5 Signs Of A Damaged Control Arm

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You can't see your front control arms unless you are underneath your car, but they serve the important purpose of connecting the car's frame to the front wheel assembly. It's not uncommon for one or both control arms to bend during a collision. Hitting a curb or other obstruction with a front tire is the most common cause of a bent control arm, but the arms may also bend if you are rear-ended while your brakes are engaged.

1. Pulling to One Side

Even a small amount of damage to a control arm can affect steering. The first sign of trouble is often pulling to one side, even if you are attempting to hold the steering wheel straight. The pulling mimics the feel of when a car is out of alignment, but in this case, the problem is the control arm. The pulling may feel more severe when you are actively turning.

2. Thumping Sounds

A loud thump or clunking sound can also be a symptom of control arm damage. The thumping noise will sound like it's coming from the front of the car and you may even be able to tell which side of the car is to blame. Minor damage may only lead to noises when driving over a bump or uneven road, while more severe damage can thump around even when the road is smooth.

3. Steering Wheel Shaking

A vibrating steering wheel is another common symptom of a damaged or broken control arm. The severity of the shimmy is in relation to the severity of the control arm damage, so it ranges from barely noticeable to impossible to ignore. There are other damages that also lead to steering wheel vibrations, so a mechanic will have to verify that it's the control arm.

4. Uneven Tire Wear

Another symptom that bad alignment and damaged control arms share is uneven tire wear. This type of control arm damage only becomes obvious if you continue to drive the car for some time after the damage occurs. Eventually, the pulling and other issues will cause the tread to wear unevenly on one or more tires. 

5. Loss of Control

It is possible to still drive a car after the control arm fails completely, but it may not be easy. The steering wheel becomes increasingly hard to control, especially at higher speeds. Even at low speeds the vibration and wandering of the wheel can be difficult to manage, which makes driving dangerous. If your car is at this stage of control arm failure, it's best to have it towed to a shop.

Contact a local collision center if you suspect a small accident may have affected your car's control arm.