Lower ball joint failure
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enough: Whenever I stepped on the brakes, the car would dive to the
right momentarily, then immediately straighten out again. I figured it
had to do with the brakes (me being a brake guru and all, of course),
but try as I might, I could not fix it. The brakes were as perfect as I
could get them, but the dive persisted. This went on for ONE YEAR. Then
one early April afternoon, at 50mph, accelerating from a stoplight,
minding my own business (as you do), and there was a sudden BANG, the right front corner of the
car dropped, there was a very loud screeching noise and some smoke. A
split second was all it took to guess what had happened, even though
I'd never experienced anything like this before. Fairly frightening,
steering remained totally controllable apart from the slight initial
jerk when the joint came apart, and the brakes stayed fully functional.
Within what must have been milliseconds I had to make up my mind what
was going to be damaged and how to limit it. I ended up deciding the
to do was to steer onto the sand/gravel shoulder to prevent suspension
parts from being ground to dust by the asphalt. In
retrospect, that was
probably the best thing to do. By the time the car left the road, the
ball joint nut and stud had been ground down to half their thickness.
Any further and the lower control arm would likely have been damaged as
damage that led to all this was the balljoint tapered stud having
cracked off the the ball itself (which could not rotate in its socket
due to corrosion). Had I known to think of it at the time, I would have
popped the balljoint taper out of the lower control arm and simply
wiggled it by hand. This would have made it abundantly clear what the
The tire was
having its tread worn away to the steel cords at the point of contact.
inner CV joint had been pulled apart, but miraculously the bearings had
got sucked into the boot and did not get lost! A clean up, regreasing
and they were fine in spite of all the sand that had been packed into
There was a
of distortion to the fender lip and some fracturing of the paint, easy
enough to fix. And the mudflap's lower bolt had been ripped out of its
nylon "nut", necessitating replacement of the "nut".
More important info:
This car had been
idled for about a month (in the body shop over Christmas) on account of
a small fender-bender. Soon after I picked up the car, it began
emitting a squeaking/creaking noise over bumps. I subsequently
discovered that I could replicate this squeak by kneeling on the right
corner of the front bumper and bouncing the right front suspension.
Squeak-ee-squeak-ee. The left side was quiet.
Some time later the
squeak went away. I dismissed it as having being corrosion on the
spring and its seat. That was probably a mistake. The squeaking was
almost certainly another warning of the ball joint seizing up good and
because only a few months later was when the incident above occurred.
Richard recently had
the identical same experience as me. At left is the picture he sent me.
Richard puts it this way:
"I had been wondering for the last year or so if the reason for my steering wheel shifting to the right everytime I hit the brakes and come back after releasing the pedal was in fact due to a failing ball joint, but dismissed it until last month, when the right front end of the car just dropped after a loud Bang! was heard and the tire was leaving a black streak on the pavement.
"Instead of panicking I just started laughing as I was slowing down, stopping near the curb. 'Yep, I said to myself, Tegger was right once again'. There's nothing wrong with the brakes, it's the ball joint that was causing the steering wheel to jerk to one o'clock and come back."
Same balljoint as mine, too.
another one! This one is from a '96 Integra, owned by Alastair. This was NOT an
OEM Honda balljoint. Alastair had replaced his OEM ones with
aftermarket a mere eight months before this extremely dramatic failure.
Imagine. Eight months. Really. Is it worth the
few bucks of savings if
THIS may happen? OEM all the way, I say.
not quite sure what to make of this picture. I suspect the inner
joint's tripod simply pulled out of the other end when the balljoint
failed, tearing the boot in half as it went, the inner boot band
holding fast. Alastair never said.
Use only OEM, and pay close attention to what your balljoints are telling you!
again? Yes, a new one!
Jake has had his own horror story: "A loud bang, a quick drop, and lots of sparks...It was a very dismal day for my '95 Civic EX. Steering pulled to the right slightly when braking; squeaking and popping over bumps and while turning. I left some pretty deep scars in the road with a nice black mark from my sideways tire. It happened going through a turn. Luckily, and for some odd reason, when the joint failed, my car followed the same line through the turn and parked me right in the side of the road."
view of the disaster...
Have you noticed? They're ALL the right-hand lower balljoints?