Don't worry, we're not getting into gardening. This article deals with the various suspension bushes found in any car. Bushes are also referred to as 'rubbers' or 'bushings' depending on who you're talking to. They're crucial and well worth investing in replacements if you want your car to drive at its best. Do your bushes need replacing?
What are suspension bushes?
You'll find bushes on your car anywhere there's a joint in the suspension. They cushion movement between two solid parts, helping absorb shocks and vibration. This limits road noise and makes for a smoother ride. There are all kinds of different bushes in the suspension system, some of the more commonly replaced ones are Wishbone and control arm bushes, anti-roll bar drop links, anti roll bar bushes and shock absorber bushes & mounts.Suspension bushes are designed to flex to build ride compliancy into the suspension. This built-in flex can aid certain features such as passive rear-wheel steering. The bushes are usually made of rubber or a metal/rubber combination. These are often known as metalastic bushes. Much firmer polyurethane bushes are also popular with keen drivers as they can have handling benefits. You'll find bushes all around your car. From the anti-roll bars to the steering control arms, ball joints and even the mounts for the dampers and suspension turrets. Over time and with mileage, bushes will wear out. When bushes wear, excess play (unwanted movement) will be evident.
Worn Shock Absorber bush (right) and new bush (left)
How to tell if your suspension bushes need replacement.
If the wear is severe you may be able to feel or even hear a difference in the car's handling. Wear can manifest itself in all kinds of different ways. There could be vagueness in the steering, poor handling or braking, knocking, rattling or creaking from the suspension. Visually inspecting the bushes is one way to know if they need replacement. Over time, the material degrades and it should be obvious if they're cracked and badly worn. It's not an exact science, some worn bushes may look fine but could still be due for replacement. With the car raised off the ground and supported on axle stands, use a pry bar to lever the suspension components in various directions. Compress and release each bushing to ensure it's still doing its job without too much movement. The first time you do this you'll want someone experienced with you, otherwise you won't know how much movement is too much! There are other subtle clues that something might be amiss. Uneven tyre wear, for example, can be a sign of a worn bush. A clunky ride over bumps, wayward handling and increased road noise are also tell-tale signs. However, bushes wear gradually over time so it can often be difficult to spot a problem if you drive the car every day.
Replacing your bushes.
Some bushes are easier than others to replace, but most are quite fiddly. They can take a lot of physical strength to remove and some will need specialist pressing tools. In some cases it can be more economical to replace the entire component rather than just the bush. For example, for the time, effort and expense it takes to press out a wishbone bush, you might be better off replacing the whole wishbone.
Anti-roll bar bushes are the most commonly replaced bushes as the anti-roll bars are constantly twisting. Most DIY mechanics should be up to the task of replacing these. The complexity of getting the bushes can differ from model to model and there can be several different bushes on the anti-roll bar. The easiest to replace are those between the anti-roll bar and the car itself, often referred to as 'D' bushes (as they are shaped like the letter D). It's usually a case of removing two bolts, prying off a U-shaped clamp around the bush and then forcing it off the anti-roll bar. These bushes are usually split so you can remove them without taking the whole anti-roll bar off the car. Many anti-roll bars also feature vertical links (called 'drop links') to the suspension. It's not unusual to have to replace these rather than the bushes at the joints and it's not a difficult task. It should not be necessary to remove the wheels or the anti-roll bar itself. Just keep a close eye on how it all comes apart so you know how to put it back together.
It's a good idea to have someone inspect the suspension bushes regularly. Ask your mechanic to do this at service time and before you invest in new tyres or tracking. Worn or damaged bushes are not always obvious, but they make a huge difference to how a car drives and can wear out a brand new tyre in no time at all.
At MicksGarage we stock a huge range of suspension bushes for thousands of different makes and models of car and light commercial - both modern and classic. Click here to browse