A Comprehensive Upper Control Arm Comparison

A properly functioning suspension is an absolute must for your pickup truck or sport ute, especially if you are planning on going 4x4ing or off-roading. Upper control arms can and should be regarded as some of its most intricate components, designed specifically to ensure much better driving qualities while venturing off the beaten path. This article is written to help you make a more sound choice for your pickup truck or SUV!

A Comprehensive Upper Control Arm Comparison

Old Man Emu

The upper control arms manufactured by Old Man Emu are durable parts, which feature tubular constructions outfitted with lasting ball joint fittings and sockets. They come with ball joints designed for high angles, being sealed for life, while also including GIIRO bushings, which do not require any maintenance. Even if they aren't created for adjustability, the components ensure up to 2 inches of lift, while offering 2.5-3.5 deg. of positive caster and 1.5 deg. of negative camber. Old Man Emu upper control arms are quality products that can be installed instead of O.E. parts to improve suspension performance.

Icon Delta Joint Tubular

The Tubular upper control arms supplied by Delta are marketed as budget-friendly products, being manufactured with quality Delta ball joints. These components are re-greasable, having sealed housings designed with durable parts, offering uniball performance coupled with ball joint strength. Their pins are available notched and tapered, thus ensuring plenty of articulation, with tubular arm constructions being light and strong. These components are constructed for use with Icon coilovers, while still offering plenty of caster and camber for truing considerable lift heights.

Icon Delta Joint Billet

The Billet upper control arms available from Icon are created to ensure superior performance, while offering excellent quality of manufacturing. They come with considerable weight savings and solid constructions, being manufactured from billet aluminum and outfitted with FK rod ends that are lined with quality PTFE. Icon’s Billets are available with proprietary high-angle ball joints, thus guaranteeing seamless binding and deflection-free work. The components feature adjuster sleeves that are manufactured to greater precision, with the sizeable 3⁄4” FK rod ends ensuring adjustment of both camber and caster.

Camburg Performance Uniball

Camburg’s Performance Uniball control arms come designed with top caps, which are manufactured from billet aluminum and sealed for greater protection. They are engineered with new tubular constructions that ensure racing performance specs, being available at lower prices than competing products. The company has utilized their 1.25” FK uniballs coated in PTFE, so as to provide plenty of travel, while at the same time ensuring lower deflection and binding. Camburg’s control arms offer correction of both caster and camber on lifts up to 3”, all while making both suspension geometry and performance better.

Camburg Performance X-Joint

As a company, Camburg understands that some of its customers don’t want to deal with negative issues pertaining to the use of their racing products. In order to provide control arms for driving on paved surfacing and during moderate off-roading, they’ve designed proprietary ball joints for the Performance Series arms. The joints come outfitted with resin linings to hinder free articulation, while having greater deflection than uniball control arms. Their engineering lets them function for lengthy periods without any maintenance, making the operation less harsh and noise-free.

Camburg Kinetic

These control arms are manufactured with heavy-duty 1.25-in. FK uniballs, which are also used in the company’s Performance Series products. Durable and light 6061 aluminum is utilized in the production of Camburg Kinetic components, which is machined to considerable precision. Their sizeable 7⁄8” FK Heim joints ensure performance ideal for the most challenging and demanding driving. Straight from the manufacturer, Camburg Kinetic products offer up to 3.5° of positive caster, which is fairly decent for aftermarket components. However, if more is desired, then one can adjust the spacers' orientation, thus resulting in almost 5.5° of positive caster. Fairly similar to all other arms with Heim joints, any performance fan will be able to adjust both camber and caster while fine-tuning these heim joints. Even if they can't be described as being most quiet, durable, or maintenance-free components, very few other arms offer as little truss, deflection, or general strength. Overall, the Camburg Kinetic control arms present an excellent solution for all those who want to engage in performance driving.

