Aftermarket Sway Bar: The Best Suspension Investment?

Welcome to the world of aftermarket sway bar, where the pursuit of enhanced vehicle handling and control takes center stage.

In this article, we delve into the realm of this performance upgrade, understanding what they are, how they work, and why they matter. Whether you’re a seasoned car enthusiast seeking to fine-tune your ride or simply curious about the difference a sway bar can make, join us on this journey to uncover the sweet spot between stability and performance.

aftermarket sway bar

what is an aftermarket sway bar

An aftermarket sway bar, also known as an aftermarket anti-roll bar or sway bar upgrade, is an aftermarket automotive component designed to improve a vehicle’s handling and stability.

It typically consists of a thicker or adjustable sway bar that replaces the stock one in a car’s suspension system. Depending on the car you will either have one or two sway bars.

The primary function of an aftermarket sway bar is to reduce body roll during cornering, thereby enhancing grip, control, and overall stability by distributing weight more evenly between the wheels, resulting in improved handling and reduced understeer tendencies.

Car enthusiasts often install aftermarket sway bars with other suspension mods to fine-tune their vehicle’s performance characteristics to suit their preferences and driving style.

How does an aftermarket sway bar work?

A sway bar is a critical component of a vehicle’s suspension system designed to reduce body roll during cornering. As your car enters a turn, lateral forces cause the body to lean outward, creating a tipping motion.

The sway bar is strategically mounted horizontally beneath the vehicle, connecting to both left and right suspension components. When the car begins to corner, weight transfer compresses one side of the suspension while extending the other, initiating a twisting force on the sway bar.

The sway bar resists the twist and acts as a spring generating an opposing force that counteracts body roll. This redistributes weight between the sides, and stabilizes the ride.

In essence, the sway bar enhances traction, steering response, and overall handling performance by maintaining better tire contact with the road.

Moreover, aftermarket sway bars often offer adjustability, allowing drivers to fine-tune their vehicle’s handling characteristics to suit personal preferences or driving condition.

Other sway bar Components

what is a sway bar link?

A sway bar link is a vital suspension component that connects the sway bar (or anti-roll bar) to the suspension system of a vehicle. Its primary role is to transfer forces and torsional movement between the sway bar and the suspension components, such as control arms or struts. This connection helps reduce body roll during cornering, enhancing stability and improving overall handling and control of the vehicle.

What are sway bar bushings?

Sway bar bushings are rubber or polyurethane components that serve as mounting points for the sway bar in a vehicle’s suspension system. They are designed to secure the sway bar to the chassis of the vehicle, allowing it to pivot as needed. Sway bar bushings help reduce noise, vibration, and harshness while maintaining the sway bar’s position and functionality, contributing to improved handling and stability during driving.

What is the difference between a stock and Aftermarket sway bar?

When it comes to sway bars for your vehicle, you encounter two primary options: stock sway bars and aftermarket sway bars. These choices differ significantly in their purpose and performance characteristics.

Stock Sway Bars are the sway bars that come pre-installed by the manufacturer when you buy a vehicle. They are designed to cater to the average driver’s needs, emphasizing comfort and general handling. Stock sway bars are often less rigid and may not offer much room for adjustment. While they provide a smooth and predictable ride, they may allow some body roll during sharp turns or aggressive driving.

Aftermarket Sway Bars, on the other hand, are sway bars that you can purchase separately and install on your vehicle either to replace or upgrade the stock sway bars. These sway bars are engineered with customization and enhanced performance in mind. They come in various sizes and stiffness levels, allowing you to select the one that aligns with your driving style and specific requirements. Aftermarket sway bars aim to improve your car’s stability and cornering capabilities, effectively minimizing body roll during spirited driving maneuvers. They are very often adjustable for fine-tuning and thicker than the stock ones.

