4 Symptoms of a Bad Lower Ball Joint (And Replacement Cost)

The lower ball joint is what attaches the steering knuckle and control arm together. There are two pieces which make up the lower ball joint; a socket and ball. These pieces are inside of a rubber boot that is filled with lubricant.

Basically, the lower ball joint allows the wheels and tires to be connected to the vehicle and its steering assembly. This is what enables you to make right turns or left turns with the steering wheel. It also enables the vehicle’s suspension system to travel over bumpy terrain without any setbacks.

So what happens if there’s a problem? If a lower ball joint is bad, there are a few signs you should look out for.

Bad Lower Ball Joint Symptoms

The lower ball joint would probably seem like an insignificant part if looked at by itself because it is so small. However, it is a part that allows other parts of the suspension system to function properly.

If the lower ball joint were to get worn out or break, then you would have a number of negative symptoms come up. Below are four of the most common signs that indicate a lower ball joint goes bad.

1) Vibrations

no power steering

When you have a bad lower ball joint, you will be able to feel vibrations in the steering wheel or from the left or right side of the vehicle. These vibrations are coming from the suspension system.

If the lower ball joint is worn out, it will become loose which is why the vibrations occur. A loose ball joint will continue to vibrate as you drive your vehicle.

Any kind of shaking like this should be a clear sign that something is wrong and that you need to get your lower ball joint checked.

2) Clunking Sounds

strange noise while driving

A symptom of a faulty lower ball joint that people experience on a regular basis is clunking sounds. These sounds will come from the suspension of the vehicle.

When there is a worn ball joint present that has loosened, it will start to rattle around and knock into the socket. This creates those clunking sounds that you’re hearing. You will hear these sounds even more when you’re driving on rough terrain or roads, especially a bumpy surface.

If you don’t get the ball joint replaced soon, it will get louder and eventually break off completely.

3) Uneven Tire Wear

worn tire treads

One sign of a lower ball joint that has failed that people don’t often consider is uneven tire wear. If any of the inside or outside edges of your tires have excessive or unusual amounts of wear, this is also a sign that your lower ball joint could be bad.

This symptom may not be an immediate problem to fix, but you shouldn’t let it go for too long or it will become a big problem. It’s good to check your tire condition on a regular basis but if you fail to do that, you’ll hear about the wear the next time you have your tires rotated.

4) Wandering Steering Wheel

steering wheel off center

Do you notice that your steering wheel is pulling too much toward either the left or right? If so, this is likely due to a bad alignment or a faulty lower ball joint because the wheels will become misaligned and then you’ll have to work harder to keep the steering wheel straight.

Don’t let your steering wheel continue to wander like this for too long because the problem will only get worse in time. Get the ball joint replaced right away if it ends up being the culprit.

Read also: Symptoms of a Bad Lower Control Arm Bushing and Replacement Cost

Lower Ball Joint Replacement Cost

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lower ball joint replacement cost

The cost to replace a ball joint by itself is very cheap, typically around $50 to $80. However, many vehicles integrate the lower ball joint into the lower control arm. In these cases, the lower ball joint and control arm assembly will cost anywhere from $200 to $400. The labor costs will be from $200 to $300. If the lower control arms are replaced, you will probably also need an alignment. Alignments run around $200.  

It is not an overly expensive procedure to get done, but you should still shop around at various repair shops in your area to see which one will provide you with the cheapest hourly labor rates.


3 thoughts on “4 Symptoms of a Bad Lower Ball Joint (And Replacement Cost)”

  1. I took my 2019 Ford Edge ST with 39,000 miles on it to a shop for an oil change and tire rotation. I was asked to come back to the shop and look at something the tech had found. He shook the left front wheel while I viewed a very slight up and down movement of the lower ball joint, probably less than .002 of an inch. I am experiencing NONE of the items described above that indicates I have a bad ball joint. I was advised both lower joints should be replaced, even though there was zero up and down movement. I was also advised the entire lower control arms must be replaced and total parts and labor would be 2,200 dollars. I think my Ford warranty should cover this cost since the vehicle is barely 4 years old, and barely over the 36,000 waranty limit. Is this something I should really worry about if none of these symptoms listed are being felt while driving?

    • If you could see the ball joint move it was probably more than .002 of an inch. I would likely defer to the shop, especially if the Ford warranty will cover the cost. Worn ball joints will negatively affect the handling of the vehicle.


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