If you hear a knocking or clunking sound when driving over bumps, it might be because your car’s sway bar links (also known as stabilizer links) are worn-out or broken.
Sway bar links play an important role—they connect two parts of the suspension (the sway bar and control arm) together. As such, you’ll want to replace a broken sway bar link as soon as possible.
Sway Bar Link Replacement: A Step-By-Step Guide
Some sway bar links have ball joints and studs, while others are basically a long bolt with a sleeve and bushings.
Most professionals recommend replacing sway bar links in pairs (i.e., both front links or both rear links).
Let’s discuss what the replacement process typically entails.
What You’ll Need:
The tools needed to replace a sway bar link will vary, depending on what type of car you have. But, in general, you’ll need:
- Breaker bar
- Jack and jack stands
- Ratchet and appropriate size sockets and wrenches
- Appropriate size Torx or Allen head screwdriver (some vehicles)
- Safety glasses
- Torque wrench
- Wheel chocks
Once you’ve got everything collected, you can get to work replacing the sway bar links.
Note: The following are general guidelines for educational and entertainment purposes only. Consult your vehicle’s factory information for specific repair instructions and recommended safety procedures.
Sway Bar Link Removal:
- Put on your safety glasses.
- Use a breaker bar to loosen the wheel lug nuts. Do not remove the nuts completely at this time.
- Safely raise and support the vehicle using a jack and jack stands. Chock the rear wheels and set the parking brake.
- Remove the lug nuts by hand. Then remove the wheel and tire assembly.
- Remove the sway bar link. How you perform this step will depend on the type of sway bar links your car has:
Ball joint-type sway bar link
Ball joint-type sway bar links have two nuts. Start by removing the lower nut. Usually, you must hold the stud portion of the link (to keep it from spinning) while loosening the nut.
- Use an open-end wrench, Torx-head screwdriver, or an Allen-head screwdriver (depending on the vehicle design) to hold the stud portion of the sway bar link.
- While holding the stud, loosen and remove the retaining nut using another wrench or a ratchet and socket.
- Repeat the above procedure to remove the lower retaining nut. After freeing both of the nuts, you can remove the sway bar link from the vehicle.
Here’s a video demonstrating how to replace ball joint-type sway bar links:
Bolt-type sway bar link
Bolt-type sway bar links have a long bolt (inside a sleeve and bushings) with a nut on the bottom. You must hold the bolt (to keep it from spinning) while loosening the nut.
- Use a wrench to hold the sway bar link bolt.
- Next, use a wrench or socket to remove the stabilizer link nut.
- Pull the bolt up through the sleeve and bushings.
- Then remove the sleeve and other remaining components from the vehicle.
Here’s a video demonstrating how to replace bolt-type sway bar links:
Sway Bar Link Installation:
- Compare the new sway bar link to the old sway bar link to be sure both are the same design.
- Install the new sway bar link into the mounting slots in the control arm and the sway bar.
Ball joint-type sway bar link: All you need to do is slide the studs into the slots.
Bolt-type sway bar link: You’ll need to slide the sway bar link bolt through the sleeve and bushings, as well as the slots in the sway bar and control arm.
- Reinstall the retaining nuts. Do not tighten the nuts down all the way at this time; you will torque them to specification later.
Note: To prevent premature wear, most automakers recommend torquing the sway bar link nuts with the vehicle at ride height. But this may not be possible if your car is low to the ground.
- Reinstall the wheel/tire assembly on the lug nuts.
- Tighten the lug nuts until they’re snug using a ratchet and socket.
- Safely remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle.
- Use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts to the manufacturer’s specification.
- With the vehicle at its normal ride height, use a torque wrench to tighten the sway bar link nuts to the manufacturer’s specification. Remember to hold the stud or bolt portion of the link while turning the nut.
- If you’re replacing the sway bar links as a pair (recommended) repeat the process on the other side of the vehicle.
How Long Does it Take to Replace Sway Bar Links?
As long as a vehicle doesn’t have severe rust and corrosion, replacing a pair of sway bar links is usually a pretty straightforward job. On most vehicles, a professional can complete the task in under an hour.
Why Would a Sway Bar Link Break?
In most instances, sway bar links simply wear out due to time, miles, and use. But the links can also break due to rust and corrosion, or metal fatigue. It’s also possible for worn control arm or sway bar bushings to over-extend the links, causing them to break.
What Does a Sway Bar Link Do?
Sway bar links connect the sway bar to the control arm. There is one link at each end of the arm.
The sway bar (also known as a stabilizer bar) itself is basically a large-diameter steel bar designed to prevent body roll during cornering. When the car is traveling over bumps, the stabilizer bar also provides a certain level of stability.
Most modern vehicles have both a front and rear sway bar, as well as front and rear sway bar links.