Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Control Arm Assembly

Uninterrupted and enjoyable ride is what every driver’s aim all the time. It is quite crucial to be familiar with your vehicle’s components and be observant enough to detect some symptoms.

For instance, consider your vehicle’s control arm. This module is responsible for controlling your tires to go up and down in the smoothest manner possible. And just like every automotive component, the control arm will eventually wear out.

This article tackles the symptoms of a bad or failing control arm assembly.

What Is A Control Arm?

Control arm is a component found in the car’s suspension system. Trucks and SUVs use upper and lower control arms while front wheeled vehicles only use one lower control arm.

Refer: Air Suspension - How It Work

The control arm links the steering knuckles and wheel hub to the chassis (the frame of the vehicle). Moreover, the control arm contains bushings on the frame side and a ball joint on the wheel side of the vehicle that will allow flex and movement adequate for any road conditions and steering input of the driver.

In addition, the control arm is responsible for the wheels to move up and down that prevents forward and rearward movement.

Bushings

The Bushings in the control arm was designed to cushion the vehicle from all sorts of vibrations and bumps. Unfortunately, in every drive these bushings or ball joints will bear a huge amount of stress causing them to wear out pretty soon.

Once this happens, all sorts of problems may manifest and can interrupt you while driving. However, there are symptoms that occur when the control arm assembly is in trouble. These symptoms will serve as warning whenever the control arm is in need to be fixed.

Symptoms Of A Bad Control Arm 

The control arm assemblies will wear or bend over a period of time. It usually takes around 100,000 miles for these control arms to wear out. They will wear out faster when the vehicle goes over a large pothole or when the car was recently involved in an accident.

Since bushing or ball joints is what makes the control arm pretty much useful, these components wear out as well.

Here are the following symptoms of a bad or failing control arm: 

1. Annoying Noises

The annoying noises underneath the vehicle usually occurs when the lower control arm bushing or ball joints are worn out or too loose.

The looseness or excessive play will cause this bushing or ball joint to be knocked between control arm and the frame. It will also happen when the vehicle is on a rough terrain.

The sound or the noises will get louder whenever the road is not flat. It will start banging over bumps or potholes and will began to rattle that will result annoying noises in the front end, especially when the vehicle is turning or reversing.

When symptoms like this occur, it’s important to check the control arm immediately.

2. Vibration on the Steering Wheel

Damaged or failing lower control arm will not be as effective. Another symptom associated with bad lower arm is steering wheel vibration. This vibration is easily felt by your hands while driving on the road.

This symptom is also due to excessive wearing of the lower control arm bushing or ball joint. In effect, wheel shimmy occurs: a vibration in the wheel and will begin to wobble while driving.

Refer: Creaking Noise When Turning Steering Wheel

As you step on the gas pedal, the vibration will be more intense due to the sudden increase in the vehicle’s acceleration. But eventually this will smoothen out once you are at traveling speed. However, this is quite annoying in the driver’s part so it’s better to do something about it quickly.

3. Steer Wanders/Shakes

When the vehicle has a failing control arm assembly, the driver will notice that the steering wheel is wandering – it’s either going left or right.

The steering alignment is off center and the steering is bit unresponsive due to the failing control arm. The vehicle’s steering alignment will immediately shift when the ball joints and bushing are worn out.

At high speeds, the vehicle will turn erratically. When taking sharp turns, the vehicle may start leaning to one side, to some degree. The driver must exert additional effort in this because the steering wheel must be kept steady in order for the vehicle to continue driving straight.

Refer: Steering Wheel Not Centered While Driving Straight

More importantly, the wheels gives the driver the control of the vehicle and sometimes the dash will shake along the way so it’s important to be cautious all the time.

The Importance Of Control Arm Assembly

The vehicle control arm is considered quite an important suspension and steering component. It links the hubs, spindles and the wheel to the vehicle’s chassis.

The driver’s comfort will be interrupted when any damage occurs to this control arm. When this will not be fixed, it will lead to the separation of the control arm and the knuckle.

So whenever a symptom manifests, it is better be inspected by a professional technician. It’s always better to prevent further damage and besides the driver’s comfort and safety should be considered first.

Know when the control arm fails

Since it’s a common knowledge the lower control arm will go bad eventually, it is ideal for any driver like you to be vigilant enough to know the control arm is already failing.

The most straightforward process for the assembly to last longer is for it to be inspected right away. A professional technician will assess each delicate component of the suspension system. If necessary, the mechanic will replace the control arm assembly.

Have the component inspected and replaced as soon as symptoms rise. This is to attain a smoother drive without any clunking noises, steering wheel vibration, and steering that wanders constantly.

How Much Does The Replacement Cost?

The replacement cost will vary depending on the model of the vehicle. The labor cost alone will charge you around $100 to $250. Also, a new bushing will cost you around $100 to $400. This will give you a total of around $200 to $650.

Note that it will depend on the brand and the hired mechanic tasked to do the inspection and replacement. It’s best to do some canvassing first and compare different auto shops to find the best deal for your vehicle.

Summary

For an observant owner, the symptoms of a bad or failing control arm assembly is typically easy to spot. Learning all the stuff above gives you the right knowledge to properly diagnose your car whenever any symptom manifest. These symptoms are your car’s way of notifying you there might be something wrong under the hood.

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