Bushings are a wear and tear item, just like any other - and there's the option to replace worn units with OEM rubber or PU. Which is better?
Just what are bushings, exactly? Well, if there's a part that moves on your car, chances are it will have to swivel or rotate while being in contact with another part of your car. If you create a solid link between this moving component and your car, you will get an incredible amount of vibrations being transmitted into the cabin - more than you'd ever expect.
That's why we have bushings. Bushings are basically little rubber insulators that sit between two parts in a car that move relative to each other - yes, even your engine mounts can be regarded as bushings. In many cases, the bushings from factory are designed to be relatively soft to take up as much vibration and harshness as possible, leaving you with a more comfortable drive.
The only problem is for more aggressive driving, and for our exceptionally nasty roads, it can sometimes mean that the stock standard bushings wear out fairly quickly. Replacing them can also be quite an expensive endeavour if you have to do so repeatedly, so there is the possibility to go to a slightly different material: polyurethane.
Also known as PU, polyurethane bushes tend to be a fair amount stiffer than the regular bushes from factory. What that translates to in terms of the driving experience is a car that reacts more quickly to inputs and has more precision with placement, thanks to the lower amount of flex in the system. The less flex there is between components, the faster the reaction.
The downside is, as you would expect, more harshness and vibration coming through the cabin. In this day and age you can get PU bushings in various stiffnesses and even a blend of PU and rubber that creates a sort of in-between. The real question to ask yourself is whether these PU bushes are worth the money.
This also happens to be a not-so-straightforward question, because OEM bushes and PU bushes aren't that far apart in terms of pricing. In some cases, you can even locally manufacture PU bushes for your specific requirements if you provide them with an existing sample, and end up saving a fair amount of money. Of course, quality and lifespan may vary - but it can be a viable option in a pinch.
Are there more extreme options beyond PU? Of course there are - in some racecars and very aggressive road cars, they will often go as far as solid-mounting the engine and using solid bearing mounts for things like lower arms, suspension joints, and so on. This provides the ultimate form of response, and has absolutely no compromise if you're on a bumpy road.
In a nutshell, which is the better option? It really depends on how you drive the car and what you regard as important. To say PU bushes are not worth it, would simply be saying you don't value the longevity and handling advantages over comfort and refinement. There's nothing wrong with that - but to be honest, with our Malaysian roads you can find yourself running through OEM rubber bushes excessively quickly.
Also worth asking is how aggressive of a driver you are and what is the purpose of your vehicle? Is it just a pasar, city run-about? If so OEM rubber bushes will serve you fine, it is more than adequate. If however, you're a bit more of an informed and aggressive driver, you understand 'feedback', you track your car and you're searching for more rigidity and tautness then you can consider poly bushes, just beware of what you may be giving up in return for that handling advantage.
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