Bushings on cars are one of those car parts that seem small and trivial. Some people might even go to the extent of thinking that they can drive their cars without bushings. However, bushings on a car are super important and affect the quality of the ride.
The bushings on a car play a vital role in ensuring the proper functioning of your car’s steering system as well as the suspension system.
Bushings are parts that are located around joints and they cushion different parts from knocking against each other. Bushings, therefore, absorb road vibrations and allow for a much smoother ride.
In this post, we take a closer look at car bushings what they are and what role and function they have in your car.
For easier navigation please use our table of contents below.
- Control Arm Bushing
- Lower Control Arm Bushing
- Shock Bushings
- Bushing Replacement
- Symptoms Of Bad Bushings
- Sway Bar Bushings Replacement Cost
- Rear Control Arm Bushing
- Front Control Arm Bushing
- Bushing Replacement Cost
- Frequently Asked Questions
Control Arm Bushing
Before we can find out what control arm bushings are, it’s important to understand what the control arm is and its function in your vehicle. The control arm connects the wheel hub as well as the steering knuckle to the frame of the car.
Control arms hold the wheel in place preventing it from moving forward or backward when driving. Many four-wheel vehicles including trucks and SUVs have two control arms on each wheel. Front-wheel drive vehicles will often only have a single control arm.
The control arm, however, will allow the wheel to move up and down and this is where the control arm bushings come in. They are found in the frame side of the control arm and affect driving comfort.
They absorb the vibration of driving and cushion the suspension system. Since they are built of dense and durable rubber, they can flex while still maintaining their stiffness.
If the control arm bushings are faulty, then you will likely be able to notice bad bushings symptoms.
Lower Control Arm Bushing
We saw that some vehicles have a single control arm while others have two control arms. The lower control arm is one of them. At the joint of the control arm where it connects to the frame of the vehicle is where the lower control arm bushing is located.
Moreover, clunking noises are one of the main tell-tale signs of bad bushings.
There are several reasons that could cause lower control arm bushing noise.
1. Worn Out Bushings On A Car
Bushings just like any other metal parts can wear out over time. The higher you go on the mileage the more the bushings are working and there more likely they are to wear out.
Worn-out bushings start with a light clunking noise which gets louder as the wear and tear progresses. If you notice this bad bushings symptom, it’s time to replace the old bushings with new ones.
2. Loose Bushings On A Car
If the bushing is not tightly fixed in the proper composition then it will get knocked around as you drive.
Perhaps the mechanic loosened it when fixing other parts of the bushing that came out of position when driving fast over a bump.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the bushing is damaged. All that needs to be done is to fix the lower control arm bushing back to its proper location.
3. Broken Bushings On A Car
Wear and tear and putting mileage on your car can cause your lower control arm bushing to break. When this happens you will hear loud clunking noises as your drive.
At this point, the lower control arm bushings need to be replaced.
4. Uneven Terrain
You might hear clunking noises coming from the lower control arm bushing area when you drive on uneven terrain. If the lower control arm bushing is not tightly secured in place, then it might loosen when driving in this type of terrain.
When the lower control arm bushing is fixed tightly in place, it should not become loose or create noise when driving on uneven terrain.
5. Accelerating Hard
When the lower control arm bushings are loose, then you will often hear the clunking noises when the car starts to move from a standstill. This is the time the clunking noises will be at their loudest.
Shock absorbers are one part of your vehicle’s suspension system. They work by ensuring that the wheels are firmly planted on the ground. They also absorb the undulations and the jolts from uneven roads.
The shock absorbers also have bushings located on the top part and the bottom part of the shocks. This is where the shocks are connected to the vehicle’s control arm.
The shock bushings should always be optimized to allow for both friction and wear resistance. The composition of the bushings also needs to be precise to allow for close clearance fits.
Lower Control Arm Bushing Replacement
Wear and tear as well as bad driving habits can cause damage to the lower control arm bushings. This can in turn cause a whole host of other issues including misalignment, uneven tire wear, and knocking or clunking sounds.
If the lower control arm bushings are damaged, then they will require replacing with new bushings. This is how to do just that.
1. Take Out The Ball Joint
Of course, the first step to performing lower control arm bushing replacement is to jack up the car and remove the wheel.
Then you will need to release the ball joint. To do this you can use a large wrench to loosen the ball joint nut. This is done after you have removed the cotter pin. You will then need to use a hammer to hit the control arm bulkhead or spindle which then will loosen the taper fit.
2. Take Out The Sway Bar Link
The sway bar is connected to the control arm via the sway bar link. You will also need to remove the link using the wrench or the socket. If the connection has a small taper fit then you will also need to hit it with a hammer to loosen it. This is just like you did with the ball joint.
