How To Replace A Control Arm Bushing
All cars have wear items. These are sacrificial lambs that take the abuse of road driving so that the main components don’t have to. Many of these come in the form of bushings or joints. The suspension is where most folks find themselves dealing with these wear items. While technology has vastly improved the life of these components, they still need to be replaced eventually. By the time your vehicle hits the 100-120k mile range, the clock is ticking pretty fast on the usable life most of your suspension bushings and joints. Even if you don’t do this job yourself, being educated on how to replace a control arm bushing will help you better understand what your mechanic is actually doing.
Replacing these items is a fairly straight forward process, but there are some tips and tricks to help you get it done quickly. There are several methods to get this task completed, and we will discuss each of them here. First, we must talk about the bushings themselves. A bushing like those used in suspension control arms, consist of three components – outer shell, rubber or polyurethane bushing, and the inner sleeve. The rubber is what breaks down, though the shell and sleeve often rust, making them harder to remove. Removal and installation really just involves the outer shell, as this is the part that actually mates to the control arm. This is important to note, as you can remove the center bits without actually removing the shell.
Manual Removal Method
This is the hardest method of removing control arm bushings there is, but it is also the one that gets used the most by non-professionals. Basically, you place the arm in a vise or just hold on the ground and you beat the control arm bushing with a hammer. It doesn’t work well and can easily damage the arm itself.
The work-around on this method is to use an air-hammer and chisel the edges of the shell, driving a series of wedges around the shell. This will shrink the shell enough to allow you to drive the shell out of the arm without damaging the arm.
Manual Threaded Press Method
The second method is the easiest option for DIY builders without a full-size press. The beauty of this is the fact that you can use a tool to make it happen. You need a ball joint press and the assorted cups and possible a socket to match the outer shell of the control arm bushing.
Simply set up the press with a large cup on the arm that is large enough to accept the outer shell. Select a driver that matches the diameter of the outer shell for the inside of the control arm bushing (where you will be pressing it out), and slowly drive the control arm bushing out. Reverse the operation to install the new bushing.
Hydraulic Press Method
This is the easiest and fastest method to removing and installing control arm bushings. The same basic steps from the threaded press are utilized to perform this operation.
The key to all of these processes are ensuring that the control arm is not damaged, especially on stamped steel arms that can be crushed if your drive cup hits the edges of the arm and not the outer shell. There are some bushings that require reusing the outer shell, make sure you know which type you have before you start working on it. The labor it takes to replace a control arm bushing can be a chore, but with the right tools you should be done in no time. As always, when in doubt, visit the experts at your local NAPA AutoCare Center if you aren’t comfortable doing this job.
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