The thought of losing control of the steering of your car is a scary one, but it can become a reality if the ball joints on your car fail. Imagine driving down the road and hearing a loud clunk. You turn the steering wheel, but the car does not respond like it should. This could put you and others on the road in danger! The ball joints on your vehicle are important pieces of your suspension and steering system, so you should have any potential problems with these parts checked out right away.
Thankfully, ball joints are meant to last for many years, so it’s likely that you won’t have any problem with them on a newer vehicle. They are not terribly expensive to replace when you do have problems, although it will cost you several hundred dollars. If you’re wondering whether you might need new ball joints, keep reading to learn about the cost of replacement and symptoms of a bad one.
What Is a Ball Joint and What Does It Do?
When you hear the term ball joint, you might be thinking about a shoulder or hip on the human body. Well, the ball joints in your car function much the same way a ball and socket joint in your body works. These parts are made of a ball and socket type joint encased within a lubricated rubber boot.
The ball joint on your car attaches the steering knuckle to the control arm. Essentially, it connects your wheel and tire to your steering and suspension system. Have you ever been driving down the road and spotted a car stopped with the front tire lying on its side? More than likely, the car’s ball joint broke and the wheel was no longer stable.
Much like your shoulder or hip, ball joints on your car can move in several directions as you’re driving. They allow your suspension to move up and down while also allowing you to turn your wheels side to side. Without them, steering would be nearly impossible!
Some cars have only a single ball joint on each front wheel. Others have an upper ball joint and a lower ball joint on each wheel. As the names imply, an upper ball joint would connect to the upper control arm, while the lower joint would attach to the lower control arm. In older cars, the rear wheels rarely had ball joints because those tires never turned. Some modern cars, however, even have ball joints on the rear wheels as well!
It is possible that your vehicle could have a total of 8 ball joints – two on each wheel! This depends on the type of suspension that our vehicle has. Typically, the more ball joints your car has the better it will ride and drive. Older cars usually only had ball joints on the front suspension, so they tend to ride a little rougher than newer cars.
Being such a critical piece of your car’s suspension, your ball joints also have an effect on your car’s front end alignment. There is no need to spend money on the cost of a wheel alignment only to have your car need the same repair again in a few weeks because you have a ball joint that is bad.
In addition to affecting your car’s alignment, a worn ball joint could also have other unintended consequences. If left unrepaired, it could begin to wear your wheel bearings faster than normal because of the improper angle of your tires. The cost to replace wheel bearings would then be another additional expense you would incur to get your car running properly again!
Believe it or not, ball joints need some level of maintenance as well. The lubrication inside the boot of the ball joint does not last forever. Most dealerships and repair shops will lubricate the ball joints and other necessary components when you have your oil changed or other routine maintenance done. This lubrication is necessary to keep ball joints operating smoothly and prevent them from wearing out prematurely.
Regardless of the number or position of the ball joints on your car, they are an extremely critical part of your car’s suspension system. Your vehicle’s suspension would not work at all without them, so it is important that you recognize the signs of a bad or worn ball joint so that you can have it inspected by a mechanic. If you think you might have a ball joint that’s on its way out, then keep reading to learn about the symptoms to watch and listen for.
If all this sounds too complicated and expensive, then you should just sell your car to Auto Wranglers! We make the process simple and easy, and we’ll make you an instant cash offer to buy your vehicle. We always provide free towing and pickup, and we’ll have you paid within a day or two. Use that money to buy yourself a new car that doesn’t have a worn out suspension!
How Much Does a Ball Joint Replacement Cost?
If you have a bad ball joint, you’re probably concerned about the cost to replace ball joints. You might be wondering how much you’re going to have to pay to get your car fixed and back on the road. Maybe you’re thinking that you can perform the job yourself and save yourself a few dollars.
Replacement of a ball joint is a car repair that requires some experience and mechanical knowledge. You may even need special tools or equipment depending on the make and model of your car and how your suspension is made. Unless you have a very good idea of how to perform this job, it’s probably best left to an experienced mechanic at the auto repair shop.
