system of the vehicle, there may multiple ball joint assemblies. The suspension system also determines whether the ball joints are in the front or on the rear part.
Why is it necessary to replace ball joints?
Ball joint failure can be caused by the following
- When grit, dirt, and impurities get inside and reduce lubrication
- When grease escapes from the joint thus affecting lubrication
- When the parts of the joint rust, wear or tear.
The above factors may lead to excessive looseness of the joint, thus affecting the smooth movement of the car. This is because the suspension and the wheel fail to work together as expected thus straining them. The suspension can also be severely damaged. This makes it necessary to replace ball joints.
Common symptoms of worn-out ball joints
- The car drifts to the side
- The tire wears frequently than expected
- When the suspension moves, creaky and squeaky noises are made
- The steering wheel shales
- The car drifts to the left or right when on a bumpy road and produce clunking noise
After you have suspected a ball joint failure, it’s important to inspect the joint as soon as possible to maintain the efficiency of your car. As discussed above, depending on the suspension system of the car, the ball joints could be on the front or the back.
- First, check the rubber boots that hold the grease in the ball joint. Ensure that they are in good shape. In most cases, when the boots are torn, the ball joint is in bad condition.
- When it’s possible to add more grease to the joint, use the one that is recommended for this purpose. Some of these joints are lubricated for life hence are very difficult to lubricate.
- The type of suspension system can also guide when determining whether the ball joint is in good condition or not. Some of these systems have ball joints with wear indicators. These indicators are in-built which makes it easy to check the condition of the joints. Since there are many suspension types, it’s advisable to follow the manufacturers manual for the best procedures to follow.
If you’re not so good or unfamiliar with the suspension system, you can seek some profession service from a mechanical expert to ensure that it’s well checked and serviced to the expected standard.
Follow the following tips when replacing the ball joints but still adhere to the recommendations provided by the manufacturer.
- Remove the brake and suspension components to get to the ball joint. Ensure the brake calipers aren’t hanging on the brake lines
- If the vehicle has a MacPherson strut suspension, it is likely to have a lower ball joint. This calls for the separation of the strut to access the ball joint.
- If there’s a cotter pin remove it followed by the nut on the ball joint. Make a separation of the ball joint from the knuckle.
- To control arm fasteners, remove the ball joint. Some ball joints are screwed in and others are on the control arm.
- You can now install the new ball joints and fasten them to the given specification
- Put the knuckle in place over the kingpin and fasten the nut or castle to the given specification.
- After the installation is complete. Put back the brakes and suspension system in place.
Remember, if you’re not so good or you’re unfamiliar with the suspension system, you can seek some profession service from a mechanical expert to ensure that it’s well checked and serviced to the expected standard.
What’s the lifespan of a ball joint?
Ball joints are long-lasting. However, they are often prone to wear after some time, especially when the car is driven on bumpy or uneven roads. Therefore, the lifespan is highly dependent on the condition it’s exposed to and how well the car is driven. Nevertheless, there are ball joints that last longer due to the design they take. There are those made with compounds that can withstand high temperatures, abrasion, and dirt.
Ball joints play a huge role in the performance of a car. they should, therefore, be well maintained and replaced. It’s advisable to seek advice from a mechanical expert for selection of high-quality ball joint replacements.