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Control Arm Bushings and My Survival

About 6 months ago, I took my '99 Camry w/ 178k miles to the dealer for an oil change. The dealer told me the left control arm bushing was dry-rotted, cracked, and therefore the whole control-arm needed to be replaced (about $1200). I was told that if this wasn't done soon, I could lose control of the car at any moment. When I took it to another repair shop for a second opinion, they told me that yes, it was cracked, but that's what happens since it's only rubber. They told me there was no safety issue. So here we are 6 months later, I'm still driving the car, and I'm still alive. Who is right? I find it hard to believe that the entire stability and safety of my car is dependent on a small piece of rubber...help!
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Comments

  • edited March 2008
    It's impossible to guess from here, however if it's all intact and is secure on its pivot shaft then it should be fine. Bracks are normal, looseness is a sign of need for replacement. At 9 years old it's hard to guess.

    By the way, you should be able to replace just the bushing. It should not require an entire arm.
  • edited March 2008
    Thanks...I thought I should be able to just replace the bushing, but they (the dealer) told me it's actually machined into the arm.
  • edited March 2008
    It looks like the front bushing might be pressfit in. In such a case, I wouldn't be surprised if Toyota does not offer replacement of just the bushing and insists you buy the whole arm. You *can* buy a new bushing for the front and one for the back (the back should easily change out)...

    My question is what the heck is the dealer doing trying to do charging $1200?!?!?!?!!

    Aftermarket control arm with bushings cost about $140 for this Camry.
  • edited March 2008
    I see your point. But I'm betting there's an aftermarket bushing out there. And I've never heard of a shop with no arbor press.

    Yeah I agree. That seems awfully high.
  • edited March 2008
    Cracked rubber is not likely to cause you to lose control of your vehicle. There might be a once in a blue moon chance that dry rotted rubber could disentegrate suddenly and the car could have some bad handling habits which could then lead to a wreck. This is really grasping though.

    Some dry rot cracking in aged rubber is normal and in a case like a lower control arm bushing I really would not worry about it. If the bushing is bad enough to worry about there will be some slop in the lower control arm.

    If you ever did need bushings, here you go.
    http://store.summitracing.com/partdetail.asp?part=sum-900313

    The quote of 1200 is pretty high and this job could be done by an independent shop for far less if needed. In the dealer's situation they would be using a genuine Toyota lower control arm with the bushing already installed. It is very likely that the dealer cannot order a bushing only from Toyota. They must buy it as an assembly.
    This kind of thing is nothing new; all car makers do this. It is an aggravation to have to buy 90% extra to get the 10% needed but most of the time the dealer's hands are tied.

    JMHO, but I don't think the dealer was trying to deliberately rip you off. It's possible that the tech doing the oil change is a relatively inexperienced guy and he may honestly believe the bushing is horribly bad because of the cracking.
    He relates this to a service writer (most of whom are not mechanically inclined) and there you are. :-)
  • edited March 2008
    I've heard this story before and the short answer is, the dealer is full of it. Control are bushings last a long time, a few check marks are not a sign of imminent danger.
  • edited March 2008
    I probably wasn't clear - I have a 98 myself, and I know for a fact that they do sell the bushings alone - about $35 for the bushing alone, so you can actually buy just the bushing (maybe not directly from Toyota, though).

    For the DIYer, buying the whole arm with a bushing is generally the best way to go - no need to push out the bushing, just pop the old arm off and the new one on. 3 bolts total, maybe you have to use a spring compressor to help get the ball joint end free... Its not a hard repair. Total time should be 1 hour, and even if you had to buy the whole arm with bushing, the cost shouldn't be over $250 (part+markup+labor).... $1200 is just obscene....
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