Blog Car Care Advice Everything You Need to Know About Ball Joint Replacement
Car Care Advice

Everything You Need to Know About Ball Joint Replacement

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Feeling a shimmy in your steering wheel or a subtle tug to the side?
It could be more than just road bumps.

Worn-out ball joints can throw your drive off balance, as they allow excessive play and wheel misalignment. 

For your safety, you need to get a ball joint replacement ASAP.
Read on to discover how to swap them out, when it’s time for a change, and the price tag involved.

This Article Contains:

What Is a Ball Joint?

Ball joints connect the wheels to the suspension system, allowing the wheel hub to move and turn smoothly. They have two main components:  

There are also two types of ball joints: an upper and a lower ball joint. While both contribute to wheel alignment, the lower ball joint supports the vehicle’s weight and ensures suspension stability. These flexible ball joints allow the wheel hub to move vertically and horizontally, making steering possible on rough terrain. 

However, when they fail, they negatively impact your steering and shock absorption. 

Let’s discover some other symptoms that indicate your ball joints need replacing. 

How Do You Know When to Replace Ball Joints? 

There are several negative warning signs to expect if your ball joints go bad.

  1. Abnormal noises: You may experience clicking sounds due to excessive movement in the joint. These clicking sounds are the bearing stud knocking against the socket or other exterior parts of the suspension.
  1. Steering wheel vibrations: A damaged ball joint allows the wheel to move out of its correct alignment, causing it to “wobble” and resulting in a vibrating steering wheel.  
  1. Steering difficulty: A broken ball joint allows excessive movement, stopping the wheel from following your steering input properly.  
  1. Pulling to one side: Your wheel misalignment may be off due to excessive play, causing your vehicle to drift to one side. Essentially, your ball joints aren’t holding your wheels in place. 
  1. Uneven tire wear and excessive tire play: Your tires may become misaligned due to excessive play from an overly flexible ball joint. As a result, they’ll make uneven contact with the road, causing excessive wear on one side.  

Note: Bad tie rod ends can also cause similar symptoms like steering problems, uneven tire wear, abnormal sounds, and poor alignment. It’s best to have a mechanic assess the underlying cause.

Now that you know what happens when ball joints fail, you need to replace them soon. 

Keep scrolling to learn how. 

How Do You Replace Ball Joints the Professional Way?  

Replacing ball joints is a long and complex process, so you should have a mechanic replace them. They would:

Step 1: Jack up the Vehicle

The mechanic will raise the vehicle off the ground using a scissor or hydraulic jack. They’ll then unscrew each axle nut, remove the wheel, and access the ball joint. 

Step 2: Loosen the Mounts 

They’ll move the exterior parts of the suspension out of the way.  They’ll also remove the cotter pin and loosen the large castellated nut to allow the ball joint to unfasten.

Step 3: Pop Loose the Old Ball Joint 

While popping the old ball joint out with a ball joint press (a c-shaped clamp), they’ll guide it through the hole in the upper part of the steering knuckle. 

Afterward, they’ll remove each Allen bolt and slide the ball joint out.

Step 4: Attach the New Ball Joint 

The mechanic will use the ball joint press when popping the new ball joint into the knuckle hole and control arm. Afterward, they’ll attach the rubber boot over the stud.

Step 5: Secure the Replacement Ball Joint 

They’ll attach the joint using new bolts to avoid corrosion. They’ll then tighten each bolt and the castellated nut as per manufacturer specification.

Depending on the type of replacement ball joint, the mechanic may also grease the joint before reattaching the wheels and tightening each axle nut. They’ll then test the steering and suspension on your vehicle. 

Curious about how much the replacement will set you back?

How Much Does a Ball Joint Replacement Cost?

You can expect to pay between $150 to $350 (including labor charges) for a ball joint replacement. 
However, the cost of replacing ball joints depends on the vehicle model and the number of new ball joints needed. 

Note: Mechanics often recommend replacing all the ball joints on your vehicle at the same time, as they have a similar lifespan — if one joint breaks, it’s likely the others will, too. 

Still uncertain about ball joint replacement? 
Let’s clear things up.

4 FAQs about Ball Joint Replacement

Here are some finer details about safety concerns, causes, longevity, and maintenance of ball joints: 

1. Can You Drive with Bad Ball Joints?

You shouldn’t drive your vehicle with a bad ball joint as it presents several safety hazards.  

Firstly, a bad ball joint compromises stability and alignment, reducing steering control. You’ll often notice this loss of control when turning. A worn ball joint can also make braking harder, especially if you have uneven tire wear. 

Additionally, driving with a failing ball joint can cause substantial damage to your tires and suspension. For instance, wheel misalignment can lead to uneven tire wear, meaning you’ll need to replace your tires sooner.   

Likewise, driving with a worn ball joint may harm a suspension component — mainly due to parts knocking against each other. 

2. What Causes Ball Joints to Fail?

There are several reasons for a failing ball joint, including:   

3. How Long Do Ball Joints Last?

Your ball joints should last between 70,000 and 150,000 miles

However, their longevity also depends on the quality of the terrain you drive on and the type of joints in your vehicle (greaseable joints usually last longer). 

4. How Do You Maintain Ball Joints for a Longer Lifespan?

Besides following your vehicle’s recommended scheduled maintenance plan, there are other steps to improving ball joint longevity:  

Stabilize Your Suspension with a Ball Joint Replacement 

Your ball joints are a critical part of your suspension system — they allow controlled movement of the wheels while maintaining alignment and stability. If they go bad, you’ll experience a loss of steering control, and your vehicle will veer to the side. 

Need a mechanic to help but don’t want to risk driving to them?
Fret not! AutoNation Mobile Service will replace your ball joints in your driveway.

We offer easy online bookings and provide a 12-month | 12-000 mile warranty on all repairs. 

Contact us for any automotive concerns or scheduled maintenance procedures.