The Top Five Benefits of Upper Control Arms

by Craig Perronne

A new set of upper control arms looks great on any vehicle. They are a perfect compliment to a shiny new set of coilovers too. We might be biased, but we think our Element Hard Parts control arms look the best. But our control arms are not built to just pretty up your ride. Sure, they might look sexy, but they do have a functional role and bring some benefits too. What are those benefits? Let’s take a look at what a set of high-quality control arms can do for your ride.

 Making Gains

Any mass-produced part is going to be a compromise, and OEM upper control arms are no exception. To be efficient, vehicle manufacturers need to build upper control arms quickly. And, to maintain profitability, those arms need to be made cheaply. The result is a stamped upper control arm built out of decent steel with adequate strength.

 Adequate might be okay for the majority of people who only drive on pavement, but not for the rest of us. The vast majority of aftermarket control arms are going to be significantly stronger than stock ones. This big increase in strength comes from better materials and a better design. Aftermarket arms use either tubular Chromoly steel or, as is the case with our Element Hard Parts arms, high-quality billet aluminum. Fabricating a Chromoly steel arm or machining a billet aluminum one are both more durable than the stamping process. And, both use more material to increase strength further. 

 Getting Aligned

One of the most overlooked benefits of aftermarket upper control arms is they allow for proper wheel alignment. With some lifted vehicles it can be difficult (if not impossible) to align them back to factory specs. Aftermarket arms solve this by having a slightly different geometry than the factory ones. They also have more adjustability for alignment built into them. This extra adjustability not only lets you get back to factory specs, but it allows more flexibility when aligning your vehicle too. For example, you can dial in more caster if you want to push larger tires more forward.

 Coil Clearance

Aftermarket coilovers make a massive difference in the performance of your front suspension. Their larger diameter bodies hold more shock fluid for better cooling and have bigger pistons for more damping control. While better cooling and control are both good things, those bigger shock bodies can create clearance issues with the factory control arms. Everything might seem fine until your suspension goes to full droop, and your OEM control arms smash into your expensive new coilovers. That’s going to be a problem and potentially an expensive one. Quality aftermarket control arms remedy this issue by being designed to clear larger coilovers.

 Better Balls And Joints

Uniballs and better ball joints are another serious strength advantage that aftermarket upper control arms offer. The 1-inch FK uniballs we use in our Element Hard Parts control arms are incredibly beefy. They are a massive increase in strength over the factory ball joints and are right at home on trucks racing in the Baja 1000. You won’t have to worry about the uniballs in most aftermarket arms ever failing. They do wear faster than standard ball joints but are much stronger. Some arms feature aftermarket ball joints as well. These high-quality ball joints are not as strong as uniballs, but offer more life and are still stronger than OEM joints.

 Unlocking Wheel Travel

But wait, there's more. Not only are the uniballs and ball joints in aftermarket control arms stronger, but they also have a bigger range of motion than OEM ball joints. This extra amount of movement allows for the suspension to go through its full range of motion without any binding. Aftermarkets arms enable you to get every inch of wheel travel available out of your suspension, especially when using extended travel coilovers.