October 6

2018 Subaru Forester Control Arm Bushing



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. And we're talking cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So 2018 Subaru Forester that had a problem on the front end. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So the owner's complaint was that when the steering wheel was turned in say in a parking position, there's a crunching noise under the vehicle. And then when driving down the highway getting up to a certain speed, the steering wheel would start to shake and it's you know, pretty serious kind of issues.

Mark: Yeah, that does not sound good. So what kind of testing and diagnosis did you do? 

Bernie: Well, first of all, a road test. And we could definitely feel the concerns of the vehicle. So that's the first step. And then from there, it's a hoist inspection. We generally have a steering suspension driveline inspection that we do that kind of covers the whole gamut of things that could cause those type of issues. And so we did that inspection and that was basically our procedure.

Mark: What did you find? 

Bernie: It was interesting. The right lower control arm front bushing was worn out. And I say it was interesting because it's very unusual for this bushing to wear out. So a control arm is basically an arm that goes from the frame of the vehicle out to the wheel, to the steering knuckle. And that allows the wheel to bump, flex up and down. And a bushing is a metal and rubber piece. And the rubber is flexible. So it allows some flexibility and movement of this particular part. Otherwise you'd have a very rough riding car if you didn't have these particular parts.

So they usually use two bushings in these. There's a rear bushing, it has a vertical bolt and it's a very large sort of round donut. And those tend to wear out fairly frequently on a lot of cars, Subaru's included. And then there's the front bushing. Again, it depends on the car design and what year of model of Subaru, but the front bushing is basically more of a, the bolt is horizontal. It's a much more robust, tough bushing, very rarely ever wears. And for some reason, this one was completely worn out to the point of causing just an incredible amount of play. 

I've got pictures, a picture of the bushing, which I will show right here. I'm going to move my mouse pointer around, but this is the bushing here. This is the control arm unbolted from the vehicle. So there's the bolt that holds it to the frame of the vehicle goes right where I'm moving my mouse pointer here. 

2018 Subaru Forester Control Arm Bushing

And this item here that I'm moving, this sort of out of focus item is the control arm, one side of the control arm. And this rubber bushing, you can see like chunks of rubber here. But I was actually able with my hand to grab this metal insert on the inside and move it around. And of course, this is normally a completely solid piece. There's no way you can move this in any way by hand.

So it was completely wiped out. And unfortunately, I should have taken a video when it was on the car, but I didn't have a chance. So that's our piece. And the bushing basically is pressed into the control arm in this area. 

Mark: So how do you go about repairing a worn bushing like that? 

Bernie: Well, there's one of two ways. Depends on the car make and brand. Some cars, they sell just bushings. They do for Subarus. Other vehicles, you have to replace the whole control arm. And sometimes, even if you can just replace the bushing, sometimes it makes more sense to do the whole arm. Because the arm contains the ball joint and it contains the other bushing, which, you know, these parts have already worn to a certain degree. 

So when you replace the one piece, you're going, okay, well, the other pieces are fine right now, but who knows, a year or two down the road, maybe there'll be worn out and you have to change them again. So if you do the whole control arm, then you've got everything done at one time, but the cost is much higher. 

Mark: So with this not being that old of a vehicle, did it make more sense just to replace this bushing? 

Bernie: Well, in the case of this vehicle, we did just the bushing. And the reason we did that is the owner of this vehicle had like a third party warranty on the vehicle. And you know, I don't like using the word third party. It's not really a warranty. It's not an extended warranty. It's actually a breakdown insurance policy. 

So being a breakdown insurance company, which these are, you know, they don't want to spend any more money than they have to. So if you can buy a bushing, you replace the bushing. So that's what we did. They authorized, replace 1 bushing, which we did and fixed the problem. 

Mark: That covered the repair. Are these types of warranties, are they worth the cost? I guess it's just a gamble, whether something breaks on the car or not?

Bernie: It is exactly. And of course these companies wouldn't be in, if you look at a 10 year history, this company has been around for 10 years. Well, then, you know, they're making money on their warranties and they're in business. And that's a good thing because otherwise they wouldn't be.

But the question is, are they worth it? If you look at some old podcasts, we did probably like 8 or 10 years ago, I probably would have come under the opinion, don't buy them. They're kind of a waste of money for the most part, but I've kind of come to the conclusion that they're probably actually more worthwhile these days. But you have to read the fine print of the warranty and what's covered and how it works.

Don't just kick back and go, Oh, I just spent two or three or five thousand bucks on a warranty. I'm all covered. I can relax. It's not like that. And there's a lot of things they don't cover. There's very specific language on warranties. If it doesn't say control arm bushing, they won't fix the control arm bushing.

They're very specific about what they lay out. So if you're getting an extended third party warranty, it's really worth looking at the fine print and shopping around for the best value. Are they worth it? It depends on the car and ones that include electronics are probably a very good value because these kind of things can be very expensive to fix. And if you have one that, you know, say your engine blows and we've had vehicles that have had engines go and you can be very grateful to have that in those cases. 

Mark: So back to the bushing, does it take any specific specialized equipment to be able to replace this bushing? I guess it's a press fit into the control arm. 

Bernie: It's a press fit. So you need a hydraulic press to do it. I mean, to be honest, you could take a vice and a hammer and bash it in and bash it out. It's not a very good way to do it. We have actually a couple hydraulic presses. One that's really cool for doing these kind of things. It's actually a portable unit that's on a dolly and it has an arm that you can bend it and do certain angles. So it makes it easier to replace the bushing in the car. 

You don't have to take the whole arm right out of the vehicle most of the time, but, you know, there's always restrictions because there's things in the way, but this piece is really good. And, I mean, the nicest thing about buying this tool and kit when I saw it, I go, I got to buy this thing because it's awesome. It comes with, you know I think like press fit pressing pieces that they go from you know, this big in diameter to like this big. So you can press in a variety of things, bearings, bushings, all sorts of things.

And having all those sleeves, there's one is like one millimetre different from the other one, just makes the job so much easier and precise and proper. So yes, we have special equipment to do it. 

Mark: And how was the Subaru after you repaired everything? 

Bernie: It was good. Yeah, drove and felt fine. So it was good. Restored to normal. Let's say an interesting issue having this bushing worn and why it happened. I don't know, because we normally never see that particular bushing wire. 

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Subaru, the experts in Vancouver, BC, Canada are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website, pawlikautomotive.com. We happen to have about a thousand videos, not exaggerating, on all makes and models and types of cars on there, as well as on the YouTube channel. You can book your appointment right there on the website, or you can give them a call, (604) 327-7112. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks you Mark. Thanks for watching

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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