Hold the sway bar link and take it out of the lower control arm. This allows the sway bar link to not get in the way when you are replacing the bushings.
3. Take Out The Bolts Of The Control Arm
You will find control arm mounting bolts which will be fixed in either a horizontal position or a vertical position. You can use a wrench also remove these bolts.
If the bolts feature a nut on their backside, you will need to hold the nut in position using the control arm. Find the rear control arm bolt and remote this also.
4. Take Out The Lower Control Arm
Now it’s time to take out the control arm. Hold it firmly and give it a shake and then pull it outwards towards you.
This action will help it release from the frame mounts.
5. Take Out The Bushings On A Car
When the bushings are torn or broken the control arm will move in the mounts. Ensure that the new bushing is identical in size to the old one. You will need to use a press to take out the old bushing and then install the new bushing.
Ensure that the new bushing is installed correctly and evenly to prevent it from tearing or damaging. As you are removing the old bushing you should hear a pop as soon as it starts to come off.
Also, make sure to orient the new bushings and do not apply any lotion. This is because it could cause the bushings to come off when the car is running.
Repeat the process with the other bushing. Once done the control arm will be ready for installation.
6. Reinstalling The Control Arm
Hold the reinstalled control arm and wiggle the bushings onto the fame mount. Make sure to keep an eye on the bolt holes and ensure that they are well aligned. A screwdriver can help make this possible.
Having done this, take a control arm bot and insert it by hand to prevent any cross-threading. Be sure not to tighten the bolt system until all parts are in their proper positions.
Position the lower ball joint and install it into the control arm then add the nut.
Now connect the sway bar link by inserting it in its proper position on the control arm and tightening the nut.
Now that everything is nit position, tighten the nuts starting with the front control arm mounting bolt. Next, tighten the lower ball joint nut and ensure the cotter pin holes are aligned.
Having done this insert the cotter pin. This pin ensures the nut stays in place.
It is important to ensure that the sway bar link is held tightly in place whenever you are tightening the nut.
Having done this you can reinstall the wheel of the car and lower the jack. It is a good idea to take the car for alignment.
Symptoms Of Bad Control Arm Bushings
Over time your car’s control arm bushings are going to wear out. That said, some factors could accelerate the rate of wearing out such as driving with larger aftermarket tires.
These tend to seed more vibrations to the control arm and thus cause the bushings to wear out faster. Driving off roads asp will cause the bushings in the car to wear out much faster.
When the bushings wear out there are several ways that you‘ll be able to tell.
1. Steering Wheel Vibrates
Once the control arm bushings wear out, perhaps the first way that this will manifest itself is through vibrations in the steering wheel.
These vibrations will often become worse the faster you drive.
2. Clunking Noises
The noise becomes louder when drinking over uneven terrain.
3. Bushings On A Car – Steering Wheel Wander
The control arm bushings also play a major role in holding everything in the proper position. When these bushings wear out there is space for play. This will cause misalignment.
This misalignment may cause the steering wheel to also start to move either left or right.
4. Bushings On A Car – Tires Wear Unevenly
And one of the factors that could cause tire misalignment is faulty control arm bushings.
5. Bushings On A Car – Vehicle Instability When Braking
Worn-out control arm bushings often create room for play within the control arm and related parts.
Sway Bar Bushings Replacement Cost
The sway bar bushings replacement will cost anywhere from $125 to $160. This includes the labor costs which can be $95 to $100.
The bushings themselves often cost $30 to $65.
While it is advisable to have a professional do the sway bar bushing replacing since the sway bar plays a huge role in road control, it is still possible to do your say bar bushing replacement and save on the costs of labor.
Rear Control Arm Bushing
The control arms connect the car’s suspension system to the frame of the car. They hold the wheel hub securely in place and ensure that the wheel moves up and down and not front and back.
The rear control arms help to connect the back wheels to the frame of the car. The pivoting on the controls arms happens on the bushings whenever the wheel moves up and down.
Most cars have a single control arm for each wheel. This is the case with the rear control arms. Each of these rear control arms also features two bushings where it connects to the frame of the car.
If the rear control arm bushings experience wear and tear there are a few telltale signs.
The first and most obvious way to check that the rear control arms are failing is when you hear knocking sounds. When the rear control arm bushings are faulty, they are unable to hold the control arm in place which causes rattling.
Damage to one or of the rear control arms will cause misalignment which in turn causes the car to move towards the right or left instead of moving in a straight line. The brushings may also cause the tires to wear out unevenly which then causes the car to veer left or right.
One of the ways that you can spot misalignment is by checking the tires. They should wet out unevenly. If you notice that your car’s tires are not wearing pout unevenly then you should probably have the rear control arm brushing checks and also the alignment.
