- Ball joints – introduction
- How can we identify a bad ball joint?
- What happens if you drive a car with a ball joint that is worn out?
- Replacing your ball joints
- Cost of ball joint replacement
- Time to replace the joint!
- Find a shop near you
- Tips for maintaining the ball joint
Often when a car breaks down in the middle of the road, we are unsure what to do, and we call a mechanic right away. Generally, any mechanical services offered are based on the make and model of the vehicle, but the variation in price is quite significant.
Ball joints are a pivotal component in your car. They connect the steering wheel and tires with the brake systems. They allow the vehicle to turn when you spin the steering wheel.
Ball joints are often mistaken for ball and socket joint in our body part but they operate the same.
Mostly, we pay the bill issued by our mechanic blindly without even knowing the rough estimate. We aim this article at informing the readers about the ball joints, their importance, how we know if they have worn out, how they are replaced, and finally, how much does it cost to replace a ball joint. Read on to know more about your vehicle’s ball joints.
Ball joints – introduction
How is the ball joint constructed?
They are constructed similar to a human ball and socket joint that helps the hands or wrists to move. Like our ligaments, there are lubricants to make a smoother and flexible turn.
Mechanically, ball joints are round balls made up of hardened steel with a tapered stud protruding from it. The ball is attached to the stud. The socket holds the ball snug in it. It consists of a synthetic material lining to avoid metal to metal friction and wear.
The socket is covered with rubber to polyurethane cover with grease injected into it. The grease reduces the wear on the ball joint. With time, the balls will not be held firmly in the socket, and the end play begins. Once the lifetime of the joint given by the manufacturer is reached or exceeded, it is advisable to change the joint.
They connect the steering wheel to the control arm, as it balances the entire mass of the vehicle. They are suspension systems filled with lubricants. It has a ball and socket that are enclosed in a rubber boot.
It is the critical component of suspension and steering and allows the vehicle to maintain its pivotal axis with the road and travel vertically. Any joint will wear after a period of use, in the case of the ball joint is worn out in the socket.
It is not advisable to travel with a worn-out ball joint as it is unsafe. It produces a metallic clinking noise when it is worn out. Typically it lasts for 100,000 to 200,000km, but the life of the joint may be reduced with harsh and rough driving or handling.
Placement of ball joints in the car
Where are these ball joints in your car, and what do they do?
We impose control and maneuver on ball joints. Any car will have 2 to 4 ball joints based on the make and manufacturer. They are two kinds, namely, load-bearing and non-load bearing.
If the make of the car has shocks and springs, then the ball joints are present on both upper and lower sides. The springs on the upper control arm will have a load-bearing ball joint on the lower side and a non-load bearing on the upper side, whereas it is vice versa for the springs on the lower control arm.
The lower joints have more wear than upper ball joints since they balance the front load of the car. If the vehicle has McPherson struts, it will only have a non-load bearing on the lower side alone.
It is universally present in all modern cars for the suspensions in the front and the rear side. For vertical and rotational movement, they are placed on the springs of the vehicle.
How can we identify a bad ball joint?
Just like disease show symptoms, a worn-out ball joint will tell you if it’s time for a replacement. Since these parts are inside the vehicles which are invisible to our eyes, it is hard to know if we have reached our limit.
You can also hear or sense a rattling noise or disturbance when the car shifts its weight. The polyurethane that encases the ball joint may be torn, sometimes causing wear on the ball joint.
But there are a few symptoms that can be used to spot a bad ball joint and they are:
1. Metallic clunking noise
Do you hear a “clunk” noise when you are over a bump or speed breaker? Can you hear the same “Klink” even when you make a sharp or hard turn?
The louder the noise is, the worse your ball joint is. This is a ubiquitous symptom associated with a bad ball joint. Since this is a small and faint banging heard closer to the vehicles, we mostly don’t hear it. It can be heard when you are going over a bump and felt on the floorboard.
2. Leaking Lubricant
Another common symptom that can be seen is the leakage of lubricant. The rubber encasement around the ball joint has a ball and a socket. We fill the socket with lubricant. If the ball joint has worn out, and it is time for a replacement, then the lubricant spills out. This happens even when the vehicle is parked.
3. Wheel Alignment
This accompanies the bad ball joint. The wheel alignment is different for each of the wheels, and you can experience your vehicle dragging to either one of the sides instead of a steady movement.
4. Problems with steering wheels
As the steering wheel and they directly connect suspensions to the ball joints, we will experience a terrible steering issue. We can feel a drag in the vehicle, and also the steering wheel vibrates. This makes the control of the vehicle difficult.
