Are front control arms meant to be replaced after only 30k miles?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1998 Audi A4 with 30,500 miles. I was recently told that the left front control arm has to be replaced and that the right front control arm will soon need replacing. I was told by the dealer's service representative that this is normal wear and tear for a car after four years. I have a hard time buying that. What do you think? -- Tina

RAY: Well, he would have been telling the truth if he had said it's normal wear and tear for THIS car, Tina.

TOM: On most cars, it would be outrageous to have to replace your control arms after only 30,000 miles. Many last for the life of the car. But the control arms on this car are different.

RAY: On this car, the control arm and the ball joint (a crucial piece that holds the wheel on) come as one piece. So when the ball joint wears out, you have no choice but to replace the entire control-arm assembly. And unfortunately, the ball joints on this car were seriously underdesigned (meaning they're cheap junk).

TOM: We've been told that for the 2000 model year, Audi upgraded the design in the hopes that the ball joint would last for more than 30,000 miles. But unfortunately, that redesigned control arm won't fit on your '98. So essentially, you're stuck replacing these things, to the tune of 400 bucks each, plus labor, every 30,000 miles.

RAY: You have no choice but to replace them now, Tina. But you might want to give serious consideration to trading in this A4 at about 59,000 miles.

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