What are Symptoms of Bad Sway Bar? | Sway Bar Replacement Cost 2022

A sway bar is a major part of the vehicle suspension system. The sway bar is also known as an anti-roll bar, stabilizer bar, anti-sway bar, or roll bar. It assists in decreasing the body roll of a car during a fast turn. An anti-roll bar or sway bar links the left and right wheels through short lever arms connected via a torsion spring. This article explains the function, working, and symptoms of a bad sway bar.

What is a Sway Bar?

A sway bar or anti-roll bar is a part of the vehicle suspension system that links the opposite (right/left) sides of both rear or front suspension. It reduces the vehicle’s body tilt during a quick turn. It is a durable piece of tubular steel.

sway bar

The sway bar link is a connector that connects the outer end of the sway bar to the suspension system, which helps to hold the control arms of the wheels. The length of these bars is between 4 to 6 inches but may vary according to the type of vehicle.

These links are connected at a 90° angle to the anti-roll bar. Maximum vehicles have small ball joints on either end of these links.

The main function of the sway bar link is to stop excessive roll of the vehicle body and stabilize the vehicle when turning. Most cars have two anti-roll bars:

  1. One anti-roll bar on the front suspension
  2. Another anti-roll bar on the rear suspension

Some special types of cars contain only one anti-roll bar in the front suspension. The sports car contains a thick sway bar for efficient stability when turning.

A rubber bushing uses to connect the anti-roll bar or sway bar with the body or midframe of the vehicle. The outer edge of this bar connects to the vehicle’s suspension component that holds the wheels (control arms or struts).

Function of Sway Bar

The stabilizer bar or sway bar serves the following two major functions:

  1. The main function of the anti-roll bar is to reduce the lean of the vehicle body. The reduction in body roll or lean depends on the vehicle’ overall roll stiffness. An increase in the vehicle’s overall lean stiffness doesn’t vary the overall steady-state weight (load) transfer from the inner wheel to the outer wheel; it only decreases body roll. The width of the track and the height of the center of gravity is used to determine the total lateral weight transfer.
  2. Another function of the sway bar is to adjust the vehicle’s driving balance. The oversteer or understeer phenomena can be adjusted by changing the overall roll stiffness ratio of the rear axle and front axle. An increase in the roll stiffness ratio at the front wheel increases the overall load shift ratio to which the front axle is responsive and reduces the rear axle’s responsiveness ratio. In general, this causes the outside front wheels to turn with a relatively high slip angle and the outside rear wheels with a relatively low slip angle. An increase in the rear axle roll stiffness ratio produces the opposite effect and reduces understeer.

Working of Sway Bar

The sway bar is also known as a stabilizer bar. The anti-roll bars or sway bars are used to prevent the car from rolling over. This bar connects to each front wheel of the vehicle. This is a U-shaped steel bar.  

sway bar working, anti roll bar

When your vehicle goes around a turn, your vehicle’s body rolls to one side or its weight shifts to one side. When this happens, your vehicle experiences “body roll” or “sway.” The sway bar will control each wheel’s suspension to even out your vehicle’s body roll and keep your vehicle more level and in control.

Again, when you are going around a turn, your vehicle’s body will roll or sway to the outside of the turn. This means that the weight of your vehicle is transferred more to the outside wheels, and the suspension on your outside wheels compresses.

The two wheels on the inside of the turn will rise, or the suspension will extend. Just think, when you are taking a sharp turn, you can actually feel your body moving or drifting to the outside of the turn.

The next time when you are going around a turn, think about how you can feel your body swaying and imagine that your vehicle is experiencing the same thing. The sway bar is in charge of controlling this body roll.

The sway bar will push the tires inside the turndown or compress the inside wheel’s suspension, so they stay in contact with the road to control your vehicle’s stability. The sway bar will distribute your vehicle’s weight over all four tires to keep your vehicle as flat as possible through a turn.

Bad Sway Bar Symptoms

As the sway bar or anti roll bar goes bad, it produces one of the below-given symptoms:

  1. Strange noises
  2. Car swerves
  3. Poor vehicle stability while accelerating
  4. Visibly worn out
  5. Trouble when taking turns

1) Strange Noises

One of the main causes of sway bar failure is the deterioration of the bushings. You will hear a rattling noise when these parts begin to go bad. This sound is pronounced when going over a bump.

However, there are other sounds you might hear when the sway bar links or bushings are failing. Listen for a squeaking sound when heading over bumps. As the condition gets worse, you might even hear the noises when traveling on flat stretches of highway. 

2) Car Swerves

The failing sway bar reduces traction and stability. You will notice handling issues even when you aren’t heading through a turn.

The car might feel completely out of control or as if pieces are falling off. As you hold the steering wheel, you will notice a significant decrease in control over the direction of your car. 

