The smooth ride we enjoy in our cars is due to advanced suspension systems.
These are precision systems, and even the smallest part, like a worn ball joint, affects the ride. And if not replaced, the entire system.
The average ball joint replacement cost can reach upwards of $800.
How Much Should a Ball Joint Replacement Cost?
The actual final and total cost of a ball joint replacement will differ depending upon the type of car. Luxury and performance cars will require much more costly parts and a specialized mechanic which typically involves higher labor costs.
In total, you should expect the final price to be between $400 and $800.
Average ball joint prices
A new ball joint will typically range between $100 and $150.
Upper ball joint replacement cost
The upper ball joint, or follower ball joint, will vary in cost but expect parts to range between $30 and $160.
Lower ball joint replacement cost
The lower ball joints, or load-carrying ball joints, will not vary that much in cost and can range between $20 and $160.
Labor cost for ball joint replacement
This greatly depends upon the type of car and thus service involved, but the labor costs for installing a new ball joint run between $150 and $300.
What Do Ball Joints Do in a Car?
All cars have a suspension assembly, and the ball joint is part of that.
The suspension assembly has an upper control arm, a lower control arm, and a steering knuckle. All of those components are held together with the ball joint, which is then secured to the car by the upper control arm nuts. As well as, the ball joint holds the control arm on the spindle.
A ball joint is simply a bearing stud and a socket that is enclosed inside a rubber casing filled with lubricant. The ball joint helps translate the turning of the steering wheel into the movement of the tires.
The steering knuckle supports the wheel hub, bearing, and wheel. And, the ball joint is crucial for the suspension components to move without any restriction as well as to handle the steering of the vehicle.
The upper and lower ball joints, tie rod, and sway bar all represent the points where the car’s frame, suspension system, and wheel meet.
Different makes and models of cars, as well as different suspension systems, alters the number of ball joints a car may have. There could be 4 front ball joints and some rear ball joints as well. But each tire that has ball joints will have two ball joints; upper ball joints, and lower ball joints.
The upper ball joint is typically called the follower ball joint and acts as a second pivot point for steering.
The lower ball joint carries the weight and is called the load-carrying ball joint.
Typically, the lower ball joint is the part that will go bad.
How Long Does It Take To Replace Ball Joints?
Replacing worn ball joints alone is not that difficult of a job. This is a repair job that should take a skilled mechanic approximately an hour to complete.
If the tie rods also need to be replaced, that is an entirely different situation and involves a lot more labor. This repair can easily take 4 hours.
What Causes Ball Joints to Go Bad?
There are several reasons why a car ends up with a worn ball joint.
The bottom of the car is exposed to the most damaging elements of driving. Things such as salt for melting snow, dirt, oil spills, general grime, and all such other things are bad for the ball joints. These elements will deteriorate the lubrication inside the ball joint and render it defective.
Ball joints need to be properly prepared with a ball joint press before installing them to help prevent most of this wear, as it is typical for driving. But, too much debris is adverse to even a properly pressed and installed ball joint.
Lack of lubrication
Ball joints are subject to the same wear and tear as all car parts. In addition, they can also become rusty. All of this will deteriorate the integrity of the ball joint.
Ball joints need to stay properly lubed. Old ball joints, such as those in older cars, are not up to the same quality as the ones that are made today, and thus may need to be re-lubricated more often.
Steering wheel alignment
The ball joint area will incur the friction and stress caused by both the car as well as the tire. Basic maintenance issues, such as ensuring the car is in alignment are very important. A lack of proper alignment doesn’t only result in uneven tire wear but will add stress to the ball joints.
Likewise, uneven tire wear can be a sign that a ball joint is going bad.
The ball joint plays a vital role in the car’s suspension. Thus, if any component of the car’s suspension system is going bad or is defective, it will add stress to the steering knuckle, upper control arm, and lower control arm, and all of that only compounds the effect it will have on the ball joints.
Additionally, hitting potholes, curbs, speed bumps, etc. can cause parts, like the steering knuckle, to become damaged, which will then stress the ball joints.
How Often Should Ball Joints Be Replaced?
In general, ball joints are designed and built to last long enough that new car buyers won’t need to deal with them unless they keep the car for 6 or more years. Under normal driving and situations, you can expect ball joints to last between 70,000 and 150,000 miles.
Can You Replace Just One Ball Joint?
You could, but it is not recommended. The bad ball joint could be an isolated issue, but if you fixed the cause of the bad ball joint or bad ball joints, then it makes sense to simply change out all of the ball joints to keep everything on the same schedule.
Remember, every time you change out a ball joint, you also have to pay for an alignment. If you do them all at the same time, you will only need one alignment instead of 4.
Is It Dangerous to Drive With a Bad Ball Joint?
If could be. You should never drive with a bad ball joint. To begin with, replacement costs for a ball joint are relatively affordable. However, the cost of repairs for the extensive damage that driving with a bad ball joint can cause can be outrageous.
Secondly, if the ball joint fails while driving, you could lose control of the car. Bad ball joints can create a significant safety issue, both for those in the car and other cars on the road.
How Long Can You Drive on a Bad Ball Joint?
It depends upon how much wear and tear the ball joints have already suffered and which ball joint is bad, the upper or lower ball joint. At the most, if either ball joint only has minimal wear and tear, you may be able to get an additional 500 miles on it.
It cannot be stressed enough, however, that you should not drive with a bad ball joint.
Can You Replace Ball Joints Yourself?
Replacing ball joints is not a basic do it yourself job. However, someone with the space to work on the car, the correct tools (such as a ball joint splitter and a ball joint press), and the general know-how (especially regarding a car’s steering and suspension systems) should be able to tackle the job.