An automotive suspension system consists of various components that work together to help maximize the contact between its tires and the road. It ensures good handling and passenger comfort by evenly distributing the vehicle’s weight and absorbing shock and vibration. The system is also able to ensure optimal steering and handling by allowing the wheels to move vertically so that they can follow the contours of the road.
The control arms, also known as A-arms, are one of the suspension system’s many components. They connect the steering knuckle, which supports the wheel assembly, to the rest of the vehicle’s structure. They also feature bushings, which connect them to the vehicle frame.
Bushings allow the rigid metal control arms to pivot vertically from the frame so that the wheels can move up and down.
Since bushings serve as a pivot point for control arms, their condition can affect how the wheels move relative to the vehicle frame. As part of the suspension system, control arm bushings can also affect the wheel assembly. This means that, when they go bad, you can expect to experience some issues when driving.
Read on to learn more about the telltale symptoms of bad control arm bushings.
Signs of Bad Control Arm Bushings
Here are some of the common signs of bad control arm bushings:
Worn bushings can cause the loosening of parts connected to the control arms, such as the steering knuckles and the wheel assemblies they support. This can cause wobbly wheels and, in turn, excessive play in the suspension system.
As a result, strong vibrations, which increase in intensity as the vehicle goes faster, may be felt through the steering wheel.
Worn control arm bushings can knock against nearby parts and create noise. The sounds become louder when driving over bumps and rough roads, as well as when braking or making a hard turn.
Some bad control arm bushing noises include clunking, banging, and rattling.
Pulling or Wandering
Bushings maintain the alignment of the control arms and the parts they hold. Bad control arm bushings will not only produce excess movement but can also cause the misalignment of parts. These can affect wheel movement and result in the vehicle pulling to the side even though the steering wheel isn’t moving.
Uneven Tire Wear
In addition to pulling or wandering, the misalignment of the control arms due to worn bushings can also cause tires to wear unevenly. Damaged control arm bushings can’t maintain the alignment of the suspension parts, thus unevenly wearing out tires’ inner or outer edges.
Although these symptoms may be caused by bad control arm bushings, they can also be signs of other suspension issues. Perform a visual inspection of your control arm bushings to see if they’re worn or damaged.
You’ll easily be able to tell what a bad control arm bushing looks—if it’s torn, hollowed-out, or sagging, then it’s gone bad.
What Causes Control Arm Bushings to Go Bad?
The vehicle’s weight and road impact can put considerable stress on the suspension system and cause wear on components like the control arms and their bushings.
Some of the other reasons that cause control arm bushings to fail include:
Friction, Heat, and Age
Control arm bushings hold parts of the suspension system which are constantly under pressure. While driving, the components of the suspension system move around and cause friction that generates heat.
Control arm bushings are also exposed to heat from the road and the car’s other mechanical parts. These can wear and age the control arm bushings, causing them to crack.
Exposure to Elements
Due to their location, control arm bushings are highly susceptible to potentially damaging elements like mud. They can also be exposed to road salt if a vehicle is driven on snowy or icy roads.
These components can also be affected by automotive fluids, which can damage and weaken the bushing’s materials.
Control arm bushings are usually lubricated to minimize friction and prevent squeaking. One type of bushing requires regular lubrication, while another is made to be permanently lubricated.
If not regularly lubricated. some control arm bushings can dry out.
Is It Dangerous to Drive with Bad Control Arm Bushings?
Yes, driving with bad control arm bushings can be potentially dangerous.
Worn control arm bushings can cause the loosening and misalignment of suspension system components, which leads to improper weight distribution. This can make the vehicle unstable to drive.
Also, if the wheel and tire assembly move outward due to failed control arm bushings, you can potentially lose control of your vehicle.