If you suspect that there's a problem with your lower control arm on your vehicle, it's very possible that it's the lower control arm bushings that have worn out and failed on you. Getting your bushings replaced isn't the most expensive repair job that you can undertake for your vehicle, but it's not just going to be just a few dollars either. You're looking at a cost of between $200 and $400 to get your bushings replaced by a professional mechanic.
If you were interested in buying the parts yourself to try a DIY repair, you can head to AutoZone and pick some up there. They range in price from as low as $5 to as much as $50. You definitely need to make sure you know what size bushing is required for the vehicle that you own, however. Check out your owner's manual for more information, or you can get in touch with AutoZone or another retailer to make sure you are getting the right part.
Unfortunately, getting a pinpoint accurate estimate for a car repair job is never easy. A mechanic in Detroit is going to charge you a different price to replace your lower control arm bushings than a mechanic in Beverly Hills is. And you will most likely get another quote from a mechanic in small-town Tennessee.
The make, model, and year of your vehicle will also affect the price and complexity of replacing your lower control arm bushings. The cost to replace these parts in a 2020 Honda Civic is not going to be the same as if you need to get them replaced in something like a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.
We always recommend doing some research before you agree to any repair job no matter how big or small it is. Obviously, it's great if you already have a mechanic that you know and trust in town. One who's going to give you a quality service at a fair price. If that's not the case, you need to do a little bit of research.
It never hurts to ask friends and family for their opinions on who's a good mechanic. Ask someone you trust who they had a good experience with, and then head to Google. The internet is definitely your best friend when it comes to researching mechanics these days.
Thirty years ago all you had was the Yellow Pages to guide you to find a mechanic, and you basically had to hope you were picking a good one because there really was no way to find out how reliable they were if you didn't already know. Nowadays you could check out reviews posted online and see what hundreds of other clients of the same mechanic have had to say.
If everyone has had the same good experience, then you know you can probably trust this mechanic to replace your lower control arm bushings. If their reviews are a little spotty, then you know maybe you should keep looking to see if someone else can give you better service.
It's always a good idea to get a couple of estimates before you commit to anything.
What Are the Lower Control Arm Bushings?
The bushings in your lower control arm are made of rubber or something like polyurethane. It's formed into a cylinder and bonded to larger and smaller metal cylinders. They work kind of like springs because they're flexible and allow the control arm to move up and down. Without the bushings, your control arm is not flexible.
The control arms themselves are a part of your vehicle's suspension. They're connected to the frame of your car with those rubber bushings. As you drive, the bushings allow the control arms to swing up and down as your wheels move over the road, whether that's speed bumps, potholes, or just the standard up in town of any driving that you're going to do.
The control arm bushings are able to reduce the vibrations you experienced that are caused by the wheels interacting with the frame of the vehicle as they're in motion. If the rubber bushings weren't present, that you would have metal on metal grinding occurring. Not only would the stress of that eventually break the parts at once more quickly then they fail with the buffer of rubber bushings, the overall effect would be one greatly shakes and vibrates the entire vehicle.
Without properly functioning control arms, then your wheels are not able to adequately handle the uneven surface of any given road. The smoothness of your ride will suffer greatly, and you could potentially be having an extremely uncomfortable experience anytime you're behind the wheel.
Symptoms of Bad Lower Control Arm Bushings
Because the bushings in your lower control arm are made of something like rubber or polyurethane, you can expect that they are not designed to last forever. No part of your car is going to last forever, after all. The way that these work, constantly experiencing vibration and strain means that they will wear down and they will require replacement.
This whole process can actually happen much more quickly if you put them under extra strain. That means if you're the kind of person who frequently goes off road, or if you are driving in poor weather on a regular basis.
There are a number of signs and symptoms that you can be on the lookout for to let you know if you're having issues with your control arm bushings. If you're experiencing any of these, you should take your vehicle into your mechanic to get it looked at just to stay safe. As with any problems with your vehicle, there could also be other reasons for these things to happen, but the control arm bushings are a good place to start looking just in case.
- Loud Noises: If the bushings in your control arms start where you're too badly or become loose then it'll start knocking between the frame and the control arm of your vehicle. If that's going to make a clunking or banging sound as you drive. The more uneven the ground that you're driving on, the louder the sound will get. At some point they could sound like someone has a hammer and is just banging on the inside of your car.
