Control arms : Important suspension parts

They are the core of your front suspension system. Simply explained, control arms are the link that connects your front wheel to your vehicle. One end connects to the wheel assembly and the other end connects to the framework of your vehicle.
The purpose of control arms, bushings, and ball joints:
These are critical components of your vehicle’s suspension system that allow your tires to smoothly go up and down in a controlled fashion. Without them, your ride probably wouldn’t be very enjoyable.

Most vehicles either use one or two control arms per wheel, on the both front and rear suspension. Many front-wheel drive vehicles only use a lower control arm, while trucks and SUV’s often have both upper and lower control arms. A control arm connects the wheel hub and steering knuckle to the frame of the vehicle. They are typically equipped with bushings on the frame side of the vehicle and a ball joint on the wheel side of the vehicle that allow flex and controlled movement according to the road conditions and steering input of the driver. Control arms allow wheels to move up and down while preventing forward and rearward movement.

Control arm bushings usually consist of an outer metal sleeve, a durable rubber or polyurethane bushing, and inner metal sleeve. These bushings are important for driving comfort and handling. They cushion the suspension system which in turn controls noise and vibrations, and also provide a softer ride over bumps. Bushings can flex and move while retaining stiffness and the ability to return to their original shape and position. Bushings have similar function to cartilage in joints of the body. Damage cartilage can cause bone on bone contact and so can damage bushings cause metal on metal contact, tyre wear, discomfort, noises and vibrations.

There are two kind of ball joints- it is classified as either load-carrying or follower types, and their position in the suspension varies depending on the suspension design. Load-carrying ball joints are designed to support the weight of the vehicle while providing a pivot point for the steering system. Follower ball joints are designed to maintain precise dimensional tolerance as well as a pivot point for the steering system. Like the ball and socket joint that connects and holds your leg bone to your hip bone, a ball joint connects and holds the front suspension of your vehicle together.

Damage or worn control arms:
Over time, the bushings or ball joints on the control arm wear out and can cause all sorts of problems.
Symptoms of a problematic control arm assembly:
1. Steering wheel vibration- If the bushes or ball joints becomes excessively worn it can cause wheel shimmy, which may cause vibrations that can be felt in the wheel. The vibrations may increase as you accelerate and smoothen out once you are traveling at speed.

2. Steering wandering- Worn ball joints or bushings can cause the vehicle’s steering alignment to shift, which may cause the steering to pull to the left or right when driving.

3. Clunking noises- If the bushings or ball joints develop excessive play or looseness, this can cause them to knock during take-off, or when the vehicle is traveling over rough terrain. The clunking sound will continuously get louder as the component wears or until it eventually breaks.

The control arms on a vehicle are very important suspension components. For this reason, if you suspect that your vehicle’s control arms may be bad or worn, have the vehicle’s suspension inspected by a professional technician here at V.A.G Spec Centre Zeerust!

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