Can You Replace the Factory Bushings with Polyurethane in a Ford Explorer for Improved Handling?

April 8, 2024

You may be wondering how to enhance the performance of your Ford Explorer. The suspension plays an essential role in how a vehicle conducts itself on the road. One fundamental part of the suspension system is the bushings. Now, what if you are contemplating a swap from factory bushings to polyurethane alternatives? Will it lead to a boost in handling quality? Let’s dive in and find out.

Understanding Bushings and Their Function

Bushings, you may ask. What are they and why should you care? Well, if you wish for a smooth ride without the constant rattling on bumpy roads, then bushings should be your concern. These little parts, often overlooked, play a crucial role in your car’s suspension system.

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Bushings are essentially rubber or polyurethane pads that are usually located between the various moving parts of your car’s suspension system. They are placed in strategic positions, such as where the control arm connects to the chassis, in the sway bar, and within the steering and suspension components. Their primary role is to absorb shocks and vibrations, offering a cushioning effect that mitigates the impact of road irregularities on your vehicle. Moreover, they also keep these parts from rubbing against each other, reducing wear and tear.

In a Ford Explorer, like in most modern vehicles, the factory-installed bushings are made of rubber for its flexibility, durability and cost-effectiveness. However, while rubber is a great material for most applications, it does have its shortcomings.

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The Shortcomings of Factory Bushings

The nuances with rubber bushings lie in their susceptibility to wear and tear. Over time, they lose their flexibility and can crack or even break apart, compromising the performance of your car’s suspension system. This damage can result in uneven tire wear, loose steering, and a generally uncomfortable ride.

The location of bushings exposes them to a great deal of stress. They are constantly under pressure and subject to extreme temperatures, which accelerates their deterioration. Rubber bushings also have a tendency to compress under load and can distort under pressure, leading to altered handling characteristics.

Moreover, rubber bushings also tend to absorb lubricants, which can hasten their deterioration. Plus, rubber can be easily damaged by chemicals, such as those used in car washes or found on many roads. All these factors can lead to premature failure of the bushings, which can impair the car’s handling and safety.

Polyurethane Bushings: An Alternative

You might be asking why replace the factory bushings if they’re designed by the manufacturer to fit your Ford perfectly? The answer lies in progressive technologies, and in this case, the properties of polyurethane.

Polyurethane bushings, like the ones produced by companies such as Powerflex, offer a host of advantages over their rubber counterparts. First off, they are much more durable and resistant to wear. Polyurethane does not compress or distort under load in the same way as rubber, maintaining its shape and providing consistent performance.

As a synthetic material, polyurethane is impervious to oils and chemicals, which enhances its longevity. Moreover, it also performs exceptionally well in high temperature environments. This resilience to harsh conditions ensures the bushings last longer, reducing the frequency of replacements.

This robustness does not come at the expense of comfort. Polyurethane bushings still provide the vital cushioning effect that absorbs road shocks, ensuring a comfortable ride. However, they are stiffer than rubber, which can translate into improved handling and responsiveness, giving your Ford Explorer a sportier feel.

Installing Polyurethane Bushings

So, how do you go about replacing your factory bushings with polyurethane ones? The process is relatively straightforward. It involves removing the old bushings, cleaning the bushing seats, and installing the new polyurethane bushings. It is recommended to use a bushing press tool, although a large socket and a vise can also work.

Note that it’s essential to lubricate the new bushings thoroughly before installation to prevent squeaking. Most polyurethane bushing kits come with special lubricant for this purpose. Once installed, it’s recommended to take your Ford for an alignment check to ensure everything is in its correct place.

In conclusion, replacing your factory bushings with polyurethane ones can indeed improve the handling of your Ford Explorer. However, always remember that each vehicle is unique and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, it’s always best to consult with a professional before making significant alterations to your vehicle’s suspension system.

The Impact of Polyurethane Bushings on Performance and Handling

Now that we understand what bushings do and why they matter, it’s time to discuss how polyurethane bushings can potentially improve your Ford Explorer’s performance and handling.

As previously explained, polyurethane bushings, provided by companies like Powerflex, are stiffer than rubber bushings. This stiffness benefits the sway bar, control arm, and stabilizer bar in the suspension system of your Ford Explorer. When these parts are stiff, it gives the car a more direct connection with the road, which leads to improved handling and responsiveness. This makes the vehicle feel more stable and less wobbly, especially when maneuvering corners or swerving to avoid obstacles.

Now, let’s address the bar bushing. In the event of sudden direction changes or when negotiating curves, a vehicle can lean or roll. With a rubber bar bushing, this effect could be pronounced due to the flexibility of rubber. However, the stiffness of polyurethane reduces the lean, providing a more stable and controlled ride.

Also, because polyurethane bushings are more durable and do not distort under pressure, they provide consistent performance. This improvement is noticeable in the form of even tire wear and accurate steering. Additionally, given the location and the demands on these bushings, their resilience can prevent premature failure of the suspension brakes and enhance overall safety.

However, it’s worth noting that while polyurethane bushings can improve handling, they may also make the ride feel a bit harsher due to their stiffness. This may not be an issue if you prioritize sporty handling, but it can be a factor to consider if comfort is your primary concern.

Conclusion: Are Polyurethane Bushings Worth It?

In conclusion, it is indeed possible to replace the factory bushings in your Ford Explorer with polyurethane for improved handling. Not only are these bushings more resilient and long-lasting, but they can also enhance the car’s overall performance.

Polyurethane bushings can provide your vehicle with a sturdier, more sporty feel. They allow for better road connection, improved maneuverability, and more effective operation of the sway bar, control arm, and stabilizer bar. However, comfort levels can be somewhat compromised due to their stiffness.

Before deciding to swap your factory bushings for polyurethane, it’s important to consider your driving habits and preferences. If improved handling and performance outweigh the potential decrease in comfort, then polyurethane bushings could be a great addition to your Ford Explorer.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s always recommended to consult with a professional. Swapping bushings is a significant modification, and it’s crucial that it’s done correctly to ensure safety and optimal performance. Remember, every vehicle is unique, so what works for one may not work for another. And don’t waste time worrying; with proper care and attention, your Ford Explorer’s suspension can provide a smooth, enjoyable, and safe ride for years to come.