Recognizing ball joint symptoms before it is too late can help you save hundreds on repair prices in your car. Instead of paying between $70 and $285 for a ball joint replacement, you can notice the symptoms of a worn-down suspension, like vibrating, shaking, clunking noises, steering wandering, and excessive tire wear.
Let’s find out the function of the ball joint in your car, faulty ball joint symptoms, the ball joint replacement process, the average repair and replacement price of ball joints in modern cars today, and the importance of keeping this part working smoothly in your vehicle!
What is a ball joint?
This rubber-like boot allows movement and a flow of lubricant. The motion-controlled ball joints are controlled with an internal spring, which prevents any excessive vibration during the linkage.
The ball joint consists of a bearing stud and socket that are both contained within a small casing.The bearing is tapered and threaded, and fits into the steering knuckle. The protective casing prevents any debris from getting inside and adds some extra protection.
Ball Joint Function
In modern cars, the lower ball joint is the pivot between the wheels and the suspension, the system of tires, tire air, and springs that connect a vehicle to its wheels and allow motion, allowing the car to move. If the wheels and the tier system do not communicate with each other, this indicates faulty ball joint symptoms.
With almost all cars in production today, they are used in the front suspension, but can also be found in the rear suspension in luxury automobiles. If you're planning on replacing both in your car for the rear and front suspension, you need to take notice of the ball joint symptoms.
Many automobiles today use suspensions that contain one lower ball joint per side between the strut and control arm, using articulation at the top of the strut. So, this means there are usually two ball joints in the suspension.
Sealed lower ball joints do not require lubrication over time, since they are primed for their entire lifespan. However, before ball joints had maintenance and lubrication, they were prone to faulty ball joint systems that would reduce the overall lifespan.
Ball Joint Lifespan
Since the lifespan is so long, this can reduce the replacement of the lower ball joint price. Even though there is no exact lifespan of a lower ball joint, they can fail around 80,000 miles in modern vehicles, and sooner in older cars.
Faulty Ball Joint Symptoms
Excessive Tire Wear
One sign of worn-down ball joints that can cause the faulty ball joint symptoms is excessive tire wear. If your tires wear out more quickly, especially on one side rather than the other, this is because of any problems with the steering system or alignment in your car.
A misaligned vehicle can cause the ball joint symptoms and uneven tread wear in your car. If your car continuously pulls hard to the right, you will find your tires wear down quicker on one side. In this case, you may have to remedy the faulty ball joint symptoms before you have to replace your tires.
Signs of Misaligned Tires
- Uneven tire wear and excess vibration in the steering wheel, the floorboard, or the seat can show that it is time for tire balancing to remedy the unbalanced tires. You might also want to have your tires balanced during a rotation, after a flat tire repair, or as a part of your scheduled maintenance and repairs.
- Usually, the part of your car that is vibrating and having the most movement indicates to the driver where exactly needs balancing. The fix’s location depends on the location of the vibrations, such as whether it is the front or back wheels.
- If the vibrations are occurring in the steering wheel, this is likely a sign that your front tires are out of balance.
- If the vibrations are originating from the setas, this shows that the unbalanced tires are in the rear of the vehicle.
- The vehicle pulls to one side, with the car driving in a crooked line when you don’t have your hands on the steering wheel.
- The steering wheel doesn’t return to the center after being led to one side.
- The steering wheel is in its resting position off-center.
- Excessive tire break down in certain spots due to the tires wearing down unevenly.
- Loose steering.
Steering Wanders From Side-to-Side
Your suspension system will feel the negatives of the faulty ball joint symptoms by moving from side to side without the driver intends to operate the vehicle. The suspension and steering system is built so that you can release the wheel and the vehicle will return to straight ahead travel. If you find this does not happen and the steering wheel does not return to center, this is a sign of faulty ball joint symptoms.
- Having unbalanced tires and ball joint symptoms can create a bumpy and unsmooth ride. This makes steering more difficult and delays the wheel’s response time, meaning you need to turn the car much sooner than you normally would. In addition, you will not be able to keep your car in a smooth line due to the steering issues from unbalanced tires.
Vibrating and Shaking
If you have faulty ball joint symptoms, then one of the first signs you will feel is the vibration in the steering wheel. Even just a little bit off-balance or uneven weight can cause the vibration to be noticeable to the driver. Not only will the vibrations be noticeable and annoying, but the tire imbalance will worsen as time goes on, leading to a worse vibration. This means that every passenger and the entire cabin will feel the vibrations through the floorboards and front seats.
