2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Right Lower Control Arm

Tiny
MCAVINEE
  • MEMBER
  • 2003 HYUNDAI SANTA FE
I was getting new tires and they told me my right lower control arm was needing replaced. Can I do this myself and will the car have to be aligned? I just got an alignment from the same place 2 weeks ago and he never mentioned the control arm. Two weeks later while getting new tires they told me I needed it replaced.
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Friday, October 24th, 2014 AT 4:26 AM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
That's "needs TO BE replaced". We don't speak texting shorthand here. It confuses us and helps us give unintentional bad advice. You didn't bother to list the mileage either so I can't form an opinion on whether worn parts can be expected, but I can offer some suggestions that might help.

Whether a steering or suspension part needs to be replaced can be a matter of the person doing the inspection and a few other variables. One person might see movement between the two pieces that make up that part, but recognize that it will not cause an alignment or safety problem. Some parts are like that when they're new, but it goes against what we're trained to look for. A different mechanic might see the same movement AND read the tire wear and conclude the worn part could cause that type of wear, so it needs to be replaced.

Another example is when the manufacturer specifies measuring the amount of movement. In one case a major steering part was allowed to have.090" play before they would replace it under warranty, but that could result in a customer complaint of steering wander, (an irritation but not a safety concern), with as little as.030" movement. We had to lie and say there was enough play to warrant replacement, because that's what it took to solve the complaint. Later the manufacturer's numbers were revised.

Movement in a part is affected by how the vehicle is raised up on jacks. Anything that puts pressure on that part will keep it from having detectable movement one time but not the next time.

Sometimes a mechanic just misses things. Unfortunately we hold mechanics to much higher standards than our doctors. If a doctor misses something, it just gets caught later. If a mechanic misses something, he could really be incompetent, or maybe there wasn't enough movement to warrant replacement, ... Yet. We get accused all the time of trying to sell parts that aren't needed, and we get blamed when we don't catch everything that is going to fail for the rest of the life of the vehicle. In the case of Ford products, we all know they have the worst record of parts failing leading to loss of control and crashes in as little as one or two weeks after inspection showed them to be fine, so do we risk letting you have a crash due to an original part or do we get that part out of there, try to sell you a much-improved aftermarket part, and risk being accused of fraud?

The best defense a mechanic has is to measure and document everything, and show you on your car why a part should be replaced. We also can list items by priority. Some are a serious safety issue that must be addressed now. Some aren't a safety concern but will cause tire wear and less-than-ideal handling. Lawyers and insurance investigators love to find those kinds of things when they want to shift the blame for the crash from their client who ran the red light onto you. They will convince a jury that you were partly at fault because you were less able to avoid it, and we know they might be right. We're looking out for you but we're looking out for ourselves too. Unfortunately, mechanics have very poor communication skills. Just like people in every other profession, we speak our own language, and in three words we can tell another mechanic what it takes five minutes to explain to a typical customer. No one expects you to be a car expert, but most car owners know almost nothing about the complex machines we trust to get us back home. Those owners who DO know a lot about their cars are the easiest to convince when something needs to be replaced or done.

As for your control arm, there are two possible conditions related to an alignment, and it appears both apply to your vehicle. Your control arm design is a fairly common one used by a lot of manufacturers today. You get an arm with two pivot points and a ball joint. There is no way possible to insure any two arms are made to exactly the same dimensions, so it is almost certain the new one will end up holding the wheel in a different position. An alignment is needed to correct that.

I also show that ball joint is available separately. That is not common, but this one can be replaced without the need for an alignment. That's because you'd be removing a round housing from a round hole, and centered inside it is a round ball centered on a round stud. The new part has no choice but to go back in the way the old one came out, so the wheel position will not change. Parts are much less expensive doing the repair this way, but it takes longer, and you need a special pressing tool to remove and reinstall the parts. Your mechanic might be considering that the higher cost of the part is offset by the lower labor cost. Also, you didn't say why the part needs to be replaced. It's pretty common today to run into worn control arm bushings. That's not a ball joint issue, but you get a new one with the new control arm. Don't assume it's the ball joint that's bad, and replace just that, then find out it was the bushing the mechanic saw moving.

I would be very surprised if they charge you for a second alignment. At the dealership I used to work for, they paid me for a second alignment if the need for it wasn't my fault, but they usually didn't charge the customer within about a month. That might not hold true if you try to replace the parts yourself. They're taking a big risk if they don't spend the time rechecking your work, because if anything goes wrong, it's the mechanic who will be sitting in the courtroom.

If the pivot bolts aren't rusted tight, replacing the entire arm with the vehicle on a hoist should take less than 20 minutes. For you or me to do it sitting in a driveway, expect an hour or two once all the right tools are rounded up. It appears Hyundai took care of this concern, but it bares mentioning anyway; when you have a rubber bushing that is clamped in place with a bolt, once that parts are installed, those bolts must never be tightened before the vehicle is set back on the ground and is sitting on the tires. If the vehicle is jacked up and the suspension is hanging down, tightening the bolts will clamp those bushings that way and put them into a permanent twist. That greatly shortens their life and is one of the things mechanics have to check for when you do your own work.
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Friday, October 24th, 2014 AT 5:19 AM

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