Tech Corner: Taking Control with Aftermarket Sway Bars Installation

Tech Corner - IntermediateImagine driving along at a decent speed. You’re not trying to break any records, more so keeping a steady pace. Along the way you come upon a sharp turn. As you dive in, you feel the body of the vehicle begin to roll and the fear of losing control becomes all too real. We’ve all been there and we’d all like to never go back. Luckily, the answer to avoiding this experience is easy and affordable. You simply need to add on or beef up your vehicle’s sway bars.

What Exactly Does a Sway Bar Do?

First things first: Sway bars are not just for the race track. Sure they have their place there, but they’re also very useful on work trucks, haulers, and even just street cruisers. Think of them as a safety device that gives you better control over your vehicle.

A sway bar is a simple but ingenious device. They work to keep the vehicle’s body level while in a turn. As the vehicle is turning, the weight is transferred to the outside tires. This weight transfer acts to lift the inside tire from the ground. The sway bar, front or rear, simply connects the suspension from side to side. As the weight transfers to the outside wheels the sway bars will work in a torquing motion to pull the vehicle back to the inside wheel and keep the vehicle level.

One thing to note is that it’s not always about combating understeer, which is the first scenario we described.  As a vehicle turns, the rear end can also kick out, making loss of control just as deadly. This is called oversteer, and is what rear sway bars are designed to act against. Using the proper combination of front and rear sway bars will be how you manipulate your suspension to properly react to either scenario.

What Does the Set Up Entail?

In most cases, installation is quite simple. If the vehicle came from the factory with sway bars already in place, all the guess work is done for you. You’re simply going to remove the factory sway bar, which will consist of lifting the vehicle off the suspension, removing a few nuts and bolts, removing the actual bar, and then installing the aftermarket set up in the reverse process. Just be sure to properly grease all the bushings along the way.

If the vehicle doesn’t already have factory sway bars, you’re still in decent shape. Aftermarket companies have done their best to keep the addition of sway bars easy and user-friendly. The front will typically keep you from having to drill and weld too much, but for some older cars and trucks you could likely expect some fabrication. With that in mind, either job can be easy enough for one head to handle on a Sunday afternoon. It’s highly recommended, however, that you bring along a buddy. You will have to crawl under the lifted vehicle at some points and it’s good to have someone there just in case. Also, a friend could help you from having to constantly jump from side to side.

Why Consider a Sway Bar Upgrade?

You may be asking: if a vehicle already comes with factory sway bars, then why would you want to change them out? Well, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you may want to alter the thickness of the bar. Additionally, aftermarket manufacturers have figured out optimal designs per vehicle that will impact the way the suspension reacts. Also, keep in mind that the thicker the bar, the stiffer it will be. A thicker or stiffer bar will be able to better keep the vehicle level under harsh conditions. 

All that’s left is to pick your poison. Hellwig, QA1, and Hotchkis are your heavy hitters in this division. But there are a ton of other name brand aftermarket sway bars out there to help you take back control of your vehicle.

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