Almost every vehicle on the road has a sway bar, also called an anti-sway bar, on the front and rear suspension to help keep the vehicle upright and stable when going around corners. A sway bar is a solid-formed bar of spring steel that resists twisting and is bolted across the front and rear of a vehicle’s frame or sub-frame. Sway bar links connect the two ends of each sway bar to suspension components, so there is one sway bar link for each corner. Usually, the links will have a ball socket with a stud that goes through a hole, which is then fixed down by a single bolt.
The principle of operation is that when going around a corner, the body of a vehicle will tend to roll, which pushes down one side of the vehicle and lifts the other. A sway bar will resist that roll, requiring the bar to be twisted to one side to raise or lower against the other; the sway bar allows a vehicle to corner and steer while staying upright and stable. Different diameter sway bars are more or less resistant to roll forces. The connecting links tend to be lower down on the suspension, and so they are susceptible to corrosion and physical damage, as well as the normal wear and tear of a working suspension piece.
Most of the time, in theory, the sway bar links are easily accessed and not too much trouble to replace. In practice, though, the nuts that hold them in place are self-locking, and if they’ve been on awhile or if there is rust, they can put up a fight. If they are being replaced, it’s common for them to be cut off rather than engage in a struggle with half-frozen fastening bolts.
Costs of Sway Bar Link Replacement
On most vehicles, it costs about £75 to replace a pair of sway bar links at the front or rear of a vehicle.
For some more specific cost estimates on some common vehicles, using £70 to £100 an hour as a labour rate:
- For a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe, the labour time to replace the two front sway bar links is 0.5 of an hour. A pair of factory links costs about £78, and a non-factory part costs about £13. That makes the job about £113 using OE parts, or about £50 using aftermarket parts.
- For a 2005 Honda Civic, the labour time to replace the front sway bar links is 0.8 of an hour. A pair of factory links costs about £45, and non-OE links cost about £23. This makes the job about £100 using OE parts, or about £80 using aftermarket parts.
- For a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the labour time to replace the front sway bar links is 0.5 of an hour. A pair of factory links costs about £220, and aftermarket links cost about £25. This makes the job about £255 using OE parts, or about £60 using aftermarket parts.
In most cases, the costs and time involved are about the same at the rear of the vehicle as at the front.
What Are Indications that Sway Bar Links Need Replaced?
If a sway bar is broken, then it should be noticeable through poor handling in corners. A broken sway bar link will usually interfere with parts of the suspension and make noise when going over bumps or around corners. The sway bars can usually be seen if they are looked for, so a visual inspection should be enough to identify the problem.
At the end of a sway bar link, there is either a bushing or a ball-socket. Both can wear out and cause noise. If a bushing is worn out, the problem is usually visible and will show up as a noise going around corners or when the vehicle is rocked back and forth. On a ball-socket style link, it’s harder to diagnose, though the symptoms would be identical – noise when going around corners or when the vehicle is rocked. To diagnose a ball-socket link, usually a vehicle is put up in the air and the links are knocked with a rubber mallet to see if they are loose and making noise.
Yes, as long as it is understood that cornering performance will be compromised. Just as the engine has a “limp mode” for when all the cylinders aren’t performing, if a vehicle is driven mildly and with care when a suspension part is compromised, it can be safe.
Generally not. In this case, the part is very simple and low-tech; there is little advantage to using a factory part, and little risk in using an inexpensive aftermarket part.
Moderately difficult. They look like they should be easy, but rusted or frozen up hardware is very common and cutting tools or special techniques are often required.