BMW 3 Series vehicles are known for their reliability and style, but they still have a few common problems that many drivers will have to deal with at some point. Ball joint failure is one of these issues that can be caused by several things, most of them coming down to normal wear and tear. With regular maintenance & repair, a professional mechanic will be able to keep the ball joints on your 3 Series in great shape.
What do ball joints do?
Ball joints are part of the suspension system. They’re responsible for connecting the wheels to the suspension and helping to control steering. When they’re not working properly, the vehicle can drift out of alignment and you might have more trouble steering than normal.
As you can imagine, though ball joints are pretty small, no bigger than the size of your fist, they’re vitally important to the inner workings of your car. That’s why you need to keep an eye on them and make sure that they’re doing their job properly. Since 3 Series cars are so susceptible to ball joint failure, this is even more necessary.
Causes of Ball Joint Failure
Normal wear & tear is the primary reason why ball joints fail, but the cause of that wear and tear can come from many different places. One of these is a lack of lubrication. Normally, a ball joint is encased in a rubber boot with grease inside it, so that the joint can rotate and move around as necessary to control steering. However, parking your car in extremely hot temperatures can cause the grease inside the rubber casing to dry out. With the grease gone, the ball joint can no longer rotate as easily, which can lead to problems with the steering.
Another cause of ball joint wear is dried out or damaged seals. These seals are the things that surround the ball joint and keep everything in place. When the oil inside them disappears, however, they can become dried out and crack, allowing dirt and debris to get to the ball joint and gumming up the works so the ball joint can’t move as freely as it needs to.
On a similar note, frequently driving your 3 Series on rough terrain with lots of bumps and jolts can wreak havoc on the seals and the ball joint in general, leading to cracks and leaks that severely affect the component’s performance.
These are all things that occur naturally over time, so while there are some things you can do as a driver to try to lessen the impact, without proper maintenance, the ball joint will most likely wear down eventually no matter how careful you are. Following the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle is the best way to prevent ball joint failure and save you a lot of extra money in repair costs later on.
Symptoms of Ball Joint Failure
We’ve talked a lot about what causes ball joints to fail, next you need to know what signs will tell you when your BMW’s ball joints have started to wear down. There are a few main things to look out for, most of which should be relatively easy to detect:
- Clunking noises, especially those coming from the front end of the car. These will start out quieter, but as the problem increases they will become louder and louder until the ball joint will break entirely if you ignore it for long.
- Vibrations. Similar to the clunking, these vibrations will originate from the front end of the car. If it gets bad enough, you could even start feeling the vibrations in the steering wheel itself.
- When driving down the road, you may notice that you’re having trouble keeping your car going in a straight line. It wants to list to one side or the other instead.
Auto Assets is Your BMW Specialist
The best place to go when you’re having trouble with your BMW’s suspension system or any other part is to your trusted BMW experts. Auto Assets is conveniently located for clients in Columbus, Dublin, New Albany, Worthington, and Powell, Ohio. We are happy to provide all your repair and maintenance needs for your BMW. To learn about our services or set up an appointment, contact us at 614-793-1050.
* BMW 3 Series Car image credit goes to: D. Lentz.