All vehicles experience high forces during a turn that can cause sway; especially in high powered cars. No one wants to drive a vehicle with sway, with the car leaning in different directions on the outside of a turn. Bad sway bars mean bad handling of your vehicle and embarrassing noises. Whether you are aware of it or not, the sway bar is holding things together under your car. When the sway goes bad, the problem cannot be ignored. If you think you have a bad sway bar, read on to find out how to diagnose it and fix the problem.
What is a Sway Bar?
Although most people do not know what a sway bar is, it is a very important part of the suspension system; and therefore, the vehicle frame. There are several other names for it, to include anti-roll bars, anti-sway bars, or stabilizer bars. The sway bar is the torsion spring attached to the vehicle frame, holding the right and left suspensions together.
Sway bars are thin and tubular, made of metal, and bolted to the suspension. The sway bar is designed to resist a twisting action. The vehicle stance is measured by the suspension height and fender fitments. When a vehicle begins to sway, the sway bar applies force on the suspension so the vehicle can resist the leaning. A link connects the sway bar to the suspension in a pretty simple configuration. . The sway bar also reduces the body roll while the vehicle is moving and keeps the handling smooth in the straight path. The imbalance during a turn is compensated for. The bar can have several jobs depending on the vehicle, as all vehicles do not have a sway bar anti-roll design.
Some sway bars may be factory installed and may also be adjustable. End links allow the size to increase. This may be useful, for example, if you are adding on a lift kit and need to add on some height. Some sway bars have positioning holes that you can use to adjust the bar to improve the suspension.
The sway bar is installed from the rear or the front and usually can be disconnected. It actually does nothing unless the vehicle is beginning to sway. The sway bar helps to evenly distribute the vehicle weight. This is extremely important as some vehicles easily flip over because of a lack of balance. The front sway bar is often preferred due to the smooth turning power while the rear sway bar has oversteer and understeer issues.
Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar
Problems within the suspension system are not hard to spot. The way the vehicle handles changes and you may hear all kinds of weird noises. Whatever the case, you should not drive with problems with your sway bar.
Strange noises – You may hear strange noises when the sway bar is damaged or loose. This may be because the sway bar and chassis are not properly connected. The chassis will cause a rattling sound as it is moving around freely. You may hear a click or clunking noise when you go over a speed bump. The sway bar is moving excessively.
Poor handling – A bad sway bar will manifest in poor, twitchy handling. You will notice the difference during turns. The vehicle will seem unstable while cornering. This a sign that you should not continue to drive the vehicle until the problem is fixed.
Visual damage – Oftentimes, if the sway is damaged, you will be able to see it with a lift. Have a look of the underside of your vehicle. Look for damaged bushings, links, connectors, and damage to the sway bar.
Causes of a Bad Sway Bar
Along with wheel alignment, the sway bar is designed to maintaining the handling and overall drive quality. When the vehicle is cornering, the tire and wheel naturally roll onto
the outer shoulder, which means it keeps the contact patch on the road to allow more grip and cornering speeds. to allow more grip and cornering speeds. The negative camber counteracts this natural tendency. The tire and wheel tilted to counteract the cornering forces. While the vehicle is cornering, the contact patch is decreased due to the body roll. When the sway bar is damaged or not properly connected to other components, it affects the drivability of the vehicle. The balancing during turns is gone. Depending on the environment and overall state of the vehicle, it can be very dangerous to drive with a bad sway bar. Here are the most common causes of a bad sway bar:
Broken or damaged link – There are several linkages in the suspension system. If the sway bar link is broken, the sway bar connections are damaged. The link may have some rust or corrosion. However, these sway links also commonly just wear out over time from fatigue.
Damaged or missing bushing – Rubber bushings are designed to reduce friction and vibration in the mechanical joints. The bushing does wear over time, and often will lose its elasticity. The rubber may give all the way out. The worn bushing allows excessive movement to occur in the suspension. If the bushings on the end link is damaged or gone, it will also produce the rattling or clicking sounds.
Lack of maintenance – Car manuals state when and how often certain parts of the vehicle must be serviced, to include things like wheel alignment and tire rotations. Wheel alignments are designed to reduce the wear and tear on the tires and to make sure the vehicle drives smoothly along a level surface. The wheel alignment also affects the handling on your car and the overall quality of the ride. When the vehicle is not being serviced regularly, the parts of the suspension system are wearing down with no treatment. Rust and corrosion problems grow worse.