Front Control Arm Bushing
The front control arms are situated in the front of the vehicle. While some vehicles have one control arm on each wheel there are those like trucks and SUVs that have two control arms.
The front control arms then connect to the frame of the car through the control arm bushings.
If these bushings are faulty and you continue to drive the vehicle, then the damage may extend or the front control arms themselves.
This would then mean that the front control arms will need replacing.
While it is possible to replace the front control arm bushings with many vehicles, the activity takes time. In some vehicles, the entire control arm will need replacement after the bushings have worn out.
Bushing Replacement Cost
On average, the price of a single bushing will set at $350. If you are to replace all the 4 bushings in your vehicle, then you can end up paying as much as $1200.
For most cars, the price of a bushing can be anywhere from $200 to $500 for each arm. Note that if you are driving a high-end car, the cost of a bushing can be as high as $800.
That said, it is important to keep in mind that the cost of the actual bushing is not very high with the actual parts costing between $20 and $80. This then means that getting a set of 4 bushings will cost anywhere from $80 to $300.
The high costs come as a result of the labor costs. By learning how to replace the bushing yourself you can save yourself a lot of money.
That said, it is advisable to take your car for realignment as soon as you replace your bushings. This is a cost you should also factor in. The good thing is that realignment is not expensive and shouldn’t go above $100.
Car Suspension Bushings Facts:
- Bushings are cushions made of rubber, polyurethane, or other materials and are used in car suspension and steering joints to absorb road bumps, control movement, and reduce noise and vibration.
- Worn bushings can allow more movement and cause the driver to feel a shimmy or hear clunking or rattling noises on rough roads or when turning the wheel.
- Bushings are used for control arms, stabilizer bars, ball joints, tie rods, shock absorber and strut mounts, engine and transmission mounts, and other suspension and steering parts.
- They wear and crack from friction, age, heat, exposure to road salt and lubricants, and frequent movement and weight loads.
- Worn control arm bushings can cause the vehicle’s front end to slip out of alignment and result in premature tire wear.
- A thorough suspension bushing inspection can reveal which bushing needs replacement and may prevent unnecessary part replacement.
- Repair shops may recommend replacing the part and not just the bushings, especially if the part is old and may not last much longer.
- Dried-out bushings can be a source of squeaks, and older cars with grease fittings require regular lubrication along with oil changes.
- New bushings can markedly improve the ride and handling of a vehicle that’s been in use for several years, but the overall cost can be high relative to the bushings themselves due to the amount of labor associated with installation.
- Control-arm bushings cannot be replaced separately on some cars, and the mechanic may have to replace the control arm itself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some popular FAQs:
What Are Bushings On A Car
A bushing is a component that comprises of a thick and dense rubber that is part of the joint where the control arm connects to the frame of the car. You can also find bushings in shock absorbers and other suspension parts of the vehicle.
How Many Bushings Are On A Car
The number of bushings on a car depends on the number of control arms. Most cars have one control arm per wheel. In this case, the car would have four bushings. Other cars such as off-road cars and trucks will often have two control arms per wheel. In this case, each wheel would have two bushings making it a total of 8 bushings in the car.
What Do Bushings Do On A Car
Bushings function as cushions and mount on the control arm and the steering joints. They comprise of polyurethane and their role is to absorb and reduce bumps on the road as well as reduce the level of noise and vibrations.
Where Are Bushings Located On A Car
Bushings are located on the vehicle’s control arms where it connects to the frame of the car. They can also be located on the shock absorber as well as on the sway bar. You can also find bushings between the suspension and the frame in other locations of the car.
How To Replace Bushings On A Car
Start by jacking up the car, and removing the wheel, find the ball joint and release it. Next release the sway link bar. Now take out the control mounting bolts and pull out the control arms. Next, mark the orientation of the bushing on the control arm and then press it out of the control arm using a press. Now place the new bushing in the correct position and ensure that it orients on the control arm. Use the press to push it into position. Now you can reinstall the control arm in your vehicle by following the steps aforementioned in reverse.
How Long Can You Drive With Bad Control Arm Bushings
How long you can drive when having damaged control arm bushings will come down to the extent of the damage. If you drive for too long with damaged bushings the issue may pass from one to the other wheels. That said, if the damage is moderate then you should probably be able to drive for between 60 miles to 80 miles.
How Much Should It Cost To Replace Control Arm Bushings
The cost of replacing a single control arm bushing can be anywhere from $200 to $500. This cost can go higher in luxury vehicles. That said, the cost of the control arm bushing itself can be as low as $20 to $50. It is the labor costs that take up much of the costs. You can therefore lower costs if you can replace the control arm bushing yourself.