Squeaking and Clunking Noises
The joints of a car are so loud that if anyone of these parts has a problem, the driver and passengers will know about it! A loud squeaking or creaking sound could indicate faulty ball joint symptoms due to debris build up or dirt accumulation over time. The rubber boot is meant to protect the ball joint – however, over time this boot can become torn or damaged, causing it to seize up and not protect the joint any longer.
In addition, drivers should listen for clicking or clunking in their car, causing the ball joint to move around inside the socket with too much play. As you travel over bumps in the car, the motion of the ball inside the socket will create a clunking noise.
Ball Joint Replacement
When you decide to replace the ball joints due to faulty ball joint symptoms, this can help your car continue running smoothly. Replacing a ball joint is fairly simple and will not break the bank for most people. It can take a while to remove all of the different pieces that comprise a lower ball joint, but it will not be too complicated for a car owner to carry out on their own.
Your mechanic might find other problems along with the lower ball joint though, which can increase the total lower ball joint price for replacement. If you want to avoid having to pay for a lower ball joint replacement too soon, you can just pay attention to the roads you drive on, the type of driving styles you use, and the other faulty ball joint symptoms.
What are the Steps of Ball Joint Replacement?
- Prep the Area – The first step in getting ready to replace the lower ball joint is to prep the work area. Make sure your car is positioned on a flat surface and block both of the rear wheels. Jack the front wheels off of the ground for some extra clearance so you can clearly identify the faulty ball joint symptoms.
- Inspect the Ball Joint – Next, inspect the ball joint and make sure this is the real issue. You don't want to replace a working ball joint just because you have noticed some ball joint symptoms without confirming the problem. Determine if your vehicle has a strut suspension or a control arm, checking for play near the ball joint.
- If there is any space between the lower ball joint and point of contact, the lower ball joint needs to be replaced.
- Buy Replacement Ball Joint – Third, buy the correct replacement ball joint assembly for your car. Check out your local auto shop and make sure they have the right par for your specific lower ball joint make and model.
- Usually, a new ball joint replacement will cost you about $80-$90. In comparison to using a mechanic or a local professional shop to do the lower ball joint replacement, you can find the faulty ball joint symptoms yourself and do the repair on your own to save some money.
- Access the Ball Joint – After you have the new ball joint, you can remove the wheel and make sure you can access the lower ball joint. Depending on your specific car’s steering setup, you might have to move the brakes.
- In addition, try to avoid hitting or moving the brake rotor, caliper, and the line without removing the entire set up. If you do, you will have to bleed the brakes, which is much more time-consuming and expensive than just remedying the faulty ball joint symptoms.
- Soak the Bolts – Lastly during the set up for the lower ball joint replacement, soak the bolts with WD-40 or PB Blaster to remove all of the built-up dirt, debris, and road grit.
- Remove the Ball Joint – Now that you are set to start the real work on replacing the lower ball joint, you can pull the cotter pin and loosen the castellated nut. Then, pop loose the ball joint.
- The main goal is to try and guide it through the hole in the steering knuckle. Using a wrench, remove the largest nut for the ball joint and replace it with a new one.
- Remove the Allen Bolts – After this, you can remove the allen bolts and slide the control arm free. Sliding out the ball joint can then help you access the other components.
- Install the New Ball Joint – Now, you are ready to install the new lower ball joint. Start by guiding the new joint through the hole in the knuckle, and then bolting the joint into place using the hardware. Then, torque the bolts to the right specifications.
- Screw in the new grease fitting and pump grease into the assembly, reattaching the brake and wheel if you remove them.
Sample Ball Joint Replacement Costs
- One of the least expensive options for a lower ball joint replacement is the Ford Fusion, Toyota corolla, Nissan Altima, or Ford F-Series. All of these cars have similar prices, with the labor usually costing between $132 and $167, and the parts only running between $93-$118. This shows that the total cost of the lower ball joint price is just $225-$285, which is pretty low for an automobile repair.
- Some of the more pricier options are the Chevrolet Silverado, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Honda CR-V. These models are only slightly more expensive than the cheaper ones, since the lower ball joint price is low all around. The labor costs for these cars is between $167-$211, and the parts cost for these makes and models is between $76-$240, which shows kind of a big gap for the parts prices.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, noticing the ball joint symptoms before it is too late can help you save hundreds on repair prices in your car. Instead of paying between $70 and $285 for a ball joint replacement, you can notice the symptoms of a worn-down suspension, like vibrating, shaking, clunking noises, steering wandering, and excessive tire wear.