Car bushings are small rubber or polyurethane suspension components that are used to isolate vibration, provide cushioning, and reduce friction between metal parts on your vehicle. The most common car bushings are control arm bushings (also known as A-arm bushings or wishbone bushings) as well as sway bar bushings, but you will also find bushings positioned between your vehicle’s suspension and frame in several other areas.
Bushings are an important part of your car. They are commonly called as “bush” by most mechanics. Bushings are cushions made of rubber, polyurethane (often shortened to “poly” or “urethane”) or of other materials. They are mounted on car suspension and steering joints for absorbing road bumps, control the amount of movement in the joints and reduce noise and vibration. Bushings usually take the form of fat, rubbery washers through which suspension components or the bolts that attach them pass.
On any of the cars, bushes are found wherever there is a joint in the suspension. Bushings cushion movement between two solid parts, helping to absorb shocks and vibration. This limits noise and helps to lead to a smoother ride.
Although there are different types of bushes in the suspension system, some of the more commonly replaced ones are wishbone and control arm bushes, anti-roll bar drop links, anti-roll bar bushes and shock absorber bushes and mounts.
Symptoms of Bad bushings
Here are some examples of classic symptoms of bad bushings and why they occur-
1. Metal wear down
Some car parts that are made of metals as well as worn down suspension bushes can result in metal-to-metal contact of suspension parts. This contact can cause stress to these parts and cause them to wear down too. The parts that can be damaged tend to be more expensive and harder to replace than the suspension bushes, which is why it is so important to replace them as soon as you realize they are worn out.
2. Lack of control in steering
When the bushings are worn out, drivers might experience a lack of control in steering, as well as a bumpy ride. Controlling and breaking is an important part of any vehicle, and so suspension bushes need to be working to maximum efficiency. “When bushings wear out, the driver might feel funny noises from the front of the vehicle or hear clunking or rattling noises on rough roads, when turning the wheel or in hard braking. Drivers might also experience poor handling or loose steering,” he says.
3. Abnormal Creaking and Clunking Noise
Worn suspension bushes can also cause abnormal creaking and clunking noises while driving. Suspension bushes that are no longer able to carry out their function properly can result in parts clunking together when they should not be or can result in a stiff movement that results in creaking.
He adds that failure of rear suspension bushings may be harder to detect as they do not involve the steering system and might be less affected by cornering.
4. Premature Tire Wear
Like bone-on-bone contact, worn bushings can allow metal-on-metal contact. Worn control arm bushings can make the vehicle’s front end to slip out of alignment and once a car is out of alignment, one of the very first indications is premature tire wear.
“What feels or sounds like worn shocks or ball joints, or another suspension problem, might not be the fault of the part itself but the bushing that cushions joints and mounting points. A thorough suspension bushing inspection will reveal the culprit. For example, a loose stabilizer bar will allow more body lean (and perhaps noise) in turns, but if the bar is not bent or broken, only the bushings need a replacement.
Dried out bushings can also be a source of squeaks. Initially, older cars had grease fittings which require regular lubrication along with oil changes while the more modern “permanently lubricated” bushings in today’s cars have simplified regular maintenance.
The downside is that they are not always permanent and once a bushing of this metal-encased design dries out, it may have to be replaced entirely to solve the squeaking.
How to Replace Bushings
A) Removing the Control Arm
Step 1- Put on your protective eyewear and gloves.
Safety comes first whenever you are working on a car. Ensure your eyes and hands are protected from any sharp debris or rust that can come from worn parts.
Step 2- Remove the wheel.
If you’ve never removed a wheel before, the easiest method for using a jack is to raise the car, then place the tire iron on the lug nut, turning it counter-clockwise until the lug nut comes off. Repeat this on all of the lug nuts, and then use both arms for pulling off the wheel from the car.
Step 3- Locate the ball joint and release it using a large (20-24mm) wrench.
• The ball joint helps to connect the control arm that you’ll be removing to the steering knuckle. It looks like a circular bearing in a socket which is a bit like the joint of the human hip.
• Release the cotter pin and loosen the ball joint nut with the help of your wrench. You can then use a hammer for striking the spindle and release the taper fit, completely disconnecting the ball joint.
Step 4- Release the sway bar link using a 14-15mm wrench.
