How to Replace Ball Joints
Just as any part of your car can get worn out and require replacement, ball joints may not last for the full life of your vehicle. Replacing parts is a task that can be easy to put off, but it is necessary to keep things running smoothly. Putting a new ball joint in your vehicle may require some specific equipment, but it is a reasonably straightforward DIY job. The following information can help you get started.
What is a Ball Joint?
So, what is a ball joint and how important is it to your car's functionality? Ball joints are one of the vital parts of a vehicle's suspension. They help to keep your vehicle driving smoothly without excessive bumping or difficulty steering. In order to function, your car needs to be able to navigate regularly occurring bumps in the road as well as upward and downward slopes and curves. Ball joints help keep all the parts of your suspension aligned and allow for needed mobility to navigate varying road conditions.
When Should Your Ball Joint Be Replaced?
Before thinking about how to replace your vehicle's ball joints you will need to know how to tell if a ball joint is bad. While on newer vehicles ball joints are generally not considered a part that needs regular maintenance, there are still many vehicles that ball joints require regular maintenance intervals. One of the failure points of ball joints is the rubber boots breaking down, causing debris and water to get in and wear down the bearing surface. This and other wear and tear to the joint may cause them to no longer function properly. Some ball joints have built-in functions that will indicate when it's time for them to be replaced, but with others, you will need to recognize the signs of them wearing out through changes in how your car drives.
A few of the most common symptoms of worn-out ball joints can be loud banging or clunking noises when driving over bumps or a tendency of the car to wander from side to side as you drive. Your car may also shake or jitter as you drive, even on roads that are relatively well-paved and flat. Worn out ball joints have can be dangerous, as they can make safely steering your car much more difficult. Bad ball joints can also cause excessive wear on your tires and may eventually cause serious damage. If you suspect they might be starting to go out, you should replace them as soon as possible.
Can You Replace Your Ball Joint?
If you feel comfortable doing your own car maintenance, you can replace ball joints yourself. This can be accomplished using a tool called a ball joint press (Available through Loan-A-Tool). When considering how to use a ball joint press, it can be best to break up the task into a few specific steps.
Generally a job to replace ball joints will involve the following:
- Taking off your vehicle's wheels
- Moving the brake calipers, rotor, and upper control arm to give you access to the upper and lower ball joints
- Using a ball joint press to latch on to and remove the current ball joint
- Using the ball joint press to attach a new joint into the control arm
This is not an exhaustive list of instructions and you will need to put extra care into the removal of different pieces to ensure that nothing gets lost or damaged during repairs. One important precaution to take can be to ensure that the joints are placed correctly and don't end up getting screwed in crookedly. While different makes and models of cars may involve slightly different nuances, the general process should remain more or less the same.
Depending on your experience you may want to consult an experienced individual for help and advice, do further research into the different aspects of the process, or bring it in to a repair shop. As with any kind of car repair you should take your time both before and during the process to make sure you are keeping both you and your vehicle safe.
How Much Does Replacement Cost?
The cost of replacing ball joints varies depending on the vehicle you drive. The average ball joint generally falls somewhere in the range of $50-$400. In some cases, you may need to buy a combination control arm and ball joint as a single piece. It is considered best practice while diagnosing the ball joint failure to inspect control arm bushings as well to determine if both control arm and ball joint will need to be replaced. For most vehicles, however, you should only need the individual ball joint pieces. You will also need to consider the parts and tools you will need to get the job done. You will need equipment to jack up your car as well as the ball joint press itself. This can cost anywhere from around $75 to $250 but these tools are also available in AutoZone's Loan-a-Tool Program.
You should consider the costs of repairing the vehicle yourself versus how much it would be to take your car into a professional mechanic. Professional repair costs for ball joint issues can cost as much as $2500 to fix but on average cost around $400. Luxury cars are usually the most expensive to get work done on, but the price tag can be large no matter what you drive. Generally, you can save a lot of money doing repairs yourself, especially if you already own most of the basic tools.
Keeping Your Suspension in Top Shape
Worn out ball joints can cause a long list of issues for your vehicle and potentially make it unsafe to drive. You should watch for the indicators that your ball joints are starting to go out such as bumping, shaking, and other red flags. Luckily, learning how to remove ball joints isn’t the most difficult DIY project.
Using the right tools for the job and taking advantage of a ball joint press can help you save hundreds of dollars on repairs. The suspension of your vehicle is an important thing to maintain and issues with it can get much worse if left unattended. Look into fixing ball joint problems as soon as you start to see signs of them in your vehicle to keep your suspension in top shape for years to come.
Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.
Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.
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