When to replace sway bar links?

Sway bars are also sometimes referred to as anti-roll bars or stabilizer bars. They are primarily used to keep your car or truck steady and prevent it from leaning too much during turns or on unstable terrains. Vehicles can have more than one sway bar with one at the front and another at the back near the suspension. Some exotic or sports cars will have specialized sway bars that help with quick turns.

Toyota 4Runner showing both the sway bar and link

You can typically find the sway bar connected to the trucks’s frame in the middle thanks to rubber bushings. The ends of the bar are attached to the suspension of the pickup where the wheels are attached. This is done via a sway bar link that, in most cars, has ball joints for attaching the sway bar to the suspension.

Like most mechanical parts, these ball joints will eventually wear out. Like everything else, you can observe the signs and symptoms when the parts near the end of their lifespan. For sway bar links, this comes in the form of a knocking sound emitting from the suspension every time you hit a bump on the road.

How to diagnose sway bar problems?

Typically, a competent mechanic will be able to pinpoint the problem by moving the sway bar up and down.

  • If it makes noise while being moved, it’s likely worn.
  • However, if it starts to break away and fall apart from the suspension itself, that’s cause for concern.

If you value your safety and your car’s ability to execute turns without tipping over, this is the time to change your sway bar. For pickup trucks, the sway bar design is a little different and results in excessive play on worn out bars.

If you have two sway bars and one has worn out, your mechanic will usually advise you to replace the other as well. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but because sway bars often degrade in similar time periods, this is sound advice.

Not hugely expensive if you need to replace and can be done yourself.

It can also be wise to replace your sway bar if you just replaced the struts or control arms. Again, it’s not necessary, but if you have an older car, it can be much more difficult to replace the link without damaging it because of rusted threads. A good rule of thumb is to always replace your sway link if you’re also replacing any parts that are attached to it.

You don’t have to worry about a specific time to replace your sway link. If it’s working as intended without any audible or visible signs of wear, you should be good. Even if it does wear, it’s not as expensive to replace as you would think. Most repair shops charge $75-$140 for sway bar link replacements per side.

Easy Job to Do it Yourself

You can even opt to replace the sway link bar yourself. All it takes is some oil or WD40 and some new parts. You can start by soaking the thread in oil or WD40 to loosen any rusted or seized nuts.

How to Replace Sway Bar Link Step by Step Instructions

Replacing your sway bar links really is quite easy, just follow these 10 steps and you will be done in no time.

  1. Loosen the wheel nuts but do not remove yet.
  2. Jack up your car or truck under the suspension arm so it pushes the suspension up and relieves pressure on the link, so it is easier to remove.
  3. Now remove the lug nuts and wheel.
  4. Next you want to remove the nut holding the sway bar link to the sway bar. Use some vice pliers on the top and a socket wrench on the bottom to make it easier.
  5. Remove the old sway link.  If you have difficulty, you can simply cut it as we do not need it anymore.
  6. Install the new sway link exactly the same as the old one.  From the bottom, you should have nut, mounting point, smaller nut, then metal washer, bushing, sway bar, bushing, metal washer and nut at the top.
  7. Tighten the nuts again, same as in step 4.  If you have difficulty, you can use the jack to further compress the sway bar to give you more room to tighten the nuts.
  8. Replace the wheel and lug nuts.
  9. Remove the jack.
  10. Tighten the lug nuts and the job is done.

As you can see from this video (sorry about the intro), replacing your sway bar link is not a hard job and can be done quite quickly, so why not save yourself some $’s and give it a go.

However, you don’t need to replace the sway bar bushings if they are not worn out. These have their own rate of wear and should be treated as separate parts that have to be replaced when they start showing their own signs of wear.

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