Symptoms of damaged ball joints, maintenance and replacement tips

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Ball joints are key components in cars as they aid direction and balance. Not knowing how to maintain them could drain your pocket! Click below for pro tips!

A car consists of different components working together to aid its performance. These components are not isolated; they are connected. Just as we have the ball and socket biologically wired in the human body, ball joints are mechanically wired in cars to aid various components in bringing their individual contributions to the table for the overall optimal performance of the car.

Identifying a ball joint

Do you know what a ball joint looks like? Maybe you do not; it is fine. You may be a car owner but you are not a mechanic. That is why Naijauto is here to acquaint you with relevant car terminologies and operations.

A ball joint is round in shape and made of metal. It is located somewhere between the suspension system of your car and its wheels. The effect of the ball joint is greatly felt during steering as it helps to ensure that you move in your desired direction. As you make a turn, it connects the suspension and wheels, aligning them to move in one accord.

The ball joint also helps to give your car even balance. Connected to the four wheels, it ensures that the weight is not fixated on one particular area, wearing it out.

mechanic-fixing-car

Ball joints align your car's suspension and wheels for optimal performance

Due to the very important role the ball joint, it is a common feature in all cars. Regardless of the kind of car you drive, it is present; you probably have not located it yet. However, the number of joints differs among cars. This number is determined by the nature of the suspension a car makes use of. Cars with short-long arm suspensions typically have four ball joints. Each wheel plays host to two ball joints. One is located on the lower ball joint and the other is located on the upper ball joint.

Strut-equipped cars are built differently. These cars often have two lower joints located in the suspension at the front.

Types of ball joints

Ball joints are mainly classified in two forms: follower ball joints and loaded ball joints. In simple terms, a loaded ball joint refers to one that has heavy weight. They are found in specific kind of cars such as trucks and cars with a rear-wheel-drive.

The follower ball joint is the opposite of the loaded ball joint. It is also referred to as the unloaded ball joint because it does not have the heavy weight the loaded ball joint has. The weight is almost non existent. Its lower ball joint gives no support to the car’s weight.

The make of a car determines the type of ball joint installed in it. This is the prerogative of the manufacturers as they understand what works best. In some cars, rather than have the upper ball joint aiding the weight, it is the lower ball joint that does it.

>>> Honda car owners must see this: Long-term solution for Honda car ball joint problems without replacement

How to lubricate ball joints

A commendable characteristic of ball joints is that they do not require quarterly or annual maintenance. New cars come with ball joints that are sealed. Having a ball joint sealed is very important because the seal prevents grease from getting exhausted quickly. With older cars, application of grease is necessary. After being driven for several miles, there is the need for lubrication to ensure that they function effectively.

Each car has its own recommended interval for ball joint lubrication or replacement. This is calculated either by time or miles covered.

car-ball-joints

Lubricate ball joints of old cars to avoid clogging 

Signs of a damaged ball joint

In order to determine the right time for a ball joint replacement, you need to be well informed about the symptoms of a damaged ball joint. Otherwise, you might carryout out a replacement when it is not required, wasting your money, time and energy in the process.

  • Clunking noise

Clunking noise is one symptom of a damaged ball joint that is hard to miss. As you drive across bumps and potholes, you will hear that clunking noise. Do not ignore it as one of those car sounds. Have it checked immediately.

  • Irregular tire wear

Car tires are not meant to last forever, but they are supposed to serve you for a reasonable period. If your tires get damaged easily or wear out unevenly, it is an indication that your car’s weight is not balanced due to damaged ball joints.

  • Irregular steering

When you find it difficult to steer your car in a particular direction or notice a pulling in the wrong direction, the fault could be from the ball joint as the wheels do not pick disseminated signals accurately.

Replacing a ball joint

Do not attempt to replace the ball joints yourself; get an expert mechanic to do it. However, he/she does not have to replace the entire ball joints but the damaged one(s). Your car can work perfectly without replacing the ones that are not damaged. This will help you save some money.

>>> Want more car maintenance tips? Always visit Naijauto.com for more updates!

Chris Odogwu is a freelance Content Writer and Journalist. He holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from University of Jos and a master's degree in Mass Communication (Public Relations and Advertising major) from University of Lagos. His works have been published in top local and international publications including Forbes, HuffPost, ThriveGlobal, TheNextScoop and Nigeria360 among others. A member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), the thrill he gets from writing about exotic cars feels almost the same as riding in them.

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