If you want to avoida bad sway bar or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
What to Do About a Bad Sway Bar
The relationship between the parts of the suspension system is intricate. Therefore, the symptoms aforementioned may be caused by a single component or a combination of them. You may to troubleshoot more than one component until you find the problem. If your car is having symptoms of a bad sway bar, follow these steps:
Replace the sway bar links -The sway bar links are often the cause of the trouble when you hear weird clunking noises as you drive over bumps. The links connect the sway bar and control arm. It is possible to only replace the links. Replacement sway bar links are about $40 apiece. You should replace the links in pairs. To replace the sway bar link, follow these steps:
- Gather your tools: a wrench, replacement sway bar links, breaker bar, stabilizer bar end tool, safety goggles, penetrating oil, screwdriver, wheel chocks, and a ratchet and socket wrench set. Park your car in a safe dry place.
- Park your car in a safe dry place.
- Put on your safety gear (goggles).
- Use the breaker bar to loosen the wheel lug nuts. (Do not remove the lug nuts yet.)
- Raise the vehicle on a jack stand. Chock the wheels and turn on the parking brake.
- Now remove the lug nuts by hand.
- Remove the wheel and tire assembly.
- Remove the sway bar link, If you have a ball and joint style sway link, use the open ended wrench to hold the stud and loosen the retainer nut.
- Once the retainer nuts are removed, you can remove the sway bar link.
- If you have a bolt type sway bar link, you must remove the long bolt.
- Pull the bolt up through the bushings and sleeve.
- Remove the sleeve and remove the link.
Replace the stabilizer bushings – Before replacing any other parts, check the stabilizer bushings. The stabilizer bushings are pretty cheap. Look for worn bushings. Take a hold of the components in the suspension and try moving them around. If you can hear a rattling noise, it could be caused by many of the components of the suspension. To replace the bushings, follow these steps:
1. Gather the materials: gloves, protective eyewear, socket and extension, car jack, large wrench, hammer, and hydraulic press.
2. Park your car in a safe dry place.
2. Put on your safety gear (the gloves and goggles).
3. Jack the car and remove the wheel.
4. Locate the ball joint and use the large wrench to release it. Release the cotter pin and loosen the ball joint nut with the wrench. The ball joint is probably connected to the control arm.
5. Strike the spindle with the hammer to release the taper fit.
6. Use the large wrench to loosen and release the sway bar.
7. Use the large wrench to loosen the control mounting bolts and remove them.
8. Pull the lower control arm so that you can remove it.
9. Mark the spot of the orientation of the old bushing and remove the bushing with a hydraulic or threaded press.
11. Strike the old bushing with the hammer to remove it. Remove all excess rubber out of the
socket. Insert the new bushing in the control arm.
13. Secure the bushing with a hydraulic press and then reinstall the control arm. Slide it back into the mounts, replace the bolts and tighten the ball joint.
17. Reinstall the sway bar link and the nut. Tighten the mounting bolt. Replace the nut using the socket and extension. Then, replace the cotter pin in the holes that are aligned by the ball joint.
19. Replace the wheel.
Replace the (front) sway bar – If the bushings and links are not the problem, the sway bar itself may need replacing. This means it must be detached from the chassis and the front suspension. Follow this steps to replace the front sway bar:
- Gather your tools: wrench, socket wrench set, and jack.
- .Jack the car and remove the wheel.
- Locate the ball joint and use the large wrench to release it. Release the cotter pin and loosen the ball joint nut with the wrench. The ball joint is probably connected to the control arm.
- Remove all mounting hardware from the suspension and chassis.
- Use the large wrench to loosen and release the sway bar.
- Remove the sway bar and replace with new bar.
- Reassemble the bushings and links.
Go to an auto repair shop – This is always a great idea for people who are not mechanically inclined or when you are not certain what the problem is with your vehicle. Go to the auto repair shop and get a brakes, steering, and suspension inspection. Get a wheel alignment. The professionals can replace the needed parts. The technician can even readjust the suspension back to the factory settings