Solving car suspension problems

How to Tell if Ball Joints Are Bad

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: February 7, 2017
How to Tell if Ball Joints Are Bad

Ball joints are critical parts of a car’s steering and suspension. These joints attach your car’s wheel hub with rest of its suspension system. They allow your vehicle to move up and down to absorb shock, and right and left for maneuvering. But ball joints are located under the car and it is quite difficult to see them and know their condition. This is why they mostly remain forgotten until they cause problems. In this article, we are going to talk about how to tell if ball joints are bad.


  1. Pay attention to the sounds
  2. Notice the car’s steering
  3. Uneven wear of the tires
  4. How to check bad ball joints

Pay attention to the sounds

Most of the times, the very first indication of bad ball joints is the intermittent, faint, banging sound coming from one corner of the car. This kind of sound becomes more audible when your car goes over a dip or a bump, or while driving around some corner, when you'll hear a distinct squeaking from your car. It is not the same clicking sound that you hear due to worn out CV joints while cutting corners. It sounds more like a metal structure being hit with a hammer. With time, this sound is heard more loudly and frequently, especially when you transfer the car’s weight off or to the wheel. If left untreated, it starts sounding like a loud bang just like as if your car’s bottom has hit the ground.

Notice the car’s steering

Bad ball joints can have impact on your car’s steering and maneuvering too. The steering may become too stiff or too sloppy, depending on how the ball joints have worn out. If you can feel some vibration in your steering wheel while driving down a straight road, it may be a sign of a bad ball joint.

How to Tell if Ball Joints Are Bad - Notice the car’s steering

Uneven wear of the tires

Uneven wear of your tires can be an important sign of bad ball joints. If the inner or outer edges of your car’s front tires wear faster than the remaining tire tread, then you can take it as a sure sign of bad ball joints. If both the edges are wearing at an equal rate, then problem is probably not with the ball joints, but due to under-inflation of the tires. If you notice some kind of cupping in the tread’s inner edge, then it also indicates bad ball joints.

How to Tell if Ball Joints Are Bad - Uneven wear of the tires

How to check bad ball joints

If you suspect some problem in your ball joints, then you will need to jack up the car so that the wheel can rotate freely. If you try to check it without jacking up, you will only be able to check the upper ball joint, and not lower one. After raising the wheel off the ground, grab the bottom and top of the tire and try to move it in along a vertical axis. It should move only from side to side. If it rocks in or out, it indicates that your ball joints are bad and they need repair or replacement. For complete instructions, read how to check ball joints for wear.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tell if Ball Joints Are Bad, we recommend you visit our Car Maintenance and Repair category.

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How to Tell if Ball Joints Are Bad