Benefits and downsides of an aftermarket sway bar

Benefits

  • Improved Stability: Sway bars are designed to reduce body roll during cornering and sudden maneuvers. Upgrading to a stiffer aftermarket sway bar can significantly improve your vehicle’s stability and reduce the feeling of body roll, helping you maintain better control.
  • Enhanced Cornering Performance: With a stiffer sway bar, your vehicle will exhibit less understeer (front-end pushing) during corners, allowing for more balanced and predictable handling. This can lead to better cornering performance and faster lap times on a race track.
  • Better Traction: A well-matched sway bar setup can help keep your tires firmly planted on the road, improving traction. This is especially beneficial in high-performance and sports cars where grip and handling are essential.
  • Reduced Body Roll: One of the primary functions of a sway bar is to reduce body roll when the vehicle leans into turns. By minimizing body roll, an aftermarket sway bar can help maintain better tire contact with the road surface, which improves handling and responsiveness.

downsides

  • Stiffness Overload: Installing an overly stiff sway bar can lead to a harsh and uncomfortable ride, especially on rough or uneven roads. It can also negatively affect your vehicle’s ability to absorb bumps and potholes, leading to a less comfortable daily driving experience.
  • Limited Off-Road Performance: If you use your vehicle for off-roading, an aftermarket sway bar may not be the ideal choice, as it can limit suspension travel and wheel articulation.
  • Learning Curve: Adjusting to the new handling characteristics of your vehicle with a stiffer sway bar may take some time, and it could be challenging for drivers who are not accustomed to high-performance setups.
  • Tires and Other Upgrades: When upgrading your suspension components, you may also need to consider upgrading other parts of your vehicle, such as tires, springs, or coilovers to fully grasp the benefits of an aftermarket sway bar.

How to purchase an aftermarket sway bar?

Purchasing the right aftermarket sway bar for your vehicle is crucial to achieving the desired handling and performance improvements. Here are three key factors to consider when buying an aftermarket sway bar:

Sway Bar Size

The size of the sway bar (often measured in diameter) plays a significant role in its stiffness and the impact it will have on your car’s handling. If you a seeking a stiffer more performance oriented feel you will be looking to get a larger sway bar than the one on your car.

Generally speaking, a larger diameter sway bar will be stiffer and provide more resistance to body roll during cornering.

Adjustability

Some aftermarket sway bars come with adjustable features, such as multiple mounting holes or the ability to change the stiffness by adding or removing preload. Adjustable sway bars allow you to fine-tune your vehicle’s handling characteristics to your specific preferences.

This feature is particularly valuable for those who enjoy track days or autocross events, as it allows for easy customization to suit different driving conditions.

Although they can be slightly more expensive, it is certainly something to look into if you have the budget.

Compatibility

This one is pretty self explanatory but ensure that the sway bar you choose is compatible with your vehicle’s make, model, and year.

Sway bars are often designed to fit specific car, so it’s crucial to check the manufacturer’s compatibility list before making a purchase. Additionally, consider whether you plan to upgrade other suspension components, as compatibility with these parts as well is essential for a fun experience.

Finally, when purchasing an aftermarket sway bar, it’s also a good idea to read product reviews, seek recommendations from other car enthusiasts or professionals, and maybe even consult with a mechanic to ensure you’re selecting the right sway bar for your car and driving needs. Proper research and consideration will help you make an informed decision and maximize the benefits of your sway bar upgrade.

how to install an aftermarket sway bar?

Installing an aftermarket sway bar is generally a straightforward process and is often considered a bolt-on modification that can typically be completed in about an hour or or two. Although it only consists of removing the old one and replacing it with the aftermarket on, there are still some important considerations to keep in mind before and during the installation process. Here’s what you should consider:

Bushing Grease

Apply a small amount of grease to the sway bar bushings where they come into contact with the sway bar. This lubrication helps reduce friction and wear over time, enhancing the longevity of the bushings.

Proper Side

Some sway bars may have a specific orientation or side they need to be installed on. Before disassembling your old sway bar, take note of its orientation, and ensure you install the new sway bar on the correct side for optimal performance.

End Link Jam Nut

If your sway bar kit includes adjustable end links, make sure to tighten the jam nuts securely. Properly adjusted end links are essential for maintaining the correct sway bar preload and balance.

Load the Suspension

When lifting the car to access the sway bar, the suspension may “sag” due to the absence of weight. It’s important to complete the installation with the vehicle’s weight on the wheels. To achieve this, leave one bolt out on one end link of each sway bar during the installation process. Tighten these bolts only once the car is safely lowered off the jacks. This prevents any preloading or twisting of the sway bar when the suspension is under load, ensuring consistent handling characteristics.

