How Long Can You Drive On a Bad Lower Control Arm?

The bushings of the control arm aren’t considered with so much seriousness by most drivers. After all, how much work does it even do? And until they begin to wear out, the reality of their importance doesn’t come full circle.

The wheel-carrying hub and chassis are joined with the control arm, and this part of a car is one of the most important parts of it. To make quite an adjustable connection, rubber bushings or two reconnect the chassis to the control arm. At the same time, the ball bearings join it to your wheel hub.

This blog post opens you to the secrets behind your control arm, like how long you can use your vehicle with faulty bushings of a control arm, the consequences of faulty control arm bushings, and how to spot them and then get them fixed.

What is a Control Arm?

This component of the car connects the vehicle’s frame to your steering knuckle. Your control arm bushings, also known as A-arm, are gotten from the capital letter of the alphabet A because it’s shaped like the alphabet. The control arm stabilizes the car, coordinates the suspension and steering, dampens the drive, and plays a vital role in your car’s steering system.

For older cars, you’d discover an L-arm connected to your chassis with a single bushing. Modern cars are loaded with either a double-wishbone suspension or a Macpherson strut.

These systems have advantages and disadvantages, but for the sake of the article, we’d only be knowing about the Macpherson strut and that it has just a single control arm. The double-wishbone has a double control arm, which means the bushings are two.

The control arm has two configurations: the one whose ball joints are replaceable and the entire unit must be changed alongside.

The former is designed to be strong enough to last as long as your car, especially when prevented from rust and other physical damages. However, the stronger or more durable they are, the more expensive they’ll be to replace.

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How Long Can You Drive On a Bad Lower Control Arm?

A vehicle’s worn-out or damaged control arm can be driven for, at most, a week. Nonetheless, its repair shouldn’t be stalled but done as soon as it’s detected via the methods of detection highlighted above.

Early detection and repair of faulty control arms help prevent further damage. In addition, regular servicing of your vehicle prevents damage and helps keep the components at optimal use.

What are the Control Arm Bushings?

How Long Can You Drive On a Bad Lower Control Arm

These components of a vehicle are designed with two metallic cylinders alongside a solid layer of rubber standing between them. According to the arrangements, a bolt is driven inside the inner cylinder to secure the bushings.

The aim of these bushings is to build a very solid but not-so-rigid connection between components. The rubber softens the noise and vibrations from your suspension system to give you a smooth, calm ride. Nevertheless, this rubber is a weak link that can worn-out for at least 40 thousand miles.

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Control Arm Bushings?

Though the answer to that question might not be as simple as you suppose, I’d be doing you no good if I told you based on my discretion rather than as it is.

The lifespan of this control arm changes unapologetically, and it depends on the car’s make, the driving conditions, and the manufacturer. Based on common knowledge, this component lasts between 40,000 and 100,000 miles, though it’s expected to last for at least 80 thousand miles.

And based on how long it’s expected to last, it’s also expected of you to expect it to wear off gradually. Unfortunately, these bushings can also wear off from minor accidents, curbs, and hitting potholes.

Nevertheless, they’re strong enough to last you till you start experiencing similar issues on other sides. And when replacing the bushing, it’s advisable you do so with the set to cut costs and save you the stress of returning to your mechanic again.

Reasons Why a Lower Control Arm Bushing Fails

A lower control arm is prone to going bad, and when this happens, the suspension will not be connected firmly to the frame. This problem exposes you to various kinds of steering problems.

To prevent this lower control arm from going bad, you should first know why they even go bad in the first place.

Here are the five common reasons behind the Lower control going bad.

1. Accidental Damage

The lower arm bushing control is one of the car’s smallest and most fragile parts. But this part can be easily damaged by your mechanic accidentally. Especially if it’s already worn, you can easily detect this with the annoying loud clunking sound from your vehicle.

2. Wear and Tear

This lower arm control is subjected to stress each time you drive your car, especially the bushing, because it has to maintain the arm’s and frame’s connection.

