Do I need to replace my upper control arm ? What are the benefits and downfalls?
Since forever there has been a argument about the best control arm and what length they should be. Your control arm or upper cradle as it’s sometimes called determines wheel travel, suspension durability, and wheel alignment.
If you’re making any sort of suspension modification at all, replacing the upper control arms should be considered but may not be necessary.
Why change out a control arm?
The main reason for replacing a control arm is to improve wheel travel in most cases when lifting a vehicle. What most people do not know is they also do more than increase height and add travel. Aftermarket arms offer a bunch of benefits such as :
- Increased durability in the arm itself
- A wider range of uniball/ball joint options
- More compatibility with replacement coilovers
- Additional adjustments which benefit camber and castor.
Conol Arm Replacement – The Benefits
Typical upgraded control arms offer some of the following:
- Stronger than original – This about sums it up… Almost any aftermarket arm boasts that they are stronger than OEM . we have seen from forged arms to half turbular arms replacing OEM arms for almost any application.
- HD Ball joints – We’ve seen so many ball joint options for uniball to extended to greasable. Each manufacturer has their own take on this but generally the ball joints are way tougher than OEM.
- Improved ride quality (depending on shocks) – Aftermarket arms will never reduce vehicle ride quality. Aftermarket control arms often weigh less than OEM control arms, reducing unsprung suspension weight and improving ride quality.
- Increased suspension travel – Almost all control arms allow for more travel as they allow for bigger coilover fitment and angle correction. Lifting a vehicle causes the control arm angle to change, fitting a aftermarket control arm corrects this angle and takes your ball joints back to the position they are supposed to be in..
Control arms are almost always a upgrade to consider.
Control Arm Replacement – The Cons
One reason we can surely say that people avoid upgrading control arms is cost. Aftermarket control arms cost a lot and for some vehicle owners its just not in their budget.
The cost of a replacement control arm must can be compared to installing some sort of spacer lift kit. While spacer lift kits have their place, most of them do not offer much or any performance improvements. Most spacer lifts either level or cater for ride height alone.
If you go the route of a cheap spacer lift kit, you can have problems. Specifically:
- Spacer lifts can reduce ride comfort and quality
- Spacer lifts can put much more stress on ball joints and decrease life span.
- Spacer lifts can cause serious suspension damage (leading to major vehicle damage) if fully compressed while off-road
Over the long-term – and depending on your typical use – a “cheap” spacer lift kit might cost more than a quality control arm replacement.
Or, maybe not. It depends a lot on how often you go off-road, and what type of off-road driving you do.
What we Suggest
Weigh your options and determine what you want and what you can afford. There are many quality upper arms on the market and it basically boils down to what you want and what is your preference. Brands such as TJM, SPC, Dobinsons, Total Chaos and Superior engineering are all available in the Caribbean from ABS Offroad Limited. If you think you need to discuss your control arm needs feel free to give us a call at 1-868-609-4227.