SPC / Eibach / Light Racing Adjustable

The SPC adjustable ball joint type arms are among the most well-designed products in their strata, while ensuring plenty of adjustability, durability, and real-world performance. Instead of utilizing billet aluminum, tubular steel, or any other material, their manufacturer has made a choice in favor of constructions made from lasting forged steel. These arms are somewhat heavier than most, simply because steel components ensure final-user products that are virtually indestructible under any driving conditions on any terrain. SPC arms are designed in shapes which max out suspension clearance, while improving performance geometry all through the travel curve. Featuring one of the most flexible joints in the industry, the company’s proprietary 36-mm ball joints are both greasable and sealable. They come with internal wear springs that remain pre-loaded, thus keeping the joints intact even when the inside casings start to wear out. It may depend upon the actual use, however, these arms ensure almost 2° of positive camber, which is pre-set at neutral position. Although, one can be certain that they can also be adjusted back to factory settings, while having 4-5° of positive camber. SPC arms also offer almost 2° of separate adjustability, having both positive and negative camber, thus aiding in attaining nearly-perfect alignment. These components offer considerable durability and longevity, which translates into unequalled real-world performance potential, being offered to suspension performance enthusiasts at affordable to them prices.

Pro Comp Uniball

If one is after superior performance of upper control arms and requires a sound cost-to-benefit deal, then ProComp Uniball arms are a sure thing to get. Offering considerable bind, durable 1-in. uniballs, and durable steel constructions, these products are fairly effective. The control arms ensure necessary articulation, while offering perfect alignment correction for pickup trucks and SUVs having from 1.5” to 3” of lift. Even if they are not the pinnacle of products in their niche, Pro Comp Uniball arms are a decent choice for all those who seek quality while being budget-conscious.

Bilstein B8

These control arms are engineered to be outfitted with Bilstein’s own B8 5100, 6100, 6112, and 8112 shock absorbers with ride height adjustability. The company’s B8 components feature superior designs and high-quality parts, both of which ensure considerable performance and lasting service lives. Durable 4130 Chromoly steel tubes are used in the manufacturing process of these arms, which are outfitted with sturdy ball joints. Bilstein B8 components also come with polyurethane bushings, specifically designed to withstand considerable pressures and higher temperatures. All of the aforementioned results in control arms that aren't just enduring and dependable, but with continuous maintenance can offer decades of reliable performance. B8s feature better joint locations and pivot angles, while also having considerable range to ensure greater travel, coupled with caster & camber correction. Such control arms are ideal for all sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, which have raised or lifted suspensions to take onto just about any road or terrain.

Total Chaos Urethane Pivot/Heim Pivot

There were plenty of control arms offered before and after Total Chaos’ Chromoly components, although, their durability has left the competition in the dust behind. Featuring 1-in. uniballs and considerable caster & camber correction, so as to cover 1.5-3 inches of raising, they are ideal for being bolted onto your sport utility vehicle or pickup truck. Total Chaos Urethane Pivot/Heim Pivot products offer plenty of strength, while ensuring over 1 inch of travel over original equipment components, especially when used with correct coilover shock absorbers. These arms are supplied outfitted with urethane bushings, which are designed to be re-greased to lessen deflection over factory settings. However, the company also provides 3⁄4-in. Chromoly Heim joints optionally to lessen deflection and make further camber and caster adjustment possible. Total Chaos Urethane Pivot/Heim Pivot control arms have been undergoing considerable testing on different sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, hence you can trust them like no other.

A Few Words of Advice From a Shock Expert

A More Affordable Choice - Old Man Emu

Even if these control arms aren’t the most affordable products in the aftermarket, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t the most sought-after ones. Old Man Emu parts may not be as visually appealing as others, however, they can ensure decent geometry corrections and proper alignment. The latter means only one thing: these control arms are more than capable of getting your raised SUV or pickup truck back to factory specifications in no time. Besides, these arms come with regreasable ball joints that offer noise-free operation, thus ensuring continuous service life as long as O.E. components.