It's also possible for bushings to dry out over time. This is more common in older bushings, but even newer ones can suffer this problem after a while. The result is that it creates a squeaking sound that's noticeable when you're driving especially over uneven ground. The squeaking can be rather high pitched and will become extremely annoying over time.
- Vibrating Steering Wheel: If you're actually able to feel vibrations in the steering wheel as you're driving, that's a good sign that the bushings in your vehicle have failed. They're unable to ameliorate the vibrations caused by the wheels as they go down the road. That means the vibrations are transferred right into the steering column. They can become much more intense as you are going over rough patches and roads and as you're accelerating. It may just be a mild issue at first, but as it becomes more intense it can be very frustrating and bothersome.
- Tire Wear. It's natural for your tires to suffer wear over time. However, if you're having a problem with your control arm bushings then it's going to cause alignment issues. When your tires are not aligned correctly, then they won't be hitting the road in a perfectly even fashion. That means part of the tire will be off the ground sometimes and part will stay on the road. That creates uneven wear which you can see with a quick visual inspection. Some of the treads will look much fresher than other parts.
- Shaky Braking: Even though your control arm bushings aren't attached to the brake system, your brakes and your suspension do work together. When your suspension isn't solid because the bushings are wearing down, you'll notice it when you brake. This is especially true if you need to brake suddenly to avoid an accident of some kind. You’ll experience a kind of back and forth motion from the front end of the vehicle when you brake because the control arms aren't being held firmly any longer.
- Wandering Steering Wheel: When your control arm bushings are no longer holding everything firmly in place, you're going to get some excess motion in the system. This causes wheel misalignment, and that in turn can transfer to the steering wheel. As you're driving you will notice the wheel pulling to the left or the right despite trying to hold it even and straight. This could be an especially dangerous problem because, if you feel that it's just an alignment issue, getting your suspension realigned again will not fix the problem. Everything will become misaligned quickly because the bushings can't hold the alignment anymore. That's why when you go in to get an alignment, you need to have the bushings inspected at the same time.
Can I Replace My Own Lower Control Arm Bushings?
Replacing your own control arm bushings is not a hard job to do if you're prepared to get it done. There are two ways to remove a control arm bushing and one is definitely much easier than the other.
We would consider this job on the easier end of an intermediate repair. You have to be able to get under your car and get the control arms off and removing the bushings themselves is not difficult if you have a ball joint press to do so. This is a tool that can basically just pop those bushings right out of the control arm. It's quick, easy, and very efficient.
If you don't have a tool like a ball joint press to do that for you, then there is an old school method of removing the bushings which is essentially just beating on them with a hammer and maybe a chisel or something like that until they come out. As you can guess, this isn't the cleanest and most efficient method and can cause damage to the control arms as well. It's probably your best interest to not do this to remove the control arm bushings because of the potential for damage that it can cause.
If you're not able to get a ball joint press or a hydraulic press, then you may want to defer this job to a professional mechanic. Again, it's not extremely complicated, but if you don't want to invest in the cost of using these presses, you're going to save yourself a lot of damage by getting someone else to get it done before you.
If you do have access to a ball joint press and want to give it a try on your own, there are a number of videos online you can watch that will walk you through the whole process step by step. We always recommend doing this as it's the most clear and easy way to see what you need to do. Guides that write out the process step by step are also helpful to refer to you, but there's definitely an advantage to being able to watch a skilled mechanic perform the job right before your eyes on video.
Luckily, in the age of YouTube, there are many mechanics who have channels that can show you in great detail how to remove the control arm bushings so you don't need to worry about if you are doing the job properly or not because you'll have a frame of reference.
The Bottom Line
You can cause some serious damage to your car if you don't get the control arm bushings replaced when you notice that there is a problem with them. Your vehicle's suspension will continue to get worse, which could end up causing serious problems to the tires, the suspension, the brakes, and your steering.
For the cost of just a couple hundred dollars if you go to a mechanic, you can end up saving yourself a few thousand dollars in repairs down the road. Not to mention that you'll be able to avoid a lot of frustration and annoyance from the symptoms of bad bushings that you experienced before you get this job fixed.