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Ball joints are a crucial part of your car’s steering and suspension. They act similarly to the joints in your knees or shoulders, and allow the car’s front wheels to pivot. Furthermore, they allow the suspension to move up and down as you drive over inconsistencies in the road. Some cars have one ball joint in each front wheel. Others have two in each front wheel, and some have ball joints in the rear wheels as well.
As ball joints wear out, they’ll begin to have excess friction when in use. That will usually result in a creaking sound, like the mechanical version of a noisy bed spring. You’re most likely to hear this noise when turning your wheels, or driving over bumps or potholes, as that’s when the ball joints are in use. While creaking is the most common noise, you might hear a clunking sound coming from around the wheels. That’s also a sign of ball joints that don’t have much life left.
There are a lot of things that can cause excessive tire wear, and malfunctioning ball joints are one of them. If the ball joints aren’t doing their job, your car’s alignment will be thrown off, leading to quicker wear and tear.
While less common than the other symptoms, failing ball joints can also result in steering that is very loose, which can be rather disconcerting for a driver.
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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