A ball joint is an important component of any vehicle. It is a very small component of your vehicle that connects the vehicle’s wheels to the suspension system.
The lower ball joint is known as the ‘load-carrying’ joint since it carries the full vehicle’s load.
The upper ball joint, on the other hand, is known as the ‘follower.’ They serve as a pivot point between the vehicle’s wheels and suspension, ensuring smooth movement between the steering knuckle and the control arm.
Let us discuss an estimate of how long it will take to replace both the upper and lower ball joints, as well as some additional facts.
How long does it take to replace ball joints?
It can take anywhere from 1-3 hours or more to replace a ball joint. However, it is not as easy as it may appear. You might be able to change the ball joint on your own if you have enough experience. The time it takes to replace a ball joint is also determined by the mechanic’s level of expertise.
In a car, the number of ball joints varies depending on its model. Let us discuss about how much time it will take to replace the upper and lower ball joints in different vehicles:
Depending on the car, it would take 30 minutes to an hour to replace the upper ball joint in a car. On a truck, it would take 1-2 hours.
It is quite easy to replace the upper ball joint in a Ford F150. It would not take more than 40-50mins to replace its upper ball joint. On the other hand, it takes up to 1.5-2 hours to change the ball joint in Dodge ram 1500.
In addition, the replacement of the upper ball joint in Chevy silverado and Ford ranger 4×4 can take up to 2-4 hours depending on the skill of the mechanic.
The time required to change the lower ball joint on a car, truck, Ford F150, Dodge ram 1500, Chevy silverado and Ford ranger 4×4 is almost the same as the replacement time of the upper ball joint.
In some cases, the time might vary while aligning the lower joints.
Are ball joints easy to replace?
No, it is not easy to replace the ball joints. One needs to have adequate experience of the usage of specialized tools in order to replace a ball joint.
Normally, we usually can’t detect any damage in our ball joints ourselves if we don’t have any prior experience or knowledge about every small part of our vehicle.
Although many car enthusiasts might think that replacing a ball joint is very easy, but, it is not true at all. It is quite hard to detect the actual faulty ball joint and install a new one.
Therefore, if you are not that familiar with every small part of your car and can’t detect the faulty joints, better call a professional mechanic or pay a visit to your nearby garage.
How to replace ball joints?
It is not safe to drive your car with faulty or damaged ball joints. Therefore, it needs a replacement as soon as possible.
Let us discuss the steps to replace both lower and upper ball joints. Those are as follows:
Lower ball joints:
Examine the ball joint thoroughly:
It is very important to examine all the ball joints thoroughly to find out which one is the faulty one. Some vehicles have 2 lower ball joints. But it might vary depending on the vehicle as some have 4 lower ball joints as well.
Check for the faulty ball joints by jacking up your vehicle. If you find your ball joints considerably loose, it needs replacing as soon as possible.
Take the faulty lower ball joint out:
Taking a ball joint isn’t going to be easy because it is very tightly attached with the suspension. So, remove the large castellated nut and the cotter pin.
Then, finally use a hammer or pickle fork to pull off the ball joint to take the ball joint out.
Install the new lower ball joint in the knuckle hole:
Before installing the lower ball joints, put some metal cleaner like PB blaster or WD 40 on the ball joints to make them slippery enough to use. Then, install the lower ball joint carefully on the knuckle hole.
Use a torque wrench to tighten the castellated nut, the cotter pin and the other bolts so that the ball joint doesn’t loosen up while the vehicle is in movement.
Fix the alignment:
It is possible that the alignment of your vehicle got messed up while you replaced its ball joints. Therefore, realign your vehicle in order to ensure its smooth functioning.
Upper ball joints:
Locate the damaged upper ball joint:
Thoroughly inspect your vehicle by jacking your vehicle up front. Locate the damaged/faulty upper ball joint to check whether it needs a replacement or not.
If you see that the screws are loosen up and the whole joint has become rusty, replace it immediately.
Remove the faulty one:
After you have located the damaged upper ball joint that needs to be replaced, it’s time to remove it. Just like the lower upper ball joint, use a hammer and a pickle fork to remove this one as well.
Install the new upper ball joint:
Carefully place the new upper ball joint on the knuckle holder. Tighten it using a torque wrench and make sure the other bolts that are holding the upper ball joint in place are tightened enough as well.
How much does it cost to replace ball joints?
The price range of the ball joint itself starts from 20$ to 155$. It might also vary depending on the model of the car that you are buying the ball joint for.
The hourly cost and the minimum price for replacing one ball joint is 100$. It can also cost up to 200$ to 400$ or more depending on the time your mechanic is taking to replace the ball joints.
Although the average cost of the mechanic to change both upper and lower ball joints respectively is 225$ to 295$.
Therefore, make sure to fix a price range beforehand with your mechanic before he starts to replace the ball joints.
How often should ball joints be replaced?
Ball joints are a significant part of a vehicle. If they are not replaced on time and it somehow fails, you might lose control of your vehicle, which can lead to serious accidents.
Therefore, after driving your vehicle for 70,000 miles to 150,000 miles, your ball joints should be changed. Ball joints are very sensitive. Thus, they are damaged severely if you drive your car on rough roads.
Again, the suspension system of your car is significantly dependent on the ball joints. So, it is better to avoid driving in rough road conditions on a daily basis. Proper maintenance and replacement of ball joints on time can ensure your most safety while travelling.
Should I replace upper and lower ball joints at the same time? Should you replace all ball joints at once?
Depending on the model, the number of ball joints in a vehicle may vary. Some vehicles only have one pair of lower and upper ball joints. Some vehicles have two pairs of lower and upper joints.
Both the upper and lower ball joints should be replaced at the same time. Because it will aid in maintaining the proper alignment of your vehicle.
It’s also a good idea to replace all of the ball joints at the same time. Because if you only detect one problematic ball joint during your inspection, there’s a good possibility that the other ball joints are on the verge of being destroyed due to wear and tear.
Therefore, replace all of your upper and lower ball joints at the same time.
How long can you drive on a bad ball joint?
It is safe to drive any car with a bad ball joint for up to 500 miles. The extent of ball joint damage varies from vehicle to vehicle. As a result, with minor wear and tear on your ball joints, you should be able to drive for no more than 300-500 miles safely.
Moreover, it is never a good idea to drive your vehicle with a damaged or bad ball joint, no matter how minor the damage is.
Because the ball joints of the wheels are very much important to a vehicle’s suspension system. Thus, a defective ball joint might cause suspension failure, which can result in serious and untimely accidents.
Within 30 minutes to 1 hour, you can easily replace a ball joint(upper, lower). However, this time period is never fixed because it is heavily dependent on the mechanic’s skills. It is highly recommended to perform periodic inspections on all of your ball joints in order to drive your car safely.