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What does "fair bit of play" in control arms and diff bushes/support mean?

Hi friends,

After a recent service at the dealership where we purchased our car, they recommended we get 4 (out of 8 upper/lower/rear/front) control arms replaced, as well as the rear diff supports and bushes. I am fairly confident of identifying these parts, but the reason that gave is that there was a “fair bit of play” in them and that the car was no longer roadworthy.

Bear in mind, this is the same dealer that had us replace the brakes 6months and 5000km into ownership, despite them scoring 88% on their inital inspection when we bought it. I really find it hard to believe that in 6 months and 5000km of light Sunday drives that all these things could suddenly go wrong without any signs when we first bought it and got the legally-required roadworthy certification.

Though, we do want to spoil the car and really make sure she is good enough to be on the road for another 5 years (she is 5 years old at the moment, so we got her pre-loved), so if we have to go through with this we will (probably shop around for some quotes though after the brake fiasco…).

What do you guys think? Is this “fair bit of play” something that can be overlooked for another 6 months and 5000km of light Sunday driving (we only use the car on weekends to get out into the country and explore neat cafe’s and rural festivals etc…)

Thanks friends!

I would get a second opinion at an independent shop. I’d stay away from the dealer at all costs because your post suggests something isn’t kosher with their integrity. I would also not take too much stock in their initial 88% inspection.

Fair bit of play - pretty much a nothing comment. It seems this dealer could be playing you for a sucker. They got a big brake job out of you, so every time you bring this car in they will find a reason to get you part with more money. You need to find another mechanic.

Info like the make, model, and number of miles on the car would help. If the car is driving fine, it likely is fine. Take it to the country more and worry about it less.

Did the dealer try to sell you the complete control arms, or just the bushings? For many vehicles, bushing kits are available.
Ask the shop to put the car on a hoist and SHOW you why you need the control arms.
In my experience, cars that need control arms are often pretty old and in bad shape.

Hi friends, thanks for the replies. I think you are right… they said I need to replace the rear diff support and bushes, but as for the control arms, I am pretty sure they meant the whole she-bang.

Anyways it is a 2007 Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero in the US but I don’t think they make them anymore) with about 120k miles (200k km).

You need to avoid this dealer, they are ripping you off. All rubber bushing will have a “fair bit of play”, they’re rubber after all. Usually by 5 years, the bushings will start to check, this is where little cracks start to appear around the edges. Less than honest mechanics show you this checking (which is normal by the way and does not mean the bushing is bad) and scare you into thinking that the cracks go all the way through and you are in eminent danger. These bushings are good for 20 or more years of service.

Once they get you to agree to “change every part every week” they will keep it up forever.

I agree w/most of the others here, it sounds like you are possibly being upsold – being asked to pay for work that might possibly be needed sometime in the future, after the wear and tear causes the parts alignment to be out of spec, but at this point maybe could be deferred. The shop has an incentive to do this, as if they can get you to agree to it now, then they’ll get the job, rather than another competing shop sometime in the future. And they might rationalize it as it has to be done something, so we might as well do it and bill for it now.

That being said, there’s no way to tell whether the advice you are being given is good or not over the internet. It requires an in-person visual inspection by a qualified mechanic at the very minimum. It may well be the advice you are being given is totally correct in fact. If you are concerned about this, seeking out a different shop is a good idea, see what they think. The best way to find a shop is to ask friends, relatives, co-workers for a reference on someone they use that specializes in your make of car. Then tell the shop “I was referred to your shop by so-and-so”. That gets the ball rolling in your favor. Best of luck.

They said replace the entire control arms. The diff was just the diff support and bushes.

I will definitely get a second opinion, but now I am left wondering how to approach an independent mechanic… if I tell them my dealer said such and such needed replacing then for sure they will agree, but just give me a lower quote so I get their business. How can I get an answer I trust?

Thanks friends!

Ask the independent mechanic to give the car a through “safety inspection”. Even ask that a road test be part of it. Such an inspection will get the car on a lift and will take about an hour so you have to expect to pay for it. You could tie this to a basic service you need such as an oil change.

Many times old loose bushings make more noise and allow a clunk here and there but don’t affect safety. If you desire a car that feels as tight and quiet as when it was new you replace the bushings. If you can live with some creaks, a clunk, or rattle but there is no safety issue you just come to accept the noises that sometimes come along as a car ages.

Entire control arm replacement sounds very drastic, especially since it was given a clean bill of health recently.
Did they tell you what was wrong with the control arms?

I do think they are trying to finance their boats through your car.