What Happens When Ball Joints Go Out? – Expert Guide
Owning a vehicle comes with many responsibilities. Educating yourself about different components and their functions is primary.
Even a distinct noise or a clunk could indicate something amiss or bothersome. One such component is the ball joint.
These parts may seem trivial to those who lack servicing knowledge, but they bear a greater role and accountabilities in the long run.
So what happens when the ball joints go out? Imagine driving up an uneven road where the tires and suspension do not maintain the vehicle position.
You honestly do not want to experience that! It is better to learn more about this issue before the worn ball joints cause serious misfortune.
What Happens When Ball Joints Go Out?
Ball Joint Functionality
Every vehicle owner needs to have some idea of what exactly this small device does.
You could consider it as a pivot point that connects the suspension and the wheels.
Ball joints are pretty clever elemental pieces that comprise a bearing stud and socket.
They are fitted inside a case that is lubricated for flexible bearing control. These round bearings link the control arms to the steering knuckles that operate similarly to the human hip joints.
What is the function of hip joints when you are on the move? They support your weight while standing, walking, or running. Ball joints pretty much do the same thing for automobiles.
Different road surface surmises different conditions upon your vehicle. So the joints simply minimize the up and down motion impact.
There are upper and lower ball joints in each section of the front suspension.
Some vehicles may even have both, depending on the type of truck or car. It is the lower joints which faces the most wears due to the impact force.
They tend to deteriorate faster since they have to bear the potholes, rough surface brunt alongside the vehicle weight.
The joints work together to provide smooth movements in back and forth as well as left and right motion, all the while steering the wheels as you drive.
That is what they do. If you can control your vehicle precisely and reach the destination in a safe and smooth ride, now you know why.
As we have mentioned, they sure have substantial responsibilities that virtually every ride depends on.
Signs of Ball Joint Deterioration
If the functions of certain parts could speak, things would have been so much easier to decipher. However, machines and their components cannot talk, but they can express damages through warning symptoms.
Since every component gives off signs, this particular one will also warn you by making noises.
Whenever you hear knocking sound or something like a clunk as you go over the bumps, know that the ball joints are quite worn.
Even squeaky or grating noises with moving suspension are a clear result of joints deterioration.
If you experience excessive shaking from the front car section, that is one more reason to have the vehicle looked at.
Uneven Tire Tread
Another ball joint failing symptom includes inner and outer tire wear faster than the whole tread. It might take a while to realize compared to other signs.
Still, if you notice a slight alteration of tire tread imbalance across or around the circumference, it indicates joint problems that require to be fixed.
Difficulty in Steering Control
The major failure of the ball joint sign is when the steering wheel fails to maintain optimal balance.
We know how necessary it is to obtain this balance in the aspect of driving.
Thus, make no further delay if any of these signs begin to show up. The sooner you replace these bearings and socket, the better.
Potential Side Effects
Things wear down, get damaged over time, and might need replacements. Nevertheless, this is an entirely different matter when it comes to an automobile.
There could be considerable amounts of consequences if any single part of a vehicle starts to display a sign of degeneration.
Some impairment is minor, while others could lead to potential accidents.
So is it okay to drive with a bad ball joint? Our answer is, avoid it at all costs.
The worst-case scenario is the coming apart of the ball joints followed by the breakage.
Effects on Wheels
To begin with, damaged ball joints compromise the wheel motion. It is a serious issue since it can have dire side effects on other components of the front suspension.
Basically, stud breakage or ball out of the socket incidents will eventually result in an uncontrollable wheel movement.
Furthermore, it will cause uneven tire wear. Hence, the wheels will be unstoppable against the force of inertia until you step hard on the brake.
Tire wears in this form would mean they will have a shorter lifespan and produce variable secondary issues. As a result, you will have to face added expenses oftentimes.
Increased Warning Noise
Next, the noises will increase further if you continue driving with bad joints.
You will be able to hear the clunking noise every time you move through uneven roads or hit any bump.
Effects on Suspension
They will also keep on knocking on the suspension as you move around. And when the joints come loose in the sockets, the vibrations increase to the extent that some might feel it all the way to the steering.
Now that is an unpleasant way to travel. When all the symptoms mentioned above are set in motion, it could put you in trouble, including the likelihood of elevated accidents.
To evade such distress, our solution for you is always staying alert because one must never settle for imperiled driving performance on the road.
Ways to Check
Those who have no way of knowing how to check this part despite having suspicions of it going bad will have to get the car inspected as soon as possible.
Inspection by the Professionals
Do not delay the inspection as postponing could lead to more damage. Also, you should not handle the checkup by yourself if you are not familiar with the components.
Ball joint replacement is a tricky business, so it is better to have experts look at it right away.
However, if you have the right tools and understanding in regards to how to check the ball joints failure, go for it, with precautions, of course.
There are several ways of testing, but all would require jacking up the vehicle first.
One of the methods is to grab the wheel at twelve o’clock and six o’clock position, then rock the wheel top and bottom with in-and-out fashion.
If you hear grinding or clunking noise, it is time for those joints to have replaced.
There is one more technique you can apply that tends to bear an effective outcome.
It is called a screwdriver test because, as the name suggests, you are going to require a flat head screwdriver.
All you have to do is adjust the screwdriver against the control arm and put the tip right under the knuckle edge.
Once you place it accordingly, gently lever up. Keep in mind not to pinch the rubber boot, though.
Now watch and observe if the ball joint moves up and down as you continue levering.
If it does, then a replacement is in order because the stud is loosened in the bearing.
Another way to test is by placing a pry bar under the tire. Then, slowly try to lever the wheel up and down to see if the movement causes any sound. This is also known as a 2×4 test.
These are some primary ways to inspect a bad ball joint on your own. It is better to keep an assistant anyway since there could be an indication of the slacked wheel bearing.
Always adhere to safety measures before applying any one of them. Since the vehicle would be supported via the jack-stand, do not go overboard with levering. It could knock off the vehicle from jack’s support.
Replacement of Ball Joints
The timeline of replacement depends on the materials used to construct these ball joints. Yes, even this small component has variable make and design.
Ones that are made with premium compounds and innovative structure will provide superior durability. They will offer greater strength, which can result in long-term operation.
Usually, they can last for a pretty extended period that many even forget ball joints exist. Nonetheless, they wear out well ahead of the vehicle’s expiration time.
Ground Surface Condition
Ball joints are quite competent in working harder on winding and bumpy roads.
Consequently, their lifespan also depends upon the road conditions it has been exposed to and the automobile’s mileage.
It is recommended to alter the joints on both sides of the car as each side typically forms similar wear at the same time. So if you have to replace, have them in sets or pairs.
Make sure to change them as soon as possible before the maintenance expense increases.
The overall cost could go higher if the bad ball joints include additional issues such as uneven tire tread.
Thereupon, always check for the symptoms in order to avoid further nuisance.
Test the ball joints either by a qualified mechanic or yourself. Finally, replace them while there is still time to compensate less.
Now that you are familiar with what happens when ball joints go out, we hope the information will prevent one from fatal incidents. Safety should always be noted before anything else.
If you are not sure whether the ball joints conditions of your vehicle are in shape or not, do not hesitate to seek professional service.
Remember that they play a major part in car steering and suspension balance.
Therefore, leave no room for poor decision and maintenance on account of car care.