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Signs Your Sway Bar Bushings Are Failing

Mia Bevacqua
March 29, 2018

 

The sway bar, also called the stabilizer or anti-roll bar, is used to improve vehicle handling. Not all cars have sway bars, but in ones that do, the bars are connected to the body of the vehicle by sway bar bushings.

A worn or damaged sway bar bushing can cause a handful of problems:

  • Reduced handling: A worn sway bar bushing allows the sway bar to slide back and forth. The sway bar can’t do its job unless it’s firmly held in place. If your sway bar bushings are going bad, you will likely feel it when you turn — the car’s handling will feel sluggish or less stable.
  • Knocking noise: Typically, the first sign of a bad sway bar bushing is a thumping or knocking sound when you go over bumps. The noise may also be heard when the vehicle takes a corner. This happens because the worn bushing no longer holds the sway bar in place, so the bar is free to move around, causing noise.
  • Squeaking noise: If the bushing’s lubrication dries out, it will create metal-on-metal contact. You will likely hear a squeaking noise in this scenario when you drive over bumps or take aggressive turns.
Get it diagnosed by a professional
 

What is a sway bar bushing?

When a car begins to turn, the car body begins to roll to one side. This causes the outside wheel to compress and the inside wheel to extend. The sway bar ties the wheels together to straighten things out, improving vehicle handling and stability.

Sway bars usually connect between the vehicle’s control arms and body or frame. At the control arm, the bar is attached with sway bar links. In some cases, the bar may attach to the strut instead of the control arm. 

At the body or frame, the sway bar is attached with sway bar bushings. There are usually two sway bar bushings for each sway bar. Sway bar bushings isolate the sway bar from the body or frame to reduce noise. The bushings rarely break, but they do wear out over time. They can also be damaged if they get soaked by engine oil or another fluid leak.

» LEARN MORE: Get an estimate for your sway bar bushing replacement

How to fix the problem

Bad sway bar bushings should be replaced. You’ll want to leave this to a professional mechanic, as the positioning and handling of the sway bar and bushings are critical, and specialized tools are often required. 

If the bushings failed due to a fluid leak, the leak should be repaired before replacing the bushings. Otherwise, the new bushings will quickly fail as well.

Sway bar bushing replacement is usually a pretty straightforward job. It's a good time to check the sway bar end links, as well, to see if they need replacing. Once the bushings are installed and everything is back together, the job is done. In most cases, there’s no need to perform an alignment after replacing the sway bar bushings. 

 

Mia Bevacqua

About the Author

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with ASE Master, L1, L2 and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification. With 13-plus years of experience in the field, she applies her skills toward writing, consulting and automotive software engineering.

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