Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ball Joint Replacement

Ball joints are an integral part of your vehicle's suspension. Ball joints consist of an incased spherical ball bearing which is fitted in between the front control arms and steering knuckles. This allows free movement of the wheels and suspension system both vertically and horizontally, which is necessary when going over bumps while the front wheels are turned.

Due to the constant impacts absorbed by the suspension components during everyday driving, ball joints can wear out over time.  This leads to unsafe handling characteristics as well as noisy suspension operation. Since OEM suspension components are generally quite expensive, you can save a lot of money by replacing your worn-out ball joints with aftermarket units available from EZAccessory.

The Function of Ball Joints

Ball joints function much like a joint in the human body. By utilizing a spherical bearing, ball joints allow your vehicle's wheels to freely move within a two-dimensional plane. If a hinge joint were used instead, the wheel would only be able to move up and down, which would hinder the suspension components from properly functioning when the wheels are turned.

Most vehicles feature both an upper and lower ball joint. Behind the wheel and brake assembly is a spindle-shaped steering knuckle. The ball joints are connected to the top and bottom of the steering knuckle, linking it to the control arms which connect the wheel to the rest of the suspension system. This gives the wheels leeway to move slightly in a 360-degree direction independent of the vertical movement of the suspension springs and shock absorbers.

Ball joints also allow manufacturers to modify the stationary position of the wheel relative to the ground, referred to as the camber and caster angles. By fine-tuning the camber and caster angles of the wheels, manufacturers can optimize handling performance as well as tire life.

Ball Joint Replacement

In order to function properly, ball joint bearings need to be constantly lubricated. This reduces the friction between the bearing and its casing, allowing the bearing to pivot freely. Over time, the rubber seals that keep lubricant contained within the ball joints can become damaged due to dry rot, road debris, or general wear and tear. After all, your vehicle's suspension system is responsible for constantly absorbing impacts from the road, so it's no surprise that components such as the ball joints are prone to eventual failure on high-mileage vehicles.

Failing ball joints lead to a number of handling and performance issues. Damaged seals allow the bearing's lubricant to leak out, which causes increased friction within the casing. This can cause the ball joints to stick, which leads to jerky and unpredictable steering characteristics. Failing ball joints can also cause the suspension to become stiff and noisy, which leads to an uncomfortable ride and potentially dangerous handling issues during turning maneuvers.

Determining Ball Joint Wear

There are a number of ways that you can check the condition of your ball joints to determine if it’s time for a ball joint replacement. Firstly, pay close attention to any noises originating from the front suspension while you're driving. Failing ball joints often cause loud clunking or metallic scraping noises when going over bumps. Additionally, failing ball joints will often emit popping or squeaking noises when the steering wheel is turned from side to side.

You can also visually inspect the ball joints for any signs of wear or damage when your car is parked. Turn the steering wheel fully to one side and look behind each wheel. The ball joints connect to the upper and lower portion of the spindle just behind the brake system, and are identifiable by their accordion-like rubber boots. If the rubber boots are torn or damaged, the ball joints likely need to be replaced. Also check for signs of leaking lubricant along the rubber boots, which indicates that the bearing seals are damaged.

Finally, if you are still unsure of whether or not your ball joints are damaged, jack up the front end of your vehicle and place it on jack stands for support. Then, turn the front wheels from side to side by hand. If there is excessive play or choppy movement in the steering system, the ball joints likely need to be replaced.

If your vehicle's ball joints are damaged, it's imperative that you replace them as soon as possible. Failure to do so will not only diminish your vehicle's handling performance, it can also lead to unsafe steering characteristics that increase the likelihood of having an accident.

EZAccessory offers replacement steering and suspension parts for a variety of makes and models. If it’s time to replace your ball joint, we have high quality products that ensure a tight fit and optimal vehicle performance.  From wheel adapters to control arms, we aim to offer everything you need for your cars steering and suspension needs.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Wheel and Tire Maintenance

Tires take the brunt of punishment whether they are negotiating city traffic, highway miles or off-road conditions. Yet many drivers don’t realize that winter brings increased stress and wear on their wheels and tires. Cold temperatures affect rubber and steel, and salt on the roads can cause rusting and weakening of steering and suspension parts. It’s also important to know what kinds of tires are good for snow and ice conditions if winter conditions happen to frequent their area more than others, or exposure to cold temperatures comes naturally to the location, like the northern states or Alaska. Proper care and maintenance will prevent premature wear on suspension and wheels, and potential tire failure. At EZAccessory, we understand the importance of a high-quality suspension and steering system. Here are some tips to keep your tires, wheels, and suspension components working properly throughout the winter so that you are safe while driving and get top performance from your vehicle.

