They’re small, difficult to maintain without a grease nipple, and found on just about every vehicle out there. The ball joint.
They are the necessary component in all things requiring movement on our vehicles, such as within suspension and steering systems. We have all replaced one, two or what feels like hundreds of them, but have you ever asked the question why do they fail so regularly?
Well, as an off roading community we all do increase the wear and tear rate considerably to the component with our mud loving antics, but even the standard car gets through several ball joint replacements throughout its lifetime.
A catastrophic failure of the component can prove very nasty with the collapse of a wheel, steering and suspension systems all in one hit.
So why do they fail?
Design and manufacture is the root cause.
Inner workings of the stock ball joints are comprised of usually a metal ball pressed into a plastic material-bearing socket, which enables “free” movement inside the housing.
As is often the case, the plastic material degrades over time from friction and pressures exerted on to it, then eventually the plastic becomes loose and breaks down. This leads to all kinds of noises, from squeaking, banging to popping, and makes for an uncomfortable driving experience.
Other types of design may not have internal plastic components but offer no option of inserting grease into the joint, or rubber gaiters that fail allowing dirt and water ingress causing eventual failure.
The video below demonstrates the better quality after market ball joints available from Dynatrac.
Presenting cutaway stock Dana 60 versions with Dynatrac’s rebuildable versions, the narrator goes on to explain what makes stock factory ball joints so prone to wear and tear and why the aftermarket variety can last for such a long time.