We investigate a non-invasive, locally stabilizing control scheme necessary for an experimental bifurcation analysis. Our test-rig comprises a harmonically forced impact oscillator with hardening spring nonlinearity controlled by electromagnetic actuators, and serves as a prototype for electromagnetic bearings and other machinery with build-in actuators. We propose a sequence of experiments that allows one to choose optimal control-gains, filter parameters and settings for a continuation method without a priori study of a model. Depending on the algorithm for estimating the Jacobian required by Newton's method we find two almost disjoint sets of suitable control parameters. Control-based continuation succeeds reliably in producing the full bifurcation diagram including both stable and unstable equilibrium states for an appropriately tuned controller.