Sway Bar Kit Buyer's Guide
- A sway bar kit is a selection of parts that connect the opposite sides of your vehicle’s suspension system.
- A basic kit contains a front or rear sway bar, end links, link bushings or sockets, vehicle frame bushings, and bushing brackets.
- The sway bar also gets called the anti-roll or stabilizer bar. It is a solid or hollow metal bar mounted onto the middle of the vehicle frame using greased rubber or polyurethane bushings.
- The sway bar prevents too much body roll, keeps the vehicle level, and controls the distribution of weight by twisting.
- Some signs of bad or failing sway bar components include rattling or squeaking noises, excessive leaning while cornering, and poor handling.
- The cost of a sway bar kit will vary depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle. OE replacement sway bars will generally cost you $150 to $200, on average. A performance upgrade can cost well over $1,000.
- It is possible to drive a vehicle with failing sway bar components. However, you will experience poor handling and reduced ride comfort while cornering or changing directions. You should also avoid driving at highway speeds until you can get a new sway bar kit installed.
Ever wondered how vehicles turn a fast corner or make U-turns without flipping over to one side? The secret lies in a U-shaped piece of metal known as the sway bar. This rigid component provides the stiffness needed by your vehicle to keep all four wheels on the road as you change directions.
A new sway bar can drastically improve the handling, weight distribution, and traction of your car. Here’s what you need to know about getting a sway bar replacement or upgrade for your vehicle.
What is a sway bar kit?
A sway bar kit is a selection of parts that connect the opposite sides of your vehicle’s suspension system. A basic kit contains a front or rear sway bar, end links, link bushings or sockets, vehicle frame bushings, and bushing brackets.
The main job of these components is to improve vehicle handling by reducing body roll and maintaining lateral grip while cornering. Most modern vehicles have front sway bars, while high-performance vehicles are typically fitted with rear sway bars.
The sway bar also gets called an anti-roll or stabilizer bar. It is a stiff metal bar mounted onto the middle of the vehicle frame using greased rubber or polyurethane bushings. Some sway bars are solid, while others are tubular and hollow. It connects to the suspension components on both the driver and passenger side via end links. These also have a pair of ball joints at the end of each sway bar link.
What does a sway bar do?
A sway bar is a torsion spring that connects the suspension components on the left and right sides of the vehicle. Its main job is to prevent the vehicle from leaning over too much on one side and experiencing excessive body roll.
The weight of a vehicle shifts to one side while cornering. As your car enters a turn, you’ll feel your body leaning towards the opposite direction. This leaning or swaying movement is “vehicle body roll.” The sway bar prevents too much body roll, keeps the vehicle level, and controls the distribution of weight by twisting.
When one side of the vehicle moves up while making a turn, the sway bar twists and pulls the inside tire down to compress its suspension and keep the vehicle level. This movement helps the vehicle maintain traction and prevents the weight of the vehicle from shifting over too much on one side.
Why is it better to get a kit? And what should be in it?
You can get parts piece by piece-bushings, linkage assemblies, and a new sway bar. But while you can save some cash with this, wouldn't you worry about brackets, bolts, nuts, and other parts on the verge of wearing out? With a kit, you get everything brand new. It's complete with mounting clamps and brackets, bushings, bolts and nuts, links, and, of course, the sway bar. All these bits and pieces will surely fit-you'll know which goes with what. Installation is usually easier, with zero to minor welding or drilling required. Most kits are designed for bolt-on assembly. Some are available not merely as an OE replacement but as an upgrade, making them perfect companions for high-performance spring kits and other suspension parts.
So what's it going to be? A new front or rear sway bar kit?
Most cars come with front sway bars, but not all of them have rear anti-roll bars (you can find these mostly on high-performance models). If you're fed up with the lackluster handling of your ride, you can simply replace the worn-out front sway bar, install a rear sway bar, or get a larger stabilizer bar for the front (a common upgrade for some vintage Mustangs). Whatever you have in mind, don't gamble on a sway bar kit that isn't compatible with your ride-use your vehicle manual as a guide.
What are things to consider when in the market for a solid sway bar?
The sway bar can be made of high-carbon steel, hardened and stress relieved for better support to suspension. It can also be made of 4140 chrome moly steel or high-tensile steel alloy, both cold formed, short peened, and tempered for maximum durability. Your sway bar replacement may come in a light tubular steel, which can be stiffer than the stock but won't add unwanted pounds to your car. The sway bar should be powder coated for high resistance to rust.
Adjustable or non-adjustable?
Adjustable sway bar kits allow you to fine-tune the handling of your vehicle according to your driving style. These have different adjustment positions. But if you're simply looking for a new sway bar for day-to-day driving, a non-adjustable type will do.
What about the bushings?
Stock rubber bushings are softer and may provide more cushion, but performance-driven motorists prefer neoprene types because they're stiffer and more resistant to wear. Polyurethane bushings, meanwhile, combine the elastic quality of rubber and the sturdiness of metal.
