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Your Ball joint worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Support for the shock absorber – the ball joint
The ball joint sits at the bottom end of the frontal shock absorber. It is embedded in the wishbone arm and supports the car upwards, enabling the shock absorber to rotate. This is heavy duty and its construction is very robust. With a normal driving style, the ball joint has a rather long life span of 120.000 kilometres.
Construction and location of a ball joint
The ball joint is a classical spherical joint connection, consisting of a socket with the ball pressed into it and surrounded by a rubber sleeve. On the inside the sleeve has a permanent grease or graphite lubrication. This construction enables the ball joint to transmit high steering forces whilst remaining flexible and rotatable.
Defects of a ball joint
A defective ball joint can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Bad tracking
- Inaccurate steering
- Clacking sounds and knocks when turning the wheel
- Swerving steering wheel
- Irregular wear on the front tyres
A defective ball joint can no longer adequately support the high forces of the front axle. Wear can lead to a breach of the front axle or premature wear of the wheel bearings. Therefore a defective ball joint must be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Replacement of a ball joint
Replacing a ball joint is not an easy task for a layman. The entire steering mechanism of the car is tightly screwed together. Without the proper tools, professional disassembly is almost impossible. In any case you need a ball joint remover. Only high-grade tools are to be used. Cheap tools can even be dangerous. Once you succeeded in loosening the ball joint, further replacement is easy. It sits on the A-shaped wishbone arm, which can be folded downwards after loosening. You can replace the old ball joint by a new one and the car is ready for safe driving again. As with all steering components, all repairs should be performed on both sides of the car for the best result.
Costs for a ball joint
A ball joint is a component under high strain which on condition of careful driving can outlast 120.000 km. This requires a high-grade product from a branded manufacturer. Cheap ball joints of 20 euro (c. £18) or less even have a shorter life span. You save yourself this annoyance in advance by investing in a high-quality branded product right away. Prices for ball joints in acceptable quality by brands such as ATE or FEBI BILSTEIN start at ca. 50 euro (c. £45). The price also strongly depends on the model car the ball joint is intended for. Heavier cars want more stable ball joints, which cost more. A professional garage needs ca. 30 minutes per side for the installation of a ball joint. DIY replacement last up to 1 – 2 hours, especially if you do not have the necessary experience and more particularly the suitable tools. We always recommend not saving on tools and here too invest in acceptable quality.
Check other components as well
Steering components are always built to wear simultaneously. When the ball joint has reached its wear limit, other parts will soon follow. You save a lot of time, money and avoid annoyance when on occasion of a repair everything possible is replaced. In case of the ball joint, at least the
- axle sleeves
- tie rod ends
- brake discs and linings
- wishbone arms
- shock absorbers and springs
- wheel bearings
should be thoroughly inspected. Only if they do not develop play and the rubber elements are not brittle, they can remain in place. Principally, in suspect cases the replacement of other steering components is worthwhile when replacing the ball joint. By doing to you maintain the maximum driving stability and can look forward to the MOT inspection in confidence. In view of the very cheap prices for these spare parts, even in branded quality, false economy is the wrong option.