• This link connects the control arm containing the bushing to the sway bar, so you’ll have to remove it. Utilize the wrench to loosen and remove the link completely.
• You might also have to strike the connection with a hammer to release the taper fit, depending on what kind of car you have. If the link does not come off after loosening, try striking it with the help of a hammer.
Step 5- Use a 19-22mm wrench to loosen and remove the control mounting bolts.
• The bolts might have a nut on the opposite side which will need to be secured with another wrench before removal. Make sure the wrench is secure on the bolt before loosening it in order to avoid rounding the bolt, as it will likely be very tight.
• After the bolts are removed, the arm joint will likely be less stable, so you need to hold it in position as you are removing the second bolt
Step 6- Pull on the lower control arm to remove it.
If the arm is still in the mounts, just pull it towards you while slightly wiggling it up and down to remove it completely and freely access the bushing.
B) Replacing the Bushing
Step 1- Mark the orientation of the bushing.
The bushing has two places where the rubber casing attaches to the outer metal ring. Mark these two places with the help of a permanent marker on the control arm. This will help you replace the bushing in the right direction.
Step 2- Remove the bushing with a hydraulic press.
• This is the simplest way to remove the bushing. Put the bushing part of the arm into the hydraulic press and activate the press. Listen closely as there will be a popping noise when the bushing moves, and the arm will become loose when the bushing is completely out.
• Be careful not to damage the control arm through applying too much pressure with the press.
Step 3- Use a threaded press to remove the bushing.
• This is a less effective method than a hydraulic press but can still remove the bushing with the help of some force. A ball joint press, or threaded press, will have a cup that is equal to the size of the bushing.
• Set up a driver that has the same diameter as the outer shell of the bushing, and utilize a wrench to operate the screw-jack to push the bushing out of the control arm.
Step 4- Remove the bushing manually through striking it out with a hammer.
• This is the most difficult and least effective method to remove the bushing, but if you do not have a hydraulic or threaded press, it will work with some patience. Be careful not to hit the control arm, focusing each strike on the bushing till it flattens enough to be slid out.
• You will be needing a hydraulic press to install the new bushing, so you might be better off waiting until you have access to one
Step 5- Push out the excess rubber using a socket.
• You will be able to do this by hand without any problem. You’ll be needing to remove the rubber before you can install the new bushing. Utilize a socket that fits into the bushing, and push the rubber out.
• If the rubber is stuck, just try separating it from the sides of the control arm using a flathead screwdriver.
Step 6- Place the new bushing in the control arm.
• Ensure it’s facing the same direction as the previous bushing, using the flex part of the bushing as the point of reference. It might be a snug fit, so you will have to press a bit to get it into the control arm.
• Don’t apply lubrication to the bushing to get it into the arm, as this can make it slide out while it is in use
Step 7- Use a hydraulic press to secure the new bushing.
You will be needing access to a hydraulic press to replace the new bushing. Simply place the control arm on the press and activate it, ensuring the arm stays in place to prevent it from mis-aligning the bushing.
C) Reinstalling the Control Arm
Step 1- Slide the control arm back into the mounts.
You might have to move the arm up and down while pushing. Be careful to align the bolt holes while you’re working.
Step 2- Replace the bolts by hand.
Place the bolts and tighten them slightly with the help of hand, but not all the way, to avoid cross-threading. You will further need to tighten them with a wrench after you have inserted and tightened the ball joint.
Step 3- Tighten the ball joint.
Put the bolt into the control arm and tighten the nut. You can then go back and tighten the rest of the control arm bolts properly.
Step 4- Reinstall the sway bar link and nut.
Change the sway bar link into the control arm and tighten the nut.
Step 5- Insert and tighten the mounting bolt.
Generally, there will be a specific torque that the manufacturer requires this bolt to be tightened to. This ranges from 66-75 foot pounds, and you should be using a socket and extension to do this.
Step 6- Replace the lower ball joint castle nut and cotter pin.
Tighten the lower ball joint castle nut with the socket and extension. Reinsert the cotter pin into the holes which are aligned by the ball joint.
Step 7- Reinstall the wheel onto the car.
Place the wheel back up onto the control arms, and replace and tighten all the lug nuts with a tire iron. When you can’t move the tire, iron stops turning easily and the lug nuts are securely fastened.