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Sounds more like a body part than a car part, right? But it is, indeed, a part of your car. And an important one at that. But, ball joints in your car work just like ball joints in your body. They’re a ball, in a joint. Shocking, right? In a car, the ball joints are a part of the steering system. They help connect the wheels to the steering components, as well as to the suspension. In other words: You need them. More specifically and technically speaking, the ball joint is what connects the steering knuckle (which is attached to the wheels, and turns them) to the control arm (which is part of your suspension). When you turn the steering wheel, it’s the ball joints that allows that movement to ultimately turn the wheels of your car. And that’s pretty crucial. They operate just like the ball joints in your shoulder, with the ball inside a lubricated joint, that allows it to move around as is necessary. Different cars have different numbers of ball joints. But nearly all cars have front lower ball joints. Ball joints get a lot of use, and they can wear out. Some ball joints will last the life of your car, but it’s not rare for them to require a replacement at some point.
As your ball joints begin to die, they can become loose in the socket. That will mess up the alignment, and you may notice that your car isn’t steering quite the way that you’ve been asking it to. The result will usually be your car pulling to the left or the right. This is a bit of a disconcerting feeling, when your car is trying to go in one direction when you’re not asking it to. So listen to your intuition when it tells you that something is wrong.
Okay, time for some basic math. If your car is pulling to one direction or another, do you think the tires might wear a little unevenly? The answer is yes, obviously. If your failing front lower ball joints are causing your car to pull to the left or the right, the tires will wear unevenly. So, even if you don’t notice the pulling, you might notice uneven wear and tear on your tires. It’s a good idea to give your tires a visual inspection every now and again. Excessive or uneven wear and tear should be taken seriously, at least if you value having tires on your car. Which you should.
Hopefully you know by now that foreign noises from your car are not a good thing. And they should be addressed. Always. If your front lower ball joint is beginning to wear out, they can make two different noises. The first is a knocking, clanking, or rattling noise, which happens when a failing ball joint is rattling around in the socket. The second is a squeaking noise, similar to an old door in a horror movie, which happens when a busted ball joint is lacking in lubrication.
If your front lower ball joint is calling out sick, the suspension of your car will be compromised. You’ll feel it in the form of a vibration. You might feel the vibration from the steering wheel, which is a weird sensation. Your entire car might vibrate like you’re driving on a dirt road.
As ball joints wear out, they cease to do their job as well. Eventually, the wear reaches a critical point, and the ball joints fail completely. Since they’re responsible for controlling the car’s wheels, this means a loss of control. If your ball joints are failing, they should be repaired immediately, before you risk losing your steering while traveling at a high speed.
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