Replacing Sway Bar End Links: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Mar. 14, 2024

Loose or worn sway bar end links can cause sharp snapping or cracking noises when driving over bumps, premature tire wear, poor handling and braking.

Next Project

60–90 minutes




Around $100


In my 50-year experience as a professional automotive technician, vocational educator, and vehicle owner, I have replaced hundreds of sway bar end links and sway (stabilizer) bar bushings. Tom Kelly, technical training for Hunter Engineering, noted, it's odd, "except when a customer complains of a clunking or rattling when driving or turning, sway bar end links are often overlooked." However, Kelly also said "they are important suspension components that are significant for driving safety, handling, and comfort." If you have a set of sockets and wrenches, and depending on your vehicle, a few special tools, replacing sway bar end links and sway bar bushings yourself can save time and money. Here's what you need to know.

About the Experts

Jim DeLeo has been in the automotive repair industry for 44 years and held positions as an ASE master technician, shop foreman and service manager, and now is Northeast Division Manager for Hunter Engineering Company.

Tom Kelley has been in the Auto/Truck industry for 36 years. He's ASE certified, has worked as a technician, alignment specialist, and service manager for a large tire dealership. Tom is now the Northeast Regional Trainer for Hunter Engineering.

John Alcaro has been an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) master technician for 43 years. He serves as the senior automotive technology instructor at North Montco Technical Career Center in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Thanks to NM administration and Automotive Technology Program instructors and students for their assistance with this project.

When To Call a Pro

Replacing sway bar links is basic DIY job that can save you a couple of hundred dollars, especially if you have the proper tools. But know your skill limits. If the links are frozen in pace, hardware rounded off, or any part the sway bar link is attached to is worn or damaged, it's time to see the pros.

What Are Sway Bar Links and What Do They Do?

Sway bar links are metal brackets with either rubber or polyurethane bushings, or ball studs at both ends—or on older rear-wheel drive cars, sleeve covered threaded rods with bushings. They mechanically connect (link) the sway bar to the suspensions systems control arms. Working in tandem with the sway bar, sway bar links help distribute vehicle weight to keep all four wheels firmly planted on the road when one wheel moves up and down (hitting a pothole). They also resist suspension twisting, minimizing body roll or body lean when cornering, improving handling and steerability until your vehicle levels out.

What's the Difference Between a Sway Bar and a Sway Bar Link?

The sway bar, a long round bar made from spring steel, is connected to the frame by sway bar bushings and brackets. It absorbs the rotational (twisting) energy your car produces while cornering or driving on rough roads. In other words, a sway bar holds energy by twisting, then releases the energy when the suspension straightens out—comparable to a coil spring that absorbs energy by compressing, then releases the energy when uncompressing.

Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar Link

a badly worn ball socket sway bar link

Kelly stated "loose or missing sway bar link bushings, worn ball studs, hardware or fasteners will cause a popping, hammering or a dull thumping noise" from under the front of your car—that can repeat two or three times—before stopping, when driving on rough roads or turning. Worn, missing or dry rotted sway bar link bushings affect handling and steerability, cause uneven tire wear or your car to vibrate when stopping. Sometimes there's no good way to check them by feel (they're loaded with vehicle weight) or by sight. Jouncing (the physical up and down movement of the suspension) may help you identify worn sway bar links.

What Causes a Sway Bar Link To Go Bad?

 a rusted sway bar link with rubber bushing missing

Wear and tear. Kelly said cars produce a tremendous amount of rotational energy while driving, placing sway bar links under constant pressure, making them to wear out. If you drive on mostly level pavement, it's not unusual, similar to shock absorbers, for sway bar links to last 50,000 miles. But if you go off-roading, live in areas that promote rust and corrosion, or in climates with extreme temperature fluctuations, the lifespan of sway bar links will be shorter. In addition, I have seen sway bar link mounting hardware rust (seize) onto the bushings inner metal sleeve. This causes a creaking noise, as well as rendering sway bar links useless.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace Sway Bar Links?

Depending on year, make, model, and quality, a replacement pair of sway bar links (like shock absorbers, always replace sway bar links in pairs), on average, costs between $25 to $100. DIY will save, depending on where you live, on average, $125 in labor charges (according to AAA $47-$215 an hour), plus the common 25 percent markup on parts and materials, and hazardous waste disposal fees.

DeLeo recommends replacing sway bar bushings ($20 to $65 for a set of two) when replacing sway bar links, especially if you hear a squeaking noise when going over bumps when it's cold outside or hear a thud when accelerating or breaking hard.


Work on stable dry ground and wear all personal protection equipment. Read and follow all manufacturers safety instructions and label directions, especially while using automotive chemicals.

