What are Ball Joints?
Without the suspension, your daily ride would be just a bit uncomfortable, if not downright dangerous. Even on the smoothest of roads, the suspension needs to move up and down to keep all four tires firmly planted on the ground and give you a comfortable ride. In the front, not only does the suspension need to move up and down, but also the steering system needs to turn left and right. While bushings generally allow for movement on a single axis, up-down or forward-backward, for example, ball joints allow for movement on three axes, up-down, forward-backward, and left-right.
Why are Ball Joints Important?
There are two ball joints per side in an independent suspension, while there is only a single lower ball joint in a MacPherson strut suspension. In both independent front suspension and MacPherson strut suspension systems, ball joints serve two critical functions. First, they need to allow for free movement on three axes. At the same time, they need to keep the wheel alignment true. The ball-and-socket joint serves this purpose well, but it can cause problems if it wears out.
What are Some Common Problems with Ball Joints?
You might need to have ball joints looked at if you are experiencing problems with your vehicle. Here are a few reasons you might want to ask your technician about it.
- If the steering wheel feels loose or your vehicle wanders, you may have a loose ball joint or tie rod end.
- If you hear abnormal noise over bumps, a loose ball joint could be the culprit.
- If your tires are wearing abnormally, a loose ball joint may not be holding the alignment angle.
- Similarly, a loose ball joint could even allow the wheel to shimmy, leading to steering wheel vibration or abnormal tire wear.
- Rarely, noisy or difficult steering may be caused by a ball joint that has lost its lubricant. Since many ball joints are “maintenance free,” they will require replacement if they wear out or start binding.
What can Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers Do for You?
At Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers, trained technicians can inspect your ball joints for wear and excessive clearance. Using eyes and ears and modern equipment, our ASE-Certified technicians will inspect your vehicle for steering and suspension problems, whether they’re related to ball joints, tie rod ends, strut bearings, or control arms. If any parts need replacement, a computerized four-wheel alignment will put your tires and wheels back into specification to restore stability, handling, traction, and maximize tire life.
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