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Upper control arm bushing failure (pictures)
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:24 pm    Post subject: Upper control arm bushing failure (pictures) Reply with quote

So....I installed all new suspension bushings (and balljoints) about three years ago. The old bushings were definately worn out, especially the upper control arm bushings. About a year and a half ago, I started to get a squeek in the front suspension which turned out to be coming from the upper control arm bushings, same symptom that led me to the first suspension rebuild. I was not getting any clunking or anything, just the squeeking. Once the upper control arm was loose from the upper ball joint, it became obvious that the bushing were VERY worn again. Not really having the time to analyse it much further, I simply replaced the bushings and moved on.

Over the last couple of weeks, the upper control arm squeek has returned with a vengeance. This time I was determined to find out I was going through upper control arm bushings faster than "normal" (whatever that might be) and what was causing the squeek.

I cut one of the bushings apart to see exactly how it was constructed. This is what I found:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


You can see that the rubber is bonded to the inner metal bushing. The white plastic sleeve has three raised ribs that are intended to prevent it from spinning inside the outer metal sleeve. Originally, there was grease (long gone now) between the rubber and the plastic sleeve. The waffle pattern on the rubber was intended to help retain the grease.

The problem, however, is that the grease slowly gets washed out from between the rubber and the plastic sleeve. This increases the friction between the two resulting in the plastic sleeve twisting inside the metal outer sleeve. Over time, the plastic wears away resulting in excessive play between the plastic and the metal outer sleeve. Once there is no more grease in between the rubber and the plastic sleeve, it starts to squeek.

You can see in this picture just how much the plastic has worn in one and a half years. The gap between 3:00 and 5:00 is actually much larger than it appears. You can also see some slight remains of the grease that was once between the rubber and the plastic sleeve.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Both of my replacements have been the German Meyle brand. I called around today and couldn't find another quality brand. I'm not real happy about having to replace these with that same product that keeps failing but I don't seem to have much choice. I'm going to put some thought into what I might be able to do to help keep the grease in place as there is no seal between the sleeves to do so.

By the way, tack welding the bushing back in place is NOT necessary. Both sets of bushings that I have replaced have been left un-tacked and were nice and solid in the control arm. I left them un-tacked as an experiment to see if it was necessary. I will not be tacking my replacements either.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the analysis. A couple years ago i got the squeak, so i replaced the upper bushings. Sure enough, a month later it came back. I have just learned to live with it. Nice to know whats actually happening though. Maybe ill get around to it when it gets warm again.
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Wellington
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, i remember doing mine and reading the Bently about the replacement procedure, it lists different thickness eccentric washers if i recall correctly. Possibly these are very critical to keep the bolt, bushing assembly perfectly alligned?
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting, unusual construction. I haven't changed mine yet, but of course they squeak like a bag 'o' rat's. They still are centered so the only problem is the noise, particularly bad since I live up a long, rough dirt road. I've examined them as closely as I could short of removing them. I've made the noise stop for short periods by spraying lube into the inner ends of the bushings. Guess it's just seeping into the spaces between the sleeves, then being washed out, as it only works for a short while. I had assumed that they were a simple metal-rubber-metal construction like most bushings, as the range of twist is fairly limited. The nylon sleeve is a curiosity.

Maybe we should make up some bronze ones with zircs and be done with it.
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riceye
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
i remember doing mine and reading the Bently about the replacement procedure, it lists different thickness eccentric washers if i recall correctly. Possibly these are very critical to keep the bolt, bushing assembly perfectly alligned?


Does the Bentley also include the tidbit about tightening up with the van lowered upon it? I seem to remember reading somewhere that issues can arise if the assembly is tightened with no load (jacked up). When the van is lowered after tightening, torque is applied to the bushing which may shorten its life.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've retensioned mine while under normal load and it made no difference in the squeaking. Although if I was putting in new ones, I would be sure to tension them initially with the load on the wheels.
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riceye
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I seem to remember reading


I guess it was here!

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=227678&highlight=tighten+control+arm+bushings
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

riceye wrote:
Quote:
i remember doing mine and reading the Bently about the replacement procedure, it lists different thickness eccentric washers if i recall correctly. Possibly these are very critical to keep the bolt, bushing assembly perfectly alligned?


Does the Bentley also include the tidbit about tightening up with the van lowered upon it? I seem to remember reading somewhere that issues can arise if the assembly is tightened with no load (jacked up). When the van is lowered after tightening, torque is applied to the bushing which may shorten its life.


Wellington, I just checked my Bentley and it makes no reference to the thickness of the eccentric washers at all. It's an older version so maybe the newer version are different?

Riceye, For most "normal" type bushing where the outer rubber is literally bonded to the metal inner and/or outer sleeve, yes, it would definately be beneficial to the life of the bushing to tighten them while they are in a loaded position. However, as I recently found out after cutting this one apart, these upper control arm bushing are only bonded to the inner sleeves. The innner sleeve and the rubber that is bonded to it is allowed to rotate within the plastic middle sleeve. Tightening this type of bushing in the loaded position has no added benefit, but no consequences either.

