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Symptoms of Bad Ball Joints & Solutions (Expert’s Repair Guide)

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the symptoms of bad ball joints & solutions so that you can have a perfectly working vehicle. Bad ball joints are super annoying as they make your vehicle malfunction when driving down the road.

Ball joints are vital components for the vehicle. As you might know, ball joints allow movement.

Without the ball joints on the car, you wouldn’t be able to turn right or left.

Unfortunately, sometimes they go bad, and they cause a lot of problems when that happens.

Don’t worry, though. With our help, you’ll fix these issues.

What Are Ball Joints?

Ball joints are notoriously used on all vehicles ever made. Ball joints allow for free movement when turning to one side of the road.

The primary purpose of a ball joint is to hold the wheel to the car.

Without the constant help of a ball joint, you wouldn’t be able to turn the steering wheel freely as you do.

You can find the ball joints of your vehicle underneath the car.

The main ball joints are essentially attached to the steering knuckle right at the wheel. Now just a little bit above, you can find the upper ball joint.

As you drive down the road, the wheels of the vehicle regularly hit bums.

When that happens, the upper and the lower ball joints help the car move up and down.

If the ball joints were to go bad, you would have a hard time driving.

In the worst-case scenario, if the ball joint came out of the steering knuckle, there is a high chance the wheel would come off.

What Happens When Ball Joints Go Out? Solutions Of Each Problem

Here, we will discuss the most common ball joint brake problems. Ball joints are indispensable parts of any vehicle.

With the help of ball joints, you can drive your car as much as you want.

If any ball joint were to get damaged, you wouldn’t be able to turn the vehicle to one side of the road.

You would immediately lose control over the car, which, as you might guess, it could be incredibly dangerous.

Ball joints are not easily damaged. In fact, you should only check them every 70,000 to make sure they are in perfect shape.

This guide will cover the most common symptoms that suggest the ball joints are no longer working correctly.

Without any further ado, here the most common ball joints problems:

01. Worn Ball Joints

One of the most common ways to tell you to need a new ball joint is by taking a look at the ball joint to see if it moves up and down.

If you notice that the ball joints indeed move up and down, then that is a clear sign you have a lousy socket.

Some technicians might have difficulty identifying this problem, as sometimes it might not be so obvious.

Here is what you can do to see whether the ball joints went bad or not:

  • Jack up the vehicle
  • Look at the ball joint
  • Move the wheel up and down
  • If you notice up and down movement, you have a damaged ball joint

A good ball joint should never show any signs of play when you try to move the wheel.

If you keep on driving with a worn ball joint, the ball joint will come out of the vehicle, and eventually, the wheel will come off too.

The best way to fix this problem is by replacing the damaged ball joint. Otherwise, things could get pretty messy.

02. Clunking Sound

bad ball joint noise when turning is one of the most common ways to tell you actually have a damaged ball joint.

You don’t have much control over the vehicle as you can’t pull to one side when the ball joint has gone bad.

Sometimes, you might even hear a clunking noise coming from the vehicle as you drive.

The clunking noise is caused by the constant up and down movement coming from the ball joint.

If you have a healthy ball joint, this should never happen.

If you think you have a bad ball joint, here is how you can check your ball joint:

  • Jack up the car
  • Get a crowbar
  • Now get the crowbar underneath the wheel
  • Now apply a little bit of pressure and lift it up
  • If you notice any clunking sound when lifting it up, you have a faulty ball joint

If you hear a clucking noise coming from the vehicle and notice that the ball joints are barely being held into place, we suggest replacing the ball joint as soon as possible.

The clucking noise and the instability from the vehicle will be gone by replacing the ball joint.

03. Vibrating Steering

Were you driving and noticed that you don’t have much control over the steering and feel like the vehicle has a mind of its own?

If so, then you probably have a bad ball joint. If the ball joints are in perfect condition, this issue should never happen.

A faulty ball joint will cause the vehicle to behave poorly when driving.

One of the most common bad ball joint signs is a car constantly moving to the right side and the left side.

There are many reasons why the steering wheel could be vibrating when you drive; another reason that could cause vibration is a poor wheel alignment.

However, if you suspect the ball joints are causing this problem, here is what you can do:

  • Raise up the vehicle using a floor jack
  • Get underneath the car and inspect all the ball joints
  • If you notice the ball joint is cracked, you need to replace it

If it turns out the ball joint was the culprit all along, then you must replace the bad ball joint to fix this annoying issue.

Bad Ball Joints Replacement Cost

As we’ve said before, a ball joint plays a huge role when you’re driving your car.

If the ball joint fails, your vehicle will not function as before.

And if you attempt to drive with broken ball joints, you run a high risk of getting injured as you might not be able to control the steering wheel.