Checking Tire Condition

The gripping area for a standard set of tires approximately amounts to the surface area that a sheet of typing paper occupies. That is an 8.5 by 11-inch square footprint on the ground. You can see why it is so important for tires to have as much gripping surface as possible, and this means the best tread depth. Slick, bald tires do not have the gripping friction of a tire with projecting tread. This means if the tire has worn spots like cupping (bad shocks) or worn surfaces on the sides (alignment problems) or a continuous bald spot over the top (age and wear), it’s time for a replacement.

Look for any cuts or gouges in the tire tread or side wall. These are potential unsafe areas that may be weakened by an impact or manufacturing defect. Any type of steel belt separation, regardless of how good the tread looks, is a sign that the tire has suffered internal damage. Tire sidewalls should be smooth without any humps, bulges or irregularities. Tires that have sidewall deformation should be replaced.

Inflate your tires to manufacturer’s specifications. Tire inflation pressures will be included in your owner’s manual, or can be easily found online. A typical tire inflation pressure will look like this, 32psi or 34psi. Remember that overinflated or underinflated tire pressure will cause tire wear! Be sure to inspect valve stems to ensure proper air flow and air holding within the tire. 

Check your tires with a tread depth indicator. You simple place the needle probe in the valley between the tread and push down gently to get a reading on the graduated scale. If the tire reads less than 2/32 of an inch, you can reasonably expect to replace the tire due to excessive wear. Take several readings. Even if you get higher readings at different areas of the tire but your lowest reading is less than 2/32, it is still time to replace the tire. You may also use a penny to make the measurement by placing the penny in the tire groove. If Lincoln’s head (upside down) is covered or partially covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch. If his head is not covered it is less than 2/32. A quarter works in the same fashion—if Washington’s head is covered, you have 4/32 of an inch, which is a safe margin.

Tire and Wheel Maintenance

Winter months bring out road crews who’s specific job is to salt the roads and streets. They do this because salt has a tendency to melt snow and ice, thus making the surface safer for driving. Salt has a devastating effect on tires by drying them out and it harms any type of metal rim, in addition to rusting suspension parts and wheel adapters.

Washing the undercarriage, tires and rims is a good preventative maintenance to keep corrosion at bay. Reach further under the vehicle with the use of a long-handled brush. Scrub the tire and inside and outside of the rim and any suspension part you can reach. Rinse thoroughly. Perform a tire washing every week or just after heavy use, to remove caked snow and mud. You may use a tire dressing polish, but do so sparingly because it sometimes attracts dust and other small particles.

Tire Performance

Tires rated for snow and ice are particularly useful in areas that receive a lot of seasonal snowfall or have snow and icy conditions most of the year. This does not mean they will not function well during normal seasonal weather on regular roads. Generally, snow tires are made of a better quality rubber that is more resistant to colder temperatures. They may even have small or large studs embedded in the tread to allow for traction in heavy snow. Snow tires have a symbol or logo impressed into the sidewall. The symbol looks like a snowflake inside of a jagged mountain. This is an industry standard symbol which means the tire has undergone vigorous tests in fully packed snow. All season tires don’t have quite the depth of tread that a full snow tire has but they will have more than a standard road tire.

Snow tires penetrate snow layers to find traction. The design of the tread pattern allows them to flush snow out of the way and to the sides, rather than riding on it. You will immediately experience an increase in control during turns, acceleration and stopping. They are resistant to sliding in but all of the worst conditions, and increase overall driving safety.

When purchasing snow or all season tires, make sure you understand the warranty and what materials and areas of the tire are covered. At the very least, replace old tires with new tires in sets of two, mounting them on the driving axles. However, it is advised that all tires be replaced at the same time so they may be monitored and rotated regularly. When replacing and inspecting tires, be sure to check the wheel lug bolts as well to ensure proper fit and driving security.