Worn bushings

I just had my lower control arms replaced due to bad bushings, however the only thing/way I could tell that there was an issue was a kind of clunking sound I would hear from time to time when I would start or if I hit a bump a certain way. There was no vibraton in the steering or anything drviablity wise that gave me any indication. My friend says you should have felt something in the steering or handling wise that they “actually” needed to be replaced. Is this true? What are ways via driving can you tell the bushings are going bad, and or when they need to be replaced or to what extent they are bad.

Usually you get clunks and deteriorated handling that you may or may not have noticed.

If the clunking sound disappeared after the bushings were replaced, what more proof does your friend need that the old bushings were worn?

At this point I have only been able to replace the passanger side, so I still have the random clunking coming from the driver side. My friend states that while they may be “deteroating” that just a clunking sound doesn’t mean serious failure and that when they “really” need to be replaced is when handling issues begin to surface. Me personally try to fix things before it gets bad, but he says I could have another year or so or safe driving under what he hears from riding in my car. When I got the one side replaced the mechanic said they were in worn condition and replacment was wise but that he has seen much worse.

There are two questions you haven’t really answered:

  1. Where is the noise actually coming from? It could be the control arm bushings, the sway bar bushings, or some other suspension components. Has someone actually traced the clunks to the control arm bushings?

  2. An occasional clunk sound from a bad bushing is probably not going to kill you. So the question is, how long can you drive your car around with it making a clunking sound before it drives you crazy?

Yes, if the handling was bad, that would be a safety issue, and you should definitely get it fixed. Until then, if it’s only an occasional clunking sound, it’s up to you how long you want to endure the clunking before you give up and fix it. If it were me, I’d do it now anyway.

The mechanic said the bushings were worn and it was wise to replace them. What more do you need and why listen to the friend.

Worn bushings, rod ends, and ball joints cause clunking noises. The last 2 are dagerous and need replacing.

Couple of things, I have had the car checked by two places, the second being the place that replaced the lower control arm on the passenger side who said while worn, the bushings were what was causing the problem. My friend believes that most mechanics and such are just looking to make a buck on something that doesn’t really need to be repaired or it’s never as bad as they say it is. HE states that something like a bad bushing, if really bad would cause handling problems such as a vibration in the steering wheel, a swever if you let go of the steering wheel and such and the limited knocking sound, which he also hears means they are just getting old and there isn’t a huge rush to replace them. I have the one side done cause the knock sound drives me crazy, as soon as I can get the $237 needed I will replace the other side.

But I am just trying to obtain info to show him from those who work on cars and have knowledge but no financial stake in it.

The tie rods are fine, they are new and were replaced in December prior to me buying the car, the ball joints look good from what both mechanics say.

Well, it depends on how good your shop’s diagnosis was. If they’re just guessing, another $237 control arm won’t fix the problem. If they’re right, it will.

Unfortunately, many mechanics make educated guesses rather than taking the time to make a correct diagnosis, and an occasional “clunk” sound is difficult to pin down. I fear you will soon be out another $237 without having eliminated the “clunk” sound.

When control arm bushings wear out, it is nearly impossible to have good wheel alignment. Even if a shop does an alignment, it will be out as soon as the control arm moves. As a result, tire wear will be uneven and accelerated. In fact a good alignment facility will check the suspension for loose parts before even attempting an alignment. This is done by unloading the joints and checking them for unrestrained motion i.e. slop.

Handling may not be affected under normal conditions but may be erratic and dangerous under emergency conditions when the bushings have to hold the contol arm(s) while the force changes directions as in a quick lane change.

“you should have felt something in the steering or handling wise”

People vary WIDELY in their ability to “feel” their car’s ride and handling. An internal GM study showed people varied linearly from a complete dead-rear to drive-over-a-quarter-and-tell-if-it-is-heads-up-or-down in sensitivity.

That’s been my personal experience, too. My father was in the dead-rear category. I’d get in or drive his car and tell him all the stuff he needs to fix - NOW - before it falls off the car.

The noise isn’t really arguable, now is it? It shouldn’t be there, so something is wrong. What? The mechanic says bad bushings, we here agree based on what you’ve told us. Maybe your friend is like my dad, fix it when it falls off the car. Don’t listen to him, just smile and fix your car anyway.


