Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Def'n of "Ball Joint"?

I’ve always called anything that works on the trailer hitch principle a “ball joint”, including not just those on the steering knuckle that act similar in function to a door hinge, so the front wheels pivot left and right as the driver turns the steering wheel, but also those that attach the steering linkage parts together, such as the tie rod ends.

If a driver said their shop said “all the ball joints needed to be replaced”, would that mean literally all of them, or only the main, big ones that act as hinges for the steering knuckle?

If tie rod ends need changing they won’t ever be called ball joints.

I don’t mean this to sound rude . . .

Don’t you agree you’re inviting confusion when you’re in a conversation, and your definition of ball joint differs greatly from the mechanic or shop owner you may be talking to . . . ?

1 Like

Gotta agree with @pleasedodgevan2 ball joints would refer to the joints on the control arms. A mechanic wouldn’t call a tie-rod end a ball joint even though technically that is the type of joint. I.e. A mechanical joint that allows rotation in all 3 axis simultaneously.

@db4690 has a point about communication. Just ask for clarification as to what is actually being replaced so there are no surprises.

1 Like

Only the guy that made that statement can answer that question.

A “ball joint” is any joint that consists of a ball in a socket. You have two in your shoulders, two more in your hips. Tie rod ends could IMHO be called ball joints (and yes, a “ball joint” can wear out and need changing), because they do contain spherical pieces enclosed in spherical cavities, but since their pivot goes completely through the ball they’re usually just referred to as “tie rod ends”.

As a 40 year parts man . . .
Despite the physical fact of them being a ball and socket joint . .
tie rod ends are never called ball joints . . confusion will ensue and you’d waste a half hour re-explaining youself after you’ve gotten the wrong parts.
---- a picture’s worth a thousand words - - - our mantra in the parts biz.

in THIS town where English is a second ( if even ) language for a large populace
WE do not argue about correct terminology with Joe Customer but instead engage in descriptive discussion about where it goes and what it does, what it looks like or what does not work right today.
Showing them our part diagram breakdown.
then . . after the customer agrees it is the right part . . we’ll tell them our name for it and send them on their way.

NOWadays the handy-dandy cell phone picture is our language barrier savior !
The customer’s truck may be all the way in Ganado Arizona,
. . Whips out their phone pic and , BAM ! . . job done !

1 Like

IMO that would mean both ball joints for the upper a-arms and both ball joints for the lower a-arms were replaced

but also those that attach the steering linkage parts together, such as the tie rod ends.

Those are called heim joints where I grew up-
When ordering parts, they are called tie rod ends…

Ball joints are only on the control arms…

Seems that the majority here say a tie rod end, while it might fit a technical description of a “ball joint”, by convention isn’t referred to as a ball joint. At least in the auto parts and repair trade. So as I understand it, “ball joint” means the hinge gadget or gadgets in the steering knuckle that allows the wheel/tire to freely rotate on the steering axis and allows vertical movement of the control arms as the driver turns the steering wheel. Thanks, I understand the common terminology better now. Good comments.

That would be the description of a king pin, a ball joint also allows for vertical movement of the control arms.

Ok, good point Nevada, corrected above.

[quote=“ken_green, post:6, topic:96349”]
in THIS town where English is a second ( if even ) language for a large populace
WE do not argue about correct terminology with Joe Customer [/quote]

Which is it? Personally, I prefer the way you describe your interface with customers over your demand that TERMINOLOGY IS EVERYTHING.
You do realize, I hope, that in different regions of the country and different part of the world (from where many car designs originate) different terms are used to describe the same things. My years living in barracks with fellow military men from all parts of the country, being stationed in different parts of the country, and having spent time in England all taught me nomenclatures vary. It even took me some time to learn the jargon of academia when I eventually went to work at a college. Terms even change, they are not set in concrete for all time.

I stand by my post.

  1. Tie rod ends could, technically, be included under the heading of “ball joints” although in automobiles that term is not generally used for them, and
  2. the only way to know exactly what the mechanic was including as needing changing is to ask him.

Nevertheless . . .

I doubt you’ll find a seasoned mechanic who replaces all inner and outer tie rod ends . . . and no other parts . . . but tells the customer “Sir, I replaced all your ball joints”

But I agree about asking the mechanic, if there’s any question as to what part(s) need(ed) replacing

Db, I agree. That would not be normal, nor would using the term “ball joint” to describe a tie rod end. Nevertheless, calling a tie rod end a “ball joint” would not technically be incorrect from an engineering standpoint. It would be extremely unusual from an automotive mechanic’s standpoint. I also would never accept a catchall statement like the one described from a mechanic without getting more detail as to exactly what he plans to replace. It’s only prudent. Without that, that’s when surprises happen! :smile:

1 Like

The mechanic could have been talking about a VW, I think at one point they had a suspension with 5 ball joints on each side.

Do you mean a multi-link front suspension setup?

YES I do …

1 Like

Yes , terminology IS everything. . . once we finally GET there.

At the front / retail counter is where the cat and mouse game of term tag is played the most.

Here at my back counter, I deal with the shop techs who had darn well better know the names of the items they want. Yet, as time goes on and techs come and go, many of the newbies use some oddball name that I’ve never heard that came out their tech schooling.

  • and the circle continues - -

I disagree.
I’m impressed with the absolute authority with which you state that, however. I sense that if you’d spent time traveling to and living in various places over the years, including another country or two, and perhaps lived in barracks with people from all over the country, you’d realize how widely terminology varies across the globe… and even the nation!

We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

1 Like

I tend to side with Ken on this one

The seasoned and good mechanics I know tend to call components by their proper name, if you will

And so do the better parts guys . . . sometimes when I’m on the phone with a guy, and I tell him the the proper name of the part, where it is, what its purpose is, what it looks like, and he STILL doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I think the guy won’t survive long in the business

Several days ago, I ordered an upper intake manifold. It was crystal clear I wanted the manifold itself, because I also ordered the various gaskets that go along with it. And I listed those gaskets separately on my parts order form

The parts guy gets me on the phone and asks me to clarify what I want. I’m thinking to myself “Is this guy serious. It was pretty straightforward.” I explain what I want, what it looks like, where it’s located on the engine, and he says he understood

Several days after the phone call, I get handed an exploded view of the engine. I’m supposed to circle what I want. I circle the upper intake manifold

There’s no helping some people, because they’ll always be hopeless

I agree with Ken’s statement, but I’ll add something

Terminology IS everything . . . amongst professionals. If a mechanic is talking to another mechanic, or a good parts guy, about an outer tie rod end or a pitman arm, you SHOULD expect that everybody is on the same wavelength. 100% No ifs ands or buts. Because if they’re not on the same wavelength, there’s going to be problems, and somebody is eventually going to be accused of incompetence. Perhaps rightfully so