It’s inevitable: Your car’s suspension is going to fall apart on you one day. There’s no way of getting around it, and it’s a helpless feeling knowing that key components on your car are slowly rotting, ripping, seizing, and warping away. But most drivers don’t even bother to think about these key points of suspension travel, instead writing them off as being on par with exhaust hangers in the priority department all the way up until an accident occurs.
Bad bushings on a car are about as commonplace as pimples on a freshman, and are responsible for all manner of unfavorable driving characteristics. From haphazard handling and bountiful body roll to bucking engines and sloppy shifting, the bushings and mounts on a car are the glue that holds it all together and the longer you wait to replace them the worse your car will perform.
People think they can get away with a splash of lube every now and then, or by replacing one engine mount instead of all three, but this does nothing for the inevitable breakdown of other crucial components. For every area on a car that gets its bushings and mounts attended to, the likelihood of one of its nearby rubber teammates going sour and ruining that recently replaced motor mount are surprisingly likely. The old mechanic saying “Might as well replace ‘em all while yer at it,” rings true for that very reason.
Aging automobiles are not just a threat to their owners, but to the people around them as well. Compromised bushings can mean the difference between carving a corner and hitting a pedestrian. This is more than just about replacing worn ball joints and sway bar end links, because while anyone can secure a set of OEM-spec bushings at an auto store for replacement, going overkill and upgrading to something that won’t ever go bad again is sometimes the best method Here is why.
I am a firm believer in doing something right the first time, and when it comes to my cars, tediously time consuming tasks like bushing replacement are right at the top of the list for DIY projects that truly suck. Replacing a seized bushing is never fun, and typically requires either cutting out the stuck culprit in question, or burning it out in full-blown inferno fashion with a torch. So when it comes time to replace those crucial handling components and engine/transmission mounts may I recommend doing yourself and your pocketbook a favor, and upgrade to a set of polyurethane components, much like the ones pressed into this custom Cheddas rear control arm.
Originally reserved for race cars and military vehicles, this super hard compound doesn’t rot like traditional rubber bushings, and will likely last longer than any other material on the car since it won’t crack, rust, or deteriorate. Naturally, there is an industry leader in this field, and much like high-flow air filter specialists K&N, these guys make a poly bushing kit for almost every car out there. For those of you who are not familiar with Energy Suspension, this is the world’s largest manufacturer of polyurethane car components, and is the first choice when it comes time to upgrade to better bushings. Immune to road grime, extreme temperatures, salt, oil, and all manner of smog, polyurethane is the ultimate upgrade for anyone looking to replace their worn-out suspension, ball joint boots, motor mounts, or any other manner of rubber connection point that has seen better days.
But if polyurethane is such a superior material, why don’t automakers just use that from the beginning to alleviate issues for car owners down the line? People ask me this all the time, and I tell them it’s primarily because rubber bushings are cheap, because while a poly bushing by itself is not expensive, outfitting every car on the assembly line with this superior product requires a staggering amount of spending in the long run. Automakers are also all about reducing noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), which stiffer bushings and motor mounts are notorious for amplifying.
Nevertheless, in a performance sports car, off-road truck, custom classic, or full-blown race machine, a bit of NVH is a small price to pay for improved handling and engine response. Remember when I did a piece on seven ways to cheaply maintain a classic car? That crappy old Accord of mine recently got a fresh splash of polyurethane and custom billet aluminum courtesy of the classic Honda builders over at Cheddas Auto in British Columbia, and having installed the aforementioned rear lower control arms, let me be the first to say that this upgrade makes a huge difference. Long gone is the sloppy feeling I had grown accustomed to when breezing around a corner, and in its place resides a sure-footedness that can only be summed up with one word: Planted.
Yet still polyurethane bushings are not for everyone, because while they may be offered in various stiffness levels, are sleeved and multi-piece for easier installation and greasing, auto parts stores typically don’t offer suspension parts with this material pre-installed on them. Aftermarket manufacturers are still your best bet if you want something pre-assembled, and since the typical daily driver won’t see the support sportier cars may receive, having a shop press/burn/cut the old ones out and press in a master bushing set from Energy Suspension might be the only choice available.
So if you have a classic car, or have a beater that you just can’t justify ever letting go of, do yourself a favor and look into some polyurethane bushings. Not only will your car handle better and be far safer than it was before, but the piece of mind in knowing that you will never have to replace another bushing in your life is well worth the extra expense and toil. It’s called an upgrade for a reason, and once paired with better brakes and shocks there is no denying the power of polyurethane.