Machining a set of bronze, greasable bushings would probably help. The rubber content of these bushings is so minimal that I think that you would notice very little, if any, increase in noise/vibration transfer by going to a solid bushing. I'm also thinking that a seal of some sort would help keep the grease in and the water/grit out. I don't know, I'm going to have to think about it some more.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

these bushings range in price from $7 to over $90 ..for example like at "rockauto" for the "professional grade" ..since they almost all look the same for such a small item,..how can one be assured if the product is good enough without throwing a lot of money around..I have it hard to believe in this case, you get what you pay for...but, if that be so..$360plus for bushings..I can only shake my head
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My van was lowered with weitec springs and I had some bilsteins put on at the same time. I didn't have any of the bushings addressed at the time and my van became super squeaky. After i couldn't stand it anymore i had the upper, and lower replaced along with tie rod ends and ball joints. And it was great for about a month, now im getting a squeak from the passenger side again that I'm thinking is the upper control arm bushing...there has got to be a better mouse trap out there. On a side note is anyone els running this combo of weitec and bilstein? I like the ride hight but find that the hds are very squishy in the front and am thinking of going koni.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Petervw wrote:
these bushings range in price from $7 to over $90 ..for example like at "rockauto" for the "professional grade" ..since they almost all look the same for such a small item,..how can one be assured if the product is good enough without throwing a lot of money around..I have it hard to believe in this case, you get what you pay for...but, if that be so..$360plus for bushings..I can only shake my head


I'm so glad you reminded me about RockAuto. They sell Febi brand (a division of Bilstein) bushings which appear to be quite different than the rest. I just ordered a set and when they get here, along with the Meyle's that are on their way, I will compare them to see if they look any different.

Meyle has a good reputation but besides my upper control arm bushings, I have also had trouble with one of their clutch disks and one lower balljoint. Cross your fingers that Febi is the answer.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Loogy,

Does it sound like an old creaky bed? I have that sound that has become more prominent over the past few months. When I had an alignment done the mechanic said they were shot and I need to replace them. Just wondering.

Thanks!
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

floggingmolly wrote:
Does it sound like an old creaky bed?


Yep, but without the pleasure of a creaking bed.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Upper control arm bushing failure (pictures) Reply with quote

loogy wrote:

Over the last couple of weeks, the upper control arm squeek has returned with a vengeance. This time I was determined to find out I was going through upper control arm bushings faster than "normal" (whatever that might be) and what was causing the squeek.
...
By the way, tack welding the bushing back in place is NOT necessary.


Do you think there is no correlation between not tack welding and the fast bushing wear? I can kind of see how one might relate to the other (not that i've ever been into my van's bushings... still OEM and still OK...)
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tack it or else. Get it to hot___melts_____blow it off___it fails.
Try again, TACK IT THIS TIME.....little bit. Shop talk on this,just do it and no final torque till on the ground.
Did mine 7 years ago____titties Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen it mentioned a few times in this thread that bad control arm bushings impact your ability to get an alignment. I'm not a suspension expert by any means, so someone enlighten me. When I had an alignment done after the new steering rack, the alignment guy said he could "not quite" get the camber in spec. Are my bushings to blame. I do get the occasional "creak" in the front end.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bill W wrote:
Tack it or else. Get it to hot___melts_____blow it off___it fails.
Try again, TACK IT THIS TIME.....little bit. Shop talk on this,just do it and no final torque till on the ground.
Did mine 7 years ago____titties Very Happy
..can you remember what name brand you used
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bill W wrote:
Tack it or else. Get it to hot___melts_____blow it off___it fails.
Try again, TACK IT THIS TIME.....little bit. Shop talk on this,just do it and no final torque till on the ground.
Did mine 7 years ago____titties Very Happy


Tacking has nothing to do with the failure. Both sets of bushings that I have installed in this van are (were) nice and tight in the control arm without being tacked. I'm not saying that no one should tack their bushings, but I will continue to install mine without tacking them as I have not had any probles as a result.

Also, with this type of adjuster, doing a final torque on the ground will have no impact on the bushing. If the bushing were all one peice, I would definately agree, but it's not. The plastic sleeve pivots on the rubber with grease in between so it does not matter whether you torque it on the ground or hanging.

And by the way, before disassembling this bushing, I always thought they were the more typical bushing with the rubber bonded to both the inner and outer sleeve. Thinking this was the case, I always torqued the bushings with the suspension loaded. Premature failure was not the result of failing to do this.

It's very, very obvious that the failure of these particular bushings resulted from the grease not staying in between the rubber and the sleeve as well as water/grit getting in between the plastic sleeve and the outer metal housing.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tencentlife wrote:
I've retensioned mine while under normal load and it made no difference in the squeaking. Although if I was putting in new ones, I would be sure to tension them initially with the load on the wheels.


Chris, you're right. I can see from the construction that this wouldn't make any difference to the bushings. No wonder it didn't help the squeaking!
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wellington, I just checked my Bentley and it makes no reference to the thickness of the eccentric washers at all. It's an older version so maybe the newer version are different?

I'm going to check my Bently again, I'll post the exact quote, I remember this cause when I replaced my upper bushings I remember there being a bit of a space, hence I should have put the spacers, but figured that when I tightened the bolt the play went away. Mine is the latest edition so maybe this is an update to address this.
Thinking about it, when you tighten the bolt and "squeeze" the two bushings together, you are forcing the bushings to align.
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