What Are The Best Ball Joints? (2020 Guide)
Unless you’re really into cars, you probably don’t know much about ball joints.
Ball joints are not a fancy or exotic component of any vehicle – but they’re definitely important. Selecting the right type of ball joints for your car or truck not only improves driving performance, but also plays a key role in your safety on the road.
Not sure what ball joints are the right choice for your vehicle? Our complete shopping guide has the best ball joints for 2020. Plus, we’ve included a full FAQ section will all the info you need about what ball joints are and how to find ones you can count on.
Ready to hit the road? Let’s get rolling!
- Our #1 Pick – Moog K80026 Ball Joint
- Our #2 Pick – Motorman 14-pc Front Suspension Set with Ball Joints and Steering Assembly
- Our #3 Pick – Orion Motor Tech Heavy Duty Ball Joint Press and Removal Tool Kit
- Our #4 Pick – DLZ 4 Piece Front Suspension Kit
- Our #5 Pick – Moog K6541 Ball Joint
- Our #6 Pick – Moog k8607t Ball Joint
- Our #7 Pick – Detroit Axel Ball Joint Assembly and Control Arm
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are Ball Joints?
- Do You Need A Ball Joint Kit?
- What Causes Wear and Tear on Ball Joints?
- Do I Have To Replace Both?
- How Do I Measure Ball Joint Wear and Tear?
- What are the Signs of Ball Joint Failure?
- 1. Knocking and Clunking
- 2. Excessive Vibration
- 3. Wandering Steering
- The Sounds of Potential Ball Joint Problems
- How Serious is Ball Joint Failure?
- How is Ball Joint Failure Fixed?
- Can You Replace Ball Joints Yourself?
- Final Thoughts
Our #1 Pick – Moog K80026 Ball Joint
Strong and stable, the Moog K80026 is known as the “Problem Solver” for its ability to deliver smooth rotational movement and a secure fit.
- Oversized housing unit for extra-secure fit
- Socket design is easily lubricated to prevent wear
- Made from steel and powdered metal
- Not a complete suspension kit
The Moog K80026 is a great choice if you’ve had previous issues with finding a proper fit. Moog’s unique design includes an oversized housing unit to keep the fit secure, which helps prevent vibrations and other problems.
Additionally, socket design allows lubricants to flow freely around the ball joint. Regular lubrication helps prevent metal-on-metal grinding which can cause wear. Contaminants can also be evenly flushed away from the socket area, which stops corrosion from occurring.
Ball joints are made with steel and powdered metal. Plus, Moog has an outstanding reputation in the automotive industry for high quality products and accessible customer service.
Our #2 Pick – Motorman 14-pc Front Suspension Set with Ball Joints and Steering Assembly
A complete suspension replacement kit for a variety of GMC and Chevy trucks which includes ball joints, arms and more.
- Complete suspension kit for both sides of vehicle
- Precision manufacturing process for secure fit
- Durable metal components all designed to work well together
- Limited to Chevy and GMC vehicles older than 1995
- Requires professional installation
This complete chassis kit from Motorman includes everything you need for both driver and passenger side front suspension. Includes two upper ball joints, two lower, two adjusting sleeves, a pitman arm, an idler arm and more.
Fits a variety of Chevy and GMC trucks from 1995 and up. These replacement parts are made using computer-controlled grinding and heat treatment operations for a precision fit which is easy to mount on your vehicle.
Note that even though this kit gives you the option of replacing either the driver or passenger side components, experts recommend replacing both at the same time. This ensures the suspension remains consistent throughout the entire vehicle and helps prevent tire wear.
Our #3 Pick – Orion Motor Tech Heavy Duty Ball Joint Press and Removal Tool Kit
If you’re experienced enough to remove and install ball joints on your own vehicle, this complete kit from Orion Motor features a variety of tools you can count on to get the job done right.
- Complete ball joint removal tool kit
- Each item made from forged steel
- Fits most 2WD and 4WD vehicles
- Not suitable for beginners
If you’re not automotive-minded, you’ll want to leave ball joint maintenance to the professionals. But savvy at-home mechanics (as well as pros) often choose this toolkit from OrionMotor. Kit includes three receiving tubs, a removal adapter, installation adapter and more. Allows you to remove press fit parts such as ball joints and U-joints.
Each component in the kit is made from heavy-duty forged steel with a black-oxide finish. Resists rust and corrosion. A custom-molded case allows for quick organization and easy storage.
Tools fit most 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Also includes a 4WD adapter to allow for work on vehicles 1967 and older which have a Dana 30 or 44 front axle. While this kit isn’t really suitable for beginners, DIY home mechanics and professional technicians will find a lot to like here.
Our #4 Pick – DLZ 4 Piece Front Suspension Kit
Kit contains two front lower and two front upper suspension kits for Jeep Wranglers, Cherokees and Grand Cherokees.
- Designed for snowy weather and salt-covered roads
- Includes both lower and upper suspension joints
- All parts covered by one year warranty
- Only available for Jeeps
This complete kit from DLZ includes two front lower and two front upper suspension ball joints. Each joint is greaseable with a durable anti-rust surface. A double-layer dust cover protects the inside of the ball joint from wear and damage.