All these make the control arm experience wear and tear, such that lite clunking noises are heard. This should automatically give you a sign that the bushing is damaged and due for a change.

3. Rocky Terrain

The more frequently your vehicle plies on rocky and rough terrains, the more damage it’s exposed to. Because the bushing gets loosed from all the roughness and vibrations, it encounters. These continued irregular movements knock the bushing around enough to cause damage.

4. Driving Off Too Quickly

To drivers prone to switching the driving gear and then slamming their foot against their gas pedal, it would be wise to reconsider the effect of these actions on their vehicle. Such an abrupt switch stresses the bushing and lower control arm. This act consequently loosens and knocks the bushing around.

5. Not Tightened Enough

It would be safe to note that proper tightening of the bushing helps keep it durable and strong. However, when the bushing gets loosed, it constantly hits metal components close by, producing noisy clunking sounds. Sometimes, these loose can be caused by wear, while other times, it’s simply the mistake of a mechanic that forgot to tighten the bushing after a repair.

What Are The Symptoms Of a Failing Control Arm?

The control arm does have signs to help you indicate that it’s broken. And I’d be sharing with you the four major signs. Also, there are other signs you should consider: freeway steering wheel, noisy sounds when maneuvering or driving at any speed, wobbly and vibrating steering wheel while cornering, and overly body roll while maneuvering, wheel misalignment, and steering going at various speeds.

Below are the four major symptoms of a control arm gone bad:

1. Instability while driving

If the bushing on the vehicle’s control arm is broken or worn out, it will also affect the steering wheel. As a result, your vehicle could abruptly pull to a side even when you maintain a straight course. This is highly unsafe and life-threatening.

2. Knocking or clunking noise while driving

The suspension makes a clunking or knocking noise whilst driving, mostly when the bushing is worn-out. It doesn’t only make such unpleasant noise when you drive; it does so too when you make turns, apply brakes, or go over little bumps.

All these are mostly because the rubber standing between the two metallic cylinders is worn out, resulting in the noise. The bushing’s work is to let your vehicle’s control arm turn and move freely whilst controlling the impact from rocky roads.

3. Visual signs of failure

Raise the front part of the car and support it with a jack stand. Do not forget to activate the parking brake and mount woodblocks behind the vehicle. Next, check for tire wears because a failed control arm bushing could cause the tires to wear.

Then inspect the bushing of the control arm. Try moving the vehicle’s control arm to see if it is loose because the arm is supposed to be stiff. Also, check for wear in your vehicle’s ball joint, move the suspension upward and downward and inspect the ball joint’s looseness.

4. Bent or broken control arm

Oftentimes than not, a vehicle’s control arm could break or bend when a car’s wheel hits a curb or drives over a big pothole. The control arm of most modern cars is made with substandard materials, which is why they break easily when they hit a curb. So it’s important you change the vehicle’s control arm and ensure a wheel alignment is obtained.

How do you Know Which Control Arm Is Bad?

How Long Can You Drive On a Bad Lower Control Arm

When you discover your vehicle moving at a different speed or moving to a side, it does not imply that all the bushings and control arms are broken or worn out. For example, in most cases, when the car pulls towards the left side, then the control arm bushings of the left side are broken or worn.

But if it’s going toward the right, check the corresponding side. But in a situation whereby it’s pulling to no side but rather makes a clunking, knocking sound whenever you bump into a pothole, a visual observation might be required to know which side of the arm has gone bad.

To carry out this inspection:

  1. Lift your car and support it with jack stands.
  2. Check the wheel hub for loose parts because your vehicle’s control arm is meant to be stiff with zero free play. If you notice the control arm is moved without very little pressure, it’s a clear indication that the arm needs replacement and the bushing.
  3. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring a bad bushing or control arm because such is only life-threatening.

What Should You Do If You Have Bad Control Arm Bushings?

