Almost every vehicle on the road has a sway bar, also called an anti-sway bar, on the front and the rear suspensions to help keep the vehicle upright and stable when going around corners. A swar bar is a solid formed bar of spring steel which 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 for 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 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. Knowing that, it’s common if they are being replaced for them to be cut off rather than engaging in a struggle with half-frozen fastening bolts.
Costs of Sway Bar Link Replacement
On most vehicles it costs about $90 to replace a pair of sway bar links, on the front or the rear of a vehicle.
For some more specific costs estimates on some common vehicles, using $100 an hour as a labor rate:
For a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe the labor time to replace the two front sway bar links is .5 of an hour. A pair of factory links costs about $91, or ACDelco parts cost about $16. That makes the job about $141 using OE parts, or about $66 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2005 Honda Civic the labor time to replace the front sway bar links is .8 of an hour. A pair of factory links costs about $55, or Beck/Arnley links cost about $28. This makes the job about $135 using OE parts, or about $108 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee the labor time to replace the front sway bar links is .5 of an hour. A pair of factory links costs about $258, or a pair of Delphi links costs about $30. This makes the job about $308 using OE parts, or about $80 using aftermarket parts.
In most cases, the costs and time involved are about the same on the rear of the vehicle as to 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 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.
On each 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 symptom 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 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.