The Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar Link (with Video)by William ZaneUpdated June 07, 2023
A sway bar, also known as an anti-roll bar, is a simple, yet crucial, device that reduces the amount of body roll, or lean, that a vehicle experiences during cornering. The sway bar is a thin, tubular piece of metal bolted to the suspension on each side of the car, either at the front or the back and often both. Some vehicles are only equipped with a front sway bar. A sway bar link connects the end of the bar to the suspension itself. These links can become broken or damaged, which will adversely affect the handling of the vehicle.
Poor or Unpredictable Handling
A broken or damaged sway bar link can cause your vehicle to handle poorly, particularly if the sway bar link is broken. If it is broken, then the sway bar is not connected to the chassis properly and will not prevent the car from leaning in a corner. Your car will lean more in corners if the link is broken. If the link is damaged or the bushing for the link is damaged or missing, the handling may feel twitchy.
Unusual Noises: Clunks
Another symptom of a damaged sway bar link can be unusual noises caused by the link. If the link is broken, then that end of the sway bar is free to flop around independently of the suspension and chassis. It can cause rattles and clicks as it moves around and knocks against the vehicle as you drive around corners. There can also be an audible “clunk” or “click” as you go over bumps, and the sway bar moves excessively. If the bushing on the end link is damaged or missing, the same symptom may occur and cause rattling and unusual noises.
Another symptom of a broken sway bar link is determined by a visual inspection, which is also the best way to judge if there is a problem with the link and not some other component in the suspension. If the link is broken, it will not be attached to the suspension on one end or may not be attached to the sway bar on the other end. If the bushing is damaged or missing, then this will also be apparent upon a visual inspection. Each end of the link has a series of bushings, washers and nuts holding the link to the sway bar on one end and the suspension on the other end. If the link is broken, it will need to be replaced. If the bushings are torn or missing, these will need to be replaced as well.
Video explanation from an expert
Bob Holcomb of Apex Automotive Great Barrington has 32 years of automotive experience and is ASE certified.
ASE certification, also known as Automotive Service Excellence, is the certification granted to an automotive technician who has completed the required training and obtained their Automotive Service Excellence Certified Master Technicians requirements.
William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.