5. Wear in Tire
Added to the steering wheel issues, we can also experience severe wear in tires. Due to a heavy burden on them, they will be worn out faster and receive a feather-like texture. We can noticeably see the tire cupping issues in the tires. They are worn out unevenly. The front tires are worn out faster than the rear ones if we have a ball joint issue. Having an under-inflated tire will lead to worn out of edges in the tire rather than the centers.
6. Wear Indicators
In the older model cars, we may experience wear in indicators. Here is grease fitting that cedes into the housing as wearing happens and doubles the wear indicators. If the pins are invisible, then we need to replace the ball joints.
We now know it is time for the replacement of the worn-out ball joints!
What happens if you drive a car with a ball joint that is worn out?
We may sense all these differences and yet be protected from them. But what happens if you oversee them?
Without a ball joint, you cannot travel for a longer distance as they are vital car components. Mishandling causes wear on the ball joint, and driving with the slightly worn-out ball joint will lead to a significantly worn-out joint.
When a car has poor ball joints, it is not advisable to drive it. It will cut the control arm off from the steering wheel if it wears ball joints out. Perhaps this happens, you will lose control of your car and you may crash.
In technical terms, when the ball joints are worn out, it completely breaks free. The wheels are now free to move in any direction. Typically, the wheel will turn outwards. If it turns like that, it may slam against the fender. Slamming on the fender and drag the tire until the brakes are applied.
Replacing your ball joints
From the above-said indication, it is understood that we need to check for ball joints wear. If we overlook these faults, then it may add to the cost of replacement. Experts suggest that for every 70,000 miles the car travels, we need to replace the ball joints in case of rough driving.
If you handle your vehicle gently and adequately, you may check for a replacement every 100,000 miles it travels.
If you are finally aware that your car has the problem of worn-out ball joints and it requires a replacement, you have two choices:
1. Doing it yourself
You can always try and replace the ball joints, and the spares are available in online stores like Amazon or storefronts like Walmarts have them.
Although after the replacement for checking the wheel alignment, you need to take the vehicle to your mechanic.
2. Calling your mechanic
You always seek an expert’s’ help while replacing the ball joints. The car will be lifted on a hoist and checked for a worn-out ball joint. The hold and worn out one will give the noise.
The torn one will have a leakage problem. It can be easily identified with the tires are worn out on the edges rather than the center.
- They jack the car up to remove the wheels and tires at the affected place.
- After suspending the car and they remove the tires.
- The ball joint is removed from the sparing knuckle.
- In some cars, joints are present in the front, while in a few others, the joints are present in the back.
- They remove the control arm. We will remove most of the control system.
- Now the ball joints are removed and replaced.
- These are smaller parts that can’t be repaired, and hence they are replaced in most cases.
- The control arm is fitted
- After we fit the control arm replacement wheels back
- We check wheels for alignment
- Load tests are done on the car
We are sure that we need to replace the worn-out ball joint with a new one. We now need to analyze the cost incurred in replacing these worn-out ball joints. These costs include the labor cost and material cost.
Cost of ball joint replacement
Usually, the cost of replacement depends on the make and model of the car. They differ for each vehicle but vary within a range of $150 to $450.
Without knowing the model of the car, the correct price is difficult to be predicted. The lower ball joints have chances of more wear and tear as they balance the entire load of the vehicle on them.
Factors that affect the replacement cost:
- The age of the vehicle
- Make and model of the vehicle
- Individual replacement or assembly replacement
- Number of ball joints replaced
Replacements are done in car dealerships, repair shops, car repair chain stores like Firestone, Midas, Pep Boys, or Sears. You can try and replace the joints by yourself, but since they are a very sensitive and vital component that requires more attention, using a machine to replace the parts is advisable.
The price may also vary according to your neighborhood. If you own an FWD Sedan and your car requires a ball joint replacement, it may take up to $250-$500 for both sides. In case you are a 4WD car owner, then it could be $1,100 for replacing all the four ball joints. Some 4WD vehicles may cost you only around $750-800, but it all depends on the make and model of your vehicle.
Typical costs of the replacement include the basic cost for the purchase of the component and the labor cost for the mechanic. These costs are excluding taxes and discounts.
The basic cost for buying the ball joint and the control arm will be around 50$ – 100$.
Hiring a mechanic would cost you around $350-$2,200 or more. This is also a dependent variable based on the model of the car. Older cars have a different suspension system.
Wheel alignment costs are an additional cost since the alignment procedures will be different for each car. It may take up to $130-$850 per axle. Ask for special discounts if you are a regular customer or if your car is fully sensor-ed and requires only less labor will cuts some costs for you.
If you are planning to do it all by yourself, then it will take six hours of hard labor and the basic cost of materials for $112-$400. On average, $250 is spent on the replacement of the worn-out ball joints. It is always good to know how to replace the joints, and there are online tutorials available on YouTube for easy replacement of worn-out ball joints.