Value Victor - SPC / Eibach / Light Racing Adjustable

These control arms offer one of the finest quality-to-price ratios on the present-day market, thus ensuring excellent value to any performance fan. Value Victor arms can ensure off-roading and 4x4ing performance, which is just as good as the products that are 2-3 times more expensive. They offer a number of benefits, including sealed regreasable ball joints that feature some of the most efficient articulation in their product niche. Besides, the arms come with wear springs, designed to retain preload up on the joints to keep them together even if the seals are too worn out. Value Victors also come with forged steel constructions, proprietary camber & caster adjustment, and plenty of other special features. It can be said that uniball arms with Heim joints have less deflection, thus offering better performance for an ordinary racing enthusiast. However, one should keep in mind that in the real world no other product will ensure better performance or durability for the money. Value Victor control arms are the finest bang for the buck, so you can purchase and install them with confidence.

The Best of the Best - Icon Delta Joint Billet

Icon’s reputed upper control arms come with well-engineered Delta Joints, which ensure plenty of bind, strength, and deflection-free operation. Besides, they offer considerable driving mileage, low maintenance, and of course, low noise, vibration, and harshness pertaining to O.E. ball joints. As a matter of fact, these components offer greater articulation at the ball joints themselves than just about anything else, except for the SPCs. Straight out of packaging, Icon sets these control arms up for a substantial amount of positive caster, which ensures superior performance. It must be noted that the components still ensure a considerable amount of both caster and camber adjustments at the ¾-in. Heims. Icon Delta Joint Billet products cannot be placed in the more affordable market niche, but even at the price they are available, they are fairly hard to beat. These upper control arms should be considered for purchase and installation by all off-roading, 4x4ing, and rock crawling enthusiasts who are interested in their suspension’s superior performance.

UCA Build Material Adjustability Joint Diameter Joint Articulation Price
Old Man Emu Steel (Tubular with forged eyelets/ ball joint housings) NA NA 72-76° ~$548
Icon Delta Joint Tubular Steel (Tubular) NA 1" 75° ~$800
Icon Delta Joint Billet Aluminum (Billet) [Lightest] Heim Adjustment1 1" 75° ~$1355
Camburg Performance Uniball Steel (Tubular) NA 1.25" 70-74° ~$849
Camburg Performance X-Joint Steel (Tubular) NA NA 72-76° ~$699
Camburg Kinetic Aluminum (Billet) 2 degrees caster at Heim misalignment spacers/Camber & Caster at Heims themselves 1.25" 70-74° ~$1500
SPC Steel (Forged) [Heaviest] Camber/Caster Individually Adjustable at Ball Joint2 1.42" 80° ~$630
Pro Comp Uniball Steel (Tubular) NA 1" 68-72° ~$682
Bilstein B8 Steel (Tubular) NA NA 72-76° ~$655
Total Chaos Urethane Pivot/Heim Pivot Steel (Tubular) Heim Adjustment 1" 68-72° ~$1094

Note 1: Icon Billet camber and caster adjustment achieved by extending or shortening Heims joints. Camber and caster corrected simultaneously creating some limitation in maximum adjustment.

Note 2: SPC has 7 positions for caster. There is a separate slide adjustment for +/-2 degrees camber.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Upper Control Arms Designed For?

Upper control arms are engineered to guide your pickup truck or SUV’s front wheels, while the suspension is moving up and down during driving. These components do not usually retain any of the weight, while interconnecting the vehicle’s frame to its spindle and knuckle at the wheel.

Why Do I Need to Upgrade My UCAs?

Even if O.E. UCAs perform fairly decent at original settings, raising your vehicle while installing big-size wheels and tires can cause more stress on them. Too much lift can also alter the suspension geometry, which in its turn can affect quality of ride, travel, and steering, while wearing out both joints and tires. So as to correct all of the aforementioned while bringing alignment to original specifications, one needs to purchase and install aftermarket UCAs. Fortunately, any given suspension performance enthusiast can turn to the aftermarket, which is full of the necessary products.

Is It Difficult to Install UCAs?

