Ball joints are a crucial part of your steering and suspension assembly.
They essentially transfer torque from the axle to the wheel. And, because the ball joint is a joint, or a rotating ball inside of a lubricated sleeve, it can transfer that torque even at an angle, without losing power.
This allows the vehicle to drive smoothly, even when you’re turning corners. Without the CV joint, you couldn’t do that.
When one or more joints go bad, your ride starts to get bumpy, you’ll get more play in the steering, and you might even lose control of the steering.
In most cases, the average cost of replacing a ball joint ranges between $250 and $350. This might go up to over $1000 for some vehicles. Here, the average cost of a ball joint is $80-$300 and the average cost of labor is $95-$250.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of ball joint replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||Lower Ball Joint Cost|
How Much Does Ball Joint Replacement Cost?*
If you have to replace a ball joint, costs depend on several factors. For example, the rate for a mechanic changes dramatically based on where you are in the country. In addition, you’ll pay different rates depending on which ball joint you’re replacing.
If you have an average car, you just have two, in the front-end. If you have a four-wheel drive or an older system, you might have four or even eight. That all impacts costs and time spent replacing the ball joint.
Therefore, the make and model of your vehicle is the most expensive factor. That’s why you can expect to pay anywhere from $98 to over $1,000 to replace a ball joint. However, on average, at a mechanic, that will be about $250-$350.
The following chart estimates the cost of replacing a ball joint in the front end on several popular vehicles.
|Vehicle||Ball Joint Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (February 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
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Ball Joint Replacement Price Factors
Replacing a ball joint can vary significantly in cost depending on where and how you have it replaced.
For example, if you only have to replace one ball joint in the front-end, buy an aftermarket part, and do the work yourself, you might get away with spending as little as $30. On the other hand, if you’re replacing a performance part, you might spend upwards of $1000.
In addition, if you have any of the four-wheel-drive pickups that use rear ball joints, you can expect costs to change there as well.
Replacing a ball joint will take 1 to upwards of 4 hours depending on the car make and model and the condition of the car.
If you’re going to a national chain like PepBoys or Midas, you can expect rates to range between $95 and $200 an hour. At a normal mechanic, that rate can range between $15 and $210 per hour, for an average of $60.
If you’re replacing inner ball joints on something like a BMW 325 XI, you can expect to have to take out not just the wheel, the brake calipers, the axle nut, and the steering axle. You’ll also have to remove the lower part of the CV axle and the lower ball joint.
That can add a significant amount of work hours to the project. However, nearly all modern passenger and compact cars have a Macpherson strut and just two ball joints.
Therefore, unless you have a four-wheel drive, a performance vehicle, or a vehicle produced pre-1950s, you likely have just two ball joints in the vehicle.
If you have a four-wheel drive system, you might have two ball joints in the back as well as the two in the front. Rear ball joints are faster and easier to replace, simply because you don’t have to go around the steering assembly and the tie rods.
On the other hand, if you have a CV axle with an inner and outer CV joint, you’ll have to take the whole axle out to replace the inner CV joint. In addition, if you have a double wishbone system, you’ll have to remove that to access the inner CV joint.
Essentially, most cars will have a roughly 1–4-hour CV ball joint replacement time. If you have an older system or a performance car with a wishbone system, you might spend much more time taking the whole thing out.
Make and Model
The make and model of your vehicle significantly impact the cost of ball joints. Here, factors include availability, how comfortable your mechanic is with the make and model, and what the manufacturer charges for parts.
You can always reduce costs for the latter by choosing aftermarket or even remanufactured parts. For example, you can usually drop the average cost of a new ball joint down to $30-$50 by purchasing it yourself.
However, not all mechanics will install parts you don’t buy with them.
3 Symptoms of a Bad Ball Joint
If a ball joint is going out, you’ll notice. In most cases, the first symptom is weird noises when you turn the wheel. However, there are plenty of other signs you can pay attention to.
1. The Joint Clicks
If the ball joint is clicking, it’s going bad. Usually this happens when the lubricant inside the boot is wearing out.
That might happen because it’s old. It also usually happens because there’s a crack or multiple cracks in the boot.
