How to Make Sure That Your Vehicle's Control Arm Remains in Control


To make sure that you can manoeuvre your car or truck properly and it can cope with different, undulating conditions, engineers have fitted a variety of connecting parts and flexible components. These pieces are designed to move, pivot, compress or expand as the vehicle moves from point to point and give you as smooth a ride as possible. However, sometimes some of these parts will wear out and cause tell-tale signs before they fail. How will you know if problems are on the way with the steering control arm in particular?

Making Things Work

Your vehicle will probably be equipped with a steering rack attached to the steering wheel and column. When you turn that steering wheel, it will automatically move the road wheels in one direction or another. However, this entire structure needs to be supported and fixed to the underframe of the vehicle, and this is the job of components like the control arm.

Understanding the Control Arm

Control arms come in many different types and sizes. Often, they look like an inverted "A," with one point fixed to the steering mechanism and the other points bolted to the chassis. Where each of these points is fixed, engineers have added a flexible rubber device to cope with vibration, undulation and movement. There will be solid rubber bushings at the chassis end, while at the steering hub end, you will typically find a multidirectional ball joint.

Maximum Demand

This setup sounds complicated, and it needs to be to take into account the forces at work. For example, when you drive around the corner at speed on a loose surface road, the road wheel will move in a multitude of different directions in a very short space of time. The bushings and ball joints have to be able to cope with this demand to give you as smooth a ride as possible.

Wearing Down

With time, some of these components will degrade. The bushings may begin to perish and crack, but the ball joint is even more vulnerable. Dirt and moisture can enter through the protective boot, while grease can leak out from within the sealed unit. When this happens, the ball joint will not be able to cope with those demanding conditions, and you'll certainly notice that something is wrong.

Tell-Tale Signs

The first sign will probably be a strange tapping noise whenever you decrease or increase your speed or drive over undulations. The steering may feel a little "loose" as well, and the vehicle may appear to wander to one side or the other even when you make corrections to the steering wheel. You may also notice vibration through the column and uneven tyre wear.

Maintaining Control

To make sure that your control arm really stays in control, take the vehicle to a mechanic at the first signs of a problem. They will repair the bushings, ball joints or other components and get you on your way again.

Contact an auto repair shop near you for more information. 


12 January 2022

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