Suitable for use in areas with lots of snow and salt. Performance is maintained from -22℉ to 248 ℉. A one-year warranty covers all parts.
Ball joints are designed for Jeep Wranglers (1990 to 2006), Jeep Cherokee (1993 to 1998) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (1997 to 2006)
Our #5 Pick – Moog K6541 Ball Joint
Moog is one of the top-selling manufacturers of ball joints for a reason. The K6541 ball joint is durable, powerful and built for a variety of cars and trucks.
- Oversized housing for snug, secure fit
- Made from heavy-duty steel
- Provides lower torque
- Great for off-roading
- Only available for Chevy, GMC and Cadillac vehicles
Another quality ball joint from Moog, the K6541 Ball Joint is made from heavy-duty steel with a powdered metal gusher to help create a smooth ride with no friction or noises. Allows for an optimal 36 degrees for rotational movement.
This ball joint provides plenty of torque and stud articulation but also allows for plenty of clearance. A good choice for frequent off-roaders and other adventurous drivers. Designed specifically for Cadillac, Chevy and GMC vehicles.
Our #6 Pick – Moog k8607t Ball Joint
The Moog kit provides smooth, rotational movement with a powder-coated finish that can withstand a great deal of wear and tear. It comes with a design that allows grease to move through the bearing directly to the stud to encourage better movement and less friction.
- Affordable parts
- Design encourages greasing
- Flushes contaminants a little more easily
- Could have quality control issues
- May cause noise
The one-piece housing is durable and efficient with a design that encourages a constant flush of contaminants so that the joint has a better fitting and is less likely to come loose. It’s compatible with Ford and Dodge vehicles, provided the year is between 1992 and 1996.
It comes with only one ball joint, allowing you to customize how many you need. You can grease them quickly, and the entire design encourages a clean flow from the bearing to the stud. They may cause some noise in the beginning, but with the right installation tools, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.
The parts do have a tendency to pass quality control despite some parts not holding up well. Be aware that this is an affordable option, but you may end up having to replace them sooner than some other parts.
Our #7 Pick – Detroit Axel Ball Joint Assembly and Control Arm
Although not packed with special features, these front upper control arms and ball joint assembly is a great choice for Cadillacs, GMC and Chevy trucks and cars.
This set includes two front upper control arms with ball joint assembly. Also includes two front lower ball joints for steel control arms only.
Designed for Cadillac Escalades (2017 to 2014), Chevy Avalanche (2007 to 2013), GMC Sierra (2008 to 2015) and other vehicles from those manufacturers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Ball Joints?
Ball joints aren’t much to look at, but they’re an important part of the suspension in pretty much all modern vehicles. Similar in shape and function to a human hip, a car’s ball joint connects steering and suspension.
The front ball joint allows the front wheels and suspension to work together in order to:
- Move up and down
- Move back and forth
Ball joints act a pivot between the tires and the suspension. They allow for safe, accurate driving. They also connect to the steering wheel to help with steering and control. The number of ball joint assemblies in your vehicle will vary depending on the type of suspension system it has.
Ball joints can be either in the front or the rear. You’ll want to know where the ball joints on your vehicle are located, as their placement will affect what symptoms are displayed if a problem develops. Generally, front ball joints are far more common. Rear ball joints are usually only found in high-performance sports cars.
There are two types of front ball joints: upper and lower. Generally, the lower joints are larger and stronger, but they’re also usually faster to wear out. Weight and stress have more of an effect on lower ball joints, especially during braking.
Vehicles will have either two or four ball joints on the front wheels. A vehicle with shocks and springs will have upper and lower joints. A vehicle with McPherson struts will only have two lower ball joints.
Finally, ball joints can be either load bearing or non-load bearing. Load bearing joints carry the vehicle’s weight. This means they’re more susceptible to wear and typically have to be replaced more often than non-load bearing joints.
Do You Need A Ball Joint Kit?
Kits make a lot of sense if you’re replacing a lot of parts, and you aren’t sure what pieces you need. Ball joint kits provide you with all the pieces you need and allow you to build out the parts you need without making multiple trips to the store.
It also makes it easier to find what’s compatible with your particular make and model, alleviating costly mistakes. If you don’t have much experience or you’re working on an unfamiliar car, a kit can certainly help smooth the process of replacing your ball joints.
You can find kits in a variety of places, and each one should have all the correct pieces along with installation details that ensure everything you need is in a complete package. Plus, they’re often a very affordable way to get everything you need instead of trying to piece things together with what you have lying around.
What Causes Wear and Tear on Ball Joints?
Ball joints don’t all have the same lifespan. Specific design features like premium materials can help ensure that the ball joint lasts a long time.
In truth, most ball joints do last a long time, which is why people sometimes forget about replacing them (until they experience wandering steering or a knocking noise, that is). Ball joints are subject to wear and tear from environmental issues as well.
