No, bad sway bar links or bushings do not generate vibration in the vehicle when going at speed. Sway bars come into action whenever the suspension is loaded asymmetrically when the left tire is loaded more than the right one or vice versa.
Sway bars are designed to link the left and right sides and resist body roll caused by weight shift to one side on high-speed turns. Bad sway bars hardly ever cause vibrations in the body.
- What are the symptoms of a bad sway bar?
- Check if your vehicle’s sway bar has gone bad
- What happens if sway bar links are broken?
- Why sway bar links and bushings get damaged
- Do sway bar links affect alignment?
- Does sway bar affect steering?
- How much does it cost to fix sway bar links?
- How long does it take to replace a sway bar?
- Can I drive safely without a sway bar?
- Can a bad sway bar cause tire wear?
What are the symptoms of a bad sway bar?
The sway bar itself hardly ever fails, although the bushing holding it in place or the ball joint connecting the sway bar with the sway bar link wears out over time.
Bad sway bars generate a lot of thudding and clanking noise when going at a slow speed over bumps or rough roads.
You can hear something in play with a clunky, thudding noise whenever you go over a bump if your sway bar bushings or links have gone bad.
You could also detect bad sway bars if the car is leaning more towards a particular side (left or right). Or if your steering input has a delayed response and causes the vehicle to sway or roll at higher speeds.
Check if your vehicle’s sway bar has gone bad
If you face the symptoms of a bad sway bar setup and want to confirm if it’s the sway bar causing the clucky noise over bumps, then checking it is easy and hardly takes 5 minutes.
- Lift the vehicle with both front tires off the ground.
- You first want to detect the sway bar itself in the suspension along with its link connecting it to the control arm.
- Then grab onto the sway bar firmly and try to move it in the up and down direction. If your sway bar bushings are worn out, you should notice a vertical play in the bar.
- Grab onto the bar near the ball and socket joint with the link and try to move it up and down. If you feel a play in the joint and hear it click and clank. Then your link joints are worn out as well.
What happens if sway bar links are broken?
The sway bar link is what connects your sway bar to the upper or lower control arm. The link connects to the sway bar with a ball and socket joint.
The sway bar link is thinner than the bar itself; therefore, links can also bend over time as they age. A loose sway bar link can cause a clanking noise when going over a rough road or bumps.
You can still drive your car with a bad sway bar without any significant problems. The body roll or the weight shift on the turns at higher speeds will make the car roll a bit more than usual.
Why sway bar links and bushings get damaged
Sway bar links are connected with the sway bar with a ball and socket joint. These joints mostly go bad over time due to wear, rust, and lack of sufficient lubrication.
The sway bar bushings are mainly responsible for keeping them in place and are mounted to the vehicle’s chassis.
The bushings are mostly rubber-based and, with time, get wider due to the beating and lose their size. Polyurethane bushings instead of rubber ones are much stiffer and can take the beating for a more extended time.
Do sway bar links affect alignment?
No, bad sway bar links or their replacement does not affect your car’s alignment at all. Not unless you dismount something like the lower control arm or strut to get access to the sway bar.
Sway bar replacement and its links and bushings do not require you to realign your car wheels.
Does sway bar affect steering?
Sway bars are designed to come into play when you steer your vehicle. On turning, the outside wheel is prone to receive more weight than the inner wheel due to the centrifugal force and weight shift.
The sway bar limits this loading and transfers some of the load from the more loaded side to the other side during a turn. This results in lesser body roll on turns when compared with a vehicle without any sway bars.
Bad sway bars can either cause your vehicle to steer or lean in one direction. Bad sway bar links make the steering feel loose, along with a delayed steering response.
How much does it cost to fix sway bar links?
Sway bar links and bushings mostly wear out instead of the sway bar itself due to the beating and are not much expensive to replace.
Replacing the sway bars is not an easy job, so getting the replacement done from the mechanic is the better decision in this case.
Sway bar links cost around 40-120 USD each depending on the model, and the labor for replacement costs between 40-70 USD depending on the complexity of the job.
The sway bar bushings cost around 30-50 USD and the labor for replacement sets you back around 40-60 USD.
Usually, a damaged sway bar link will cause the other one to wear out faster as well. So, when replacing the bushing or the links, it is advised to replace both sides.
How long does it take to replace a sway bar?
Attempting to replace a sway bar on your own can take you over an hour, especially if it’s the first time doing it. An experienced car mechanic will replace a sway bar in about 30 minutes.
Can I drive safely without a sway bar?
Yes, you can drive your vehicle even without any sway bars attached. Some cars and trucks come without any sway bars installed from the factory.
The vehicle will have a greater body roll and a delayed steering response without a sway bar, especially in an independent suspension vehicle. If you are driving an off-roader, removing a sway bar will increase your suspension travel and the tendency to crawl over obstacles.
Can a bad sway bar cause tire wear?
Generally, a bad sway bar will not cause uneven or premature tire wear unless you drive your car hard. Increased or uneven tire wear can be the result of wrong tire pressure or misaligned wheels.
I hope this article sheds some light on your question and that now you have a better understanding of what a sway bar does. While a bad sway bar will not affect the safety of your car, it is always recommended to have your vehicle checked if you feel something is odd when driving.
My name is Jeffrey Williams and I have been a car mechanic for over 35 years. I am currently working NYC Auto Repair Shop, in New York City and recently developed a strong passion about blogging. I decided to put together this blog where I will try and answer the most commonly asked questions I get on a daily basis from my customers.