3) Poor vehicle stability while accelerating

When your stabilizer bar links are damaged, you will start to notice vehicle body roll while accelerating. Your vehicle will start to wobble any time you attempt to drive over 25mph. A bad stabilizer bar may also cause your sway bar to shake, leading to the instability of your vehicle.

Many drivers experience this once in a while, and most of them are not sure of the cause. Well! Now you know the probable cause.

4) Visibly Worn Out

The best part about the sway bar, links, and bushings is that everything can be easily inspected. One way to tell if there is a problem is to perform a visual inspection.

The sway bar links will look completely worn out. You might also notice that the rubber bushings or nuts located at both ends of these links lose their solid, round shape or become hard and torn. 

If the sway bar links become loose and you can easily move them with your hand, they are worn out. In extreme cases, they can also become detached from the sway bar or control arms. Your car should never be driven when the parts are this deteriorated, or you could lose control.

5) Trouble When Taking Turns

As the sway bar links become loose, the tires can no longer keep a solid grip on the road. This lack of handling makes it more difficult to take a turn normally. 

You will feel the condition of the steering wheel as you attempt to turn. It will require more effort to get your vehicle where it needs to go. You can blame this condition on the links, but it also happens when the bushings deteriorate.

Read More: Symptoms and causes of a bad Rocker Arm

Causes  of bad Sway Bar Links 

The sway bar link maintains the camber angle of the inner wheels to control motion. The following are the major causes of the bad sway bar links :

  1. Age of the links
  2. Wear and tear the links
  3. Water intrusion that leads to rust
  4. Age of the sway bar links
  5. Insufficient lubrication

Sway Bar Location

The sway bar is U-shaped and connects to the frame. The sway bar is usually found on the front of the vehicle, bolted securely to the suspension.

However, some cars have front sway bar links, while others contain both front and rear sway bar links. If you are unsure what your vehicle has, reference the service manual.

Sway Bar Installation Cost

The installation cost of the anti-roll bar or sway bar varies according to the area where you live, the type of car, and the brand of the bar. The average sway bar replacement cost is from $115 to $190. In this cost, the labor cost is from $50 to $75, while the part costs from $65 to $115

The stabilizer bushing replacement cost is between $120 and $170, with labor making up $90 to $110 and the part costing $30 to $60

Labor Cost$50 to $75
Link Cost$65 to $115
Total Cost115 to $190

FAQ Section

What are sway bar links?

Sway bar end links are the attachment points between a sway bar and suspension members. Also known as a stabilizer bar or anti-roll bar, the sway bar connects suspension components on either side of the car to minimize body leaning in turns.

Can you drive without a sway bar?

Yes, you can drive without a sway bar, but it’s not recommended. A sway bar helps to keep your car stable and prevents it from rolling over when cornering.

Without a sway bar, your car is more likely to roll over if you take a sharp turn. If you do decide to drive without a sway bar, be sure to go slowly and carefully.

Can I drive with a damaged sway bar link?

It is possible still to drive a vehicle with broken sway bar links, but handling performance will suffer, so use caution by driving on paved roads, taking turns slowly, and staying off high-speed highways and/or interstates that require lane changes.

What does a front sway bar do?

Sway bars or stabilizer bars are used to keep your vehicle from rolling over. It is a U-shaped steel bar that is connected to each of the vehicle’s front wheels. When your vehicle goes around a turn, your vehicle’s body rolls to one side or its weight shifts to one side.

What are the types of Sway Bars?

  1. Solid sway bars
  2. Hollow sway bars
  3. Splined sway bars
  4. Active bars

What is the replacement cost of sway bar links?

The average sway bar link replacement cost is usually between $120 to $170, including labor. The links themselves cost between $45 to $120 each, while the labor will set you back anywhere between $65 to $80.

How many sway bars are on a car?

A car typically has two sway bars: one front and one rear sway bar for each axle. In some older car models, you will only find a sway bar on the front axle.

What does bad bushing sound like?

When a vehicle’s bushing goes faulty, the stabilizer bar becomes unstable, and this will cause your car to make sounds while driving; these sounds are best described as squeaking, rattling, or clunking. The noise gets louder as the driving progresses, especially when going on a rough road.

How does a front sway bar affect handling?

Basically, sway bars reduce roll and dramatically improve handling. They connect one side of the suspension to the other with attachment points generally on the lower A-arms and frame (chassis) and twist to limit the roll during cornering. As the truck enters a corner, centrifugal forces create a body roll force.

Do sway bars affect alignment?

No, sway bars don’t affect alignment.

When should I replace my sway bar links?

If you can see looseness in the end links when moving the bar, they should be replaced. If the bushings are showing signs of deterioration (cracking or brittleness), have a gap, or are misshapen, they also need to be replaced.

How many sway bar links are on a car?

Generally, every car has four sway links and one for each wheel. These links hold the vehicle flat, in turn, to prevent the vehicle from flipping over.

Read More
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  2. How to Align Vehicle Wheels?
  3. Causes of Car Vibration
  4. Symptoms and Causes of bad CV Joint

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