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.