Ball joints are an important suspension element that is found on all modern vehicles. In a nutshell a ball joint is a round steel ball with a tapered stud extruding from it, they are encased into a lubricated metal housing. Ball joints work in a pretty similar way to the ball and socket design of the human hip. Its main purpose is to serve as one of the main suspension pivot points that connect the control arms of the vehicle to the steering knuckles. Most vehicles have, on the front suspension, an upper and lower ball joints on both sides. Low ball joints are normally bigger than upper ball joints and wear out faster due to the front weight of the car that rests on them.
The front ball joints allow the front wheels and suspension to move up and down, to absorb shocks, as well as to rotate horizontally, to allow steering. When the steering wheel is turned, the steering system pushes and pulls on the spindles, the part that your brakes and wheels bolt to. The ball joints are what allows the spindles to pivot and allows the wheels to turn, and supports the weight of the car while it is travelling on the road.
While ball joints are manufactured to last for a long time, they do wear out. The polished metal ball rides in a polished metal cage. The space between the ball and the cage is filled with grease to reduce wear. However, if the grease leaks out of the ball joint or any dirt gets into the grease, the ball joint may become worn or damaged. Nowadays ball joints are manufactured in two different designs. Some are serviceable, meaning they can be greased and lubricated periodically, while the one used on most newer vehicles are sealed, and the grease from the factory is meant to last the life of the joint.
Ball Joints should be checked according to the manufacturer scheduled maintenance or mileage intervals, or at every oil and filter service. However, when front ball joints start to fail, the car will show a few symptoms that will alert the driver of a problem. Ball joint replacement is usually performed when the joint becomes loose. In some instances, they start making noise, usually creaking from lack of lubrication.
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