In a situation whereby you suspect the control arm or bushings of your vehicle are bad, immediately report the car to the closest mechanic for inspection. He or she will be in a better position to ascertain the state of the control arm or bushings and carry out the necessary replacement or repair.

If things aren’t so serious, you might just be walking away with few repairs. But a replacement cannot be overlooked if your control arm is damaged.

Whatever the case, ensure your safety by regularly checking your car for repairs or replacement.

Can You Replace Bad Control Arm Bushing Yourself?

Well, based on your level of mechanical know-how, you could have your control arm bushings changed by yourself. Provided you possess the right tools, fixing it wouldn’t be so much of a task.

Hydraulic tools help make the work easier, but hand tools can also be considered. To access the bushings, the control arms have to be taken out of the car. And there are several tips on how to take out the bushings from your control arm, for instance, the C clamps.

The moment the former bushings are out of the vehicle, the new ones should be pressed into position. As I mentioned earlier, hydraulic tools would help simplify this process, but in the absence of that, you can always use the hand tool. Once you have the new ones in position, your control arm will need to be reinstalled properly.

Once you have everything in place and good condition, your vehicle can now hit the road.

But if you aren’t sure or confident in installing your control arm bushings yourself, do not hesitate to take it to the mechanic.

How Much Does a Control Arm Bushing Replacement Cost?

The cost of a control arm bushing is nothing more than 5 dollars to 20 dollars for most vehicles. At the same time, the cost for labor is usually 100 dollars to 300 dollars, between 150 dollars. The cost of changing the control arm bushing depends on the damage level and the type of vehicle involved.

The general cost for changing the control arm bushing is usually between 100 dollars to 300 dollars.

You might only need to change the rubber bushings based on the extent of the damage. But if the control arm is bad, you would have to change the whole arm, which will cost you more.

Changing the control arm bushing depends on the car. For instance, changing a control arm bushing of an SUV car is more expensive than changing a normal truck or car.

In all, the best way to calculate the price for changing the control arm bushings is to have the mechanic check the vehicle.

There they’ll check the situation of the control arm bushing and make the needed replacement or repair.

When they’re done checking the cat, they’ll give you a price, and there, you’ll know how much it’s worth for repair or replacement.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if your lower control arms are bad?

Lots of things fail when the control arm fails. Things like the ball joint are usually at the receiving end of a faulty control arm bushing. It disconnects the steering knuckle, making the vehicle lose control. The control arm bushing can also fail due to wear and make clunking sound, control loss, and free-play steering.

What happens if a control arm breaks while driving?

Should the control arm break while you drive, you might find it difficult to steer the wheel, maintain a straight course, or the wheel even fall off the car. The vehicle’s control arm is the connection between the front wheel and the vehicle. So if it’s broken, an accident could occur.

What causes a lower control arm to break?

The control arm is liable to break or bend while driving over bumps or potholes. As for bushings, they wear out when they’re old. The overall wear from bumps and potholes can cause a break in the control arm.

Should I replace both control arms at the same time?

The replacement of ball joints can not be done separately. Meaning the whole control arm will be replaced. The ball joint is a vital part of the car alignment, so the two control arms are to be replaced.

Is it OK to drive with bad control arm bushings?

It is highly unsafe to drive with faulty bushings of the control arm. Why because the faulty control arm bushing affects the steering wheel and makes it go free to play, endangering the lives of you and other motorists. Also, even though you try to maintain a straight course, the vehicle could pull to a side randomly.

Do you need to do an alignment after replacing the lower control arms?

A control arm bushing usually doesn’t affect alignment. Their job is just to support the arms and place them in the right direction while suspension movement occurs. So if they’re damaged, the alignment could be affected; still, steering issues will be noticed prior to that time.

Final Thoughts

Whenever you notice any issues with the control arm bushings, take no time for repair or replacement. Though it’s relatively expensive, it has never been questioned as a real lifesaver.

Also, if these issues are ignored, there’s a possibility that the damages will grow over time, resulting in an increase in the cost of repair.

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