Lateral Link Buyer's Guide
- The lateral link is a hollow metal tube attached to the wheel hub and the sub-frame or solid frame.
- It keeps the wheel-hub assembly aligned and centered, keeping the side-to-side movement stable and in sync.
- It may deteriorate due to stress and heat or fail due to loose bushings and brackets.
- A damaged rear lateral link will cause loose steering and handling, clunking noise from the rear of the vehicle when driving, and premature and uneven wear on rear tires.
- A replacement costs around $20 to more than $400, depending on the brand, configuration, and the vehicle's specifications.
How the vehicle behaves on the road is not solely based on the driver’s skills. It also depends on how well it is supported underneath. Its suspension system dampens forces on the road and keeps its tires in contact with the surface.
Thanks to strong, flexible arms and joints in the undercarriage, the vehicle can run smoothly and handle well even when it is driven over bumps or potholes. The lateral link is one of the many parts of the suspension system.
What Is a Lateral Link?
The lateral link is a hollow metal tube with connection points on each end. It has bushings and support brackets. Although this link can also be a part of the front suspension, this is more commonly used on the rear of the vehicle.
Depending on the suspension setup or design, the vehicle may be equipped with a single link or a pair of lateral links. The lateral links on the rear end are used as a substitute to the lower control arm since they are lighter and less expensive to manufacture than spindle assemblies.
One end of the link is usually attached to the wheel hub, while the other end is connected to the sub-frame or solid frame. The link keeps the wheel-hub assembly aligned and centered, keeping the side-to-side movement stable and in sync. Since it is most likely integrated into the rear of the vehicle, this supports the rear axle and rear wheels.
What Causes the Suspension Lateral Link to Get Damaged?
Even though the lateral link is built to last for thousands of miles on the road, it can still succumb to wear. It may weaken due to the stress and heat it is exposed to. The impact from a collision can also damage the link.
A damaged lateral link can affect other parts of the suspension system and cause accelerated wear or failure. Fortunately, issues and their underlying cause can be exposed in routine inspections. The problems can be addressed immediately to prevent further damage and costly repairs.
How Would You Know if the Rear Lateral Link Needs to be Replaced?
If the rear lateral link is failing or damaged, this will manifest in a number of issues surrounding the vehicle’s suspension. Here are some of the indicators of this problem:
Vehicle steering and handling feels wobbly
When the link comes loose or starts to deteriorate, the steering and handling will feel loose and unstable as opposed to controlled and predictable. The broken link will not be able to provide firm support to the rear wheels and rear axle. The broken link will also not be adding weight to tires similar to what they call the downward force. Because of this, the tires may fail to maintain good ground contact.
The rear end makes clunking noise while driving.
The bushings and joints on the link may come loose or start to wear out. This will create clunking noise as the rear end of the vehicle encounters bumps on the road and rougher surfaces. As the connections become weak, the link may eventually lose sturdy support or may become disconnected. This may be dragged on the ground, creating more distracting noise.
Rear tires wear out at a faster rate.
Rear tires last longer than front tires because the latter are used for steering. This is why tires are rotated every once in a while to even out wear. If the rear tires wear out faster and unevenly, this is not only an alignment issue but can be an effect of having a damaged rear lateral link. The faulty link fails to add downward force or weight to the tires and to keep the wheel-hub assembly supported for stable side-to-side movement.
Normally, accelerated wear on the rear tires can be spotted on the inner or outer edges, which bear the brunt of the reduced force or weight. The other portions of the rear tires will be touching the road surface more.
These symptoms are not only isolated to a faulty rear lateral link. They may also be brought about by other issues in the suspension system. If you experience or notice any of these symptoms, have your suspension system checked and have the problem properly diagnosed. Driving with a damaged lateral link can pose a serious safety risk if overlooked or if left untreated.
What Are the Things to Look for in a Lateral Link Replacement?
When getting a replacement for an old lateral link, you have to figure out whether it is for the front or rear suspension. Although most lateral links are built for the rear end, there are also vehicles that have them on the front suspension.
See to it that the lateral link replacement that you will buy matches the vehicle’s suspension design and requirements. This way, this can be easily connected to the frame and wheel hub and secured to the brackets. This can simply be accomplished by specifying your vehicle’s year, make, and model as you shop around for parts.
If you will be replacing the link per piece, check the designation of the link (i.e., if it is for the upper driver/passenger side or for the lower driver/passenger side). It helps to be very specific with your search.
How Much Does a Lateral Link Replacement Cost?
Per piece, the link can range from around $20 to more than $200, depending on the brand, configuration, and the vehicle's specifications. The link is also sold in a set or as a kit. A set of two ranges from around $30 to more than $200, while a set of four costs around $80 to about $200. A set of six, meanwhile, is sold at around $150 to about $200. A complete control arm link kit starts at about $200 and can go as high as $400.