Adjusting the Sway Bar (if applicable)

If your aftermarket sway bar is adjustable, take note of the multiple mounting holes or adjustment points provided. Typically, the holes closer to the sway bar are for a stiffer setting, while those further away are for a softer setting. You can fine-tune the sway bar’s stiffness by choosing the appropriate hole or position during installation, allowing you to customize your vehicle’s handling characteristics to your liking. Keep in mind that experimenting with different settings may be necessary to find the ideal balance between performance and comfort for your driving needs.

Is an aftermarket sway bar worth it?

An aftermarket sway bar is often considered one of the best value-for-money upgrades for car enthusiasts and drivers looking to enhance their car’s performance. The reason lies in the noticeable improvements it brings to your driving experience.

By reducing body roll during cornering and enhancing overall stability, a sway bar upgrade offers a significant boost in handling and control. Moreover, these sway bars come in various stiffness levels and designs, giving you the flexibility to customize your suspension setup according to your specific driving style and preferences.

Whether you’re seeking a more neutral, sporty, or comfortable ride, an aftermarket sway bar can provide a cost-effective solution to elevate your driving enjoyment and performance.

Additionally, by pairing an aftermarket sway bar with other suspension mods for example coilover or lowering springs you can truly make your build handle like a racecar.

FAQs

Are there different types of sway bars available in the aftermarket?

Yes, there are different types of aftermarket sway bars available, including solid sway bars, hollow sway bars, and split or modular sway bars.

Solid sway bars are the standard type and work great, hollow sway bars reduce weight while maintaining stiffness, and split or modular sway bars enable the middle section to be disconnected without removing the sway bar’s mounting points. This provides more flexibility and ease in adjusting the vehicle’s handling characteristics. Sway bars can also be adjustable or not.

What Are The Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar?

Symptoms of a bad sway bar include increased body roll when turning, reduced stability during cornering, uneven tire wear, clunking or rattling noises from the suspension when driving over bumps, and a generally uncomfortable or less controlled ride.

These signs can indicate potential issues with the sway bar and should be inspected by a mechanic for proper diagnosis and repair.

how much does an aftermarket sway bar cost?

The cost of an aftermarket sway bar varies widely depending on factors such as the make and model of your vehicle, the brand, and the type of sway bar you choose. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $600 or more for a single performance sway bar.

Do aftermarket sway bars make a difference?

Yes, aftermarket sway bars can make a significant difference in a vehicle’s handling and performance. They allow for fine-tuning of a vehicle’s suspension, reducing body roll during cornering, improving stability, and enhancing overall control. However, the impact may vary depending on the specific vehicle. For example, a small, lightweight, and nimble car like a Miata may benefit more from this upgrade than a big pickup truck or SUV.

Do sway bars improve steering?

Yes, sway bars can improve steering by reducing body roll and enhancing stability during cornering. They help maintain better tire contact with the road, allowing for more precise and responsive steering control.

Do I need to upgrade sway bar links with an aftermarket sway bar?

In many cases, it’s advisable to upgrade sway bar links when installing an aftermarket sway bar. Performance sway bars may be thicker or stiffer than stock ones, which can put additional stress on the stock sway bar links. Upgrading the links ensures they can handle the increased load and maintain the desired suspension performance, reducing the risk of premature wear or failure.

Does replacing sway bar affect alignment?

No, replacing a sway bar itself does not directly affect a vehicle’s alignment, such as toe, camber, or caster. However, suspension modifications or changes to other components may indirectly influence alignment, so it’s still important to have a professional alignment check after any significant suspension work to ensure optimal handling and tire wear.

Is replacing a sway bar hard?

No, replacing a sway bar is not typically a difficult task, since it’s usually a bolt-on modification. Most sway bar replacements involve removing a few bolts, swapping out the old sway bar for the new one, and reattaching the bolts. However, it is still important to consider the points shown above for optimal performance.

conclusion

In conclusion, an aftermarket sway bar is a valuable upgrade for those seeking improved handling and control in their vehicles. By reducing body roll during cornering, enhancing stability, and offering customization options, it brings noticeable improvements to the driving experience.

While there are factors to consider, such as compatibility and adjustability, the benefits of an aftermarket sway bar often make it a worthwhile investment for car enthusiasts looking to elevate their vehicle’s performance and enjoy a more engaging driving experience.