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Let’s focus on the middle part first, and then we’ll get to the details. Sound good? So, let’s start with the control arms, and what they do. They’re important, but remarkably simple. The control arms connect the suspension system to the frame of the car. They also exist to reduce the amount of force that is dealt to the car, which in turn limits unnecessary movement that the car experiences. Many cars have at least four control arms: One for each wheel. Some cars have upper and lower control arms. Made from a strong and highly-durable metal, the rear control arms, which are sometimes referred to as trailing arms, connect to the frame at one end. At the other end, each control arm usually connects to either a knuckle or the axle housing. When the vehicle travels over a bump, the control arm pivots on bushings, allowing your car’s wheels to move up and down. The rear of your vehicle will buck around quite a bit if not held in place, and that movement would get transmitted to your car, your steering wheel, and your hands. Trust me when I say that’s not exactly what you want. Okay, we’ve discussed what a control arm is, and established that we’re dealing with the rear ones here. So, let’s move onto the bushings. Each rear control arm has two bushings, which are located where the control arm attaches to the frame of the car. The bushings, which are made of metal but covered in either rubber or polyurethane, keep the metal control arms from excess contact with the metal frame of the car. This limits that wonderful metal-on-metal noise that you just adore. While the rear control arm bushings are designed to withstand lots of wear and tear, they can give out over time. When that happens they’ll need to be replaced, and, depending on your car, the control arms may need to be replaced as well.
Do I need to tell you that abnormal noises from your car are a bad sign? Well, they are. Other than your bizarre podcast preferences, you shouldn’t hear any weird noises while driving. If your car’s rear control arm bushings are failing, you’re likely to hear a knocking noise. This is the result of the bushings struggling to hold the control arms in place. So, as the car moves, the control arm will rattle around, resulting in some bumping and knocking noises.
Pulling is when your car isn’t really driving in a straight line. You’re not moving the steering wheel, but the car is pulling to the left or the right. It’s a weird sensation that can kind of make you feel crazy. Your car can pull to the left or the right for a few reasons, with the most common being uneven wear on your tires. But your car can also begin to pull if the rear control arm bushings are busted. Damaged bushings will impact the alignment of your wheels, which is a common cause of pulling. You also might notice that it’s harder to steer than normal. Always pay attention when the steering in your car doesn’t feel right. Steering is pretty important.
Remember twenty seconds ago, when I said that control arm bushing failure can result in poor alignment? That will also result in the aforementioned uneven wear on your tires. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking the wear of your tires, as it can help you spot problems before they get too severe, like bubbles or excess wear. If you notice wear and tear that’s uneven, it may be due to some malfunctioning rear control arm bushings.
Ignoring your rear control arm bushings will ultimately lead to worse problems, the more you drive. It’s safe to drive the car short distances with busted bushings, but eventually you’ll be stuck with busted control arms, which ultimately lead to serious steering system failure. I’m guessing that’s not what you want, so get your bushings replaced as soon as possible.
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