Are you the proud owner of a BMW 3 Series? It is the brand’s top car for both the Gran Turismo and Sedan version, and it nearly achieves vehicular perfection in endurance, performance, and handling. As with all things in life, though, it has its weaknesses as well. For BMW 3 Series, one of these weaknesses is ball joint failure.
What is the ball joint?
Ball joints in suspensions are round bearing studs enclosed in a steel casing that connects the control arms to the steering knuckles in your suspension system. These form ball-and-socket joints between the suspension and your wheel, which allows it to have vertical motion. This vertical motion is the whole genius behind suspension because it delays and softens the impact of any bump or pothole you may hit while driving. This not only helps to keep you from bruising your tailbone, but it also prevents your engine from being shaken and jerked around to the point of being damaged.
How does the ball joint get damaged?
Most cars today are equipped with a ball joint system, and while the majority of BMW suspension parts are made with exceptional quality, the ball joints in the 3 Series vehicles have a tendency to get damaged easily. It is unusual that this would be the case, particularly because BMW’s are known for outstanding suspension engineering. They bring the comfort of a town car to the handling and steering of a race car.
They excel on smoothly paved roads. However, they do not handle the abuse of off-roading well. Uneven terrain wears down the ball joint, as does reckless driving. It is tempting to believe that a car will perform the same no matter what kind of surface it is driving on, but it is not true. Lighter materials in the ball joint create smoother handling conditions, but these less durable materials cannot withstand rugged, off-road surfaces.
What are the signs of ball joint damage?
If your ball joint is not functioning correctly, you will probably notice noises first. It will make clunking sounds, and the steering may feel like it is connected to some loose-moving parts. They will come from the front of the car near each of the wheels. You may notice them more while driving on bumpy roads.
Once the noises progress, another symptom will be added in as well. You will likely notice a vibration in the steering column and perhaps across the front of the car in general. As the ball joint wears away, there is more space for it to move inside the socket. This mobility causes vibrations. These vibrations will be more noticeable at higher speeds and on harsher terrains.
How do you fix ball joint damage?
If your ball joint is worn away to the point of making noise or vibrating, it needs to be replaced. There is no safe way to re-pad the joint. When you replace the ball joint, it is best to replace both sides. The slippage caused by one ball joint often creates extra strain upon the opposite one, which means it will likely be damaged as well or will be damaged soon.
You will also need to have the rest of your suspension system checked. One part malfunctioning causes stress in the rest of it, and there may be additional problems that occur in your front end. Your steering and suspension systems could both be at risk. Once you get all those pieces inspected and replaced where needed, it is time to get your alignment fixed. If you get your alignment adjusted before examining other places for damage, you may end up wasting your money, because your alignment will need to be adjusted any time the suspension or steering are altered.
Where can you get help with your BMW ball joints?
Autobahn Automotive, convenient to San Antonio and Longhorn, TX, has been serving satisfied clients for more than 40 years. We offer expert European auto maintenance and repair at prices 35% lower than dealers, so you get all the experience and training for less than two-thirds of the cost.
Since these suspension issues are common with BMW 3 Series cars, we will be ready to serve you with replacement items on hand. We will also perform a full inspection to make sure you do not leave until your vehicle has been certified as safe for driving, preventing you from suffering a breakdown on the road or a life-threatening wreck. If you hear clunking noises or feel vibrations in your car, don’t wait it out, call Autobahn Automotive for an appointment today.
* BMW 3 Series image credit goes to: Stratol.