A wheel alignment being performed on a Chevrolet pickup.

Steering and suspension components we check

In Suspension by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

We can address and even prevent car problems by taking the time to look things over.

Sometimes, a customer will complain about something that has to do with their steering and suspension. At other moments, we are simply performing a courtesy inspection as part of our oil change service.

In both situations, there are several problems we keep an eye out for.

Ball joints and bushings

When checking the steering and suspension components on a vehicle – especially as we get ready to conduct a car alignment – we’re looking for worn parts. 

These items include worn tie rod ends, where there can be some play, and the ball joints to determine if they are worn down. Some ball joints have indicators that show you, for some you just have to load up a certain way, which means support the lower control arm or let them hang. 

The process for checking them depends on the vehicle. But you want to make sure you’re looking it over correctly and making sure there isn’t any play. By “play”, we mean back and forth or up and down.

The other thing we’re looking for is the bushings, such as the control arm bushings. Depending on if they’re upper or control arm bushings. The Chevy pickup that we have included photos of in this article is a street strip vehicle. These are aftermarket upper control arms. 

The ball joint, upper control arm and upper control arm bushings on a Chevrolet pickup.

In this particular project, we performed a wheel alignment where we put shims between the control arm and the frame to bring the alignment back into specifications.

While looking at suspension components – whether they’re shocks or struts or a combination of the two – you’ll want to make sure that the mounting plates and bushings are good, because that’s what keeps the tire in contact with the road.

Checking on the coil springs

Our Woodbridge mechanics are also looking for springs and making sure they aren’t worn and causing body sag. If it starts to sag, that can throw off the alignment specifications because the vehicle is lower than it was originally.

Our customer replaced the upper and lower control arms, the tie rod ends and the springs. So we’re getting the alignment fixed up for them. The rear of this vehicle just has regular shocks that go to the differential. We also replaced the coil springs on the back to bring the height to a certain level.

A tie rod, pitman arm and sway bar link.

Over a period of time the springs can become worn. You want to look at springs – especially on older vehicles that are at 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 miles – because they can start to compress. They’re not going to be able to hold the vehicle up to the correct ride height that they were designed for. This can impact handling and the way things work.

A shock absorber and coil spring.

All these steering and suspension components work together. You don’t have to replace all of them at the same time. It was just in this particular case that this was a project car and the driver decided to change the parts at once.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.