So, replacing one of these little guys becomes a serious and life-threatening mission.

It’s hard to tell how much money you should pay for the average ball joint since the price is subject to change depending on the vehicle you have.

However, after doing some research, we have concluded that the average price for a faulty ball joint replacement is roughly $300.

Then again, that’s just an estimated price, and you might not have to spend that much money for a ball joint replacement.

Now, the price might increase if you have a mechanic replace the bad ball joints.

The average price for the installation can go from $120 all the way up to $400.

Once again, all the prices we have mentioned, so far, are subject to change depending on where you live and what car you have.

DIY Guide: How to Replace a Bad Ball Joint

If you’re willing to take some time out of your busy schedule to learn a new and valuable skill, then we’re here to help you accomplish such goals.

With our professional help, we will guide you through the steps you need to replace the ball joint that has ruined your vehicle.

If you’ve never done anything like that, you don’t have to worry about it.

This guide was made for those with no prior experience dealing with cars or anything related to it.

By the time you finish reading this guide, you should have a perfectly working vehicle.

That said, here are the steps to replace a bad ball joint on your own:

01. What You Will Need

For this job, you will need a couple of tools. Don’t worry, the tools you’ll need are not hard to find.

If you don’t have them on hand, you could ask somebody for them.

Otherwise, you can always buy them. And if you ever run into a similar issue, you will have the tools you need.

  • A ball joint press — you will need a ball joint press to press the ball joint to remove it from the vehicle — this is an essential tool you will need, so don’t skip it
  • A couple of wrenches —
  • Different size sockets — when removing the bolts, you will need different size sockets to remove them
  • A breaker bar — there are several tight bolts you need to break loose, and a breaker bar is perfect for this job
  • Needle-nose pliers — there is a cotter pin you need to remove, so you need needle-nose pliers
  • A flat head screwdriver — you need to unscrew a couple of screws on the wheel
  • Brake clean — when you remove the faulty ball joint, you will need to clean the surface before you install the new one
  • Penetrating liquid — some bolts might be too tight, which is why you want to use penetrating liquid
  • A crowbar — the crowbar will help you to remove a few things from the vehicle

02. Remove The Hubcap

The first thing you want to do is remove the hubcap from the wheels.

You want to remove the hubcap to gain access to the axle nut. Follow these steps to remove the wheel cover:

  • Unscrew all the screws using a flathead screwdriver
  • Now pull out the wheel cover
  • You should now see the axle nut
  • Spray penetrating fluid all over the axle nut

03. Take Off The Axle Nut

Now you want to remove the axle nut. We used penetrating liquid before, as it makes this process less tedious.

Here is how you can remove the axle nut:

  • Use a breaker bar to remove the axle nut
  • Get inside the axle nut
  • Apply pressure and push it down
  • Take the breaker off
  • Put it back on and keep pushing it down
  • Keeping doing this process until you can remove the axle nut

If you’ve never done this before, the axle nut is probably too tight, which is why you want to use penetrating fluid.

04. Loosen The Bolts

You will soon have to jack up the car, but you want to loosen the bolts before you can jack up the vehicle.

  • Loosen all the lug nuts
  • Don’t remove them just yet

You will soon remove the wheels. But for the time being, keep them on.

05. Jack Up The Car

Now, this is the most crucial step, but it is also the most dangerous one.

Supporting your vehicle is a scary thing to do if you don’t get it right, which is why you want to be careful when doing this.

Follow these steps to support your vehicle safely:

  • Place the floor jack underneath the car on the front side
  • Lift up the vehicle using the floor jack
  • Place the jack stands before you get underneath the car
  • Once you have placed all the jack stands, lower the vehicle onto the jack stands you just put across the vehicle
  • Now lift up the car on the backside
  • From there, place the other jack stands to secure the car
  • Now lower the backside onto the jack stands
  • Try to move the vehicle to make sure it is safe enough for you to get underneath it

As you can see, supporting the vehicle is no easy task. It takes some time before you get it right — but you don’t want to rush this process.

For more information on this topic, watch this video:

06. Remove The Caliper Bracket

Here, we want to put the caliper bracket to the side. By doing this, the caliper won’t get on our way when we’re doing other stuff.

  • Remove the wheels from the vehicle
  • Spray penetrating fluid all over the bolts of the cars as well as the ball joints
  • Use the breaker bar to loosen the upper caliper bracket bolt
  • Once you have loosened the bolt, use the ratchet to finish the job
  • Once you have removed the upper bolt — you need to remove the lower caliper bracket bolt
  • Now, you want to be careful when removing the caliper. You don’t want to damage the brake line when you remove the caliper
  • Place the caliper on top of a bucket, so you don’t end up breaking the brake line

That’s all we need for this section. The bucket might seem unnecessary for some people, but it is quite useful if you want to place the caliper somewhere.