There are two aspects to the total replacement cost – the pricing of the part itself plus labor costs. The ball joint itself will likely cost you $110 – $230 for the part. Replacement will usually take a qualified mechanic a couple of hours, so you can expect to pay $150 – $300 for labor. When it’s all said and done, you’re looking at somewhere between $225 – $485 on average for the replacement of a single ball joint. If you have a front wheel drive vehicle, the cost may be a little more because of the additional parts that may have to be removed to access the ball joint.
The make and model of your car obviously has a big effect on the price. If you have a Honda or Chrysler, then you can expect to pay less than a BMW or Mercedes. Also, you may choose to upgrade your equipment upon replacement. You might pay a little more for a Moog ball joint, but it will probably last much longer than a cheaper, generic name joint from Amazon.
You might be wondering how to replace ball joints and whether you can do this job yourself. Unless you have a ball joint press and a lot of know how, you are better off leaving this to a professional. In addition, other parts need to be inspected when the replacement is done.
Often, the control arm bushings need to be replaced around the same time that ball joints do. It can be almost impossible to remove the ball joints and bushings without the press as well. A press allows a mechanic to remove the bushings and complete the replacement much easier and faster, so you would likely never even get the old ones removed if you try it on your own without the proper tools.
What Do Bad Ball Joint Symptoms Look Like?
You’re probably wondering now how you can tell if you have a ball joint that is going bad and when to replace ball joints. There are a few things that you can listen and feel for that will alert you to possible ball joint problems. Here are some things to watch for.
- Clunking Noise
This is probably the most common symptom of a bad ball joint. If you hear a clunking sound when driving or turning, then you’re probably getting ready for a replacement. This means that the cushioning material in the joint has worn out, and the metal ball is clunking into the socket with no cushion. This isn’t great, and it can eventually cause the joint to fail completely.
- Uneven Tire Wear
If you have a joint that is worn, then it can cause that tire to wear more quickly than the others. If you notice excessive wear on one tire and it’s wearing faster than your other three, then you should have that ball joint inspected. It’s likely that it’s going bad and needs replacement.
- Steering Wheel Vibration
Since your steering knuckle connects directly to the ball joint on most cars, you can start to feel a vibration in your steering wheel when the ball joint is going bad. It will no longer be smooth and steady as you’re driving down the road. Instead, the ball joint becomes loose and wobbles inside the joint. This wobble and vibration is transferred through the system all the way to your wheel, and you will be able to feel it as you drive. This symptom could also mean that you need a replacement of brake pads or rotors, but either way, it does not need to be ignored.
- Wobbly or Erratic Steering
This is slightly different from a vibration of the wheel. In this case, you might notice your car erratically veer to one side as you’re driving down the road. Or it might become more difficult to hold your car straight because you have a tire that has become wobbly. You should have this checked immediately because this symptom can be extremely dangerous, and it’s likely that your mechanic will tell you a ball joint has gone bad.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, then have your suspension parts checked out right away. Getting the problem repaired sooner than later will help prevent additional damage to other parts. A ball joint gone bad can cause damage to control arms, struts, sway bar links, and other parts of your suspension. You might be looking at thousands of dollars of repairs if you wait too long.
Should you choose to ignore the problem and things go too far, then you’re probably better off just selling your car to Auto Wranglers. We buy cars for cash throughout the United States, and we will make you an offer to buy yours too. We always provide free towing, and we’ll have money in your pocket within a day or two.
While all your car’s suspension parts are important, the ball joint is one that is absolutely critical to proper steering and handling. Thankfully, ball joints are made to last for many years and typically do not fail often. When they do, there are some obvious signs that you might observe that will alert you to the problem.
When it is time for ball joint repairs, you’re probably looking at a bill for a few hundred dollars at a minimum. This is assuming that no additional damage has been done. If you don’t want to worry about coming up with the money for the repairs, you should just sell your car to Auto Wranglers. We’ll make you a cash offer for your car in its current condition, and we’ll have money in your hand in just a day or two. Give us a call today!