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Tech Info - Ball & Socket Joints


Right-angled ball & socket jointI make regular use of small ball & socket joints in the steering and suspension mechanisms of several of the vehicles on the site. They are particularly useful for joining steering actuation and track rods to front wheel hub support assemblies where free rotation between the joined components is needed about all three rotational axes. I've also used them on panhard links in suspension setups.

Small ball and socket joints are readily available and fairly inexpensive. Both carbon steel and stainless steel versions can be obtained with the stainless steel joints being the more costly. Connecting thread sizes between M5 and M16 are common with either right or left handed threads available on the socket element of the joint.  Using opposite handed pairs on either end of a connecting rod will allow fine length adjustment in situ by rotating the connecting rod, however if very fine adjustment is not needed and one joint can be disconnected from the attached components for adjustment, same-handed joints can be used on each end of  the connecting rod - this allows simple, inexpensive threaded bar to be used for the connected rod.

I use the right-angled ball and socket joints mainly. These generally have a higher push/pull load carrying capacity than the in-line forms. For example right-angled joints with M8 thread size and 13 mm ball diameter have a max pull/push capacity of about 150kgf which is adequate for most steering mechanism applications I've designed.

Attachment methods are fairly obvious - male threaded stud on the ball element and a female threaded socket on the socket element. Lock nuts should be used to lock the socket element to the tie rod. One thing to note with the right-angled forms is the limit of angular movement which is roughly 15 on the commonly available units. This can represent a constraint in their application and should be watched - forcing the joints beyond their travel limits will induce bending moments in the attached components and may cause the socket to "pop" off the ball, so check for unrestricted travel on assembly.


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