How Long Can You Drive on a Bad Ball Joint? Vehicle Troubles

“How long can you drive on a bad ball joint?” is a question most car owners have, especially those who have experienced this issue. The suspension and the steering knuckle are joined through ball joints.

How Long Can You Drive on a Bad Ball Joint

The ball joint allows rotation by following the track whenever you turn your wheels. This guide provides insight into how long you can maintain one before it causes problems that make your car unsafe to drive.

How Long Can You Run a Car on a Bad Ball Joint?

How long you can run a car on a bad ball joint depends on the severity of the damage, but in the event that it is only slightly off, you will be able to continue driving for another 500 miles before having to get it fixed. 

The more worn out the joint is, the harder it will be to drive on it without experiencing severe issues such as steering wheel vibrations or pulling to one side when you turn. Ball joints can become worn over time, which causes them to fail.

When this happens, replacing the ball joint before it fails and leads to more severe damage is essential.

– Symptoms of a Worn-out Ball Joint

The symptoms of a worn-out ball joint can include steering issues, such as a loose feeling in the steering wheel, or difficulty keeping the vehicle going straight. There may also be clunking or knocking sounds from the front suspension, especially when going over bumps or making turns.

Symptoms of a Worn-out Ball Joint

The symptoms are usually similar, regardless of whether it is a front or rear ball joint that needs replacement. You may notice these symptoms in your car, which means a ball joint might be going bad:

Some of these symptoms can also be caused by other suspension issues, such as worn tie rod ends or control arms bushings, so it’s best to have a qualified mechanic diagnose the problem.

– Causes of Bad Ball Joints

Bad ball joints are caused by the wearing out of joints over time from normal use, but they can also fail due to impact damage or corrosion. It allows the wheels to move up and down while the steering remains stable.

Ball joints can fail over time due to several factors, such as:

  • Age: These joints are designed to last a certain number of miles or years, and they will eventually wear out regardless of how well they are maintained.
  • Load: Ball joints are under great stress, especially when carrying heavy loads or towing. This can cause them to decay more quickly.
  • Off-roading: Excessive heat from high-performance driving or off-roading can cause carbon buildup on the ball joints, reducing their lifespan significantly and making them harder to remove.
  • Poor Maintenance: lack of lubrication, not replacing the crumbled parts in a timely manner, and lack of regular checkups are some of the poor maintenance causes.

– Prolonging the Life of Your Ball Joints

You can prolong the life of an automobile’s ball joints if you maintain your vehicle properly, keep your vehicle’s suspension in good condition, align your vehicle correctly, be aware of warning signs, and prevent overloading your vehicle.

  • Avoid overloading your vehicle: The more weight you carry, the harder those joints work and the more likely they will fail prematurely.
  • Regular maintenance: Regular maintenance is the best way to prevent ball joint failure, especially if you frequently drive over rough roads or carry heavy loads in your vehicle. Take your vehicle in for regular visual inspections and oil changes whenever they are due, and have the shop check ball joints while under there; this usually costs extra.

Prolonging the Life of Your Ball Joints

  • Proper alignment: If you’ve hit a pothole or had an accident that damaged your steering or suspension system, take it to a mechanic immediately so they can properly realign your wheels. 
  • Keep an eye on warning signs: Be aware of symptoms of defective joints, like a loose ball, uneven tire wear, and a clunking noise when driving over bumps. This is the most important step, as early diagnosis can prolong the life of ball joints and safety.

If you want to prolong the life of your ball joints, consider having an experienced mechanic inspect your ball joints every 12 months or 20,000 miles.

– Replacing a Bad Ball Joint

Ball joints should be replaced when the wear becomes too great or when they reach a certain age. If the ball joint is worn to the point where it affects the vehicle’s handling or causes clunking noises when driving over speed bumps, you should replace it right away.

Replacing a Bad Ball Joint

Joint replacement is also recommended as part of regularly scheduled maintenance or before they reach their recommended service life. The replacement cost of a bad ball joint is affected by several essential factors, such as the make and model of your car, the type of ball joint being used, and the mechanic’s labor costs.

– Cost of Replacing a Bad Ball Joint

You should anticipate paying between $100 and $300 on average per ball joint replaced, although some higher-end vehicles can cost more. Additionally, if the ball joint is part of a control arm, the cost to replace the whole arm might be more. And depending on the location of the ball joint, it may require more complex and longer labor; therefore, the cost might increase.

Cost of Replacing a Bad Ball Joint

Furthermore, it is usually not advised to replace only one worn ball joint, as the other ball joints on the vehicle are likely to be worn as well. You should replace all the ball joints on the same axle simultaneously, which will cost more than just replacing a single ball joint.


Ball joints are one of the most important parts of your car because they keep your wheels in place, and if they’re worn out, it can lead to many problems. That’s why it’s essential to know how long you can drive on a bad ball joint before you should go in for repairs.

Here are the important points to keep in mind:

  • You will be able to continue driving for another 500 miles on a bad ball joint if the damage is not that great.
  • Ball joints have a limited life span and eventually need to be replaced.
  • Overloading the vehicle, off-roading, excessive vibration, and poor maintenance can accelerate the wear of the ball joints.
  • Regular inspection and lubrication of upper ball joints can prolong their service life. If ball joints are worn, they should be replaced as soon as possible.
  • The cost of replacing a bad ball joint can vary depending on the vehicle, type of ball joint, and labor costs. 

If you have any questions about what to do if your car has a bad ball joint, feel free to contact us!

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