General Truck Repair
April 11, 2022

Ball Joint Replacement: Common Truck Wear and Tear

Ball joints connect the wheel hub and the control arms. They are crucial for your vehicle's safe functioning since they impact its stability. You may be asking how many ball joints a truck has and when they need to be replaced, and this is what we discovered after speaking with specialists.

Truck undergoing ball joint replacement

Ball joints connect the wheel hub and the control arms. They are crucial for your vehicle's safe functioning since they impact its stability. You may be asking how many ball joints a truck has and when they need to be replaced, and this is what we discovered after speaking with specialists.

Truck ball joints 

Most trucks feature four ball joints: two load-carrying and two followers. Due to the weight of the front truck that rests on them, the load-carrying ball joints are much bigger and incur a greater rate of wear and strain. Because damaged ball joints do not necessarily signal deterioration, they should be properly examined and replaced as soon as possible during routine vehicle maintenance.

Continue reading to learn how to tell when they need to be replaced. We'll also talk about whether or not you'll need to replace all ball joints at the same time if one is damaged. 

How can I tell if my ball joints need to be replaced?

The steering knuckle is connected to the control arm via a ball joint. It is a flexible joint prone to significant wear and tear due to continuous movement. The lower ball joints bear the weight, while the top ones function as a second pivot point for the steering knuckle in most vehicles.

Some trucks have grease fittings on their ball joints, which must be greased regularly, while others have non-serviceable ball joints that are greased at the factory and sealed with a dust boot. Dust and other contaminants are kept out of the ball joint by the dust boot.

Even though ball joints do not need to be changed, they periodically fail over a truck's lifespan due to friction and movement. Furthermore, since they bear the brunt of the truck's weight, load-carrying ball joints wear out quicker than their follower counterparts.

If any of the following applies, you should replace the ball joint:

  • Your vehicle is noisy -  A loose ball joint will impact wheel alignment, generate noise in the suspension region, and lead to irregular tire wear since it is supposed to fit securely in its steel casing.
  • The dust boot has been ripped or shattered - In this instance, grease may leak from the ball joint, or water and debris may enter the joint, causing it to malfunction.
  • It's deteriorated to the point that there's a lot of rust -  Rust damages the ball joint, making it more prone to failure, resulting in the wheel coming off and the truck losing control.
  • It is devoid of grease - Greasing the stud and the metal housing of the ball joint minimizes friction. Greasing also keeps contaminants out of the ball joint, allowing it to work correctly.

Signs of bad ball joints

A ball joint is essential for a safe and comfortable ride. You'll notice the following when it's damaged:

  • A clonking noise seems to be coming from one of your truck's corners. The noise becomes more noticeable as you move around a curve, over a hump, or down a dip. The sound may be mild and infrequent at first, but as the ball joint wears down, the noise grows louder and more regular.
  • Steering that is sloppy or stiff. When driving on a level road, you may sense a vibration in your steering. The vehicle may swerve to the left or right when travelling over bumps.
  • Tires that have been worn unevenly, particularly when the inner or outer tread has worn off quicker than the remainder of the tread.
  • Although certain ball joints have built-in wear indicators, most of them are evaluated by prying against the suspension and looking for excessive joint movement.

It isn’t always obvious when your ball joints are worn. In some situations, symptoms may arise only after it is too late. A visual assessment may not be accurate in determining the state of the ball joints since a complete examination would need hoisting of the vehicle. Furthermore, for examination, load-carrying ball joints must be emptied.

Regular examination of your vehicle will detect any faulty ball joints in a timely manner. You may have the ball joints examined every time you bring your vehicle to the shop for regular maintenance, such as an air and oil filter replacement.

Since ball joints that are worn out make it difficult to steer and control the vehicle, it's best to repair ball joints as soon as they show signs of deterioration. Furthermore, repairing the ball joints will save you money by avoiding additional damage to your vehicle.

Do you need to replace all of the ball joints in your truck?

Ball joints should be replaced in pairs because if one is worn out, the other is likely to be worn out as well. Replacing the ball joints in pairs eliminates the risk of another ball joint failing soon after. Furthermore, since the repairs are completed once, it saves the vehicle time and money at the repair shop.

You do not need to repair all four ball joints on a vehicle with four ball joints since they do not wear out uniformly. Because they sustain most of your truck's front weight, load-carrying ball joints wear out quicker than follower ball joints.

For repairs, it's a good idea to get high-quality replacement components; they are more expensive but will last longer.

Final words 

Ball joints are typically anticipated to endure 70,000 to 150,000 miles of driving. However, the actual lifetime of your truck's ball joints is determined by your driving patterns, road conditions, and environmental exposure.

Potholes, rough rural gravel roads, and road salts may cause the ball joints to wear out prematurely. Furthermore, since the right-side ball joints encounter more rotational wear due to sharper right turns, ball joints on the left side of the vehicle may last longer than those installed on the right side. Nonetheless, since lower ball joints are exposed to more road salt, they will wear out quicker than higher ones.

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