Ford Focus control arm bolt broken during alignment? Common? Look for another shop?

Thanks to those who replied:

I’m a noobie and may have lead you guys awry:

I’ve had two control arm bolts broken in the last year (resulting in the arms being replaced) during my ‘3 year alignment’ program.

The bolts have been broken and then I get a call and a bill for the new control arm and labor.

Is it that common to break the control arm bolts when aligning the wheels? I do live in Michigan where salt is used on the roads.

There are some other things that seem have not inspired my trust (billing mistakes and not torquing the rear wheel after replacing the arm and letting me drive home) …But, I want to be fair and if this/these are regular occurrences I’ll go back and work with the shop.

Many thanks

It is not common for a control arm to break during an alignment but severe rust can certainly be the root cause of the problem. Are they breaking when the car is being driven on or off an alignment rack?

Better they break in the shop on the rack rather than at 70 MPH on the freeway.

First. What’s a three year alignment program?

And no. Controls arms don’t break while aligning a vehicle.

Get a new shop.


Thanks for the responses,

Ok4450, the arm is actually or was not rusted the adjusting bolt on the lift…I saw it on the lift not the alignment rack

Tester, I was able to buy 6 alignments over a 3 year period…It’s offered by a well known chain of repair shops.

The part that is broken is the bolt that allows you to align the rear control arms. They tell me it happens all the time?

So, it’s not the control arm, it’s an adjusting bolt, 2 completely different things… Yes, bolts break especially if you use the ham handed “mechanics” at your local “well known chain of repair shops”. Was the bolt rusted through. In any case you should work on correctly explaining the problem and find a decent independent shop.

PVT- Sorry, a little new at this (amended the title and initial question)- I did not see this bolt… On, the previous arm, which, I did see the bolt was sheared off and was not rusted thru.

I guess I should ask if normal protocol for this is to call the costumer inform them that this is a possibility or just to break and the call?

But it does look like it’s time to look elsewhere

Many thanks

Didn’t mean to sound harsh. But if this is happening continually, the “mechanics” at this shop do not have a clue. Also if you are needing an alignment every 6 months there are likely other problems that this shop can obviously not deal with. In shops that I have worked at and dealt with, yes if there is a known problem with doing a repair it should be discussed with the customer. And since his has happened several times with your car it should have been talked about up front, if not by the shop, by you.

Why would you need 6 alignments over 3 years? I’ve got cars that haven’t been on a rack EVER because they drive straight without strange tire wear. I could see a rusty adjustment bolt breaking but why would that necessitate replacing the control arm? Just replace the bolt. I think @Tester is right, find a new shop. These guys are lining their pockets at your expense.

The OP probably needs an alignment every six months because he/she is following the advice of the shop that keeps breaking things…

The OP needs a new shop. This one is clearly not capable of doing the job properly. I tremble when I think about what other damage they might be causing.

Agreed with the others. OP, if everything you say is accurate, you’re getting screwed.

I had a friend with a Chevy Impala that needed it’s first set of replacement tires, He went to a "well known national tire chain’ store and was sold a lifetime alignment. He had to bring the car in every 6 months to get aligned. Every visit the laundry list of “needed” repairs got longer. On his 3rd visit he was told he need 7 items including brakes ball joints, shocks and new front springs. The car did not have 40,000 miles yet! This list was too much so he didn’t have the work done and called me. I sent him to my mechanic who looked the car over and told him it needed nothing and refused to charge him. He was his mechanic too after that.

is your car an 07-08 with the lifetime air filter? my kid got that car. but we hope w/70k miles its still got some life left. it has the green/red restriction meter. the motor was very dirty/dusty when they got it. former owner lived in the wyoming sticks.

I’m a little ashamed…I didn’t add: Last year, I had changed the outer tie-rods with a buddy which necessitated the first alignment. When this happened the store manager and I had a talk about not calling me first. I only paid wholesale on the arm and no labor. This time they charged me full price.

I had skipped the 6 mo interval in between.

For the second, I purchased two tires at the shop and asked for an alignment (the tires were well researched and rated. This specific tread is available from this shop as one of their primer lines, the other shop had them (another well named shop) put the incorrect oil filter on a friends car which did not seal correctly causing the motor to seize. I was not going to use them…

Thanks much for the input…It’s hard being a ‘bro’ on car repair training wheels and looking outside of the emotional aspect of this problem. As, I ended up with a bill nearly 2x the cost of the tires.

I’m writing them and this off as a learning lesson.

Exactly what year is your Focus? I ask this because I question whether or not this car even has rear control arms.

Edit: I looked up the rear suspension on a 2008 Focus with their control blade (?) suspension. It does have control arms and there is a cam adjuster in the lower control arm, but the cam and the bolt are not included with a new control arm, they are sold separately. All in all, I’d say you have been ripped off. The bolt costs about $18 by itself from a dealer.

“It’s offered by a well known chain of repair shops.”

Well known is one thing, well reputed is another, you need the latter. It is not going to be a chain shop.

Given that this is a Michigan car with some age on it I’m not surprised that bolts are rusted and that they broke.
The simple fact is that when corrosion like this in Rust Belt states sets in removal of bolts, nuts, etc can lead to damage. There’s simply no way around it and this is not the fault of the shop.

I can assure you no mechanic likes to drag out air chisels, die grinders, torch, or BFH in an attempt to disassemble or adjust something.

I don’t understand the prevalent idea that a shop is ripping someone off because bolts are breaking due to rust. Stuff happens and can’t often be helped in spite of best efforts.

Some years back I removed a manual transmission from a 2 year old Subaru. Normally I could pull one in 30 minutes; this one took half a day and involved an air chisel, acetylene wrench, and more curse words than the Bible has “begats”…
It would be interesting to know what opinions on that one would have been if someone else had to do it and all due to corrosion on a 2 year old car.
There was a LOT of collateral damage on that Subaru by the time the trans was on the bench.

OK4450, nobody of genus homo (human beings) breaks a bolt every time they touch the car. Unless, of course, they only do restoration of barn finds. Michigan is very, very much like NH (I did a TDY there in '71 at Wurtsmith AFB) and I’ve never seen a shop break a bolt with every visit.

OK, I didn’t say the shop ripped him off because of the broken bolts, they ripped him off by charging him for a lower control arm when all it needed was a bolt, and the bolt is sold separately. I won’t argue the broken bolt, I didn’t see it.

My point about frozen fasteners is that those who work on cars all day, every day run into frozen whatzits all the time. Sometimes they come loose with a little persuasion; sometimes a unanimous agreement between both houses of Congress and the WH will have to occur before it comes loose.
Sometimes it will flat not come loose without collateral damage.

If the entire car is eaten up with Michigan rust then it’s entirely possible for a bolt to break every trip in depending upon what is needed because if one bolt is rusted to oblivion then odds are they all are.

Did the OP need a control arm? I have no idea as I have not seen the part. However, I have replaced control arms that suffered bushing damage while trying to extract a frozen bolt.
Age and environment combined with dry rotted rubber can sometimes mean the rubber starts surrendering before the bolt comes loose.
If a torch is needed then kiss the rubber in the bushing goodbye.

We deal with heavy rust around here all the time and out mechanics get very good at it. Sometimes with a through bolt or a bolt into a part you are replacing, the easiest way to deal with it is to use 6 point sockets and use enough force to either break it free or snap it off. I have 4 different lengths of steel pipe to do just that. I used to have a 4’ length of 2" titanium pipe but somebody must have needed it more than I did.