What are ball joints?

As part of the front suspension of a vehicle, ball joints connect the various parts of the suspension system to allow them to move. Think of a ball joint as the hip of a car. The ball joints provide the pivoting motion between the control arms and the steering system to provide precise steering control and a safe and smooth ride.

Ball joints are made from the combinations of a metal housing and a stud. The stud moves freely around the housing to provide the motion necessary to allow the suspension and steering systems to work. Inside the housing there are bearings and grease that keep the ball joints moving without friction. The grease keeps debris from getting in to the ball joint and causing interference of normal operation. Some ball joints are sealed in a protective boot to ensure a long life. If the boot fails it can allow debris to affect the integrity of the ball joint.

How will I know if the ball joint is worn?

Making sure the boot or dust seal is intact and proper lubrication is present will maximize the life of a ball joint. One sign of a worn ball joint is looseness in the front suspension. If it is severe it will affect the precision of the steering and may cause vibration in the wheel. Unusual noises can also be a sign of a worn ball joint. A worn ball joint will also cause a vehicle to go out of alignment. This can cause your tires to wear unevenly and reduce the life of the tread. It can also cause improper contact with the road, which can result in difficulty controlling the vehicle under certain circumstance.

Why is it important to maintain the ball joints?

If a ball joint is severely worn, it can separate causing a complete loss of control of a vehicle. This could result in loss of steering and an increased likelihood of an accident. Suspension issues are important to address as soon as they are detected. Please check with a car service professional to make sure your vehicle stays safe and on the road.