Honing My Driving Skills

A Vehicle Owner's Guide To Understanding Ball Joints

The ball joints on a car connect the suspension to the wheels. You'll find them at the front suspension in the majority of today's cars. Here's your complete guide to understanding the ball joints to keep your car in perfect shape.

How Do Ball Joints Work?

The ball joint allows for pivoting between the wheels and suspension. The amount of movement allowed will depend on the shape and size of the particular joint. The joints make cars much easier to steer and will make the journey feel much smoother. Think of a ball joint a bit like a ball and socket joint in the human body.

How Are Joints Created?

The suspension of the vehicle will have a threaded stud. Within this, the ball fits in and is attached. The wheels are then attached onto a strut, which connects out from the ball joint, and the housing is covered to protect the components. All the ball joints are greased to make it easier for them to turn within the stud when necessary.

Other components used to create the ball joint include control arms and springs. Steering knuckles are also added to help with the movement.

Why Do Ball Joints Need Replacing?

Over time, the parts will succumb to wear and tear. The problem is getting the failed joints out, because they corrode within the housing. Sometimes, the whole system needs to be replaced if the failed part can't be removed.

The metal can wear due to lack of lubrication. There is also the problem of the covering becoming damaged, which means dirt gets into the housing and affects the metal. Alignment problems will also put excess pressure onto the ball joints, damaging them over time.

How Do You Know They Need Replacing?

One of the things you will notice is tire wear. This will often be both increased and uneven. You may also find that the steering is hard, as the balls get caught within the joints. Other drivers have noted clunking sounds when they go over bumps or make turns, before the turning gets difficult.

If you believe your ball joints are failing, you'll need to inspect them. Use a jack to lift the car and look at the lower control arm with a dial indicator to measure the positioning. You can also move the components to check for any resistance.

Changing the ball joints yourself is one of the hardest parts of car maintenance. If you are unable to do this yourself, contact an auto mechanic.