I was told this morning that my Camry, with a pittance of 197,000 needs a lower control arm on the driver’s side. I don’t doubt that, but I have a couple questions: (I) Is it dangerous to drive the car without replacing that control arm? (ii) If one is worn, should I consider replacing both of them? (iii) Does $470 seem a little steep for just the one arm?
The lower control arm - well, it’s called a “control” arm - its what attaches the wheel and steering and suspension to the car. (It’s basically a “wing” off of the body and all of the important front end stuff attaches there). So control arm problems are not cool. They compromise your ability to control the car. So you need to just do it.
As for the the rest of the question - there are no simple answers.
Is the control arm itself damaged or is it just that the bushings are worn out? Is the quote you have to just replace the bushings, or to install a whole new control arm? If it’s a whole new arm, that probably includes new ball joints (which is good). But you’d want to find out. They don’t always, and don’t be surprised if half-way through they advise you to ante up more for new ball joints. Does the quote include the cost of an alignment (which has to be done after control arm R&R)?
If the arm needs to be replaced because it got damaged (you ran over a rock or smashed a curb) then you probably don’t need to do both. But if it’s that the bushings are all worn out, then the other side is in pretty close to the same shape, so you should consider doing both.
If you get the details on your current $470 quote, it’s easy enough to make a few phone calls for additional estimates. But one of the biggest factors is going to be the price of the part(s). You can probably find control arms for anything between $50-$200. The differences are mostly about part quality.