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Ball joint replacement

Hello all,

My sons truck is a 1997 Silverado and supposedly needs upper and lower ball joints replaced. How can I inspect them and decide if the are ok or not? Is there a simple way to do this in the driveway without special tools?

I forgot to mention it is a 1/2 ton rear wheel drive.

It’s easy but a second opinion is easy too. So if the second opinion is the same, just have the job done. The next place might tell you that you only need an idler arm.

I was told that I need an idler arm too. I already replaced the idler before the inspection for an alignment. The report said that the truck needs upper and lower ball joints on the RH side and a new idler arm on the LH side. My son did not get a chance to confirm with the mechanic since he did not think to ask. So I think the idler arm in the report is really the pitman arm and I would like make sure the RH ball joints are not the LH ball joints. The mechanic did not close the hood correctly and it flew open on the way home. Not too much trust here and i want to check myself.

So, can anyone advise on a simple process?

Ball joints are extremely common in GM products of that era. I’m surprised they’ve never been replaced before.

This video isn’t a 1997 Silverado but the ball joint check should work for you . I think you need to place your jack in the second place the man places it in the video . If you jack the truck up until there is an inch & 1/2 or so between the bottom of the tire & the ground you can slide a pry bar of some type under the tire to pry up on the tire .
If the ball joints are bad you will see them move as in the video .

Since this is a nearly 20 year old truck, even without seeing the truck, I wouldn’t doubt the ball joints and steering components are worn

That is also based on my professional experience, which includes replacing ball joints and steering components on trucks that are only 1/2 as old and probably have far fewer miles than the truck in question

Ball joints usually announce their state pretty well. If they have never been done before they are shot. Know what happens when they let go ? Wouldnt be the first time I passed someones wheel, tire, brakes, rotor and sometimes a shock or two…before I come up on the rest of the vehicle with confused looking owners on the side of the road. LOL… Be careful.


Well Saturday was the day. We inspected and replaced the following: Both upper ball joints, upprr idler arm part, pitman arm, and an inner tie rod. Once we had the wheels off we found the brakes were worn too so we replaced them. Busy day! Thanks for the advice here.

@“part throttle”

I’m kind of surprised AND disappointed you didn’t also replace the lower ball joints

“needs upper and lower ball joints replaced.”

Presumably, you didn’t believe that diagnosis . . . ?

It’s not hard to believe a 20 year old truck needs upper and lower ball joints, because they’re worn

The lower ball joints are load-carrying on your truck

If all that stuff you mentioned was worn out, you might as well have replaced ALL ball joints and steering linkages

I suspect you didn’t properly inspect and test the lower ball joints

A lot of people don’t, actually

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but IMO you only did a halfway job, unless you know for a fact that the lower ball joints and outer tie rods were replaced last month, for example

You did NOT do yourself a favor

Considering the truck now needs a steering alignment anyway, you should have spent a few bucks more and replaced those other parts I mentioned

If and when you notice those other parts are worn, and are causing irregular tire wear or other problems, you’re going to replace them and pay for a second steering alignment

“I suspect you didn’t properly inspect and test the lower ball joints.”

Please replace the lower ball joints as well. The lower ball joints will wear more rapidly than the upper ball joints. You still have a little more work to do on your Silverado and it’s very important work in my opinion.

Old time test, push and pull on the top of the tire, movement indicates ball joints, push and pull on the sides of the tire looseness indicates wheel bearings. Not sure if this applies to newer cars, ie 1978 and on.


It still applies to OP’s truck . . . it has tapered roller wheel bearings and upper and lower a-arms

Can’t get much more old school than that

But I also like to use the pry bar, as has already been mentioned

Some ball joints that seem fine with the push and and pull test, are in fact not okay, when you use the pry bar

And then when you have old ball joints on the bench, it’s really obvious that they were toast

When I had cars with grease fittings on the ball joints, I never wore out a ball joint. The first ball joint I ever had to replace was a sealed -for-life ball joint. It was sealed -for -life all right, the life of the grease the factory put in when they made it.

As far as ball joint suspensions being as old school as it gets, am I the only one that has replaced kingpins?

@“oldtimer 11”

I agree about the zerks

Almost all of the ball joints I replace at work are the sealed variety

Lots of Fords, but a few late-model GM trucks, as well

When ordering parts, I insist on Moog with zerks

same goes for steering components . . . Moog with zerks