A sway bar (also known as a stabilizer bar, anti-roll bar, anti-sway bar) is used to keep the car body from leaning excessively to the side. Stabilizer bar bushing and links can be easily checked.
If you notice that they are loose or have any play they need to be replaced. The sway bar itself almost never gets damaged, it is the sway bar bushings and sway bar links that wear quite often, sometimes as early as 60,000 miles.
A sway bar is designed to twist. Rubber bushings are usually fitted between the sway bar and the control arms. Brackets and bushing are used to secure the bar to the control arms or the sway bar end links connect it to the strut or control arm.
Some of the most common symptoms of a bad sway bar bushing or sway bar links going bad are:
- Clunking noise
- Rattling noise
- Knocking uneven noise road
- Lack of stability when driving
- Noise going over speed bumps
- Poor handling when turning
If your sway bar end links are broken, you can still drive the car. The problem is that you will notice excessive body roll when making turns at speeds over 30 mph. This can make the vehicle unstable. If your sway bar bushings or links broke while driving, drive the car home or to a mechanic.
You should drive carefully but more importantly, slow down when taking a highway exit ramp. This is when you will notice the body roll the most. At slow speeds or in neighborhood driving you will not even notice the missing sway bar link.
Troubleshooting Sway Bar Problems
First, determine where the noise is coming from. Do not confuse deteriorated sway bar bushing noise from surrounding suspension noises. Lift the vehicle with a floor jack and safely place the vehicle on a jack stand. Be mindful when doing this.
Locate the sway bar and inspect the bushing. The bushing should not be torn and should be in good condition. Next, grab the sway bar and move it. If there is a slight movement, the sway bushing has deteriorated. Moreover, inspect the sway bar link for deteriorated rubber.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between bad sway bar bushings and bad sway bar end links. Keep in mind that sway bar bushings will produce a squeaky noise when you go over speed bumps. While the sway bar links will make a clunk or thump when you hit a pothole.
The typical cost to change the front sway bar bushings and links range between $450 and $900 depending on make and model.
The good news is that the parts themselves are very cheap, especially if you buy them online. The typical cost of front sway bar links and bushings is under $100. Sometimes you can even upgrade the stabilizer bar and links for better handling.
Replacing the sway bar bushings yourself is easy and can be done in your driveway. It is not required to perform front-wheel aliment if you are only replacing the sway bar parts.