How to check for bad ball joints

Written by cassandra tribe
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How to check for bad ball joints
Bad ball joints can cause serious problems. (El Cagenar/

Ball joints allow your steering and suspension to work together. After a period of wear, ball joints need to be replaced. Check them periodically or you risk the ball joint failing and your wheel could come off your vehicle while driving. As serious as that is--and with as important of a role the ball joint plays in whether your car functions--the process to check for a bad ball joint is easy.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tire jack
  • Chock block
  • Pry bar
  • Helper

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  1. 1

    Park your car on a level surface and engage the parking brake. Depending on whether you are going to check the front or rear ball joints, place a chock block on the opposite pair of tires. For instance, if you are going to check the front ball joints, put the chock under a rear tire.

  2. 2

    Place your tire jack under the lower control arm of the side you want to check first. The lower control arm is the lower bar of the suspension that is also connected to the tire.

    How to check for bad ball joints
    The lower control arm is the bottom part of the suspension.
  3. 3

    Raise the jack just enough to lift the lower control arm and put the ball joint under pressure. Do not raise the tire off the ground.

  4. 4

    Push the flat end on the pry bar under the tire. Raise the tire slightly and try to wiggle the tire back and forth (away from the body of the car) while having a helper watch the ball joint. If either the tire or the ball joint moves, replace the ball joint immediately.

    How to check for bad ball joints
    The ball joint is at the top behind the brake rotor.

Tips and warnings

  • If you don't have a helper, when you place the pry bar under the tire step on it to lift the tire and check the tire first. Then kneel and press on the bar while looking at the ball joint.
  • If you suspect that your ball joint is bad, take it to a mechanic immediately and have it checked and replaced. Bad ball joints can cause tires to come off a car and, potentially, a serious accident.

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