Control Arms - Rear

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Control Arms - Rear
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Control Arms - Rear at 1A Auto

What is a rear control arm and where is it located?

Your vehicle's front and rear control arms play a major role in your car or truck’s suspension system. Generally speaking, a vehicle’s control arms act as the pivot point between the wheels to the road and springs, or struts to the frame or unibody of the vehicle. They keep the up and down motion of the vehicle’s wheels in relation to its body synchronized while holding the knuckles, spindles, and axles firmly onto the vehicle. Rear control arms, like those located in the front, work in tandem with bushings which are used to reduce friction and prevent any contact between the components which could prove to be damaging. In a nutshell, front and rear control arms hold everything together and help you maintain control of your car or truck so that it isn’t wandering all over the place. As a result, you are able to drive your vehicle smoothly without feeling like you are about to be sick from the dizzying movement.

The number, type and location of control arms on a vehicle vary greatly and are dependent on the type of suspension system the car is equipped with. A vehicle with independent rear suspension may have upper and lower control arms tucked behind each wheel, which are commonly referred to as "A-Arms". A vehicle with a MacPherson strut style suspension system in the rear would only use lower control arms because the strut essentially takes the place of the upper control arms. In terms of construction, a rear control arm can be made out of stamped steel, cast iron or aluminum and each material brings with it its own set of pros and cons. For an in-depth explanation of the various control arm setups that are possible on a vehicle and the different materials that they are made of, check out our control arms guide.

When is a rear control arm replacement needed?

The rear control arms, like all control arms in general, are always being subjected to significant day to day abuse whether in an off-road terrain environment, or just bad road conditions on your daily commute. The bushings that are attached to ends of the rear control arms can wear out or become loose. This is the most common reason for rear control arm replacement because this can cause excessive tire wear, popping or creaking in the suspension system, extra play in the steering system, and can pose a serious safety concern for you as well for others around you.

Although it is possible to replace the ball joint or the bushings themselves when they go bad, this can be difficult.  Replacing a ball joint, for example, may require specialty tools to press the ball joint to the control arm.  Since you will already need to remove the control arm to replace a ball joint or the bushings, you may as well replace the entire control arm.  

The rear control arms themselves can also get bent over time, either from an accident or possibly from a tow job gone bad. All of these are great reasons to replace a rear control arm.

Can I replace the rear control arm myself?

Rear control arm removal usually requires a number of sockets and ratchets, jack and jack stands, penetrating oil, hammer, and a torque wrench. It's recommended to follow a guide during the process, as the repair can vary from vehicle to vehicle.

The first step is to jack up the vehicle and secure it on jack stands. If you don't have the luxury of air tools, then you want to loosen the lug nuts on the wheel while the vehicle is on the ground, jack up the vehicle, and then remove the lug nuts and the wheel the rest of the way.

Usually the nut connected to the bushing needs to be removed first. Sometimes you will have to remove a castle nut and retaining pin from the ball joint depending on the control arm. Air tools can be extremely useful with this type of repair, especially if you're from the Northeast and have to deal with rusty nuts and bolts. If you don't have air tools, use one ratchet to hold the mounting bolt in place and use another to loosen off the nut from the control arm. A lot of rust penetrant and a bit of hammering may be needed to get the control arm off. Reinstallation is just a reversal of the procedure. Once the new control arm is in place, torque the bolts to the recommended specifications for your vehicle. Also, after completeing the repair, we recommend an alignment.

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