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Q: lower ball joint broke in half

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In May of this year I had both lower control arms replaced (with ball joints). At the same time I had the drivers side strut replaced because the hole in the upper seat was elongated. I had both struts replaced less than a year ago. Last week while pulling away from a curb to make a "U" turn, the right side lower ball joint split in 2 and my wheel fell off. I had the vehicle towed to the shop who had done the work in May. They asked me if I had hit a pothole. I told them I did not. They replaced the lower control arm under warranty.

What could have caused this? They said they inspected the other side control and it looked good. Should I be concerned about the other ball joint? should I get a second opinion?

My car has 65398 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

To give you a usable answer, we (and possibly a lab) would have to have the failed part in hand to determine the failure mode. The problem is there are quite a few disparate causes for a failure of the type that you are describing which includes improper assembly, metal fatigue around the joint, product and/or design defect and so forth. Depending on the failure mode, and the full set of circumstances, this might be a situation where the failure should be reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the event that you have unwittingly stumbled on a "product defect" (such reporting could save other people’s lives and that is no understatement). These reports to NHTSA are easy for consumers to enter online at www.nhtsa.gov and/or you can simply call their 800 number to make a report.

Ball joints are obviously designed to withstand tremendous impact forces and thus are not typically "broken" by even substantial potholes. That fact has meaning of course because you claim to not have even hit anything and yet the part failed. Obviously, you don’t want that happening at 65 miles per hour while trying to negotiate a winding curve. Consequently, in your circumstance, what I would do, is first ask the shop WHO the manufacturer of the control arm is. Aftermarket parts are not created equal. Depending on exactly what company manufactured the part, I might be able to offer more specific advice as to how to interpret this or what action to take.

But, what I would do is take that "who" information to a Mechanic who is highly knowledgeable about the "parts" aspect of the automobile repair business and both get his view and have him re-examine the OTHER side. Going forward, generally, a SAFE choice for parts is OEM (dealer). A lot of repair facilities will not use OEM parts, or the BEST parts, and yet charge you full fare. It may be best to have a second opinion on the work that was already completed. A certified technician from YourMechanic can perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle and provide necessary information to address this. Hope this helped.

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