The ball and socket joint has been used on vehicles since the turn of the century, but just like our hip joints, ball and socket joints, ball joints, tie rods, and sway bar links wear out. We inspect ball-type joints according to OEM- or suspension manufacturer-recommended procedure. Unlike a rubber bushing, a spherical ball joint is designed to pivot through multiple planes. Since the ball joint constantly pivots at different angles, it tends to wear more rapidly than bushings.
Tie rod end ball joints, on the other hand, are more tolerant of wear. Providing an assistant is available to turn the steering wheel of the vehicle in a parked position, the “dry-park” testing method will indicate excessive wear in most tie rod ends. Inner tie rod ends found on steering racks should be tested for excess wear by listening for a knocking or clicking noise as the steering is turned. Small amounts of wear in each tie rod end can add up to a major variation in toe angle.