If you drive a 1990s era Chevy Blazer or other small SUV, then it's important you are aware of the common signs of ball joint failure on the front axle. The front axle ball joints are a part that is known for wearing out from driving over bumpy roads. If you can catch ball joint problems early when they first start, then you can often avoid expensive repairs down the road.
Ball joints are a pivoting connection between the steering knuckles and control arms and when they start to fail you will notice each of these three classic signs:
Sign #1: Excessive Vibration from the Front Tires
The first sign of front ball joint failure on a 4WD Chevy Blazer is front tire vibration. If you feel the vibration through the steering wheel when driving down the highway, then your Blazer either needs its tires balanced or the ball joints need to be inspected.
Sign #2: Strange Wear on the Front Tires
As your Blazer's tires vibrate as you drive down the highway, they will start to wear on either the outside or inside edge. This wear is a sure sign the vehicle has a ball joint problem.
If you feel any vibration and see inner or outer tire wear, then it's important to have your Blazer serviced as soon as possible.
Sign #3: Loud Metal-on-Metal Clunking When the Vehicle Drives Over Bumps
After you notice uneven tire wear and start feeling the vibration from your Blazer's failing ball joints, then you will start to hear loud metal-on-metal clunking noises when you drive over bumps or uneven pavement. This noise is caused by the worn ball part of the joint moving around in the worn socket. In general, the ball joints will make more and more noise until one day when they simply fail and break.
What to Do If You Suspect Impending Ball Joint Failure in Your Chevy Blazer or other SUV
Finally, it's important to note if one of your Blazer's ball joints breaks, the tire will no longer be restricted and will move freely in directions it shouldn't. This unrestricted movement will damage the tire and very likely other parts of the vehicle's suspension. Additionally, breaking a ball joint at highway speed can result in a rollover accident. For these reasons, it's vital you have your car inspected at a local automotive repair service if you suspect a ball joint problem.