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Front control arm

Told that I need to replace the front control arm & bushings on my Camry ($$$!). But front struts, stabilizer & link pins were replaced (about 3 years ago). what’s the difference between control arm & struts? Is this a safety issue? Thanks for answering a dumb-about-cars question.

The control arms are attached with bushings at the subframe and at the other end is where the rest of the suspension components are attached such as the steering knuckle/strut. So it’s an altogether different component than what has already been replaced.


Good questions. Here are some for you - what is your car doing? Why did you take it to get checked? Who did you take it to?

I hadn’t noticed any symptoms, except for some minor rear end swaying. They also want to replace rear struts and mounts, but said the front end work was the priority.

Took it to a Duxler repair repair shot for an oil change and tire check/rotation. Why do I get suspicious when the inspection turns up over $1500 in repairs? But still, when someone raises safety concerns. . . .
Thanks for your help!

Take it to another mechanic and have them give you a diagnosis on the control arms. The bushings can look cracked but be fine - and if the bushings are fine, you simply don’t need to change the arm unless it has been damaged by an impact.

As for the part, if you look at the diagram attached, your control arm is part #3 - the y shaped piece, and your control arm bushings are parts 4 and 5. The bushings and control arm as Tester describe attach to the subframe (part 17) and on the other end they attach a ball joint (part 6) that goes into the steering knuckle (part 1) - that’s what your axle goes through and your wheel attaches to. The top of the steering knuckle attaches to the strut assembly (parts 8-16). On the side of the steering knuckle is where the tie rod attaches, and then that goes back to the steering rack and up to the steering wheel.

Basically, a control arm is there to help locate the wheel in space - the axle cannot withstand the force of being beaten around by itself. So the control arm locates the bottom of the steering knuckle and the strut locates the top of the knuckle… you then have an axis that the knuckle can rotate on, and that rotation is controlled by the tie rod and thus the steering wheel… In addition to locating the top of the steering knuckle, the strut assembly helps absorb the up/down movement of the wheel (the purpose of the spring) and dampen the vibration
(what the strut itself does).

The control arm does very little in the way of absorbing bumps - it just keeps your wheel properly positioned relative to the other parts. However, if the bushings (there to help keep bumps from being jarring) are badly worn, then the wheel may have too much play, and yes, it can become a safety issue. From my experience, though, they’re generally noisy and annoying well before they become safety issues.
Basically, when your wheel moves

DING DING DING! That’s my crackpot mechanic warning bell going off, LOUD! You need to find a trustworthy independent mechanic to look at this. Any time an unknown mechanic finds a problem that you didn’t notice, and says it’s a priority, and very expensive, you need to take it to someone you trust.

I’ve had good luck with the ‘Mechanics Files’:

How old are the rear struts? That may be causing the swaying you mention.

Before accusing the shop of trying to gouge you I’d like to see a breakdown of parts and labor on this job.
On the surface it sounds high but many times when the details are laid out the matter becomes very clear.
Does this 1500 include rear struts ,etc and is there any abnormal tire wear?

The control arm bushing is not something that would catastrophically fail but the ball joints on the ends might. This can be fatal in certain situations; as what happened to a middle aged woman near here a couple of years ago.

Thank you so much for the informative description and diagram. (Why didn’t I find this site earlier?) At least I feel better equipped to question a mechanic.

I haven’t noticed any noise or steering issues; some sway in the back end of the car, which is probably another issue – the same outfit also diagnosed: “rear struts leaking” but said the front end work was the bigger priority because they found “cracked” bushings.

They rotated my tires and mentioned no uneven wear or other reason for their diagnosis.

The front control arm and bushing estimate was $888 (interesting round number) plus $89 for alignment. The estimate for rear struts & mounts = $744. I was given was no breakdown of parts and labor.

You haven’t said what year or number of miles on your Camry. Rubber bushings will show cracks within a couple of years, but are usually good for 20 years and multi 100k miles. I had a Toyota that had over 300k and 20 years and the control arm bushings were just fine, no problem.

Leaking struts are a “red flag” to me. The mechanic squirts a little oil on them and then shows you the leak. You panic and open the wallet for them to take what they want.

Thanks for your input. My Camry is a '97 with 105,000. It’s been extremely reliable – guess I’m glad it’s so old – none of the recent Camry problems.

I have two 97 vehicles, a Honda and a Nissan. I can see small cracks around the bushings in both, and even in my 02 Saturn and my daughters 03 Corolla, but I would not consider putting new bushings in any of them.

I think the oil squirted onto the struts is a bit overblown; mostly due to an expose run by 60 minutes about 20 years ago featuring some crooks on the Interstate in GA or somewhere down there. I’ve never even known a mechanic who would do this.

