Ball joints connect your car’s wheels to the suspension system. Over time, ball joints can become worn down, especially if you frequently drive on uneven terrain. Driving with ball joints that need to be replaced can affect your steering, suspension, and even cause your wheel to fall off in extreme cases.
If you hear knocking in the wheel when you execute a turn, it could potentially mean your ball joints are due for a change. Before the problem snowballs, take your car to a mechanic or replace them on your own by following these steps.
Signs your ball joints need to be replaced
Several things can alert you to worn-out or failing ball joints, including:
- Clunky noises when going over bumps
- Noises coming from the suspension
- Steering wheel feeling loose
- Car drifting to the side
- Knocking sounds in the wheel as you make a turn
If you experience any of these signs, take a look at your ball joints to determine if you need a ball joint replacement or contact a professional. Driving with worn ball joints could have dire consequences.
How to change your ball joints
Soak nuts and bolts: Spray nuts and bolts with WD-40 or PB Blaster and let them soak. This will remove dirt and grime, making the removal process more manageable.
Remove the wheels: To access the ball joints, you need to remove the wheels first. Depending on your car, you may also need to move the brakes.
Access the ball joints: Remove the cotter pin and loosen the castellated nut (but don’t remove it).
Pop the ball joint loose: The goal is to guide the ball joint through the hole in the upper part of the steering knuckle. This step can be a little difficult because it is often an extremely tight fit that will require you to use a hammer and a pickle fork. Use the wrench to remove the biggest nut from the joint and replace it with a new nut before wedging the pickle fork between the steering knuckle and the control arm. This is where the hammer comes in — hammer the end of the pickle fork with force until the ball joint is loose.
Remove the ball joint: Next, loosen the bolts securing the ball joint and gently slide it out to complete the removal process. Before moving onto the next step, make sure you have your replacement parts ready.
Put the new joint in the knuckle hole: Fit the rubber boot over the ball joint stud and put the new ball joint through the steering knuckle hole.
Secure the joint: Use new hardware to bolt the joint in place. Use a torque to tighten the bolts and the castellated nut to their proper specifications (as outlined in the kit manual).
Reattach your wheel: Once your wheel is back on, you’re ready to go!
If you’re not a seasoned professional, after you replace your ball joints, it’s a good idea to take your car to a mechanic to see if it needs to be realigned.