Owners Tips

Lesson Learned: Here’s Why You Should Leave Suspension Work to the Pros

Control arms are a major part of a car’s anatomy that connects the steering to the frame of the vehicle and is vital to ensuring your car doesn’t handle like a piece of soggy toast. Control arms are used to deliver stable handling, to help your vehicle steer, and to allow your car’s wheels and chassis to move together in sync. Components related to your car’s control arms need some occasional TLC, and replacing a control arm can be a high-precision job often requiring technicians to use special equipment and fine-tuning to make sure all the components are perfectly set up.

The TL;DR is that control arms are very important, and so is how they’re occasionally maintained, serviced, inspected, and replaced.

In this post from reddit user u/carfixin96, we see what happens when control arms are serviced by someone ill-equipped for the job. According to the post, this Toyota Sienna was received from a customer who had recently had a “mechanic friend” replace the control arms, presumably to save a few bucks versus a trip to the shop.

The job was unsuccessful.

In the video, you’ll see the front wheel moving somewhat freely around inside of the wheel well. In this condition, the Sienna’s suspension is a ticking time bomb, the vehicle will be difficult to control, unsafe to drive, and is likely to self-destruct its front end without immediate help.

I’m no doctor, but in human terms, driving in this condition might be something like trying to jog with two shattered hips.

Several other users of reddit’s r/JustRolledIntotheShop subreddit suggested the backyard mechanic who did these control arms likely failed to properly torque the adjuster bolts properly, took a shortcut, or simply missed a few bolts when putting the complicated front suspension back together.

According to one commenter, this failed replacement attempt turned them from “control arms” to “suggestion arms.” Another wondered if the mechanic removed the control arm entirely to try to eliminate clunking that’s common as control arms get old and worn out.

As collateral damage is likely in this situation, it’s safe to assume that this Sienna driver likely needed an additional set of new control arms to replace the improperly installed ones. Damage to associated suspension components and other nearby parts could add hundreds or even thousands to the bill. Tow truck expenses are likely here, too.

The lead image of this story, by reddit user u/gotme11, depicts another instance of control arm failure, with a bonus flat tire.

To minimize your chances of losing a wheel, experiencing poor handling and accelerated tire wear, voiding any remaining warranty converge that applies to your suspension, or having a serious collision, ensure that only qualified technicians are working on your vehicle’s suspension.