Are OEM Ball Joints Better Than Aftermarket?

When it’s time to replace a ball joint on your Subaru, you need to make an important choice first. You need a replacement ball joint for the job, so you’re faced with the choice between OEM and aftermarket ball joints. Which one offers the most value for your money?

The answer is OEM. Hands down.

The Right Ball Joint Makes A World Of Difference In Steering

subaru steer

The ball joints on your Subaru act as pivot points. With worn out ball joints:

  • Your Subaru’s tires will wear unevenly
  • Your ball joint may fail suddenly, leaving you stranded.

With high quality ball joints on your Subaru, the steering on your vehicle will be optimal. You won’t have to worry about any issues for a long time. If you use low quality ball joints on your vehicle, you'll likely run into issues sooner rather than later. If a ball joint fails when you're driving, it can be quite catastrophic. That's why quality matters a lot.

What constitutes as high quality when it comes to ball joints, though? The answer is clear: OEM. Here’s why.

1. OEM Ball Joints Always Come With Perfect Fitment

There’s a reason Subaru has many variations of their ball joint. It’s so each variation can fit a certain model (or a set of models). If you get a ball joint that’s made for your Subaru model, you’re getting one with perfect fitment. This makes installation easy and painless. You also don’t have to worry about any fitment-related issues down the road.

Many aftermarket manufacturers don't design their ball joints completely to Subaru specs. While the ball is usually the same size, the portions of the part used for mounting the ball joint can be a lot different. If you look for aftermarket ball joints on Amazon, you’ll find loads of reviews complaining about poor fitment. We rounded up a couple:

  • "Nut and bolt were nonstandard sizes (18 mm and 16 mm, respectively) compared to what Subaru normally uses: 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, and 22 mm. The left ball joint failed right before the one year mark during a normal braking maneuver within city traffic. Now it clunks whenever I turn to either side and shudders at highway speed. Gonna buy this part in OEM only from here on out."
  • "[This aftermarket ball joint ] will NOT fit my 2008 Outback. I tried spreading the spindle. I tried jacking on the control arm. I tried everything, including putting the wheel on the car and lowering it on the ground. The top of the ball joint will not fit in the spindle. I cleaned the spindle. I lubed the spindle and the top of the ball joint. [It still] will not go all the way in. Getting OEM from now on."

If you ask us, the extra headaches caused by aftermarket ball joints easily outweigh any savings.

2. Subaru Makes OEM Ball Joints With High Quality Materials

Material quality is another important factor to consider. Subaru makes a point to build all its parts with high quality materials and great workmanship. That’s why Subaru ball joints last a long time.

You can’t say the same about most (if not all) aftermarket ball joints. Aftermarket manufacturers are notorious for using low quality materials to build their parts. That’s why many aftermarket parts are cheap. Amazon has lots of negative reviews about the quality of aftermarket ball joints. For example, look at this review from an Outback owner:

Don't even bother wasting your time, energy, and money on these [aftermarket ball joints]. These are supposed to be better than OEM, since they are the "problem solver" line. But that is far from the truth. I installed these on my Outback two months ago. The passenger side boot has torn and the joint is clunking around. I have put maybe 3,000 miles on these, and that is optimistic. Just suck it up and do the job once [by buying] OEM.

We noticed a very common problem among aftermarket ball joints. They tend to start leaking very early. We rounded up a few Amazon reviews about this:

  • The replacement ball joint that I had to wait a week on from the first order has ALREADY FAILED! I haven't even driven 3000 miles on these things yet, and it has already spit out all the grease.
  • [My Subaru is] still sitting on jacks. The ball joint is already leaking from the bottom after one day of installation.
  • [My aftermarket ball joint] leaked within the first 2 hours. A substantial amount of grease poured out.

3. OEM Subaru Ball Joints Come With A Manufacturer’s Warranty

Subaru warranty

Most OEM Subaru parts, including ball joints, come with Subaru’s warranty. The warranty lasts for one year from the date of purchase. It doesn’t come with a mileage limitation. If your OEM ball joint fails within one year after you order it, a Subaru dealership will replace it for free.

Many, if not all, aftermarket ball joint manufacturers don’t warranty their products. If you happen to find one that does, chances are good that their warranty policy is either:

  • Bare-boned
  • Not written in the customer’s favor

If warranty is important to you (as it should be), go the OEM route.

Get Genuine OEM Subaru Ball Joints From Us At Wholesale Pricing

At Subaru Parts Plus, we carry genuine OEM Subaru parts at wholesale pricing. Our extensive inventory includes ball joints for many different Subaru models. Look up your Subaru model in our catalog of ball joints and order your replacement part(s) today!