When Should You Replace Your Suspension Bushings?
Save cash and hassle by swapping out bad bushings as soon as possible.
Manuel Carrillo III | Capital One
Suspension bushings are a key component of every vehicle, but because they are hidden under the chassis, it's easy to forget they're there. Replacing worn bushings has important safety and performance implications and can even save you cash on having to replace tires or other components that have been damaged because of bushings that are worn out.
Here's how suspension bushings work and when they should be replaced.
Suspension Bushings Are an Important Part of Your Vehicle
Both a vehicle's chassis and its primary suspension components — springs, control arms, rods, etc. — are made of metal. These components are often in motion in relation to each other. A bushing connects and allows for movement between suspension parts while protecting them from the negative effects of friction.
Bushings also serve to insulate the rest of the vehicle from the vibrations associated with this motion. Typically, bushings are made of metal that is coated in rubber, which is a good insulator that is able to flex under load without being damaged.
When a Suspension Bushing Wears Out, You Can Usually Tell
Rubber is strong, but it doesn't last forever. Over time, exposure to heat, road salt, aggressive driving, and moisture can weaken the rubber in a bushing. A weak bushing is more prone to tear, and once it has been compromised, it doesn't take long for its overall performance to suffer.
Some bushings are also filled with liquid to further absorb vibrations. Should that fluid escape through a tear, the bushing will not provide the same level of insulation.
A worn-out bushing is usually easy to detect from behind the wheel. If your vehicle's suspension is noisier, especially when driving over bumps or rough roads, that metal-on-metal sound is a good indication that a bushing has gone bad.
Other symptoms include unusual wheel movements while braking or accelerating or steering that won't stay straight. Uneven wear on a vehicle's tires can also indicate a problem with bushings, as the suspension can no longer stay in alignment due to the worn rubber.
Suspension Bushings Wear Out Depending on Use, Not Mileage
Unlike many other components that wear out on a car, there is no set mileage interval for replacing suspension bushings. Since worn-out rubber is the most common reason for a bad bushing, driving style and driving environment play the greatest role in how long they last. Someone who regularly pushes their vehicle to the limit (stressing out the bushings) or who drives in difficult conditions (rough roads and salt) will experience a shorter bushing lifespan.
If a vehicle displays any of the warning behavior described, it is definitely time to have its bushings inspected and potentially replaced. Don't risk poor handling, braking, and steering just to save a few bucks and push the problem further down the road.
For many vehicles there are aftermarket replacement options that run the gamut in price from inexpensive rubber bushings to premium bushings made of more robust materials.
If you find yourself regularly dealing with bushings that wear out quickly, switching to polyurethane bushings can offer a stronger, longer-lasting alternative. These types of bushings come with a major caveat: The material is much stiffer than rubber and will transmit more vibration (and potentially noise) into the cabin.