Every vehicle has a suspension system which links all the wheels and tires to it. What you must realize is that this suspension system is not just one big part. It is actually made up of many different parts and components.
Most cars will have something called an upper control arm and lower control arm for its front wheels, and possibly for its rear wheels too. The front wheels have a front suspension and the control arms connect the frame of the vehicle to the front suspension.
At the end of each control arm, there is a rubber bushing which has 2 metal sleeves encasing a rubber lining. This is referred to as a control arm bushing.
Top 3 Symptoms of Lower Control Arm Bushing Failure
As wheels move under the vehicle’s frame, there tend to be vibrations that form in between them. The function of the lower control arm bushing is to lower the intensity of these vibrations underneath it as much as possible. This will allow the driver to avoid being disturbed by the vibrations while they’re trying to focus on the road.
However, if the lower control arm bushing were to go bad or get worn out, there would be two pieces of metal making contact with each other and then you’d have a lot of problems.
Below are the top 3 symptoms that you can expect from this.
1) Vibrations From Steering Wheel
Since the function of the lower control arm bushing is to reduce the intensity of the vibrations, then you can expect to feel these vibrations if there is a problem with the bushing. This could happen because the bushing will get worn out after a while.
The first symptom you’ll likely notice is the feeling of shaking or vibration coming from the steering wheel. The more you step on the gas pedal to accelerate, the more intense these vibrations will feel. If you set the vehicle on cruise control, then the vibrations may be reduced some.
2) Strange Noises
When you have a worn out lower control arm bushing, it may start to get too loose. Either that or it got knocked loose from all the rough driving. In any event, this will cause strange clunking noises to come from under the vehicle.
These noises will intensify as you drive over potholes, rough, or rocky terrain because it will put more pressure on the worn bushing. Sooner or later, the bushing is going to break because of this pressure. It is better to get the bushing replaced before it gets to this point.
3) Steering Difficulties
There is something called “steering wheel wandering” where the wheels will pull to the left or the right too much. This will cause you to struggle more to keep the steering wheel straight so that your wheels will be straight.
When the lower control arm bushing is worn out, there will be a shift in the steering alignment of the vehicle. That is why it pulls too far in one direction like this. So, when you’re driving down a straight road, it will take a lot more effort on your part to keep it steered straight.
This is obviously not something that you’ll want to put up with.
See Also: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Alignment
Lower Control Arm Bushing Replacement Cost
The replacement cost of a lower control arm bushing will be anywhere from $120 to $450. The cost of the parts will be between $50 and $200, while the cost of the labor will be around $200 to $500.
Please note there are other factors which could influence the price. Sometimes the lower control arms are replaced at the same time as the bushings, because it is quicker or easier to replace the entire lower control arm. If you want to save on labor costs, you should find an auto mechanic that has the best hourly rate and avoid dealerships.
Common Causes of Lower Control Arm Bushing Failure
The lower control arm bushing can easily become damaged or worn out over the course of operating your vehicle. Once this happens, the suspension won’t be firmly connected to the frame anymore. Then you will have all kinds of problems with steering and maintaining a smooth driving experience.
Here are the top 5 reasons for why a lower control arm bushing fails.
1) Accidental Damage
A lower control arm bushing is a very small and fragile part of a vehicle. If you have an auto mechanic working on your vehicle, particularly the suspension, then they could easily damage the lower control arm bushing throughout the course of their work.
If the bushing is already worn out simply from old age, then it will be even easier for the bushing to completely fail. Once that happens, you will hear some loud and annoying clunking sounds.
2) Wear and Tear
The lower control arm is put under stress each second you are driving your vehicle. The bushing of the lower control arm is put under even more stress because it must keep the arm attached to the frame.
As you pack more miles onto your vehicle, the bushing wears down excessively. It will eventually get to the point when small clunking noises can be heard. But at this point, you know you have a damaged bushing which needs to be replaced.
3) Rocky or Rough Terrain
If you are frequently driving on rocky terrain or travel areas with pothole-riddled roads (here’s looking at you Michigan!), then your lower control arms and bushings are going to take a lot of abuse.
This will eventually lead to the bushing becoming loosened from all the vibrations and roughness of the driving experience. The continued irregular motion will cause the bushing to knock around a lot and get damaged in the process.
4) Not Securely Tightened
The lower control arm bushing needs to be tightly fastened in order to remain in place without movement. If the bushing were to become loose, it would constantly knock into the metal components nearby and cause annoying clunking sounds to be heard.
Sometimes the wear and tear of normal driving can cause bushings to become loose. Other times, it could be a mechanic who improperly tightened the bushing back onto the control arm. In any event, the bushing will get damaged if it’s loose and keeps knocking into nearby components.
5) Driving Off Too Quickly
If you are the type of driver that like to mash the gas pedal to the floor at every available opportunity, you may want to think about the consequences of such actions.
Peeling away too quickly like this will put a lot of stress on your lower control arm and its bushing (among other parts of your vehicle). If you do this too regularly, the lifespan of the bushing will be shortened by quite a bit.
Is It Safe to Drive With Bad Control Arm Bushings?
Driving with faulty control arm bushings is not recommended. Bad control arm bushings can cause a decrease in stability while driving, making the steering wheel unpredictable to use, and making you a hazard to yourself and other road users.
The possibility of having an accident and injuring the occupants of your car and others simply isn’t worth it.
Is It Better to Replace the Lower Control Arms or Just the Bushings?
It really depends on the condition of the control arm and its bushings. If the control arm itself is damaged, worn out, or corroded, then it is better to replace the entire control arm. However, if the control arm is still in good condition but the bushings are worn out, then replacing just the bushings can be a cost-effective solution.
Replacing just the bushings is generally less expensive than replacing the entire control arm. However, if the control arm is already worn out, replacing just the bushings may not solve the problem and you may end up having to replace the control arm anyway.
It’s best to have a professional mechanic inspect your vehicle and recommend the best course of action based on the condition of your control arm and bushings.