The Hidden Difference in Control Arms

January 13, 2012 7:29 pm

To the average person there is probably little perceivable difference in the various control arms that are available for a Mustang today. From an exterior perspective, they share common mounting points on the chassis and rear differential of the vehicle – but from that singular point of view, there are an untold multitude of differences that are related to their design, engineering, as well as materials used in fabrication that result in substantial handling and NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) performances changes… changes that you need to be aware of…

As an example of the vast hidden differences in control arms today, look at the following picture in which we expose the differences in a typical upper rear control arm that is available for the 1979 – 2004 Mustang in the market today. Recently a customer came to our Steeda Performance Center with some obvious rear suspension issues. Previously, with the hope of improving his rear suspension dynamics, he installed a set of non-Steeda upper rear control arms with the desire to improve his vehicles handling. After a period of time of a mixture of spirited street driving and daily commuting, the car developed serious “slop” in its suspension as the bushing in his control arm began to suffer wear under the tremendous stress it is subjected to. Suffice to say, his vehicle handling capabilities and the car’s NVH characteristics diminished ever further as the bushing prematurely failed due to it’s design and construction.

In the picture below on the left, you can see how we cutaway the upper control arm to expose exactly what went wrong for everyone to see. In this case, the durometer (the measure of the hardness of the bushing) was too stiff – and this stiffness caused dramatically increased noise, vibration, and harshness to be transferred to the vehicles chassis, and in addition, with the tremendous stress the control arm is subject to, premature wear of the busing occurred that resulted in adverse handling and essentially a failure of the suspension assembly.

In the photo on the right is the Steeda Upper Control Arm. In this picture, you can see just how much more thought and engineering went into what we designed, engineered, and manufactured under our strict ISO 9001-2008 manufacturing processes. We specifically designed the control arm out of lightweight aluminum, and provided increased reinforcement in key critical areas where it is subjected to major stress. In addition, we employ an industry exclusive design of incorporating three busing materials into one – the outer bushings (red in color) have a specific durometer rating so as to limit NVA and provide for the flexibility required under suspension movement, and the center bushing (black in color) has a much higher durometer rating so that it provide the tight travel control and reduction in lateral movement that is desired for maximum control and handling.

In addition to the obvious differences in bushings, we purposely constructed our Steeda upper control arms out of a special aluminum alloy – an alloy that affords tremendous strength and one that also dramatically reduces the un-sprung weight of the suspension. Heat-treated and TIG welded, our control arm in this instance is 25% lighter than the factory control arm and is less than one-third the weight of competitive steel control arms. Remember, un-sprung weight is “the enemy” when it comes to suspensions as it has a negative effect on how your suspension system reacts as it encounters uneven road surfaces and in addition, it results on harsher riding conditions as the increased mass is being moved around.

In summary – not all control arms are created alike – there indeed are major differences in products that are available in the market today. So – which set would you rather have on your Mustang? With easy bolt-on installation, superior engineering, and a lifetime guarantee, make Steeda your choice for suspension components – because there is a difference!

Click Here to see our selection of Mustang Control Arms

SteedaSpeed Matters