Bushing Removal (Control Arms Off the Car)

From my reading and experience, the ease of removing the bushings will depend on (1) age in miles and years; and (2) locale where the car has been driven. If the car has been driven for many years and miles in a high snow or rain climate, then the bushings will be much more difficult to remove. Even shops Honda owners have contracted to remove bushings using a press often report these older, more rusted bushings simply do not come out easily. In preparation for replacing the front lower control arm bushings of my 1991 Civic LX, I obtained a bent, un-usable arm from a junkyard in a very dry climate and used it to develop an "at home bushing replacement method." I subsequently modified it for older bushings driven in wetter climates. The only unique tools the method requires are the ones I list below. The method follows.

(Large Bushing)
1 3/4 inch socket, 3/4-inch drive
15/16-inch socket, 1/2-inch drive
7/16-inch diameter, 6-inch long, Grade 8, fine thread bolt and nut. The bolt hould be threaded about 1.25 inches.
7/16-inch diameter, 4.5-inch long, Grade 8(?), fine (?) thread bolt and nut. The bolt should be threaded about 1.375 inches. I found this bolt in a Honda junkyard.

(Small Bushing)
36 mm socket, 1/2-inch drive
3/4-inch socket, 3/8-inch drive
3/8-inch diameter, 5-inch long, Grade 8, fine thread bolt and nut. The bolt should be threaded about one inch.

You will need about ten Grade 8 washers, half of which fit the 7/16-inch diameter bolt above and half of which fit the 3/8-inch diameter one. I walked around a Honda junkyard and picked up thick washers that fit the bolts. An old crankshaft pulley bolt washer was the toughest of all the washers for the job below.

The sockets are available at True Value hardware stores and Sears. Harbor Freight is also worth checking. You have to check that the sockets are as short as possible. If they are too long, then you will have to adjust the bolt lengths. Slightly smaller diameter or larger diameter sockets than the above may work fine. For each bushing, the goals are to find (1) a socket with an outside diameter a little smaller than that of the rubber part of the bushing; (2) a socket with an inside diameter larger than the diameter of the outer metal sleeve of the bushing; (3) a high strength bolt that extends about 1/8-inch beyond the assembly shown in the first set of pictures below.

The first socket ends up pushing most of the rubber part of the bushing out. The second "receives" this rubber part and gives you something against which to push. My local True Value hardware store had the Grade 8 bolts and nuts.

Bushing removal is a four-step process: Drill, press, saw, and tap.

First, put the control arm in a vise. Apply the penetrating oil "PB Blaster" to the outer sleeve areas on both sides (in preparation for later steps). If possible soak with PB Blaster a few days in advance. I think this might make a huge difference. Drill holes in the rubber's circumference. About 10 holes should do. I used three different drill bit diameters for the larger bushing, and two for the smaller. One of the bits was six inches or so in length, so as to go the full distance of the bushing. Use cutting oil, even though the rubber is fairly soft and easy to drill.

