Following these general tips to perform your own sway bar repair can save you hundreds of dollars over what a garage or shop would charge. Sway bars are attached to the front or rear suspension of your vehicle in order to suppress body roll when cornering. The sway bar links to the control arm with a 4 to 6 inch bolt or PVC rod. Sway bar links can be bent by potholes and curbs or worn down by corrosion. The sway bar also attaches to the chassis by way of a rubber or polyurethane bushing. The bushing allows weight to shift from one side of the bar to the other. If you experience loose steering around corners, you might have damaged sway bar links. On the other hand, a clunking noise heard when driving over potholes indicates damaged bushings.
1. Obtain Replacement Kit and Tools
Obtain appropriately sized replacement parts from the vehicle’s manufacturer or dealer based on the make, model, and year. You will need jack stands, work lights, needle nose pliers or vise grips, a crescent wrench, and a socket wrench. You may also need penetrating lubricant, rubber-safe grease, and a high-powered saw or acetylene torch.
2. Jack Up One End of Vehicle
Loosen the wheel lug nuts before jacking up both sides of the vehicle evenly, and then remove the tires completely. Raising the end of the vehicle applies hanging weight to the control bars and keeps loose bolts from spinning in place. Brace the control arms with jack stands to prevent them from falling once the bolts are removed.
3. Apply Penetrating Lubricant
The bolts holding the sway bar links in place will be very tight. Spray them with a penetrating lubricant and allow it to soak in before attempting to loosen them.
4. Hold Sway Bar in Place
When you are unscrewing bolts from the sway bar links or bushings, you may wish to stabilize the sway bar with needle nose pliers or vise grips. This will prevent the bar from turning with your wrench.
5. Use Two Wrenches
When loosening or tightening the bolts on your sway bar, hold the bolt in place with a crescent wrench on one side of the mounting point while tightening it with the socket wrench on the other side.
6. Cut Out Badly Damaged Links
If the sway bar link is badly bent or the bolts are seized, it may be necessary to remove the link by cutting through it with a saw or torch.
7. Use Grease and Pliers to Replace Bushing
Once the links are removed, you can loosen a clamp to slide off the old bushing. Lubricate the new bushing before sliding it back on. To replace the clamp, hold it tightly shut against the bushing with needle nose pliers while tightening the bolt.
8. Lower Vehicle to Tighten Links
Rather than forcing the sway bar back to the links with a pry bar, gently lower the jack stand to drop it onto the bolts. Tighten the bolts, and raise the jacks back up to replace the tires.