There are joints all over your vehicle and they provide the same service in your car as they do in your body, allowing parts to pivot and rotate for a greater and smoother range of motion. Joints are commonly found in the under-carriage of the car in suspension and steering systems. While in many new cars these joints are ‘sealed’, meaning that they do not need periodic greasing or maintenance, they should be checked regularly as part of your maintenance program to make sure that there is no excessive wear or movement and that the protective rubber is not torn, cracked or missing altogether.
Signs of impending joint failures are a clicking or metallic crackling noise while turning and accelerating or a clunking upon deceleration or after hitting a bump. The Ball Joint can also bind and cause a tight spot in the steering travel. Grinding and any sort of vibration are also clues that there could have an issue. You should have any unusual noises or vibrations checked by a qualified automotive repair technician as soon as possible.
Universal Joints (U-Joints)
U-Joint ends are both shaped like “U’s” hence the name and they swivel and bend around each other allowing the driveshaft to follow the motions of the differential and axle as the suspension moves. Most U-joints on newer vehicles are “sealed”, but many replacement U-joints as well as the U-joints on older vehicles do have grease fittings which allows the joint to be lubed periodically.
Constant Velocity Joints (CV Joints)
All CV joints are enclosed by a rubber or hard plastic boot. The boot keeps grease in and contaminants out. CV joints do not require periodic maintenance or greasing, and are engineered to last 100,000 miles or more. Because the protective boots are made of rubber they wear or become cracked or even torn. If this rubber boot does become compromised the grease spins out of the joint and the friction and heat generated soon deteriorates the joint components. However, even if you manage to catch a torn boot soon enough it is usually recommended to replace the entire axle anyway.
The flexible ball and socket allows the suspension to move and at the same time the wheels to steer. Ball joints are also protected by a rubber boot to keep grease in and debris and moisture out and are susceptible to wear and tear just like the ones protecting CV Joints.
This joint connects the end of the steering column to the gear box. The shaft has couplings on both ends that are jointed with a universal joint so it’s able to pivot and slides a bit to allow for flexing of the car on roads and turns. This joint tends to be more of an issue with pick-ups and GM vehicles and if there is an issue you have to replace the whole shaft. You will notice a clunk or vibration directly in the steering wheel itself if there is a problem.
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