The control arm’s main function is to connect the wheel hub and the steering knuckle to the vehicle’s frame. Usually, the control arm has bushings on one side and a ball joint on the other side. As we drive our vehicles, these components will wear out over time. Is it safe to drive with a bad control arm?
”It is not safe to drive with a bad control arm because when the control arm or the bushings are worn out or broken off, steering will become unpredictable and dangerous for you and the other drivers. Your vehicle can pull to one side randomly even though you are keeping the steering wheel straight.”
Is It Safe To Drive With a Bad Control Arm
The reason why having a proper working control arm and bushings are important is because you want your vehicle to go wherever you want it to go with just a light steering input.
If you are driving on the highway and you are going 65, there are already enough distractions. You have cars and trucks all around you. Adding a bad control arm and bushing makes it that much more nerve-wracking.
If your control arm and bushing are worn or completely broken, you would need constant steering in order to stay in the lane because your car would just wander or pull to one side.
You don’t want this to happen if you are on a busy highway, because it could turn into a dangerous scenario. If you notice that your vehicle is pulling to one side, make sure to take your vehicle to the repair shop and repair the problem immediately.
What Are The Most Common Signs Of a Failing Control Arm
A worn or broken control arm can give you some signs so you can easily identify the problem. I would share the four most common signs of a failing control arm. In addition to those, here are some other signs that you should be noticing: steering wheel free play, abnormal sharp sounds when driving and maneuvering at different speeds, steering wheel wobbling and vibrating when cornering, increased body roll when maneuvering, steering wandering at different speeds, and wheel misalignment. Here are the 4 most common signs of a failing control arm:
1. Instability while driving
When the bushing on the control arm is completely worn and has broken off, steering will become unpredictable and dangerous while driving. The vehicle may randomly pull to one side when driving straight. Also, when you hit a pothole, the vehicle could randomly turn to one side. In most cases, the direction of which the steering wheel turns to is the side of the bad control arm. It is recommended to replace the control arm and bushing.
2. Knocking or clunking noise while driving
When the bushing is completely worn, the suspension would make a knocking or clunking noise while driving, turning, braking, and going over small bumps on the road. This means that the rubber components on the bushing are completely worn and it is causing a metal to metal contact resulting in noise. The purpose of the bushing is to allow the control arm to twist and move up and down while absorbing impacts from the road.
3. Visual signs of failure
Lift the front end of the vehicle and place jack stands. Remember to set the parking brake and block the back vehicle with woodblocks. Next, inspect the tires for uneven wear. A bad control arm bushing can abnormal tire wear. Then, go ahead and inspect the control arm bushing. Move the control arm and see if it’s loosened. The control arm should be stiff and free of play. Also, inspect the ball joint for wear. Move the suspension up and down. Check for looseness at the ball joint.
4. Bent or broken control arm
Usually, the control arm can bend or break when the vehicle’s wheel hit a curb or driving over a large pothole. Some modern vehicle control arms are made of poor material. They can easily break from the impact when hitting a curb. Replace the control arm and make sure to get a wheel alignment.
How Much Do Control Arm And Bushings Cost
A decent control arm would cost around $70 and one bushing would cost around $45. Most vehicles have one or two bushings per wheel, both on front and rear wheels. If you are not a trained mechanic, I would recommend that you take your vehicle to a repair shop and have your control arm and bushings replaced.
When To Replace Control Arm and Bushings
Usually, the control arm and bushings have a lifespan of 85,000 to 100,000 miles. If you are involved in a car accident or hit a huge pothole, the control arm and bushings can break or bent immediately. If you notice that your vehicle wanders, especially at higher speeds, then it’s time to replace the control arm and bushings.
How To Know Which Control Arm Is Bad
If your vehicle is wandering at different speeds or pulling to one side, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your control arms and bushings are worn or broken. Usually, when your vehicle is pulling to the left side, the left control arm and bushings are worn or broken. If it’s pulling to the right side, you should check the right side.
If your vehicle is not pulling to any side, but you are hearing some knocking or clunking noises, especially when you hit a pothole, you can do a visual inspection and see which control arm is bad. In order to do so, you should raise your vehicle and place it on jack stands. Then, go over the wheel assembly and look for any loosen parts.
The control arm should be stiff and with no free play. If you can move your control arm without applying too much force, you should definitely replace your control arm and bushings. Driving with a bad control arm is just way too dangerous for you to neglect this issue.
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