If ball joints lose their lubrication, this can be a considerable factor in wear and tear. When you drive on bumpy roads, or you have dirty, dusty conditions on a regular basis, this can cause contamination within your ball joints. As they work through these environmental issues, they can experience more significant wear and tear over the long run.
Do I Have To Replace Both?
Because they work the same despite a difference in the sides, most of the time, you’re going to replace ball joints in pairs. You’ll often find that they’ve worn evenly on both sides, so start planning.
If you notice a sound on one side, there’s a good chance the other is experiencing the same type of wear and tear and will need replacing, too. The best option is to replace them at the same time because the process isn’t straightforward, and you don’t want a repeat in just six months.
If you have excessive play in your ball joints, that can cause wear and tear even more quickly. A ball joint that fails can be fatal, so this is not the time to ignore the signs of wear and tear in both, despite where your problem actually is.
How Do I Measure Ball Joint Wear and Tear?
Some ball joints have visual wear markers that can be checked easily, but if your particular ball joint doesn’t, you may need the help of a professional. Ball joint kits that include this feature could make things easier for you to monitor, so be sure to look for that feature.
Some ball joints are easier to check than others if they aren’t marked. Tie rod end ball joints can be inspected using the dry park method, for example, so depending on the circumstances, you may want to decide on a particular type for your ball joint kit.
What are the Signs of Ball Joint Failure?
If the ball joint in your car is starting to fail, you’ll likely hear certain noises and feel some differences when you drive. Here are the most common signs:
1. Knocking and Clunking
Do you hear a harsh knocking, clunking or clanging noise coming from your car? That’s often the first sign a ball joint is becoming loose. Noises will be especially pronounced when the car is turning or driving across rough, uneven terrain.
Noises might be sporadic and quiet at first. But as the ball joint continues to wear, clunking and clanking will be louder and much more obvious. Eventually, the joints will break completely. (Don’t worry. We cover repairs and maintenance below.)
2. Excessive Vibration
Does your car shake like a discount washing machine? That’s another sign of potential ball joint problems. If the ball is too loose in the socket, it’ll vibrate whenever the vehicle is running. The vibration will typically be most pronounced on either the right or left side of the vehicle. Vibrations will also often be felt through the steering wheel, too.
3. Wandering Steering
This is a situation where the vehicle drifts to either side if your hands aren’t on the wheel. Worn ball joints can have a dramatic effect on alignment. Depending on which specific ball joint is wearing down, the vehicle will drift to either the left or the right. If both ball joints are worn down, the vehicle might drift in both directions.
Ball joints have no exact lifespan. With proper care, they can last for decades. But in other cases, they can start to show signs of failure as early as 80,000 miles. Most likely, this will be due to a manufacturing or installation defect, but it’s still a possibility you’ll want to be aware of.
The Sounds of Potential Ball Joint Problems
Your ears are perhaps the most valuable tool for identifying an issue with the ball joint. The first sound you’re likely to hear is a sudden burst of noise from the front of your car. This is the sound of the ball joint dismantling. Then you’ll hear clicking, popping and snapping whenever you turn the wheel. Finally, you’ll hear a loud squeaking sound when you apply the brake and/or gas pedal.
How Serious is Ball Joint Failure?
Slight shaking and noise might not seem like a big deal, but any sign of potential ball joint failure should be addressed immediately. As wear worsens, handling and vehicle performance will suffer. The looseness of the ball joint also affects wheel alignment and tire wear.
If the ball joint fails completely, the suspension can collapse, resulting in a total loss of vehicle control. This can cause extensive damage throughout the vehicle and be incredibly dangerous.
How is Ball Joint Failure Fixed?
Don’t ignore potential ball joint problems. If you’re familiar with cars, check out the issue yourself. But usually the safest course of action is to schedule a professional inspection from a technician.
Generally, you’ll want to take your car into a shop. Mobile mechanics – mechanics who arrive at your location – typically don’t have the right equipment to help with ball joint issues. Repairs typically require wheel alignment, which can only be done in a garage.
Here’s a rundown of how a professional mechanic will replace worn ball joints:
- Wheels are removed
- Control arms are removed
- Ball Joints are removed
- New (or certified slightly used) ball joints are installed
- Suspension system is thoroughly examined
- Alignment is checked
- Wheels are checked for uneven wear
Can You Replace Ball Joints Yourself?
You can, but only if you have relevant experience and technical know-how. But this isn’t really a repair to attempt if you’re not very familiar with car care. As discussed above, ball joints play a very important role. Installing them incorrectly can result in extensive vehicle damage.
Plus, replacing ball joints can be time-consuming and complicated, especially if you’re working in a home garage. Removing wheels and control arms is typically a huge hassle unless you’re in a professional shop.
However, consider buying the joints you want separately and then having a professional install them. This could potentially save you some money. For the best results, discuss this option with your mechanic so you’re sure to buy the correct products for your car.
Without properly working ball joints, you’re in for a rough ride. Although they’re not much to look at, these ball joints play an important role in steering, suspension and overall vehicle control. Use the guide above to find the best ball joints for your vehicle, and you’ll enjoy a smooth, safe ride whenever you’re behind the wheel!