Struts can fail in several different way. Some just weaken with time; others may leak cartridge oil out. It’s anybody’s guess. Several years ago both rear struts had failed on my daughter’s Mitsubishi and they were as bad as bad gets. One was bone dry; the other wet with a dirt-encrusted oil blotch. No one hosed those down with oil.
VWs were especially prone to oil weepage from the strut housings.

You state the car sways in the back and that’s usually a sign of bad struts or shocks.

The prices could be about right based on what you posted. A quick look at a part house website shows that control arm by itself is expensive. It’s very pricy even for an aftermarket item at about 500 dollars including tax. Their parts supplier could be higher, tack on peripherals, a markup, and there you go; an easy 800 dollars+.
The choice of parts supplier and the part of the country you live in also has big influence on the total cost. Labor rates in some areas are double what they are here in OK.

Small dry rot cracks in the bushings may or may not be a problem. It all depends on how badly they’re cracked, etc. and a lot has to do with the environmental conditions (extreme heat/cold, road salt, etc, etc.)

No problem. :slight_smile:

I’m with the others - I don’t see the rear swaying being the result of bushing problems on the front end. Your bushings may be going, but a little surface cracking is nothing to be concerned about - its the amount of movement you can get in the control arm that becomes a problem.

As for your rear struts, you might be able to get that price a bit lower. Rear struts are actually simpler assemblies than the fronts, because the strut mount does not have to pivot or turn. The top of the strut is sometimes harder to access, as you might have to pop part of the backseat out, but that really isn’t hard. Replacing the entire strut assembly should run about $200-250 per side in parts, plus around an hour labor is typical, so I’d think a $500-750 range is what you could expect, at least with the hourly rates we have around here. That would replace the springs, too - my opinion is generally if you’re going to pay for new mounts and struts, you’re looking at only a very small upcharge to replace everything else in the assembly so it generally is worth it…

The oil on the struts goes back a lot more than 20 years, it was a lot more common in the days of shocks, they wore out about every 25k anyway. Soapy water on the battery was another common trick. The 60 expose was as I recall, oil on the differential. They charged about $1k, wiped off the oil and showed the customer some metal shavings and told them they were lucky that it was caught in time.

It is true, there are a lot more sophisticated scams today for unscrupulous mechanics. Those old scams are so yesterday, but I’m sure some still use them.

OH NO! I just did an internet search to learn what a front lower control arm and bushing does for your car, because my husband returned home from a Duxler visit (for a regular oil change) with a $1800+ receipt for the costs to replace our front lower control arms w/bushings (plus our inner outer tie rods and other “necessary” repairs). “What’s that?” I asked. “I don’t know, but they said we must replace it now or risk bending the frame.”

Imagine my dismay (aka. horror) to discover this posting. Our 2002 Honda Odyssey is our only car, so we are careful to keep it well maintained. We thought Duxler was a trustworthy auto care shop. Now my trust is in doubt. I was noticing that the steering wheel was pulling to the right. Last time we took it in, they replaced our tires because of uneven wear and said this might be a problem. Coincidence that your Camry just so happens to need the same service, or does Duxler have an over-supply of control arms they need to get rid of? Is it time for us to find a new mechanic?

KS – Looks like we went to the same Duxler, so you’re confirming my suspicions. I’ve always used them for oil changes, maintenance and minor repairs. and to buy tires. Once before Dusxler recommended radiator flushing when they had just done it the year before. My car’s older than yours, but I’ve been vigilant about recommended maintenance and have never had major problems. I’ve learned a lot from the nice respondents to my post, and now I’m looking for a reliable mechanic in the area. Any ideas?

Same for us. I’m hoping someone will comment on whether our control arm situation was different; but, regardless I think we will try a different mechanic next time, since Duxler already told us that our timing belt needs to be replaced. I used the Mechanic Files on the home page to find other mechanics in our area. Looks like there are a few with good ratings (though Duxler received high ratings from others too).

Here’s another coincidence. In looking over carefully kept records, I see that my timing belt has been replaced twice, and yet almost every time I go to Duxler for something, they recommend I think about replacing timing belt. I didn’t make much of it until now - thought they had a faulty memory, but. . . . maybe lots of timing belts lying around too. I didn’t used to be cynical.

At eight years (2002 Odyssey), a recommendation to change timing belt is proper. That’s pretty much the limit on age, and you might have needed to do it sooner, based on miles.

Thank you for the advice. I’ll check our records to make sure we also have not had our belts replaced recently (I kind of think we have in the last 2-3 years). Like katerrycib, I hate to be cynical but when you trust others to give good recommendations only to duped, you hate to be fooled twice.