Ball joints are the suspension component that connect the vehicle control arms to the wheel hub. They are a spherical bearing with a stud encased in a metal sleeve or socket, and serve as the main pivot point between the vehicle’s suspension and the wheels. Because they essentially bear the entire weight of the vehicle, they are subject to high stress conditions and will eventually wear out. When they wear out, rear ball joints in particular will produce a set of symptoms that can notify the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.
1. Clunking noise coming from rear suspension of the vehicle
One of the most common symptoms associated with excessively worn rear ball joints is a clunking noise coming from the affected ball joint. When a ball joint begins to wear out, it will become loose in its socket and clunk or rattle when force is placed upon it. The clunk will continue to get louder as the ball joint wears until it eventually fails.
2. Wandering steering
Another symptom of a bad or failing rear ball joints is wandering steering. Loose ball joints can cause the vehicle’s steering to randomly drift towards the left or right. This will become most apparent at higher speeds, such as when driving on the highway. Vibrations that coincide with the wandering steering may also be felt, depending on how worn the ball joint is.
3. Irregular tire wear
Another common symptom associated with worn rear ball joints is irregular tire wear of the rear wheels. The excessive suspension play caused by excessively worn rear ball joints will cause the outer edges of the tires to wear unevenly and at an accelerated rate. The excessive play may also place additional stress on other suspension components, which may cause them to wear at an accelerated rate as well.
Rear ball joints are essentially the main rear pivot point between the wheel and the suspension, and are very important to the vehicle’s overall ride and handling characteristics. When they fail, they can cause problems and place additional stress on other suspension joints and components. For this reason, if you suspect that your ball joints are worn or may need to be replaced, have the vehicle’s suspension inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. They will be able to determine if the car needs its rear ball joints replaced, or if another issue needs to be addressed.