What the heck is a bushing & is my wheel going to fall off?

First of all, I love you guys! Whenever I’m in my car on the weekend, I listen to your show. You take the angst out of car problems with your wonderful humor.

Now for my anxiety producing problem.

I had my snow tires put on about 3 weeks ago, and after, I noticed the car would occasionaly and briefly pull towards the left, as though it has a mind of it’s own.

Took it to my mechanic the other day and he told me it needed a front-end alignment, which didn’t sound right to me. I’ve had plenty of those situations over the years and it just didn’t feel the same.

Today, since my mechanic doesn’t do alignments, I took it to another place, and they told my I need the front bushings replaced.

They explained what worn bushings would do to a car, and it made perfect sense.

However, since my car is a 1986 Toyota Camry (and before anyone says it’s old, it’s got only 100,000 miles on it, and I’m the second owner), he has to order the parts from Toyota and I won’t be able to get it fixed until next week.

In the meantime, I’m driving 40 miles round trip to work (in all this freaking snow in Vermont), and I’m nervous that the wheel is going to fall of before I can get it fixed.

Could that happen?

Also, he quoted me a price of $350.00 to replace them.

Does anyone know if that’s a fair price?

I tried searhing the Internet for info, but there’s not much out there, so I thought and hoped there might be a message board on Car Talk, and there is!

I’d appreciate any help and/or advice anyone might give me.

Thanks very much!

If you’re driving around in snow, I can’t imagine you’re driving that fast… so even if the wheel DOES fall off, it won’t be that bad! Seriously, no, your wheel’s not gonna fall off. …probably.

As for the quote of $350… that depends on just what all they’re planning on replacing. If it’s just a couple control-arm bushings, then, yah, it seems steep. If they’re including other work like new tie-rod stuff, etc… then it seems like an ok price.

the first mechanic was probably right. you need front end work. BUT, when you do front end work your car needs a realignment. so… yes, you need an alignment, but the guy probably didn’t go into all the junk you needed also.

since you found a mechanic to do the work, and has quoted you the problem, and the price, (which doesn’t seem too high) you could try him. or, go back to the first guy and ASK him what specifically is wrong, and how much.

as far as your question about safety. well now that the storm has passed, and the roads should be clear it would probably be OK to drive. BUT… like winning the lottery; “Hey you never know!”

Also, to ask the question ‘What the heck is a bushing’, it is a rubber connector that connects suspension parts to the frame of the car. With your car being a Camry, the front suspension consists of a lower conrol arm that pivots from a fixed point on the frame to the bottom of the steering knuckle and an anti-sway bar to control side-to-side body roll when turning. Two bushings are used to connect the control arm to the frame on each side, 4 total, and 2 bushings to connect the sway bar to the frame.

The rubber can break down after years of use and require replacement. Bu, if the shop let you drive off the lot, I doubt anything will fall off. The bushings are wrapped with steel sleeves on the inside and out, and will need to be completely disintergrated before serious damage will occur. You’re probably at the point now, where the rubber is too soft to prevent the control arm from shifting around, throwing off the alignment.

There are several bushings in the front end, it would be nice to know which bushings they are talking about. In addition to the swaybar bushings and control arm bushings that BustedKnuckles talked about, there are the upper strut mount bushings.

see if they can replace the bushines with polyurethane bushings instead of rubber ones. Poly bushings are quieter and last longer.

Thanks for all the info, everyone. I’ve learned a bit more since I posted my first message. What needs replacing are the control arm bushings, and maybe the camber/bolts (don’t know what they are). Total quote for everything is $330.00. If camber/bolts aren’t needed, it will cost less. The parts are in and I’m getting it fixed tomorrow (Monday). I’ll find out if they’re polyurethane bushings, but either way it’s getting fixed tomorrow. Looking up control arm bushings on the Internet, looks like the cost for each one is around $60-$65.00, so the quote may be a bit high, but since it includes the camber/bolts, maybe not so out of range.

Looking forward to getting it fixed. I also found out on the Internet that what’s been happening when I’m driving is called “wheel hop,” which is a better description. It’s scary!

Thanks again. :slight_smile:

Has anyone thought that the wheels(s) are not mounted correctly to the drum/hub? Just a little tweak off center will raise all kinds of he77 with the steering pulling one way or the other. Check the mounting of the wheels first. Then decide when you can afford/ need to have further front end components changed out. As for “parts from Toyota”, call a Car Quest store. They have always had all suspension parts for my S.O.'s '89 Corolla All-Trac.

Too late (maybe) for that, profhandy. I had the control arm brushings installed. The tires aren’t “wheel hopping” any longer, but now, there’s a distinct vibration that I can feel on the wheel when I’m stopped.

I had made an appointment at the Toyota dealer, which I didn’t cancel, in case this didn’t work out. I’m going to take it in on Wednesday and try and find out the cause of the vibration. I’ll ask them to check that the wheels are mounted correctly to the drum/hum, as well.

Sheesh…doesn’t anyone get anything right the first time around anymore?

The price isn’t high, control are bushings require a lot of labor to install. They don’t come out easy. They also don’t usually need to be replaced.

Wheel hop only occurs when the tire has a lot of power applied to it. With an 86 Camry, I don’t think you are having a wheel hop problem.

Since this problem started after the snow tires were installed, I’d be looking at those to be the source of your problem. Did you have new tires mounted on your rims or did you buy a second set of rims for the snow tires. If you got a second set of rims, then are they hub centric? That is does the center hole in the rim fit snugly over the hub, or is it larger than the hub. If its larger, then the lug nuts have to be tapered and individually centered before being torqued down, and the torque is more critical.