How Can You Tell If Your Car's Control Arm Bushings Are Failing?
Shocks and struts are common wear items on any car, although they can often last for many years and miles. Unfortunately, most owners don't pay attention to some of the less commonly-known suspension parts on their vehicles. Any vehicle includes numerous suspension components with relatively soft parts that wear out over time, eventually leading to failures that can impact comfort and drivability.
However, these components often wear down slowly, producing barely perceptible symptoms that worsen over time. Since the problem worsens over many months or years, it's easy to get used to its symptoms and ignore them. Your car's control arm bushings are one such component, and it's important to understand how they work and how to spot the signs of trouble.
Why Do You Need Control Arms?
There's no getting around it: your vehicle's suspension is a complex system. Shocks and struts are often the stars of the show, but they're only one small part of a much larger ensemble. Many less well-known components help keep your car riding comfortably as it grips the road. You may not be familiar with your car's control arms, but they profoundly impact how your vehicle drives.
Your control arms form one of the primary links between your car's chassis and its wheels. In a typical design, the front control arms connect to the frame at one end and the steering spindle at the other, with the springs usually resting on the lower control arm. The control arm bushings are the "soft" component that allows the control arm to flex up and down near the frame.
How Do Control Arm Bushings Fail?
If you look at a picture of a control arm, you might be confused about how or why it can fail. A control arm is typically just a large piece of steel, so it's not a part that can typically wear out over time. While collisions or hard pothole impacts can cause your control arms to bend, they don't typically wear out on their own.
On the other hand, control arm bushings take a surprising amount of abuse in daily driving. Some cars' bushings may be fluid-filled (usually with oil) to produce a softer and more comfortable ride. As the bushings wear out, they can crack, become brittle, or lose their fluid, causing the control arm to rub directly against your car's frame.
What Are the Signs of a Failing Bushing?
A failed bushing will produce numerous symptoms, including clunking and popping noises when driving over bumps. However, the most common symptom is often steering instability. The bushings help keep your wheels stable relative to the frame, and a worn bushing can allow your steering to "wander." This condition produces noticeable alignment issues and may cause your car to follow road imperfections.
It's relatively easy to check for control arm bushing problems, so if you suspect an issue, it's a good idea to take your car to an auto repair shop for further inspection. While control arm bushing failures aren't immediately dangerous, they can make your car more difficult to control, so repairing them is usually a good idea.