A control arm is essential to your car’s suspension system as it connects the wheels to the frame. Many vehicles only use lower control arms. These variously shaped bars help ensure a smooth drive as they work with the suspension system to minimize road bumps.
Naturally, everything has a life. When the lifespan of the control arm completes, you’ll notice some strange sounds coming from the wheels when the car moves. Typically, a control arm costs around 50 to 100 dollars; however, adding the labor cost doubles or triples the amount, and the total replacement costs sum to about 150 to 400$.
The final cost of replacing a control arm depends upon your vehicle's model, age, and suspension geometry. Most modern-day cars use the MacPherson suspension system, meaning there are only lower arms, so naturally, the overall replacement cost is less (around 400$, including labor).
However, the costs will go significantly higher if your vehicle has the Wishbone suspension or uses complex aftermarket modifications. Additionally, control arms for some cars are expensive themselves, excluding labor.
For instance, if you buy a BMW control arm, you are signing up for around 300$ replacement cost. In contrast, replacing a typical control arm costs around 40 to 150$.
According to a survey conducted by an automobile repair company, the minimal cost for replacing a lower control arm was around 578$. At the same time, the highest price noted during this survey was for Toyota Avalon control arms which were 2,286 dollars.
Remember, replacing both control arms in a single go is not mandatory. You can fix the more troubling one before and the other later. The cost for a single lower control arm is around 120 dollars.
The price estimates stated above are final. They can differ significantly. However, the cost varies depending on several factors. Here is a quick review of those factors; you should not forget to consider them.
Control arms are a part of the suspension system. Hence, the deployed suspension mechanism ultimately determines the final cost. Many vehicles use the MacPherson suspension with minor modifications; therefore, the control arms are interchangeable.
So, if you are fortunate, you may find a reasonably priced control arm, but it will require more market searching. As an approximation of market prices, the control arms of Toyota cost as cheap as 15$, while a Chevvy arm control is around 100$, and one for BMW is likely somewhere over 250$.
Most automobile manufacturers introduce upgrades to their products. If you have a relatively new car model, an upgraded version of the control arms may be available in the market. Logically, it will be more expensive.
Alternatively, you may prefer to change the factory-provided control arms with a more suitable substitute. For instance, fluid-filled bushings have less lifespan compared to rubber bushings. Hence, users using fluid-filled bushings go for the rubber ones because they are both economical and reliable.
Next comes the labor cost. The labor costs vary from car to car. Usually, it takes around an hour or two to replace the control arms. However, not all control arms have the same accessibility. Resultantly, the service time increases.
The MacPherson suspension control arms are easily accessible, and since they are present in every other car, mechanics usually take less time to complete the replacement. However, if your vehicle uses a relatively complex suspension system, it will require more labor.
Hence, generalizing the reasons mentioned above, the standard labor cost for control arm replacement is around 100 to 250 dollars or above, depending upon the complexity and time required. Additionally, experienced mechanics also have higher hourly charges.
It's best to reserve a budget according to 300$ per hour if you have a complex suspension system. However, the standard lower arms replacement will have a labor cost of 100$ approximately.
Replacing the ball joints and bushings usually works for older models. In contrast, newer control arms have incorporated bushings and ball joints. So, before you purchase anything, ensure that your car uses a kind of control arm with serviceable components. The cost also varies if you are replacing the control arms in pairs.
The best practice is to replace the control arms in pairs, as it saves you from frequent trips to the garage and increases drive quality. However, replacing the control arms in pairs may take the final bill beyond your budget's limits. Hence, it depends on your preference and budget whether you want to go with a pair replacement.
Immediate pair replacement of control arms is unnecessary; you can change them with some time gap. However, completely neglecting it may cause problems.
As you know, the control arms have two functional parts, the bushings and the ball joints. Considering the individual replacement for each piece may also help when you are tight on budget.
There are different kinds of bushing available. Some common materials used in bushings are rubber, PU, and Aluminum. Rubber bushing is the most common because they provide the highest ride comfort. On the downside, rubber is a soft material and wears quickly. Of course, it lasts for years but compared to other bushings; it has a shorter life.
The other bushings are PU (Polyurethane) ones. These bushings have a lower compact absorption capacity but last longer than rubber. You may use them occasionally in a vehicle, as they are not comfortable for everyday rides.
Lastly, there are the Aluminum bushings. Sometimes you are not researching control arm replacements for your everyday car. Instead, you are making a track monster. Here, the Aluminum bushing does the job. They have zero flexibility absorption capacity and increased lifetime.
The rubber bushings are the cheapest and mostly cost around 15 to 20$. While the PU bushings cost around 50$, and the aluminum ones are the most expensive, costing about 200 to 300$. Then, there is the labor cost.
Since replacing the bushing requires disassembling the entire control arm, it requires more time. Therefore, the average labor costs fall around 100 to 300 dollars. Hence, combining the labor and the bushing costs, the total replacement costs vary significantly.
For replacement detailed info, please refer to How to replace control arm bushings
Control arms use ball joints to connect to wheel hubs. If the inspection reveals that the ball joint is causing an issue, you can safely replace it without making an expense for replacing the entire control arm.
Generally, ball joint replacement costs around 200 to 300$, including labor. The labor cost is about 150 to 200$, and the ball joints also cost about the same.
No one can understand the issue in control arms unseeingly. Some evident symptoms below will help you identify a bad control arm and schedule a replacement.
For more, please refer to What does a rear control arm do, What is the lower control arm in a car, and What is a faulty lower control arm on a car
The first symptom of a bad control arm is the steering wheel vibrations. The front control arms are directly linked to the steering wheel. Therefore, worn-out bushing or ball joints shake the wheels, and the vibrations travel up to the steering.
Vibrations are mostly seen off as the unevenness of the road. However, these tend to be more challenging as the acceleration increases. Therefore, it is advisable to get them checked as soon as possible.
Ball joints control the wheel movements. However, when they wear out, the tires move in an unrhythmic fashion which causes uneven wearing. An evident thickness difference in the tires results from worn-out bushings or ball joints of the control arm.
Wandering steering is also a symptom of an inadequate control arm. Flawed control arms fail to control the wheel motion, and they stray right or left, wobbling the steering.
A wobbly steering wheel is hazardous; the moment the driver loosens his grip on the wheel, the car sways from its line.
Noises usually say a lot about your car’s suspension system. If you notice a metallic squealing sound when you turn the car wheel, it is a sure sign the control arm needs a replacement.
If you notice the above symptoms in your car, take it to a garage for inspection. Bad control arms cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, leading to severe road accidents.
Control arms are the binding force of your car's suspension system. They ensure balance and synchronized wheel movements. Bad control arms significantly affect the ride quality as the driver loses control of the vehicle.
Replacing control arms is nothing negotiable; however, the costs may be. Conventionally, replacement costs for control arms, including labor charges, range from 150 to 400$. However, other things like suspension accessibility, complexity, and component cost may alter the final bill.
Bad control arms are extremely dangerous. It's like driving a runaway vehicle. New drivers must avoid driving a car with lousy control arms because keeping the steering wheel straight is challenging.