Control Arm Bushings

I read with interest about the 2002 Honda Civic and control arm bushings. I have a 1999 Century Buick with about 115000 miles. I took the car in to the dealer for a lube job and was told I needed to replace the control arm bushings for $420. It looks like the mechanic wrote down “control arm bushing pulled out”. The service rep told me my wheels could come off and needed to have this repair done soon. Does this sound reasonable? My brother-in-law who knows a lot about cars didn’t know what I was talking about.

The lower control arm bushing cannot come out. It may disentegrate, weather crack, or wear but the wheels should not fall off because of this.

The lower control arm is attached to the lower ball joint and a badly worn ball joint can be a real danger if they’re badly worn. A ball joint snapping could cause the loss of a wheel or cause the wheel to simply lie down flat.

A '99 with only 115k miles should not need control arm bushings. You might consider another opinion on this.
Also, don’t put a lot of faith into what a service writer says. Most are not mechanically inclined and it’s possible he could have gotten crossed up on what he told you. Maybe he was referrring to ball joints instead.

Ball joints will usually cause a car to wander on the road and may make a thunking or rattling noise.

The lower control arm is held in place by a large steel pin, about a half inch in diameter. The rubber bushing surrounds this pin and the control arm surrounds the bushing. If the rubber completely disintegrated, the wheels would still not come off. If they did come off, it wouldn’t be due to the bushings, it would be something else.

Rubber bushings tend to “check”. That is they develop surface cracks where ever they are under compression. These cracks do not go deep, but a mechanic can use them to convince an unsuspecting customer that they need to be replaced. I’ve had cars over 20 years old that did not need control arm bushings.

I would strongly urge you to find a good independent mechanic that you can talk to directly, not through a third party and develop a good relationship with him/her. Have all your maintenance done there or at places he/she recommends for things like alignments that he/she doesn’t do. Check with your friends/colleagues for recommendations and/or check the mechanic-X files on this web site.