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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 system, 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. While pretty much all cars have front lower ball joints, not all cars have front upper ball joints. But yours presumably does, or else you wouldn’t be reading this article. 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.
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 upper 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 (because it can be subtle, or, more likely, you can be inattentive), 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 upper 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 upper 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. Or your entire car might vibrate like you’re driving on a dirt road. I’m guessing having a sore butt isn’t your idea of a good time, so this should be a sign that something isn’t right.
All the aforementioned symptoms occur when a ball joint is first beginning to fail. Once the front upper ball joint fails in earnest, you may be left with a much more severe symptom, such as the inability to steer at all.
I think you know what to do here. Get your front upper ball joint replaced ASAP.
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