Keeping your steering components in good operating condition is essential to you and your family’s safety on the road. The idler arm keeps the center link in place by preventing it from moving up and down while allowing for swivel motion. This constant swivel motion makes the idler arm especially vulnerable to wear and tear.
Replacing an idler arm typically costs between $150 and $275. The final price depends on your vehicle’s year, make, and model, and where you take it for the work. The parts costs vary significantly depending on your vehicle, and may cost anywhere from $25 to $100 or more.
Idler Arm Replacement Cost
Replacing an idler arm may cost you as little as $25-$50 for a DIY job, or it could cost $275+ if you take it to a dealership or a high-cost garage. The price mainly depends on your specific vehicle, because the cost for parts varies pretty significantly.
In some cases, you may need to replace both the idler arm and pitman arm, which will also increase the price for the job.
Idler Arm Replacement Cost Estimate
|DIY Cost||$25 – $100|
|Dealership Price||$200 – $275+|
|Local Garage Price||$85 – $175|
While a good bit of the cost to replace your idler arm depends on the parts cost (based on your vehicle’s make and model), the labor charges can also make a difference. Taking your vehicle to a dealership almost always costs more than going to a local garage or even a chain auto shop.
A mechanic should be able to change the idler arm in about one hour or less, so you shouldn’t be quoted much more than that for labor. However, the cost per hour can vary quite a bit depending on where you take the vehicle and your geographic location.
Still, most garages charge anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour for labor. That can make for a pretty significant difference in your final price just depending on where you take your vehicle for the work.
Idler Arm Replacement Parts Cost
Most idler arms cost between $35 and $100. The biggest factor in determining the price for a replacement idler arm is your vehicle’s year, make, and model. The best way to get a good idea of what you should expect to pay is to price the parts by vehicle.
Idler Arm Parts Sample Cost
|Sample Vehicle||Sample Idler Arm Brand||Sample Price|
|1997 Acura SLX||Genuine||$76 – $86|
|2001 BMW 740iL||Febi||$72 – $102|
|1995 Buick Roadmaster||Moog||$31 – $37|
|2006 Cadillac Escalade||Quick Steer||$26 – $32|
|2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500||Moog||$77 – $82|
|2001 Dodge Ram 2500 RWD||Moog||$135 – $145|
|1999 Dodge Durango 4WD||SKP||$18 – $22|
|2003 Ford F150||Moog||$82 – $87|
|1999 Ford F150||Mevotech||$22 – $26|
|1987 Hyundai Pony||AC Delco||$25 – $28|
|2002 Lincoln Towncar||Moog||$50 – $55|
|1999 Mercedes C280||Genuine||$160 – $170|
|2002 Nissan Frontier||CTR||$48 – $54|
|1995 Toyota 4Runner||Moog||$79 – $84|
Diagnosing a Bad Idler Arm
When the idler arm begins to fail or succumb to excessive wear and tear, you may notice a change in how your steering feels. Typically, the steering will begin to feel “loose,” or you may notice more sway in the vehicle than normal. Some drivers may also feel a shaking sensation.
Some drivers may notice the vehicle pulling to one side or the other, and the steering may feel harder to control than you’re used to. Other symptoms may include unusual noises from the steering system. You may hear a clunking sound or popping, especially when turning the wheel.
Any of these issues can make for a dangerous situation on the road, and they can be made much worse by poor weather conditions or heavy traffic.
A failed idler arm can create a dangerous situation while driving, so it’s important to get it checked out right away if you notice anything unusual with your vehicle’s steering.
When Does the Idler Arm Need to be Replaced?
Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about replacing your vehicle’s idler arm. They’re pretty tough and they’re designed to take a beating. In most cases, idler arms last well beyond 100,000 miles without any issues.
However, there are some circumstances where your idler arm may be more likely to have problems. Keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule can help ensure that your steering system components are good for their expected lifespan. Keeping parts properly lubricated is key to keeping them in good working condition.
Some owners request to have the idler arm lubricated while their car is in the shop for an oil change, which isn’t a bad idea. Your driving habits and the roadways that you frequent can also have an impact on your idler arm.
If you regularly drive on bumpy or dirt roads, your idler arm will be under greater strain than in a vehicle that only travels on paved highways. Driving offroad definitely puts additional strain on the idler arm. The idler arm and other steering components may also become damaged due to impact in an accident.
Can You Drive with a Bad Idler Arm?
If you suspect a problem with your vehicle’s idler arm, you should get it into the shop as soon as possible. We do not recommend that you continue driving with a bad idler arm. Once these steering components start to go, they will continue to break down until they fail altogether.
Waiting for total failure can lead to a dangerous situation on the road. The idler arm can potentially separate from the ball joint assembly, which can cause the driver to lose control of the front passenger tire altogether.
A scenario like this could lead to an accident, property damage, or more expensive damage to the vehicle.
Even if the idler arm doesn’t fail completely, driving with it not operating properly can lead to uneven tire wear and other problems with the steering and suspension system. As is the case with most vehicle problems, leaving it unaddressed only leads to more costly repairs down the line.
It’s always better to address the problem as soon as you notice it rather than wait until it becomes a bigger problem that’s impossible to ignore.
Any issues with your vehicle’s steering, suspension, or other systems that keep the car under your control should be addressed as soon as you notice them for your own safety and the safety of others on the road.
How to Replace an Idler Arm
Replacing the idler arm is something that you can do yourself if you have the tools, time, and a little bit of knowledge for dealing with cars. Keep in mind that you’ll have to jack up the vehicle, so make sure you have appropriate supports to do the job safely. You’ll only need simple tools for this job.
Follow these steps to replace an idler arm
- Raise the vehicle and support it on jack stands.
- Locate and remove the cotter pin from the idler arm.
- Remove the retaining nut from the idler arm.
- Separate the idler arm from the center link.
- Remove the idler arm from the frame by locating and removing the bolts.
- Install your new idler arm by following these steps in reverse.
- Use new cotter pins during installation.
Make sure that you have your vehicle’s front-end alignment checked and adjusted if needed anytime you do work on the vehicle’s steering system. If you’re not comfortable with any of the steps required, it’s always a better idea to take the vehicle to a professional from the start.
The Bottom Line
Replacing your idler arm is a necessary repair to keep your vehicle operating correctly and safely. The good news is that in most cases, you won’t have to worry about it until you’ve had the vehicle for quite some time or once it’s past 100,000 miles.
However, your driving habits and the road conditions you drive on can make a big difference in how well your vehicle’s steering system holds up. Keeping up with scheduled maintenance and having the idler arm lubricated can help extend its life.
It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes before you settle on where you’ll take the vehicle for the work. Even though most of the cost for an idler arm replacement depends on the parts cost for your specific vehicle’s make and model, the labor charges can also have a pretty big impact on the price.
Some auto shops offer discounts for AAA members, military service members and their families, first responders, senior citizens, or even students. It never hurts to ask if the shop is willing to honor any such discounts.
You can also save on labor costs by getting multiple jobs done at the same time. For example, if you’re due for scheduled maintenance, have the mechanic check your steering system at the same time to save you from having to pay for an additional shop fee for the diagnostic.