Suspension bushings are one of the most poorly understood and undervalued components of a vehicle’s overall handling. It can be easy to discount the role that such an inconsequential looking piece of rubber can play in the proper operation of a car’s suspension system, but that is a mistake. Although a suspension bushing is simply a rubber disk and nothing more, bushings fulfill a variety of important duties, and if they become worn or damaged you’re sure to notice a variety of adverse effects. Here are some examples of classic symptoms of bad bushings and why they occur.
Excessive Road Noise – One of the primary functions of suspension bushings is to help insulate the vehicle from road vibration and noise. Instead of a hard metal link which would directly transmit shock and vibration, a flexible rubber joint (the bushing) is placed there instead. This helps to absorb and cancel out interference due to inconsistencies in the road surface. Bushings that are in need of replacement lose their ability to cushion and insulate a car’s other systems, which results in excess road noise and increased vibration and shock. If you’ve noticed an increase in road noise from your vehicle over time, worn suspension bushings may just be contributing to that problem.
Imprecise/Sloppy Steering – Suspension bushings have to be soft to help absorb shock, vibration and noise. However, bushings also serve as vital links within the suspension system itself, holding it together. Worn bushings can become soft and flex too much, resulting in poor steering response and sloppy handling. What happens is that the joints normally regulated by the firmness of the bushings are allowed to move too much. This upsets the proper suspension geometry of the vehicle, which results in sloppy and often unpredictable handling–especially at higher speeds. Obviously, when a vehicle’s steering isn’t functioning as well as it could be, overall safety is sacrificed. If your vehicle’s steering has become a bit “vague” over time, perhaps worn bushings are partially at fault.
Mysterious “Creaks” and “Clunks” – Since overly worn bushings allow the vehicle’s frame and suspension components to move more than normal, this often results in symptoms such as creaking and clunking in the vehicle’s steering system, particularly under hard cornering or speedy situations. This occurs when the worn bushings allow the parts that are normally supposed to link together move out of alignment when they are under load. As they snap back into their proper positions, this is often the source of those infamous noises that give a “clunker” its name. Likewise, worn bushings that bind, and because of this don’t move correctly, often begin to squeaking as the rubber binds on its metal housing. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may want to have your bushings checked out and possibly replaced. You might be surprised at how significant a difference such a small rubber disc can make in how your car drives and feels.