Notice that your rides are bumpier than usual? This could be why.

New England potholes can make roads a little rougher in the late winter and springtime. But, even going over the worst craters, your car should still have a controlled bounce, and recover your smooth ride once you’re back on flat terrain.

If this isn’t the case, you could have a major problem on your hands.

“Control arm” may not be a familiar term to all drivers but this small part plays an important role in your car’s suspension system. Also known as an A-arms, this part allows your tires to smoothly go up and down. This constant motion, however, makes control arms extremely prone to wear over time and, in some cases, may they eventually require replacement.

What are control arms?

Control arms connect the car’s suspension to the vehicle’s frame and regulate the motion of the car’s wheels so they stay in line with the car’s body. Vehicles typically have two to four control arms, depending on whether the vehicle’s suspension system has struts or shocks. Many of today’s cars only have control arms in the front suspension. Some vehicles have upper and lower controls arms, called a double wishbone suspension, in which the arms work parallel to each other; most cars today only come only with lower ones because of the way the strut assembly is designed.

The Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs of a failing ball joint or control arm bushings including:

  • A clicking, popping, or snapping sound when the wheel is turned. Eventually, the clicking and popping can turn into a squeaking sound at the end of a stop, when the gas pedal is used, or when turning the steering wheel.
  • A significant shift in the vehicle’s steering alignment, which may cause the steering to pull to the side. Constant correction is required to steer the vehicle straight.
  • Knocking or clunking noises coming from the suspension when going over bumps. The sound will continuously get louder as the component wears or eventually breaks.
  • A “shimmy” feeling or constant vibrations in the wheel. These vibrations may increase during acceleration and smooth out at higher speeds.
  • A sticking or difficult steering wheel, usually caused by dryness in the ball joints.

How will I know if there’s a problem?

It’s important to get a feel for how your vehicle handles so you can easily detect any changes in the handling– changes that could indicate a problem. Taking a quick “test drive” every couple of months will allow you to feel for problems on a wide range of driving conditions. Be sure to include cornering both left and right, hitting a few moderate bumps, and cruising on straight and level ground, both while braking and accelerating. These are all important factors to help you get a feel for any noises or performance issues related to the control arm assemblies. You can also visually inspect the control arm bushings for cracking, splitting, tears, missing parts, and oil saturation, or have a mechanic inspect them for you.

It’s best to have control arms, bushings, and ball joints inspected each time you go in for an oil change to ensure your suspension is safe and make any necessary repairs. If you notice any changes in handling, comfort, or appearance you should see your mechanic as soon as possible.

At V&F

Our expert mechanics use latest diagnostic equipment, and high-quality CARQUEST auto parts, to make sure we get the job done right. Plus, our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3 year / 36,000-mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.

Written by Nicole Palange

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