Connecting the wheels on opposite sides of the vehicle is a stabilizer bar called the sway bar. The sway bar is charged with controlling body roll by distributing the weight of your vehicle to both sides of the suspension. When your vehicle moves through a turn, the sway bar keeps the vehicle level by minimizing body roll through the transfer of vehicle weight to the outside wheels. It also maintains solid contact with the surface of the road through the compression of the suspension components on the inside wheels.
Sway bar links are a crucial component in your vehicle’s suspension system. The sway bar links are what connect the suspension to the sway bar and transfer the force of motion from the wheels to the axles. When the vehicle turns or corners, the sway bar end links pull on the bar to resist body roll while stabilizing the force of motion and the weight of the vehicle. So it can become dangerous when you travel with bad sway bar links. To know how to tell if sway bar links are bad or not follow below.
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How To Tell If Sway Bar Links Are Bad?
Some of the most common symptoms of a bad sway bar bushing or sway bar links going bad are:
1. Strange Noises
One of the main causes of sway bar failure is the failure of the bushings. When these parts begin to go bad, you will hear a rattling noise. This sound is pronounced when going over a bump. This is the first way how to tell if sway bar links are bad or not.
However, there are other sounds you might hear when the sway bar links or bushings are failing. Listen for a squeaking sound when heading over bumps. As the condition gets worse, you might even hear the noises when traveling on flat stretches of highway.
2. Trouble When Taking Turns
As the sway bar links become loose, the tires can no longer keep a solid grip on the road. This lack of handling makes it more difficult to take a turn normally.
You will feel the condition in the steering wheel as you attempt to turn. It will require more effort to get your vehicle where it needs to go. You can blame this condition on the links, but it also happens when the bushings fail.
3. Car Swerves
The failing sway bar reduces traction and stability. Even when you aren’t heading through a turn, you will notice handling issues.
The car might feel completely out of control or as if pieces are falling off. As you hold the steering wheel, you will notice a significant decrease in control over the direction of your car.
4. Visibly Worn Out
The best part about the sway bar, links, and bushings is that everything can be easily inspected. One way to tell if there is a problem is to perform a visual inspection. The sway bar links will look completely worn out. You might also notice that the rubber bushings located at both ends of these links lose their solid, round shape or become hard and torn.
If the sway bar links become loose and you can easily move them with your hand, they are worn out. In extreme cases, they can also become detached from the sway bar or control arms. Your car should never be driven when the parts fail, or you could lose control.
How To Diagnose Front Sway Bar Problems?
Follow the below steps to diagnose the front sway bar if you know how to tell if sway bar links are bad or not.
1. Worn Bushing
Drive the car around corners at a quick rate of speed, but don’t be reckless. Pay attention to how the steering and chassis respond to your inputs. If the car feels vague and dirty, feels stable one second, and then not stable a second later, the problem may be a broken drop link or worn bushings.
2. Check For Clunking Noise
Listen for clunking noise from the front end. Many things can cause a vehicle’s front end to make strange noises and clunks, one of which can be faulty sway bar components. If the sway bar drop link is broken or has worn or torn bushings, the bar may move around and make clunks when the vehicle is driven around corners or even over bumps.
3. Visual Inspection
Perform a visual inspection of the sway bar and the bar components. Loosen the lug for the front wheels. Jack up the vehicle with a floor jack and support it with jack stands. Remove the lug nuts and the wheels.
Inspect the sway bar drop links, which are the short parts that come off of the end of the bar at a right angle and bolt to the suspension. Make sure the links are not broken. Make sure that the bolts are tight and the bushings are in good shape and not torn or missing. Also, inspect the brackets that hold the center part of the bar. There will be bushings under these brackets to isolate the bar. Make sure these are in good shape as well.
Can You Drive With Bad Sway Bar Links?
Sway Bar Links help prevent excessive leaning during turns and keep the vehicle stable by linking the sway bar, also known as the stabilizer or anti-roll bar, to the suspension components. Symptoms of a worn sway bar link are knocking noises on uneven roads and sway bar play when inspecting suspension parts.
The worst-case scenario for an extremely worn-out sway bar link is a complete separation of the sway bar from the system, which will cause the vehicle to lean excessively in turns, reducing stability.
It is possible to still drive a vehicle with broken sway bar links, but handling performance will suffer so use caution by driving on uneven roads, taking turns slowly, and staying off high-speed highways and interstates that require lane changes. However, it is highly recommended that broken sway bar links are replaced as soon as possible.
What Will Be The Replacement Cost Of Bad Sway Bar Links?
The typical cost to change the front sway bar bushings and links is between 450$ and 900$ depending on the 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.
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.