Bad Sway Bar Link (All You Need To Know)
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Chris studied information systems and marketing at Drexel University and writes about a wide range of topics ranging from car buying tips to troubleshooting common mechanical issues.
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You have a bad sway bar link when suddenly, you start hearing some strange noises from the hood of your car, followed by a loss of balance in your car's control, stability, and steering ability.
The symptoms of a bad sway bar link include excessive body rolls, which happens when your car pulls towards one side of the road when you try to take a turn.
Because sway bar links play a great role in the stability and balance of your car, it also determines your overall safety on the road, and damages on the link can result in accidents.
So, you shouldn't just stop looking out for the symptoms of a bad sway bar link. You can also learn a few things about how to fix them.
Here's a detailed guide on all you need to know about bad sway bar links.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Function of Sway Bar Link?
- Where Is the Sway Bar on a Car Located?
- What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar Link?
- Can You Drive with a Bad Sway Bar Link?
- What Causes Sway Bar Links To Go Bad?
- Best Car Deals by Category
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Function of Sway Bar Link?
The Sway Bar Link, which is also known as the stabilizer bar link, is a wide U-shaped bar that is part of the suspension component and connects both wheels of your car.
The sway bar is designed as a parallel torsional spring that not only creates a link between the right and left wheels but also creates a balance between both wheels, with the aim of improving handling in automobiles.
The spring balances the movement of the car by pulling down the other end when the other side is pulled up in a bend. The sway bars twist and bends up and down to ensure that the car is stable even while taking turns in sharp bends, driving through potholes or uneven roads.
For proper functionality, the sway bar is connected to the framework of your car, fastened to a location on both wheels adjacent to each other. As the vehicle tries to bend towards a curve, the sway bar exerts a downward force on the other end of the car, pulling it down and preventing the car from rolling over.
However, it is important to mention that the force delivered by the sway bar must balance with the strength of other components of the suspension.
This implies that the sway bar mustn't be too strong, yet not too weak. Too strong a sway bar will reduce body roll on the vehicle and will also negatively impact the handling and ride quality of the vehicle.
Where Is the Sway Bar on a Car Located?
Sway bars are usually located in the front part of your vehicle, connecting the two opposite wheels of the vehicle. However, recent designs have seen cars have two sway bars.
One in the front area, connecting the two front wheels, and the other at the back, connecting the rear wheels.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar Link?
Drivers tend to ask a lot of questions regarding how they can be able to figure out if they have a bad sway bar link. Some of these questions range from if a bad sway bar can cause knocking, loose steering, or maybe shaking when you hit the brakes.
Understanding what happens when your sway bar fails will eliminate the need to always guess the source of your car’s problems.
Here are the common symptoms of a bad sway bar link:
1. Awkward Sounds
Awkward sounds are one of the noticeable symptoms of a bad sway bar link. These awkward sounds vary in different conditions, depending on the status of the sway bar link and the state of the road.
Sometimes they are louder during faster or slower speeds, noticeable when you drive through rough roads with bumps, with the noise becoming more frequent if left unattended to.
These sounds can come from either the front or back depending on the position of the damaged sway bar link, front or rear, and will be loudly noticeable when you sway the car to either position.
You can also figure out the noise when you try to press down the car towards the front position. This will produce a metallic sound whenever you bounce the car. These sounds usually occur because the sway bar links are loose or about to be detached.
2. Poor Handling
Because sway bar links are attached to the wheels of your car, any slight damage in the bar link will impact your vehicle's handling.
If you notice that your car starts swimming towards opposite directions or you notice a loss of traction when you take a turn, poor steering responses, or you notice that your car is gradually being controlled by other forces that you can't explain, then there's a high chance that you have a bad sway bar link.
The impact of poor handling due to a bad sway bar link will be noticeable in your steering wheel as it will become loose, your car will try to drift even when you are not trying to, and it will gradually start feeling like you are driving on a flat tire.
3. Excessive Body Roll
You should not forget that your sway bars play a direct role in reducing body roll by transferring pressure exerted on the wheels and evenly distributing weight across the four wheels. When the sway bar link goes bad, your car will experience excessive body roll.
You'll gradually notice that your wheels find it difficult to maintain a lane. This is because the wheels are gradually acting independently of each other.
Excessive body rolls from sway bar links will have you finding it hard to steer your car, gain traction, or straighten your wheels after taking a turn.
Most times, issues like this can transcend to having your car leaning in one direction. If you notice that your car is assuming an improper posture while driving, then it's time for you to inspect your sway bar links.
Most times, your sway bar link doesn't need to be entirely damaged for you to notice a change in body roll. A minor impact on the sway bar links can result in this.
4. Uneven Tire Wear
With a bad sway bar link, your car will take unusual turns, vibrate and experience poor handling. These irregularities will cause uneven wear on your tires. You'll notice that your tire is wearing from one side, and this is because handling just got worse on the car.
It is important to mention that uneven tire wear can be an indicator of a lot of car problems. You shouldn't quickly assume that uneven tire wear proves that you have a bad sway bar link, although that is one of the possible causes.
5. Vibrations and Stability Issues
Aside from the noise and sounds, a bad sway bar link should also cause vibrations in your car. The vibrations should occur mostly in your steering wheel, but it can get worse when you can feel your seat vibrating.
A bad sway bar link can cause side-to-side motion of your car, and this level of instability will have your car's internal components vibrating.
Can You Drive with a Bad Sway Bar Link?
Yes. You can drive with a bad sway bar link, but this is not advisable. It is important that you park and fix your car anytime a problem arises.
Car problems like a bad sway bar link can cause instability, poor handling, and poor steering response, all of which can negatively impact your safety on the road. You shouldn't continue driving with a bad sway bar link, waiting till it's completely damaged, as this can cause serious damage to the front end of your vehicle.
What Causes Sway Bar Links To Go Bad?
There are quite a lot of common reasons why your sway bar links can go bad.
Here are some of the common causes of a bad sway bar link:
- Cold Weather or Water Intrusion
- Poor Lubrication
- Wear and Tear
Bad sway links aren't an issue that you will want to linger on. It's possible that the signs are not yet obvious, but if you notice any odd balance in your vehicle, you can test the bad sway links and carefully look out for symptoms. Don't forget to replace the defective parts as soon as you can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need an alignment after replacing sway bar links?
No. You don't need an alignment after replacing sway bar links. Changing your sway bar links doesn't affect your wheels' alignment. Just replace and drive.
How often should sway bar links be replaced?
There isn't a fixed timeframe for replacing sway bar links. Most drivers only have to replace their sway bar links once in the course of owning a car. You should simply replace your sway bar links anytime they are damaged.
Are sway bars and stabilizer bars the same thing?
Yes. Sway bar and stabilizer bar are the same thing, just different words for the same thing.