5 Super-Fast Ways to Check Ball Joints – #5 Is so Easy It Will Make You Laugh
Do you drive? If so, you probably want to know how to check your car’s ball joints! Don’t feel like it? Do you prefer to take the car to the mechanic? I feel you! But stick around! Don’t go yet! Take a moment to skim through the content. It will help you recognize the main signs of ball joint wear. Why should you be interested in that? Because the ball joints of your car connect the chassis to the wheel. And enable you to turn. Should they wear (and they will one day), driving the car won’t be safe.
So here’s the best recipe for checking the ball joints – or recognizing the signs of wear – or both. Do you need to have expert skills? Not particularly! They are rather easy ways to check the ball joints. And we saved the easy-peasy one for last. So let’s go! Let us bring the hidden mechanic out of you!
1. Visually check the ball joints
This is the hardest way to check the ball joints. That’s how mechanics do it. But you are not a mechanic. Since it involves lifting the car, make sure you know how. You should jack up the front end of the vehicle. Make sure it is well supported, check the manual for any specific instructions, and make sure the transmission is placed into park.
Making the right preparations and taking the right precautions before you jack the car up are both very important. You can’t check visually the ball joints without jacking the car because the wheels won’t be able to move freely. With the car on the ground, you will only be able to check the upper joints. So if you have McPherson struts, you have to jack the vehicle up.
Okay, first things first. You have to locate the ball joints. Check if your car has both lower and upper ball joints. If so, check both but be aware that the lower one wears much faster.
What to check:
- The rubber cover. It’s easy to tell it’s damaged if lubricants leak out of the joint.
- The boot. It must be in good condition. If it’s torn, worn, or gone, you must replace the ball joint.
- Play with the joint. It shouldn’t move. If it plays, it’s bad news.
- Wiggle the wheel up and down to see if there is axial looseness.
- Shake the wheel to check the lateral looseness
- Place a pry bar between the wheel hub and the lower control arm. And make an effort to pry them apart. If they do, one of the ball joints is not good.
2. Look for worn tires
When your tires wear unevenly, it’s often a sign of ball joint damage. So you have to check your tires more often. After all, most ball joints would last for at least 70,000 miles. Some even last for over 150,000 miles. It will depend on their quality, the surface of the road, and exposure to corrosive elements. During this time, I like to think that you will check your tires at least once or twice.
When the ball joint is damaged, it doesn’t enable the tire to come in contact with the ground correctly. So eventually there is tire tread separation – you will notice that if you check the edge end of the tires.
What to look for:
- Premature wear at the inner or outer part of the tires
- If the front tires are worn much faster than the rear ones
If you fail to check the tires, the condition of the ball joints will worsen. And as the condition of the ball joints will get worse, the tires will be rendered useless too. Finally, you will have to replace both tires and ball joints. So the earliest you discover the problem, the better for your pocket.
3. Check the wear indicator
What is the wear indicator? It might be a grease fitting or collar. But what you are interested in looking is the part the fitting is screwed into. To check the wear indicator, the car must stand on its wheels. So no jacking up this time! The indicator should protrude for approximately half an inch from the ball joint cover plate – how much it will protrude also depends on car make and model too. If it’s not protruding sufficiently, there is a problem. So what you must look for is whether or not the indicator has receded inside the ball joint’s housing. And if it has, you should replace the joints.
4. Just drive around
Checking the condition of the ball joints is getting easier and easier. What we suggest now is taking a drive. What your goal is during the ride is to:
- Test the car’s stability
- See whether or not you have full control of the steering wheel
- Listen to odd noises
So go for a drive in a street where you can speed up to the car’s limits – no need to break a record though. And keep the music down – this is not a leisure trip. You need to be able to hear for any noises coming from the front of the car.
If your car has a strut suspension, the ball joints shouldn’t make any noise. So if any rattling and scraping alarms you while you are driving, it’s most likely the ball joints. The strange banging sound often comes from the front corners of the car – or it seems so. You might notice it when you drive over street bumps. It’s hard to miss when you drive on uneven and rough roads. The noise is more intense when you turn the wheel – naturally since the ball joints allow steering wheel rotation. As time goes by, the noise gets worse. And this means that the problem with the ball joints has deteriorated.
Does the steering wheel pull? When you drive at high speeds, worn ball joints will not only pull the steering wheel but will also make it vibrate. You will not have absolute control over the steering wheel because it will kind of wander. So it requires great attention.
Once you make this high speed ride, take a deep breath and find a road with speed bumps. Uneven terrains will also do. Now what you want to do is drive slowly over the road bumps and still try to listen to banging noises.
5. Turn the steering wheel
Now it’s time to relax. This is the easiest way to check whether or not the ball joints are worn. Once your ride at low speed is over, park the car. And turn the steering wheel right and left. Don’t forget that the prime job of the ball joints is to allow you to turn the car with ease. So you should be able to turn the steering wheel with ease even with the car parked. Do you feel any ball joint looseness? Do you have a difficult time turning the wheel? Is there a noise? These are not good signs.
- What you feel as a driver is not always a clear indication of bad ball joints. Some signs are common to all vehicles. But the best way to check if the ball joints of your car are damaged is by jacking the car and visually checking their condition. And if you don’t have much experience, it’s always best to take the car to a mechanic.
- Still, don’t ignore any sound or car behavior which is out of the ordinary. Even if there is no problem with the ball joints, there might be another serious problem which might compromise your safety.
A quick sum up…
If you have some experience with cars and their components, you can check the ball joints. And it takes no experience to read out the signs warning you that there is a problem with these important car components. Although feeling the car, listening to noises, and checking the steering wheel are all important when trying to understand the messages ball joints might be sending you, checking visually is the safest method.
So if you have no experience or even don’t know how to jack up the car with safety, it’s better to leave it to the experts.
I just hope the information provided here was a tad helpful to those with some experience in car maintenance and to those with no experience whatsoever.
At the end of the day what I think it’s crucial is safety on the road. With the ball joints ready to separate the wheels from the chassis, there is no safety at all. And accidents can happen due to broken ball joints, especially at high speeds. So keep listening and why not checking the ball joints once in a while to have peace of mind on the road.
Do you have any personal comments? Do you want to add something? Please Like Us if you did like our article!