Second, press the rubber core and inner sleeve out using the sockets, a nut and bolt, and washers as needed. Use anti-seize on the bolt threads. You may have to switch to a shorter bolt at some point. I used only the bolt lengths given above. The photos below show the setup for each bushing.inbd.jpgotbd.jpgThird, with a hack saw, saw two cuts through the outer bushing sleeve about 1/4-inch apart. I prefer an 18-tooth, ten-inch blade installed on one of those cheap, roughly $4 hack saws where the blade extends beyond the saw frame. Use cutting oil. Try not to saw into the metal of the control arm. I found this hard to avoid.
 Fourth, with a small chisel (or beat up old slot-end screwdriver) and ordinary household hammer, tap out the 1/4-inch strip. The effort needed to pry an edge of the strip away from the control arm will depend on the bushing age and condition. Once the strip has been pulled out, prying and tapping all around the circumference on one side of the sleeve will cause it to slip out easily. See the photos below.
tap1.jpgtap2.jpgFor older, more rusted bushings, the sleeve strip may not tap out at all. It will seem welded to the control arm. I found an air hammer was insufficient, though admittedly I was using the cheapest air hammer I could find. For most of my 91 Civic's bushings, I removed about one-third of the sleeve piece-by-piece using an ordinary chisel and hammer, and sometimes a bit of drilling and grinding, until pounding mightily with a well-fitting socket (outside diameter matching the outer sleeve diameter) pushed what remained out. When pounding, make sure the bushing and arm always rest on a socket with an inside diameter larger than the bushing outer sleeve's diameter. I estimate more than 12 tons of force may be necessary to push an old, rusted sleeve out. On the other hand, the process seemed to get easier with each bushing I did. By looking closely at the outer sleeve, I could see when the space was opening up between it and the control arm. I also think PB Blaster helps a lot. I started soaking the bushing outer sleeve region with PB Blaster the week before. After pressing out the core of the bushing, apply the PB Blaster for a few hours before actually trying to remove the outer sleeve. One can see it soaking into the space between sleeve and control arm. corshel.jpg




On the right are the bushing "cores" (the inner sleeve and most of the rubber, pressed out in step 2) and the outer sleeves (sawed and tapped out in steps 3 and 4).





Notes:
As an alternative to steps 1 and 2, one can use a propane torch or small electric saw to cut the bushing "cores" out. This may be cheaper. Unless you have the sockets above (or similar sized ones) lying around, you will spend over $20 on sockets alone.

Credit to Ned Buckmaster for outlining much of the above approach in a 1999 post to the rec.autos.makers.honda newsgroup.

Max Cooper's Mazda Bushings Site suggests some cars' bushings may be pushed out with just the sockets-bolt-nut-washers setup above. I attempted this but got hung up getting the right sockets. They have to fit pretty exactly. If you can get the correct size sockets, and maybe have a torch and so can heat the control arm a little, it certainly might be worthwhile to try Max's method. Obviously I borrowed many of Max's ideas, too, for this site, so much credit to him as well.

For younger, not so rusted bushings, removal of the smaller bushing will take about an hour, working at a steady rate, with each step requiring about 15 minutes. The larger one requires maybe two hours. For older, rusted bushings, many more hours of hard labor may be necessary.




Lessons Learned
  1. For a younger car driven in a non-corrosive environment, either a 12-ton shop press or the sockets-bolt-nut-washer method might work fine to remove old bushings. This is not necessarily so for an older car driven in a corrosive environment such as the Midwest or Northern United States. Site overboost.com for one, used to have an article that reported on how a 12-ton shop press was not enough for bushing removal.
  2. If my 91 Civic were only seven years old (instead of 15 in 2006) and had not been driven in a corrosive environment for most of its life, then I do not think I would have had so much difficulty removing the old bushings. I think changing the bushings at about six years or 90k miles (whichever comes first), is prudent.
  3. If I had to do this over for an older car with a lot of rust, I would strongly consider buying used control arms with not more than a 100k miles on them from a nice low humidity, non-corrosive climate part of the country. I would replace the bushings in these arms at a casual pace. Remember that the old bushings in the bent junkyard control arm (the one I used to first work out a methodology) came out much more easily. I think an air chisel would have had these out pronto. My hammer and old screwdriver worked fine. Buying spare control arms would keep my car available. Then I would just swap the arms.
  4. Buying new arms with bushings already installed is also an option. The rear arms for a 91 Civic are less expensive than the front ones.
  5. Except for the inboard bushings of the rear upper arms, all the rear upper arm and compensator arm bushings popped out in one step using the Harbor Freight puller and scraps described above. Neither drilling of the rubber nor sawing of the outer sleeves was necessary for these. For the two inboard bushings of the rear upper arms, drill holes in the rubber, put a long bolt through one of the two bolt holes in the bracket, and use the long bolt as a handle to twist out the bracket. Then push the outer sleeve out using any of the methods described above. The labor to remove the bushings from these smaller arms was far less than that required for the larger ones.

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