The ball joints are pretty important in every car but often neglected by most drivers. They connect the wheel hub/steering knuckles to the control arms. You’d find a number of ball joints in every car out there, and just like every other part of a car, ball joints can go bad.
A failing ball joint would exhibit several signs to notify the driver; if these signs are ignores, the joint will fail completely. Now, how long can you drive on a bad ball joint?
There are a lot of answers to this question, and we’d explain them clearly. But on a quick note, you may still drive thousands of miles with a failing ball joint, depending on the severity of the damage, but when it goes bad, you possibly can’t drive further.
What Are Ball Joints in a Car?
The function of ball joints is simple, to connect the steering knuckles and control arms. Ball joints are flexible to allow easy movement of the connected components made of steel. The components include a bearing stud and an enclosed socket.
Ball joints are assumed to last up to 80,000 miles before they start failing. Well, this is just an assumption; ball joints can last well above 80k miles or fail before 30,000 miles – there is no exact lifespan.
When the joints start failing, you will experience signs like clicking sounds when turning the wheels or “thud” noises; there are other possible signs of a failing ball joint, including stiffness of the wheels.
How Do You Know Your Car’s Ball Joints Are Failing?
A failing ball joint is most likely going to exhibit the following usual signs:
- Tire threads wear off too quickly
- Loud clicking or squeaking sound when turning the car
- Suspicious loose steering
So, when you see this signs keep showing up often, it’s simply time to check the ball joints.
How Long Can You Drive On a Bad Ball Joint?
How long you can drive with a bad ball joint depends on how “bad” the ball joint is. Yes, when a ball joint is faulty, it can cause imbalanced wheels, which makes driving difficult or impossible, depending on the severity. That said, you can drive with a faulty/failing ball joint but can’t drive with an already failed (bad) ball joint.
Driving with bad ball joints is the worst thing any driver should think of doing. It doesn’t only put your life in danger, but it also puts you in a situation where you’d have to spend more on repair because you’d definitely wreck other components in the wheel hub.
It costs an average of $100 to fix or replace both upper and lower ball joints. But, if you refuse to fix them at an early stage, you may end up paying over a thousand dollars when the issue gets worse – and other components of the wheel hub assembly or drivetrain have been affected.
Key Takeaway: You shouldn’t drive further when you notice that you’ve got a bad ball joint. Driving with a bad ball joint can cause an accident and wreck your car.
What To Do When Ball Join Fails While Driving
If you were driving when you noticed that a ball joint has failed, safety measures to apply include:
- Reduce your speed to a very low level, and don’t attempt to turn into a corner
- Activate the caution lights and gently drive down the road until you find a safe place to park
- When you’ve got the car to a stop, call on a mechanic to come to help you fix the situation
What Happens When You Drive With Bad Ball Joints?
Firstly, your car won’t drive if the ball joint is completely bad – the connected wheel won’t turn or rotate. But, if the wheel manages to move, an accident is imminent as the wheel/tire will most likely pull out while you’re driving, which can lead to a fatal scenario.
What Happens If a Ball Joint Fails While Driving?
You’d notice that steering becomes difficult; it’d seem like one of the wheels isn’t turning, and your car would drift to a corner. In worse scenarios, the tire connected to the ball joint may run off and roll down the road.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix a Bad Ball Joint?
Labor costs would definitely differ from mechanic to mechanic; however, the parts cost less than $80, and labor costs can be between $50 and $100. So, you’d spend an average of $120 to fix or replace a bad ball joint.
How long can you drive on a bad ball joint? The answer is “Zero” miles. Yes, you cannot drive with a ball joint that has already failed because the affected wheel won’t turn.
However, if the ball joint hasn’t failed completely, you can still manage to drive several miles, but of course, the car won’t be driving smoothly, and you’re risking more expensive repairs by doing so.