If you catch it early enough, you can often get away with replacing just the boot. That can greatly reduce the cost of parts. However, it will be the same amount of labor.
The best part? You can easily check the condition of the boot by getting under your car and looking for the large plastic sleeve in the axle. You almost can’t miss it.
In addition, ball joints do more than click. They might also clunk, thud, grind, or even hum. No matter what the noise is, your ball joint shouldn’t be making it.
And, you probably won’t notice the sound until you’re taking corners, turning the wheel to follow the curve in a road, etc. If you hear your ball joint while you’re driving straight, you have a really severe issue with the joint.
2. Steering Wheel Vibration
Steering wheel vibration can relate to issues with much of the steering assembly. However, the ball joints are a large culprit. That is, of course, for the front-end ball joints.
Here, you can expect your steering wheel to vibrate or even bounce while you’re driving and cornering. That usually means the ball joint isn’t turning smoothly, which creates a reaction up through the control arm, into the CV axle, and up the steering shaft.
This is bad for more reasons than one. All of that excess vibration can put extra shock on the other parts, which might mean they fail sooner than expected.
The best call is to check your ball joints and replace them if necessary. In some cases, preventive maintenance will be good enough.
3. Play in the Steering
If there’s too much play in the ball joints, you’ll notice it in the axle and at the wheel. Here, you can test the play in the ball joint by jacking up that side of the car and shaking the wheel.
If it wobbles back and forth, you have too much play. Of course, the issue could come from the tie rods or another part of the steering assembly. However, it’s always a problem you want to fix as quickly as possible.
Normally, play also works out to wobbling when turning. If you notice the axle wobbling, you want to get that checked or fixed ASAP.
How to Replace a Ball Joint (12 Steps)
Replacing a ball joint will normally take several hours. However, you can do so yourself.
That makes it easier to save money on replacing your ball joint. It also means you can use aftermarket parts and save even more money.
Please Note: Removing a ball joint requires specialty equipment. Here, you have three choices:
- Ball joint press – This is a vice-like device that fits over the joint and screws in to push the ball joint in or out. This is the most recommended option. Additionally, many auto parts stores rent them out and sometimes for free.
- Pickle fork and mallet – This option is relatively fast and easy and works. However, it often rips the ball joint boot or even the control arm. Don’t use this method unless you’re prepared to replace both. In most cases, only the ball joint boot will rip and you are likely replacing that anyway.
- Rubber mallet or ballpeen hammer – This option allows you to hammer the ball joint out and the new one back into place. This requires significant care to avoid damaging the new ball joint. In addition, space is limited, so this is labor intensive.
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Ratchet and socket set
- Wrench set
- Lug wrench
- Disposable gloves
- Penetrating fluid
- Brake cleaner
- Lubricant/grease for ball joints
- Park your vehicle on a clean workspace. Turn the engine off and follow safety precautions for the vehicle. Normally, this means engaging the parking brake and taking the key out of the ignition. You might also want to block the wheels and disconnect the battery.
- Loosen the wheel with a lug wrench. Then, jack up the car and stabilize the vehicle using a jack stand.
- Take the wheel off.
- Remove the axle nut.
- Either use a torque wrench to loosen the bolts or apply penetrating fluid and allow it to sit.
- Remove the caliper brake bolts and remove the brake caliper.
- Pull the cotter pin out of the lower control arm.
- Then, remove the nut on the upper control arm.
- You can then disconnect the upper control arm from the ball joint. Here, you’ll want to use a press or a mallet to get it out.
- Remove the steering knuckle.
- Clean the top of the ball joint and pull the snap ring out.
- Press or hammer the ball joint out of the socket.
- Clean the ball joint area and press the new ball joint into place.
From there, all you have to do is replace everything in reverse order, starting with the snap ring.
Make sure you re-grease the ball joint after putting the steering knuckle back on.
You can almost always expect to pay $250-$350 for a standard ball joint replacement. However, some vehicles cost significantly more.
If you have a performance vehicle with a double wishbone system, it could cost much more. However, actual rates always depend on the parts, the make and model, and what mechanics charge per hour in your area.
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