Majority of upper control arms offered in the aftermarket are fairly simple to install, with the actual installation requiring only common mechanic’s shop tooling. It can be accomplished after removing the UCA mounts from both the knuckle and frame, then attaching new hardware in place. One issue that is commonly overlooked during the upper control arms’ installation is alignment, with the vehicle having to have its suspension aligned after the installation. Besides, the person performing the installation has to make certain to adhere to any and all of the safety procedures in order to avoid damages or injuries.

Will My New Upper Control Arms Affect the Automaker’s Warranty?

If the UCAs were installed as designed with the vehicle getting aligned right after, there’s no reason to worry about the automaker’s warranty getting voided.

Will the Suspension Gain More After the Upgrade?

If you are planning on upgrading your pickup truck or sport utility vehicle’s suspension, you'll gain more travel because of the better new coilover products.

What Is the Service Life Expectancy of My New UCAs?

Given proper maintenance intervals, the new control arms should last as long as the O.E. UCAs, with certain component types lasting even longer.

How Will Adjustable UCAs Make My Vehicle Perform Better?

Adjustable UCAs are engineered to offer extra camber and caster; the latter ensures preferable alignment and usage of bigger-size wheel-and-tire combos.

Should the Lower Control Arms Also Be Upgraded?

In most cases, LCAs aren’t upgraded, however, specially designed components exist for such vehicle models as Tacoma, Silverado, 4Runner, and others.

Can UCAs Available in the Aftermarket Make Alignment Corrections?

UCAs offered in the aftermarket will add positive caster and negative camber to correct the alignment changes stemming from the raised front.

Do Aftermarket UCAs Ensure Greater Wheel and Tire Clearance?

The majority of UCAs available on the market offer more positive caster, and with certain products, more adjustability is offered for even more positive caster. Plenty of vehicles featuring independent front suspensions, first and above all Toyotas, can have issues in the rear-tire areas, especially while turning. Gaining more positive camber will move the front tires forward, thus allowing for greater clearance from the protective bars, cab mounts, tubs, etc. As you can see, upper control arms are a sure way to go when it comes to having more clearance in the front of your performance truck or SUV.

What Are the Positive and Negative Aspects of Having Higher Caster?

Higher caster will aid in correcting oversteer, with the rims tracking much straighter while returning to the center, thus becoming more and more stable. It may depend, however, if you are going to increase caster, your vehicle will suffer from less brake dive and front suspension squat during braking. One should also keep in mind that greater caster values may add additional steering efforts to the general steering of the pickup truck or sport ute. Overall, your vehicle can start experiencing somewhat different driving and handling after the installation of performance upper control arms.

If the Vehicle Doesn’t Undergo Alignment or Bind Issues, Should One Install Adjustable Arms?

When it comes to majority of cases no, although, if one is trying to attain the highest limits in big-size wheel-and-tire combos, then it is always a good idea. Majority of UCAs come with higher caster values to ensure the effect of bringing the wheels and tires forward, however, alignment may also affect things. The latter can make it somewhat hard to get both camber and toe to the necessary specifications, even if the caster is exactly where it should be. Adjustable UCAs can surely be installed on the pickup truck or SUV, especially if one is after the finest suspension performance possible.

Will Brand-New Upper Control Arms Allow for Considerable Travel?

The major binding points in most O.E. suspensions are the automaker-supplied ball joints; UCAs offered in the aftermarket usually feature more articulative joints, which are coupled with well-engineered geometry to lessen bind and allow for considerable motion.

What Is the Overall Amount of Lift That Can Be Corrected for With Majority of UCAs?

Majority of UCAs are designed for lifts up to 2-3”, although, 4” is usually their maximum lift; considering the aforementioned, the greater the lift, the lesser the droop will be, with one getting into CV binding whenever the height gets over 3.5”.

Are Sealed Joints an Absolute Must?

