Regardless of their small size, ball joints are a crucial part of any vehicle with wheels.
The ball joints are responsible for the suspension to move up and down while you’re driving.
It simultaneously allows you to move the wheels left and right. The fluidity of your steering wheel largely depends on this component.
However, like all vehicle components, ball joints also have an expiry date. Due to regular usage, ball joints might get worn out and lose their efficiency.
Driving with a worn-out ball joint in your vehicle can be highly risky. A repeated clunking sound coming from the front might be the least of your worries.
Table of Contents
How to Check Ball Joints
Inspecting Ball Joints
If a ball joint is tightened up too hard, it can be hard to steer the vehicle. Apart from that, you’ll be accompanied by a disturbing squeaking sound.
A properly tuned ball joint is vital for optimum vehicle performance. Now, you might be wondering how to check if your ball joints are in perfect condition.
Fortunately for you, we have taken the time to discuss all the steps for checking the ball joints below.
The process may vary a little depending on the type of suspension in your vehicle.
So, make sure you follow the instructions for your type of suspension.
For Short Long Arm Suspension
The first step for vehicles with short control arm suspensions is to look for wear indicators.
This will tell you how much the ball joints have worn out, considering you have a relatively old car.
It’s an easy way to check the ball joints as you don’t even have to live the car.
Check the Wear Indicator
While your vehicle is stationary, you need to bend down to look at the steering knuckle’s bottom.
The steering knuckle will be connected to the wheel. This usually consists of a grease fitting or boss, which acts as a wear indicator. If the boss is sticking out of the ball joint’s metal housing, it’s a good sign.
The boss will stick out by 1.25 centimeters when it’s in perfect condition. As the boss recedes into the housing, it shows that the ball joints have worn out.
If the boss continues to decrease, the ball joints start losing their efficiency. This is a sign you need to pay attention to, and immediately replace the ball joints.
Jack up the Car
As most newer models don’t consist of a grease fitting, you might be unable to determine the ball joints’ condition this way. Alternatively, you need to lift your car for a more thorough check.
For checking a loaded lower ball joint, it’s recommended to lift the car so that you can see underneath.
This must be done in a specific way. The jack must accurately be placed beneath the lower control arm of the wheel. You also need to ensure it’s set as close to the ball joint as possible.
Then you must proceed to lift the car higher until the wheels are off the ground.
This is to make sure there is no applied tension on the ball joint while you’re checking.
The suspension also needs to be relieved of compressions when checking the ball joint.
Check for Wheel Play
Before you carry out the next step, you need to make sure the car is securely jacked up and on the frame stands.
Only proceed after taking all the safety precautions. While moving the dial to the nut’s side, move the wheel to check for any radial wear. You can also try running the dial towards the spindle.
For checking vertical play, the indicator must be placed against the steering knuckle stud or the ball joint’s housing.
This varies for different types of manufacturers, so do consult the user manual.
Next, grab the wheel simultaneously at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. Continue lifting it and down a few times.
And for checking radial play, place the indicator to the side of the nut and move the wheel in and out.
You must sure you hold the tire at the bottom. The readings on the indicator must match the manufacturer’s specifications. If they don’t, the ball joints need replacing.
On the other hand, expert mechanics can check a ball joint’s condition by feel. You can listen carefully for any faint clicking noises.
The motion of the wheels can also tell them if the ball joints are worn out.
For MacPherson Strutt Suspension
To check the ball joints on a wheel with MacPherson Strutt suspension, you need to start looking for a grease fitting.
The grease fitting acts as an indicator of the ball joint’s health.
Check the Grease Fitting
After locating the fitting, give it a few wiggles. You’ll need to go by feeling and observe if the fitting moves inside the housing.
If the grease fitting feels loose and moving with each wiggle, you need to replace the ball joints.
Jack up the Car
For the next step, you need first to locate the crossing member of the car frame. You can rely on the owner’s manual to find the crossing member.
The car must be jacked up on the front cross member. However, not all vehicles with strut suspension should be jacked with a lower control arm.
Check for Wheel Play
Before you check the wheel for play, allow the MacPherson strut to extend as far as possible.
This will enable you to test the ball joints more effectively and to check if they have worn out.
You can also use your hands to check the up-down play on the ball joint. Shake the bottom of the wheel repeatedly to feel for play in the joint.If there is some significant play, the ball joint needs to be replaced.
And you can also pay attention to any noises coming from the ball joints. The ball joints in a wheel with strut suspension must remain silent.
If you hear any sound when moving it upwards, it’s an indicator of a worn-out ball joint.
If your ball joints show any of the indications mentioned in this article, you had better replace it before it starts experiencing severe suspension problems.We hope we have enlightened you enough on how to check ball joints.
Please read the instructions thoroughly and maintain all the safety precautions while applying them.