If your car is vibrating when you drive, is tough to steer, or feels like it might roll over in turns, it may be time to check the sway bar end links, aka stabilizer links. These links serve as the sway bar’s connection to the rest of the suspension and are crucial for maintaining your car’s stability while driving. They unfortunately don’t last forever.
What are sway bar end links?
Sway bar end links enhance handling by minimizing body roll in your car. This gives a much smoother ride and extends the life of tires by reducing early wear. They connect to the sway bar.
The sway bar (aka Anti Roll Bar or Stabilizer Bar… they’re the same thing), which offers stability, is connected to the suspension on either side of the car by sway bar end links. This bar spans the front end slightly in front of the tires. End links connect the sway bar to the outer suspension at the wheel on each side.
Although the sway bars are made of steel, the end links have rubber bushings that can wear out over time. When driving in turns and curves, these bushings offer stable, smooth handling and prevent excessive body roll.
How long do they last?
The typical driver can expect to get at least 50,000 miles out of sway bar end links and bushings. Original parts from the manufacturer should last at least 50,000 miles, and quality replacements should last about the same amount of time.
Expect to replace these parts more frequently if the car is driven in challenging conditions, off-road, or in high-performance driving scenarios like track nights or races. Off-roading and high-performance driving may require these parts to be checked after every event and replaced several times a year.
3 Most Common Symptoms of Bad Sway Bar Links
1. Clunks or squeaks
Usually heard coming from the front suspension when driving, especially when turning. This is the first indications of damaged sway bar links. Sounds can be heard easier by someone outside the vehicle, but if the vehicle is driven with the window down slowly, it is possible to hear them while driving.
We recommend replacing them at this stage!
2. Over-steering or excessive leaning
As the links weaken, the next symptom would be felt during turns.
3. Extreme leaning in turns, body roll, and wallowing
If a sway bar link is completely broken, this is what you’ll notice. Complete failure could result in the vehicle rolling over in turns.
What causes them to go bad?
There are several causes for bad end links on sway bars.
- Simple wear and tear is one frequent cause.
- High miles
- Poor road quality
- General suspension wear
- A lack of lubrication from failing bushings over time can eventually cause breakage.
- Road debris damage.
- Hitting a curb or a pothole. In
- Winter driving conditions can also cause sway bar links to break faster, and salt and chemicals used to melt ice can cause rubber suspension bushings to break before they should.
Pro tip: Many after-market parts have a Zerk fitting that you can grease. Grease them up a couple times a year, or every other oil change with some high temp grease.
Can you drive with a broken sway bar link?
Driving with a broken end link is not recommended. If the link is broken or damaged, it can lead to a number of issues, including instability, vibration, uneven tire wear, and, in some cases, a rollover of the vehicle.
In emergency turns, a broken sway bar end linkage can allow the vehicle to roll over. While a car with a broken sway bar end linkage may be able to be driven carefully to the shop, it would be safer to have the vehicle towed into the shop.
Get your car’s sway bar end links inspected as soon as possible if they may be broken or damaged.
How to check sway bar links
Sway bar links on your car can be checked in a few different ways.
One way is to simply crawl under the vehicle and inspect them visually and physically.
The links need to be replaced if you notice any damage, such as bends, cracks, or breaks. If the rubber bushings are damaged, the lubricant can leak out and no longer keep the sway bar end linkages from getting stuck. This damage is not an emergency, but it will cause the sway bar end linkages to wear faster and does require attention.
Inspecting with a jack or lift
To check the links another way, jack up the car and look at them with it in the air. With the car elevated, you’ll have a better chance of spotting any damage to the sway bar links. If you notice any bends, cracks, or breaks, the links are probably damaged and need to be replaced. You can also rotate the wheels while the car is in the air to check for excessive play in the sway bar links and bushings.
Viewing the tires while the vehicle is still in the air can help diagnose bad sway bar end linkages. The sway bar end linkages are responsible for the tire camber, or the inward and outward tilt of your tire. If the sway bar linkages are worn or failing, the tire may tilt in or out. Watching the wheel spin from the front of the vehicle while it is in the air can also show the camber of the tire.
Tire camber issues can cause inappropriate tire wear. Checking the wear on the inside and outside corners of the tire will also show if the tire camber is incorrect.
Can a bad sway bar link cause vibration?
Yes, bad sway bar linkages can cause vibration and shudder in curves and turns.
The sway bar linkages are in charge of keeping the car stable and moving weight around corners. If they break, the whole car will shake or sag to one side when turning. Failure of the sway bar end linkage will result in a vibration of the car’s body rather than a vibration of the steering wheel. Steering wheel vibrations are usually caused by other factors in the suspension system.
Effects of over-tightening a sway bar link
If you over-tighten your car’s sway bar end links, it can cause a number of problems. The links can become damaged or broken. It is important to use a torque wrench and tighten it to your car’s specifications.
What happens if a sway bar link breaks?
There will be an immediate change in the handling of the vehicle. The steering will feel very soft and lean significantly around corners. Unlike other suspension failures, a sway bar linkage failure won’t cause anything to fall under the vehicle since the sway bars are supported by other parts of the suspension.
Are sway bar linkages a DIY project?
With access to a lift and a torque wrench, sway bar end linkages can easily be replaced by most DIY mechanics. They do require certain torque settings, but with the correct tools, they can be replaced in an afternoon.
How can I prolong the life of my sway bar end linkages?
There are several ways to prolong the life of sway bar end linkages. Using quality parts or OEM parts will make the sway bar end linkages last longer. Being aware of road hazards like potholes and curbs will prevent damage to the sway bar end linkages. When the vehicle is exposed to salt and de-icing chemicals, an underbody wash to remove these will also prolong the lifespan as well.