Signs your vehicle needs a new sway bar kit
Here are the common symptoms that suggest that your vehicle is due for a sway bar replacement. We strongly recommended seeking the expertise of a licensed mechanic as soon as you notice one or more of the signs listed below.
Rattling or squeaking noises
The sway bar should fit snugly onto the vehicle frame. As the links and rubber bushings wear out, the metal bar will become unstable and produce rattling or squeaking noises from underneath the vehicle.
Excessive swaying or leaning
You may not notice any changes to the drivability of your vehicle at first, but these symptoms will become more apparent over time. Worn out bushings and links can cause your vehicle to lean too much on one side while cornering.
Poor stability and traction
Left unchecked, the uneven distribution of vehicle weight while making turns can cause uneven tire wear. This will have a negative impact on vehicle handling. The steering will feel loose and sloppy, and you may hear knocking noises while driving over speed bumps.
How much does it cost to replace a sway bar?
The cost of a sway bar kit will vary depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle. How much you must spend also depends on what type of kit you select (front and/or rear) and its adjustability. OE replacement sway bars will generally cost you $150 to $200, on average. A performance upgrade can cost well over $1,000.
Can you drive with a broken sway bar?
Metal sway bars typically use durable iron or steel, which means they don’t snap or break easily. There is also no recommended replacement schedule for this part because they typically last the entire service life of the vehicle. In rare cases, things like corrosion and collision damage can cause deterioration and dents that warrant the replacement of your sway bars.
Instead of worrying about a broken sway bar, vehicle owners should watch out for worn or damaged bushings and end links. These parts may slip out of alignment, crack from lack of lubrication and extreme heat, and wear out faster because of oil contamination and debris buildup.
It is possible to drive a vehicle with failing sway bar components. However, you will experience poor handling and reduced ride comfort while cornering or changing directions. You should also avoid driving at highway speeds until you can get a new sway bar kit installed.
Finding the right sway bar link kit
CarParts.com carries a wide selection of sway bar kits for different makes and models. Our team of industry professionals has taken extra steps to ensure that only the best quality parts make it into our catalog. Start your search today by plugging in your vehicle’s correct year, make, and model into our website’s built-in vehicle selector to browse all compatible parts.
How to Install a Sway Bar Kit
You'll never really know the true meaning of "handling like a dream" without that resilient spring steel (a.k.a. the sway bar) to balance things out and reduce body roll. Tight turns and high-speed cornering? Don't you worry a thing! But if there's rapping or clunking noises and you notice erratic handling coupled with tire tread wear, then here are the steps for replacing the old sway bar:
Difficulty level: Moderate
For the front sway bar
What you need:
- Front sway bar kit
- Car lift
- 3/8-inch-drive air ratchet
- 3/8-inch-drive universal impact swivel
- 3/8-inch-drive impact socket set
- Hand wrench set
Step 1: Lift your vehicle and crawl underneath to see where the links of the front sway bar go.
Step 2: Use the socket, hand wrench, and air ratchet to hold the sway bar link connection, as you take out the link on each side. Depending on the connection of the link to the sway bar, you may use hex-head Allen wrenches and other tools to support the link while removing the retaining nut.
Step 3: Find the sway bar brackets simply by tracing the sway bar end links. For some models, you have to take out undercarriage parts to work on the brackets.
Step 4: With the air ratchet swivel and socket, remove the brackets' retaining bolts. If space is too tight, then use a hand wrench. Now pull out the sway bar.
Step 5: Set the new bushings on the sway bar replacement. After that, you have to change the brackets. Thread the bolts and nuts, but don't tighten them just yet.
Step 6: Hook up the sway bar end to the links and seal the sway bar links' retaining nuts. Now you can tighten the sway bracket's nuts and bolts.
For the rear sway bar
What you need:
- Rear sway bar kit
- Tape measure
- Jack and jack stands
- 3/8-inch ratchet and socket
- Open-end wrench set
Step 1: Using the jack, lift the vehicle and secure it with jack stands, so you can slide underneath.
Step 2: Grease the inside of the sway bar bushings. Put these bushings (included in the kit) into the sway bar by pushing it to the bar's middle part.
Step 3: Push the brackets over the torsion beam, the one that's linked to the rear suspension. Once they're sealed in place, check if the brackets are spaced evenly from side to side using a tape measure. With the open-end wrench and 3/8-inch ratchet and socket, secure the clamps (with the bolts) over the sway bar bushings.
Step 4: Raise the jack till it's at the bottom of the torsion beam. Then use the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket to remove the bolt/s of the shock. Thread the heims joints into the assembly using a lock nut (in the middle) to put together the end links.
Step 5: Make sure that the threads are halfway out of the collar-use a tape measure for this. Seal the heims joint to the shock hole with longer bolts. The sway bar should be fastened to the other end. See the part of the link that's not threaded? That should be on the bolt of the shock mount.
Step 6: Simply follow the same steps for the vehicle's other side. Finally, take the vehicle off the stands as you lower the jack.