How To Diagnose A Failing Ball Joint

The ball joints are important parts in your Subaru’s suspension and steering systems. Like all moving parts, ball joints can fail over time. Ball joints usually last between 70K and 150K miles, but they can fail any time.

When a ball joint fails, your car’s suspension system can collapse. If that happens on the road, you can lose control of your Subaru. That can be quite catastrophic.

So if you suspect that you’re driving with a bad ball joint, you want to confirm the issue ASAP. We’ll help you diagnose the problem in this post.

What Can Make A Ball Joint Fail?

Broken ball joint

Image Credit: NASIOC

Under normal conditions, a ball joint lasts between 70K and 150K miles. But sometimes ball joints can fail early due to circumstances other than wear and tear. Some of the most common circumstances include:

  • Impacts from big bumps or potholes
  • Car accidents

Signs Of A Bad Ball Joint

If you experience any of the following signs, chances are you have at least one bad ball joint:

  • Clunking, squeaking, or creaking noise coming from the wheel area
  • Misalignment
  • Your Subaru drifting left or right unprompted
  • Uneven tire wear

Checking Your Ball Joints

check ball joint

Image Credit: SubaruOutback.org

Checking your ball joints is easy. All you need to do is check for free play at the ball joints. To do this:

  1. Lift the front wheels off the ground.
  2. Prop up the front end of the vehicle with jack stands. Make sure that the vehicle is secure.
  3. Lay a cinder block near the inside of the wheel.
  4. With a large pry bar, wiggle the control arm up and down. Leverage it against the cinder block at the same time. Look for any free play in the ball joint.
    1. If you have trouble finding the ball joint, it's attached to the steering knuckle.
  5. Repeat the above steps on the other side of the axle.

Do you feel any free play at any of the ball joints? A ball joint should have one to a few thousands of an inch of free play. That’s barely any free play. So if you feel any free play, the ball joint is bad and you need to replace it.

When in doubt, replace the ball joints. This may put you out a few bucks, but at least you'll have the peace of mind that you're driving with good ball joints.

Do You Need To Replace Your Ball Joints?

The first thing you need to do is look for replacement ball joints. If you have a Subaru, look no further than Subaru Parts Plus! We're an authorized seller of genuine OEM Subaru parts, including ball joints. You'll save a lot of money with us because we offer wholesale pricing. For example, Subaru dealerships sell this ball joint for about $40. You can get it from us for under $30.  Check out our catalog of OEM Subaru ball joints and see if we have some for your model!

Do you have any questions about checking your ball joints? You're welcome to contact us!