Ball joints are used in your vehicle’s suspension and they allow your front wheels to move up and down and turn left and right. Having them checked at least twice a year is an important way to keep your vehicle safely rolling down the road.
There are several front suspension parts that are related to the ball joint. On a front-wheel drive vehicle, the strut is the uppermost part of the suspension. The strut has a spring attached to it to support the weight of the car and it also acts as a shock absorber.
Attached below the strut is the spindle and it is where the brakes and wheel attach to the car. The spindle has a wheel bearing inside of it, which allows the wheel and tire to roll down the road.
Next is the lower control arm and it connects the spindle to the bottom of the vehicle. All of these parts are constantly moving as you are going down the road, including turning left and right. The part that allows all of this movement to happen is the ball joint, which is located right between the spindle and the lower control arm.
A typical ball joint is basically a steel ball that is encased inside of a steel case that is filled with a lubricant. This allows the parts that are attached to the ball joint the wide range of motion that they need as the suspension bounces and turns out on the road. Obviously all of that turning and friction leads to the ball joint wearing out over time. When they wear out, you need to get that ball joint replaced.
Rear-wheel drive cars and trucks usually have upper and lower ball joints because the front suspension is set up differently. If you have a four-wheel drive truck that needs new ball joints, it can get pretty expensive. That’s because there is a lot more labor involved when you are working on a four-wheel drive suspension.
If you have a worn ball joint, it can actually affect your alignment. The wheel is going to be able to move from side to side when the ball joint is worn out and that will cause your vehicle to be out of alignment and premature tire wear.
One of the main reasons to have a ball joint replaced is because when it totally fails, believe me, you know it. The vehicle will collapse to the ground and you will not be able to move it without a tow truck.
So remember to have the ball joints checked and replaced of needed. If not, your vehicle might not only break down out on the road, it might lay down out on the road.