The time is taken for replacement also varies based on the model of your car. Some may take only 10 minutes, while a few others will cost around half of the day. These labor costs will also be included in the replacement cost.
Ball joints are vital components and do not oversee the symptoms of ball joints replacement. If the ball joints are cut out, they may cause a crash, or a wheel may get separated since you lose control of your car. Frequent maintenance and servicing of the car are advisable.
There are a few tips to remember before you replace a ball joint. Firstly, the ball joints are replaced in pairs. Once the replacement is done check the wheel alignment of your vehicle, see the actual basic cost of the ball joint and the labor costs. Cross-check with an online site like Amazon for the component cost.
We have a predicted suspension replacement cost for various models of cars. This is only a prediction actual cost may vary according to the type of replacement and the model of the car:
- For a Ford F-150 cost of replacement may vary between $405 – $630.
- Similarly, for a Honda Accord car, the replacement cost will be from $194 to $336.
- For a Toyota Camry, the replacement cost will vary from $194 to $390.
- For a Chevrolet Silverado 1500, the replacement costs $328 to $546.
- For the Hoda Civic, $233 to $316 is the variation of the cost of replacement.
- For a Toyota Corolla, the price variation for replacement of the joints is $265 – $445.
- Similarly, for Ford Explorer, the cost of replacement of joints varies from $396 to $525.
- For Honda CRV, the price varies from $412 to $654.
All the above cost estimates are just predictions, and the actual cost will vary ad the taxes will be included.
Time to replace the joint!
So the next time when you hear a noise while taking a hard turn, know it is time to replace your ball joints. Do not drive with a worn-out ball joint since the worse it gets, the more costly the replacement becomes.
When you hear the noise while going over a bump or hitting a pothole, or a shake, shimmy or vibration in the steering wheel is experienced, it is time for replacements.
You can find replacing the shop can repair workers near you by using the following references. You can use an online website to find a shop near you. The replacement of the joint is done by a few good repair shops near Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, and Albany in Canada.
Find a shop near you
If you have read the article this far, then you know the importance of the ball joints, as they hold the steering wheel for safe driving.
Do not drive for a long time with a worn-out ball joint, and you may experience the cut-off from the steering wheel and lose control.
We understand how much you care about your car as you have read until now. We saved your time in reading about 2000+ mechanical books to understand ball joints and the replacement of them.
Tips for maintaining the ball joint
- Conduct regular inspections of your ball joint for the signs of wear and tear. Over the course of time, the lubricating grease inside the polyurethane that supports the ball joint may dry and lead to the meat to metal friction and wear. This wears out the ball joint very soon.
- Using a new component during the installation of the ball joint. If you are replacing your vehicle’s existing ball joints, please verify and make sure that new mounting hardware is used, rather than reusing the old and worn one.
- Please avoid the replacement of only one ball joint at a time. They are replaced in pairs. If you are choosing to replace a ball joint, then you should be considering replacing a ball joint as a set. This kind of practice makes the alignment of wheels easier.
- Install a new ball joint, and the procedure may interfere with the alignment of your vehicle’s wheels. To make sure your car’s wheels are correctly aligned, kindly perform a full four-wheel vehicle alignment after any ball joint replacement.
- They may be exposed to damage, dirt, and debris even though they are inside sealed places. This will add to the damage to the ball joints and further harm the life and function of the ball joint.
- Rough and harsh driving will reduce the life of the components and increase the wear and tear of the parts.
- Drive smoothly in potholes, bumpy road surfaces, or road salt may also cause ball joints to fail.
- Tire damage is a result of worn-out ball joints. Regular inspection of your ball joint will help you avoid this kind of tire damages. They may harm the component.
When you experience signs of ball joint wear, you understand it is time to replace the ball joints and for safer driving. Before going on a long drive, check if the components are good and well serviced.
Patrick started his love affair with cars in his childhood. Over the years, he claims a sturdy hold on his driving skills, along with a thorough understanding of cars. We can expect some interesting, holistic, and pleasurable blogs with his flair for writing and his love for cars.
Being a car enthusiast, Patrick has experience comprising of two decades in which he has ridden some of the meanest and strongest machines in the automotive industry. His previous avatars include an automotive professional, photographer, and journalist, and you will certainly experience the roundness of experience in his piece on this site.
In his second decade of reviewing cars and analyzing tools, Patrick is all set to give you convincing, reliable, and the latest information regarding what’s happening in the automotive industry. Currently, he owns a BMW Z3 but cannot get his eyes off Aston Martin DB5. He is a car enthusiast; he loves cooking and listening to music, especially jazz. Here are some of the pieces written by our ace author.