Ball joints connect the control arm of the car to the steering knuckles. They handle the movement of the front wheels as well as the suspension. And when they are not in good condition, things can get bad. As such, they are an integral part of the suspension system, and they should be in good condition for your safety. It is also essential for the protection of other road users.
What causes bad ball joints? Well, it all comes down to wearing off over time. The best way to tell if you have bad ball joints is to be on the watch for telling signs. If you should notice the problems below, you should consult a professional on the same. Failure to do so will put you and others at risk of misfortunes. That said, let’s get started:
Signs of bad ball joints
Wandering Steer Wheel
When driving, you need to be in control, and that means that the steering wheel should be under your command. If you notice that your car has reduced stability, giving you less control, you have a reason for worry. At first, the wandering may not be evident as it will occur once or a few times during the drive. As the problem persists, you will notice a tremble in the steering wheel and the occasional wander. Lack of control is dangerous as you could easily ram into other vehicles or people on the road.
It stems from the wearing off of the ball joints, and this reduces the connection in the system. In some cases, the ball joints may not be worn off, but rather are loose. In either case, you need to engage a professional who can figure out what the problem is and timely deal with it.
If you regularly service your car, your ride should be smooth and free of noise. Suppose you start experiencing loud thuds when driving; it could be a sign of bad ball joints. The intensity of the sound will depend on how bad the damage is. For some people, passing over a pothole is enough to make the noises. Others need to move through dirt roads to experience this noise as their ball joints are relatively good.
The underlying cause lies in the suspension as the ball joints have worn off over time. As a result, the shock-absorbing properties reduce, and you end up feeling every bump on the road. The noises increase with time. At first, you may barely notice the sounds, but if you do not attend to the problem, they will become worse.
Note that the lack of shock-absorbing properties will affect not only the smoothness of the ride but also your safety. Why is this? Well, the ball joints are an integral part of the car’s chassis. If a joint were to break off, your car would move in any direction, and there is little or nothing that you could do about it. Would it not be better to salvage the situation when you can?
Worn off tires
Many people often put off replacing their worn off tires and will only give them a thought when the situation gets worse. However, they are not aware that tire damage could be an indication of bad ball joints. How is this? It starts with unevenness when you are driving. The road may be smooth, but you can feel that the tires are out of control. It feels like they are wandering in all directions under you, and you cannot help but feel concerned.
Where ball joints are not working as they should, they point the tires outside. As such, you look at the tires from one end, and they look okay. But on the other side, they look like they could do with a replacement. The affected side is so because it touches on the middle area, and you can see this on both front tires.
How long can you drive on a bad ball joint?
And now we finally get to the answer you have been waiting for all this while. On ascertaining that you have bad ball joints, what next? Should you get them replaced? Should you risk it all and drive on as if nothing is amiss?
The answer to this will depend on the extent of the damage. For some people, driving five hundred miles should not be a problem. For others, even ten more miles could be a risky venture. It would help if you got a professional to assess the extent of the damage. If you have been veering off the road, it would not be wise to try and get on the road again without replacements – if not for your safety; then at least for other road users.