07. Remove The Nut From The Lower Control Arm

Control arms connect the front wheels of the vehicle to the car itself.

This time, you will have to remove the nut from the lower control arm.

  • Use needle-nose pliers to remove the cotter pin on the bottom
  • Twist the cotter pin around to remove it from the bottom
  • Now that we have gained access to the nut, you need to remove it
  • Use the breaker bar to break it loose

Next, you will have to remove the bolt from the upper control arm. This process takes a little bit more effort compared to the lower control arm.

08. Remove The Bolt From The Upper Control Arm

Once you have removed the lower control arm, the next step is to remove the bolt from the upper control arm.

Here is how you can do this on your own:

  • Find a socket that fits inside the nut, and then get the ratchet on the other side
  • Use the wrench to remove the nut from the bolt
  • Now use the ratchet to remove the bolt
  • Keep both the nut and bolt somewhere you can find them as you will need them later on
  • Now you want to get the crowbar right underneath the control arm
  • Lift up the crowbar, so it will come out
  • Once it has come out, you want to make sure the knuckle is not pulling on the ABS wire. Otherwise, it will get damaged, and replacing that little thing is quite annoying
  • From there, you want to put the spindle knuckle to the side so it won’t get on your way
  • The axle should be released once you have removed the spindle knuckle

We’ve made a lot of progress. In the next section, you will have to remove the lower ball joint.

09. Remove The Lower Ball Joint

Once we get both the spindle knuckle and the axle out of our way, we should have access to the lower ball joint.

Here are the steps required to remove the lower ball joint:

  • First and foremost, you want to spray penetrating fluid all over the area where the ball joint sits. By doing this, you will have an easier time removing the ball joint from the surface
  • Use the needle-nose pliers to remove the snap ring from the ball joint
  • Use the ball joint press to press down on the joint
  • Now you need a breaker bar to put it on top of the ball joint press
  • Once you get the breaker bar inside the ball joint press, you want to twist the breaker around until the lower ball joint comes off
  • Once you have removed the ball joint, proceed to spray brake clean over the area where the ball joint sits. This way, you’ll have a clean surface

Removing the lower ball joint takes a little bit of time — so don’t worry if you spend more time installing the new ball joint than you initially thought.

10. Install The New Ball Joint

Everything we have done so far has led to this very moment. Installing the new ball joint takes a little bit of time.

You need to set up the ball joint before you can install it, which might take some time if it’s your first time ever.

Follow these steps to install the new ball joint:

  • Now it’s time to use your ball joint press kit. You will have to fit the new ball joint inside the receiving tube
  • Now place the removal adapter on the bottom
  • Place the installation adapter on top of the surface where the ball joint sits
  • Put in the new ball joint starting from the bottom
  • Now wrap the ball joint press around the ball joint
  • From there, you want to use the wrench to tighten the jackscrew. By doing this, you will tighten the ball joint
  • Keep doing this until you can’t twist the wrench
  • Remove the ball joint press and check the ball joint. If you can’t move it, then you pressed it perfectly
  • Put the ring back on, and then put the grease fitting on top of the ball joint, and you’re done with the installation process.
  • Now you have to put everything back on

And those are all the steps to install a ball joint on your own. Installing the ball joint takes a lot of time, but it’s always a pleasant experience when you do this independently. If you need more help when installing a ball joint, here is a video that shows everything you need:

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Would you like to learn more about ball joints? If so, you will find this FAQ section to be quite helpful.

What are the signs of a bad ball joint?

Here are the most common signs that suggest you have a bad ball joint:

  • Noise coming from the wheels — if you hear a clunking noise coming from the wheels, it means the ball joint has failed
  • Vibration — vibration is one of the most common problems that suggest the ball joint went bad
  • The vehicle pulls to one specific side as you drive — if you have to correct the steering wheel every so often, you have a bad ball joint

Is it dangerous to drive with a bad ball joint?

If the ball joint went bad, you should never drive with a damaged ball joint.

If you do, you will most likely lose control as you drive and possibly crash.

We suggest reaching out to a professional if you believe the ball joint went bad.

How long do ball joints last?

Checking the ball joints periodically is not a bad idea if you want to ensure the vehicle’s safety.

You should check the ball joints of your car every 70,000 miles. After nearly 70,000 ball joints begin to wear out.

Conclusion

We learned how to diagnose the most common symptoms of bad ball joints & solutions for any vehicle—finding out whether the ball joints have failed or not is ridiculously easy.

Most of the time, crawling underneath the car will do the trick.

Worn out ball joints are pretty easy to spot as you only need to take a look to find this out.

Either way, you don’t need to be an expert, and as you encounter these problems, your knowledge will build up; you’ll spot these problems right away.

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