No, they are not an absolute must. However, if you are going to have sealed joints, you will rid the UCAs of any and all issues stemming from both rust and particle wear. Debris, muck, sand, and else do not add any of the lubricating properties, while wearing out components and shortening their service lives. The ball joints in the upper control arms will remain silent, tight, and failure-free, if one keeps their operation clear of any and all foreign particles and gunk. Having proper sealing is surely beneficial to the performance of ball joints, UCAs, and all other suspension components.

What Are the Pros/Cons of Having UCAs With Uniball or Heim Joints?

It is a proven fact that uniball, Heim, and spherical joints ensure considerable durability in comparison to all other joints, sealed in rubber or resin. They offer the lowest deflection possible, while being capable of handling the harshest of driving conditions during 4x4ing and off-roading. Because there is no rubber on the inside, they are difficult to seal, require more maintenance, transmit lots of NVH, and need frequent replacement. Arms featuring Heim joints that can be mounted on the frame sides also come with adjustments while allowing for a certain amount of caster and camber correction.

What Are the Consequences of Not Utilizing New UCAs With Standard/Extended Coilovers?

If the coilover shock absorbers that one uses need aftermarket UCAs, then O.E. ball joints can get bound before getting to a complete droop. One might not necessarily be able to correct the alignment for the actual lift that the coilovers add to your pickup truck or sport utility vehicle. If the coilovers are 2.5 in. or larger in diameter, then utilizing them with O.E. arms in certain instances may be both dangerous and damaging. Even if majority of coilovers do not need aftermarket arms, they can still cycle considerable amounts of travel in comparison to O.E. parts without experiencing binding. Besides, although one might be able to alter automaker-defined alignment specs, he still might require greater caster & camber values than factory ones. It should be noted that the latter could be fairly hard, if not impossible, to attain, considering the given adjustments after the vehicle has been raised. In such instances, even if the coilovers don’t need aftermarket UCAs, one’s suspension would benefit aplenty from extra caster correction and droop travel.

What Are the Mechanical and Functional Differences Between Heim and Ball Joint Adjustable Arms?

Adjustable UCAs that include products from Eibach, Light Racing, and SPC are engineered for tuning camber & caster separately right at the joint. If one were to look at his vehicle’s suspension from a position of higher elevation, then caster is adjusted by moving the joint fore/aft along the Y-axis. To add to the aforementioned, if one were to view his vehicle from a bird’s-eye view again, then camber is regulated in and out along the X-axis. Because camber and caster are adjusted one by one, it is much easier to attain more exacting and advancing alignment without compromises. Besides, while positive caster is extended, the kingpin angle is also increased, which lessens brake dive and improves anti-diving qualities. One of the flaws of this type of tuning lies in the fact that the alignment can get altered after a considerable impact, although, this may also lead to positive consequences. The latter is because the alignment can get out of wack/slip before any of the control arms or suspension parts are damaged beyond repair.

UCAs with Heim joints, including Camburg and Icon, are engineered for regulating camber & caster by making the joints either longer or shorter at the frame side. Camber can easily be tuned by making both of the Heims either longer or shorter, while caster is tuned by regulating them individually of one another. For instance, if one were to experience positive camber, he’d have to shorten both of the Heims, thus moving the upper parts of the rims and tires in. If one would require additional positive caster, then he’d have to make the Heim longer aft to the rear, and then shorten the UCA towards the front. The latter will extend caster, thus bringing the front tires forward, although, it may also add some camber and toe, which should be dealt with later on. Each Heim comes outfitted with a separate lock nut, hence once the actual alignment is set, one will never have to be concerned about it getting loose. Although, one should always keep in mind that he will have much less specific tuning regulation of each and every one of the alignment parameters. Because both caster & camber are tuned from the same place, with caster being regulated by the arms’ offset, the caster tuning will affect camber and toe. No doubt that the vehicle will measure up to and surpass factory alignment specs, although with less pliability in comparison to arms that are tuned at the joint. As one can see both camber and caster can be tuned on Heim and ball joint regulated UCAs, thus making your sport ute or pickup truck perform and look its utmost at all times.

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