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Ball Joint

The ball joint on the left front side of my Malibu has been described as “dangerously” worn. I am wondering, is there a way I can tell (by listening to my car while driving) if there is indeed a serious issue? I am aware that uneven wear on my tires is a possible sign, but are there others? Thank you for any help you can offer.

Jack the car up so that tire is off the ground. Grab the tire at 6:00 and 12:00 o:clock positions.

Now try rocking the top and bottom of the tire in and out. If the tire moves that’s one sign of a bad ball joint.

Or, place a jack under the lower control arm for that tire, and jack the vehicle up so the tire is about six inches off the ground. While looking under the vehicle with a flashlight, have someone take something like a length of 2X4 and place it under the tire. While watching the ball joint, have the person pry up the tire and release it.

If the ball joint is bad you’ll see it move and down in it’s socket.



The only noise you will hear from most bad ball joints is the horrible screech from the tire as your front wheel folds under the car.


It’s possible you could hear a clunking noise when going over a bump, but not always the case. Get a second opinion bases on the tests described above if you don’t trust the original diagnosis. A faulty ball joint is something shops deal with all the time so they know how to diagnose it with little to no ambiguity. That part is indeed a “joint”, and is what allows the front wheel to turn right and left when you turn the steering wheel, while still staying in the correct orientation (i.e. upright). When you go over a bump the ball joint allows the wheel to move up and down w/respect to the body of the car too. It’s sort of like a ball–in-socket trailer hitch, spherical so allows smooth movement in all directions, left/ right, up/down, twisting, hence the name “ball joint”. It gets quite a bit of abuse in the course of driving, especially if you hit a pothole at speed during a turn, which everyone pretty much does occasionally, often can’t be avoided.

I’d take the word of the person who said it was ‘dangerously worn’. There saw it, we did not. Get it fixed ASAP, don’t drive it.

That’s if they are trustworthy. Who told you?

And the screams from the passengers as the car is heading straight for that Peterbilt, comming the other way.

  • Clunking Noises From the Front Suspension. One of the most common symptoms of a problem with suspension ball joints is clunking noises coming from the vehicle’s front suspension. …
  • Excessive Vibration From the Front of the Vehicle. …
  • Uneven Wear on Front Tires. …
  • Steering Wheel Wandering to the Left or Right.