Vehicles have control arm bushings essential for cushioning them on different road surfaces. The bushings are located between the vehicle’s upper and lower control arms and the chassis. The control arm bushing contains rubber or polyurethane material sandwiched between metallic cylinders. The design of the control arm bushing is such that it can absorb as many vibrations as possible and keep the control arm in its desired alignment. However, being under constant stress this element of the suspension can very easily fail. Therefore, it is extremely important to know the symptoms of a bad control arm, in order to quickly find and eliminate the cause. Remember that driving a defective car is dangerous to your life! And if the suspension malfunctions, it's twice as dangerous.
A good control arm bushing connects the chassis and the steering knuckle and contributes to better steering responsiveness and suspension. Most vehicles feature a lower arm control bushing. However, larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs have upper and lower control arms. Driving with a damaged control arm bushing has several risks. That is why a driver should know how to identify a bad control arm bushing.
What Is control arm bushing and what is its purpose?
A control arm bushing is a suspension component that cushions the connection between the control arm and the chassis of the vehicle. Its purpose is to reduce vibration and noise and to improve the ride quality of the vehicle. Control arm bushings are made of rubber or polyurethane and are available in different durometers, or hardness levels. Softer bushings provide a smoother ride but may wear out more quickly than harder bushings. Harder bushings provide a firmer ride but may last longer.
Symptoms of a bad control arm bushing
Like other car components, arm bushings experience wear and tear over time. Their damage causes a myriad of problems. Here are the common signs of a bad control arm bushing.
Vibrations on the steering wheel
A bad control arm bushing causes the tires to wobble. The wobbling tires transfer the vibrations to the steering wheel. Drivers experience stronger steering wheel vibrations when they intensify acceleration.
Uneven tire wear
We’re aware that the control arm bushings are responsible for maintaining the alignment of the tires. When the bushings are damaged, the tires will begin wearing unevenly. If the driver notices steering wheel vibrations, they should immediately check the conditions of the tire treads. Uneven wear will point to a damaged control arm bushing.
When the control arm bushing is damaged, drivers begin experiencing challenges when braking. Although these components are not directly tied to the braking system, their damage causes braking challenges. The front wheels are likely to oscillate back and forth when brakes are engaged or decelerating. The damage to the control arm bushing also makes it difficult for drivers to change directions quickly.
This instability can also be felt when taking corners. The car may feel like it is veering off to one side or the other, making it difficult to stay in the lane. This is caused by the suspension not working properly, which puts extra stress on the tires and makes them unable to grip the road as well as they should. In extreme cases, blowouts can occur.
Banging sounds and steering wander
When the control arm bushing damage is severe, the driver begins hearing banging sounds from underneath the car. It is because of the metal-to-metal contact. The chassis knocks against the control arm. The banging sounds indicate that the control arm bushing has been significantly damaged and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. If left untreated, the control arm bushing damage will cause the chassis to knock against the control arm, which can lead to loss of control of the vehicle. In severe cases, this can result in an accident. Therefore, it is important to get the problem fixed as soon as possible to avoid any potential dangers.
Can you fix a noisy control arm bushing without replacing it?
If you have a noisy control arm bushing, there are a few things you can try to fix it without replacing it. First, check to see if the bushing is simply loose. If so, you can try tightening it with a wrench or socket. If the problem persists, however, you may need to replace the bushing.
Another option is to try lubricating the bushing. This may help to reduce the noise, but it will not fix the underlying problem. If you choose to lubricate the bushing, be sure to use a high-quality lubricant designed for automotive use.
If neither of these options works or if the noise is especially loud, you will likely need to replace the control arm bushing. This is a relatively easy repair that can be done at home with basic tools. However, if you are not confident in your ability to do the repair, it is best to take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic.
Replacement costs for damaged control arm bushings
The amount for replacing worn-out control arm bushings varies depending on car models. The average cost for bushings is between $50 and $150. The labor costs between $100 and $300. Therefore, drivers part with an average of $ 150-$450 to replace a single bushing.
Once the replacement is complete, the car requires a wheel alignment. The driver needs to cater to the additional service charges.
How to replace your control arm bush by yourself?
If you see that your control arm bush is really broken, but you don't want to take your car to a car service, that's okay. You can do the replacement procedure yourself - all it takes is a little patience and skill
1. Park your vehicle on a level surface, and set the emergency brake. Place jack stands under the vehicle's frame, and raise the vehicle so that the wheels are off the ground.
2. Remove the wheel on the side of the vehicle that you will be working on.
3. Unbolt the control arm from the vehicle's frame using a wrench or socket set.
4. Remove the old control arm bushing from the control arm using a pry bar or similar tool.
5. Install the new control arm bushing into the control arm using a hammer or similar tool. Make sure that the bushing is fully seated before moving on to step 6.
6. Bolt the control arm back into the vehicle's frame using a wrench or socket set.
7. Lower the vehicle off of the jack stands, and remove them from under the vehicle.
8. Repeat steps 1 through 7 on the other side of the vehicle.
The only way to deal with damaged control arm bushings is to replace them. It is advisable to replace all bushings even if the damage is evident on a single bushing. Adhere to regular bushing maintenance (lubrication) to increase their durability. The average replacement costs vary depending on the car brand and charges at the repair shop.
What is the difference between the original manufacturer and aftermarket bushings?
OE bushings use rubber as the shock absorption medium. Aftermarket uses advanced polyurethane, which has better performance than rubber.