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

Wheel Caving In

I have a 1994 Honda Civic EX. I had trouble getting a photo that shows what this looks like, but my driver’s side front wheel is caved in. The only problem that I’d been having with the car was a faint popping noise, and I couldn’t tell if it was coming from under the hood or from a wheel. It did not sound like the typical noise that would come from a wearing CV joint.

Anyway, I backed out of the driveway, and the wheel caved inwards. Any ideas as to what could be wrong?

The problem might be with a failed ball joint.

If so, the vehicle can’t be driven.



Agree completely with @Tester That wheel is fine, the stuff that connects that wheel to the car is dangerously broken.

TOW it to a shop. DO NOT drive it!


Thank you both. I won’t drive it and am worried about not being able to get it fixed. I love the car and have had it for a long time. Do you all think that the repair looks costly?

Don’t see why you are worried , it can be fixed but only the shop can give you a estimate on price. Still cheaper than a new vehicle.

The repair in the picture (probably a broken ball joint) in itself won’t be that expensive, but that failure could have caused damage to other components like CV shaft or brakes. Also, when one suspension component breaks others are probably not far behind. Have the shop do a thorough inspection of the chassis front and rear.


You can get a pretty good estimate of how much it costs to replace a ball joint on your car at . It depends on where you live, b/c labor costs vary from place to place. I live in a higher than average labor cost area, and here it says it would cost about $450 to replace the entire lower control arm on one side. That may be more than needs to be done. They don’t list the cost for just a ball joint replacement.

A ball joint — if you are curious – is pretty close in function and appearance to a trailer hitch. You know that steel ball you see on the back bumper of pick-up trucks sometimes? The trailer has a steel cup that matches the shape of the ball. When you attach the trailer to the truck to pull it someplace, you just place the cup over the ball and away you go. This ball/cup arrangement allows the trailer to move left/right and up/down independent of the truck; for example if the truck turns, the cup rotates on the ball allowing the trailer to follow. If the truck goes into a depressed area of the road, like a ditch, the trailer is able to follow because the cup rotates over the ball in that direction too. Based on the scientific principle of spherical symmetry. That’s a necessary function for you car b/c you turn the steering wheel, the wheel turns left/right, and when you go over a bump the wheel goes up and down but the body of the car stays more or less level. You can probably imagine is isn’t that difficult to replace that ball on a truck’s bumper; likewise it’s not an overly complicated procedure to replace ball joints. Especially on smaller econobox cars like yours.

If you think about it, for the wheel to work correctly it has to be held in the correct plane. Three points define a plane, and likewise three things are holding onto the wheel: the control arm/ball joint; the strut; and the steering tie rod. Failure in any of those could cause or contribute to the problem you are experiencing.

Any rust on the car? If this was cause by rusted out suspension mounts it could be very expensive.

1 Like

Bad ball joint and that usually means more worn or damaged parts.

Lucky it didn’t give way at 70 MPH on the expressway because that can be lethal.


Thank you so much for explaining how it works. I don’t know a lot about it and really appreciate your explanation.

No, there is no rust on the car.

Yeah, I am very grateful that it happened right as I was pulling out of my driveway, not at a high speed.

Before it happened, I’d taken the car to two different places to figure out what the noise was, and neither place said anything about the ball joint(s). Seems like they should have thought to check for something that could be so dangerous.

You’re right. The places who checked and overlooked or misdiagnosed this must not have known what they are doing. Bad ball joints are easy to check.

About 8 or 9 years ago my daughter had a Mitsubishi that was under a recall for a ball joint issue. The recall involved the rubber dust boots coming loose. During the inspection, if the joints were found to be faulty then Mitsubishi would cover it under the recall.

They pronounced the joints good and sent her on down the road. A month later while turning the corner to her house the left front joint broke and brought the car to a halt. Thankfully it was at 10 MPH. It also damaged the wheel and cut the tire open.

Some years ago I saw a right front ball joint give way on a pickup right in front of me. The entire right front suspension along with the wheel broke off at 65 MPH. The truck went sliding into the ditch and the dislodged parts bounced into a barbed wire fence and then ricocheted clean back across the highway into the fence on the other side. Thankfully there was no other traffic and the truck owner was very lucky his truck slid instead of rolling over.

That futuristic car in the Back to the Future movies must have used a special ball joint design. All four wheels would rotate from vertical to horizontal when the car starting flying. :wink:

1 Like