No offense to your friend . . . but he’s getting you all worked up, and it’s not doing either of you any good

did the mechanic show you the old and worn out bushings on the old control arm

If so, you should show them to your friend

often, when the old bushings are on the bench, it’s even more obvious they were rotten, versus installed on the vehicle

You can’t make any blanket statements, that ALL bad bushings will make noise ALL of the time

Tell your friend to stop his job, and turn wrenches for a living

Some of what he was so sure about, will quickly change, once he figures out how things really work

B/c otherwise the ride would be terrible, you’d feel every rock in the road, the wheel hub ass’y isn’t bolted directly to the frame of the car. Instead it is attached to the frame only gingerly, using a spring and shock absorber design of some kind. That’s a good thing. But the problem is, something has to hold the wheel more or less vertical and on track, otherwise it would just flop around. Which wouldn’t be good.

And part of what holds the wheel in the correct alignment is the control arm, once end of which is usually attached to the frame via a bushing. The other end is often a ball joint gadget. The bushing operates similar to — well, you know how your kitchen faucet can turn side to side by pushing it ?-- like that. It’s not a bearing in other words, but just two surfaces , one is bolted to the frame, and the other swings around it, with a plastic bushing in between. With the faucet the bushing is usually an o-ring. With cars, its the same idea, only the bushing is more sturdy.

So think what would happen if your kitchen faucet’s o -ring was loose. It would leak of course, but even if the water wasn’t turned on, so no leak, when you moved the faucet arm left and right you’d feel some play, maybe hear some metal on metal noise, a click or a clunk. And that’s the same type of noise you’d hear if your car’s suspension bushing fails and you go over a bump. So that’s usually the first symptom, some kind of click or clunk noise going over bumps, or when turning or stopping or accelerating. But it is possible to get some vibrations and other effects too, esp if the bushing problem is allowed to continue without repair.

Comparing vehicle suspension to a kitchen faucet - now why didn’t I think of that .

I’ve seen plenty of worn out and rotten bushings, and the driver claimed to hear no abnormal noises, and also claimed to not feel any difference in handling

Yet, after the bushings were replaced, they were amazed how quiet the car was, and how well it handled

In spite of the fact, that they were convinced everything wasn’t so bad, with the old bushings

The “real world” is often quite different, than what your friends tell you, or what you see on youtube, for example

Just like the notion that misfires always generate a misfire fault code and illuminate the check engine light

Just like the notion that a dirty/bad cat will always result in P0420

That last example may seem like a cruel joke . . . to those poor guys that NEVER had a P0420, and passed the plug-in portion of the test with flying colors, yet failed the tailpipe test. Because the cat just wasn’t good enough to pass

But it’s not a cruel joke . . . it’s reality, in some cases

Upon removal of the passagner side lower control arm the mechanic brought me out and showed it to me. He commented that the bairing looked still in good condition but the bushing not so much and showed it to me and where the degration of the seal and rubber was occuring. There was also another item, I can’t remember on the lower control arm that needed to be replaced on it (only cost $12 for that part). He said the bushings were in poor condition but not anywhere near the worse he had seen. My friend believes that when something like bushings have totally gone you will feel it in the car’s handling and only then do you replace them as it can take “years” for those to totally to go.

Personally it drives me crazy hearing that random klunk sound on the driver side that I have yet to replace and hope to have done within the next month.


As I said before, you need to stop getting car advice from your friend

Waiting until the control arm bushing rubber is 100% gone is not a recommended practice

By that time, the car’s handling may be dangerously affected

Is there any chance that your friend is a naturally pessimistic person, or maybe a guy who doubts anything that is told to him, or maybe he’s just a cheapskate

Or maybe all of the above?

That additional $12 part may have been the lower ball joint. On some vehicles, it attaches with 2 or 3 bolts, and it’s a cheap and easy repair

The plastic or rubber bushing serves an economic purpose to the car owner too. It wears out first, rather than the control arm wearing out. As long as the bushing is replaced before metal starts meeting metal, it’s a much less expensive repair.

I dpoubt that it was a ball joint for only $12. I think it may have been a stabilizer link.



Some of those cheap chinese-made bolt-on ball joints are dirt cheap

I would never buy a $12 ball joint for myself . . . because I would expect it to be low quality

Same as a $12 sway bar link

Now, a $12 sway bar bushing is probably acceptable quality