Tools Required

  • Combination wrench set
  • Creeper or mechanics roller stool (optional)
  • Floor jack
  • Hammer
  • Impact gun and sockets (optional)
  • Jack stands
  • Lug wrench (or impact gun)
  • Socket and ratchet set
  • Torque wrench
  • Torx sockets or Allen (hex) keys (optional)
  • Trouble light
  • Vice grips or locking pliers
  • Wheel chocks
  • Wire brush

Materials Required

  • Anti-seize compound (optional)
  • Rust penetrator
  • Safety glasses
  • Silicone or dry Teflon lubricant (optional)
  • Sway bar links (and sway bar bushings optional)
  • Work gloves

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Safely jack up your vehicle

On some vehicles, you may be able to replace sway bar links and sway bar bushing without having to jack up your car and remove the wheel. However, I strongly recommend removing the wheels to make the job much easier.

safely jacking up a vehicleTMB STUDIO

Step 2

Remove the sway bar links

Depending on the type of sway bar links you have:

  • Using the correct size socket and wrench, loosen, do not remove all of the mounting hardware and fasteners.
    • Using a socket ratchet (and wrench if necessary), remove the top sway bar link mounting nut and bolt first, or;
    • Using a socket, ratchet, and wrench, remove the nut from the threaded rod (pay attention to the direction the threads are pointing, up or down towards the ground, or;
    • Using a socket and ratchet remove the nut from the top ball socket stud. If the ball socket is badly worn the nut can spin and never come off. Some ball socket studs have a hex “nut” (or sometimes called a “wrench-flat”) at the base of the stud. If your car has this feature, hold the stud in place using an open-end wrench and use a socket or wrench to remove the nut (usually a prevailing torque nut). If the stud does not have the wrench-flat, check to see if it has a slot for a Torx socket or Allen key. If it does, use one of these to hold the stud from spinning, then unscrew the nut. If the sway bar links don’t have any of these, try placing locking pliers on the stud to hold it from turning, then remove the nut. Check if your local parts store lends special stabilizer bar link removal tools. If all else fails, try a nut splitter or a grinding wheel as a last resort to cut the nut off—or it’s time to get to your mechanic.
  • Remove the bottom fasteners and remove the old sway bar links.
  • If the hardware or sway bar links are rusted in place, tap with a hammer to help remove them.
  • Caution: Never hammer on any threaded part you’re reusing.

a person using vice-grips (locking pliers) to hold a loose/worn ball socket studBob Lacivita For Family Handyman

Step 3

Installing the new sway bar links

Most new sway bar links are symmetrical and can be installed on either the left or right sides.

  • Check the new sway bar links are the same shape and size as the old ones.
  • Clean all mounting surfaces with the wire brush.
  • Install the new sway bar links—always use the new manufacturer-supplied mounting hardware and never reuse prevailing torque fasteners.
  • If the sway bar links have bushings with metal sleeves held in place by a nut and bolt, place a small amount of anti-seize compound on the mounting bolt’s shaft;
    • Usually, you don’t apply anti-seize the entire length of a bolt. But in this instance, it keeps the bolt from seizing onto the sway bar link bushing’s metal sleeve.
  • Place a small amount of anti-seize compound on the shaft of threaded rod-type sway bar links, again, to keep the rod from rusting onto the shaft sleeve.
  • Do not use anti-seize on prevailing torque nuts.
  • Except for the threaded rod type, starting with the bottom fastener, use a torque wrench to properly tighten all fasteners to the correct torque specification (found online or in a service manual).
  • For the threaded rod type, tighten the nut until the outside diameter of the bushings is equal with the outside edge of the mounting washer.
  • Lube new sway bar links if they come with grease fittings.

applying anti-seize compound to the shaft of sway bar link mounting bolt and sway bar link bushing's metal sleeveBob Lacivita For Family Handyman

Step 4

Installing sway bar bushings

If replacing the sway bar bushings, do it now. Each bushing is usually held in place by small mounting clamps, and secured to the frame by two bolts.

  • Loosen, do not remove, the bolts securing the mounting clamps.
  • Remove one mounting bracket and bushing at a time. Note which way the open end of the bushing is facing.
  • Clean the sway bar with a wire brush or medium sandpaper if the area on the sway bar where the bushing goes is rusty.
  • Check the manufacturer’s instructions if the new bushing should be lubed before being installed. Some sway arm bushings come with a pre-lubed insert that does not need lube added. If unsure, it’s okay to install them dry, or place a tiny amount of dry Teflon or a silicone-based lubricant on the area where they contact the sway bar.
  • Install the new bushing, then slide the clamps over the new bushing. Applying a small amount of one of the above lubricants can help slide the clamps over the new bushings.
  • Reinstall, but do not tighten the mounting bolts.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Torque all mounting bolts to the proper specifications.

worn sway bar bushingBob Lacivita For Family Handyman

Pro Tip: Never over torque fasteners when installing new sway bar links or bushing. Over-tightening reduces their ability to absorb road bumps and reduce vibrations.

Step 5

Reinstall the wheels

  • Reinstall the wheels and snug up the lug nuts.
  • Lower the vehicle. Use a torque wrench to tighten all lugs nuts in a crisscrossing or star pattern instead of in a circle to the proper specification.
  • According to Kelly, bushings can twist and do not always return to their normal position (referred to as hysteresis) after jacking up and lowering a car. Jouncing the suspension after installing sway bar links is important to relax the entire suspension system and return it to standard ride height.
  • Take your car for a road test. You should feel how much smoother it rides and noticeably less body roll.
  • Have your mechanic check the alignment.

A Man Changing Car TireWestend61/Getty Images


Can you drive with bad sway bar links?

No. Driving with bad sway bar links can be dangerous. Kelly said “Worn, broken or damaged sway bar links can adversely affect driving stability and control,” as well as cause abnormal tire wear and increase stopping distances when braking.

Do you need an alignment after replacing the sway bar links?

Technically, no. However, according to DeLeo, because “alignment settings are measured in hundreds of a degree,” anything that can alter a vehicle’s alignment, from replacing any steering or suspension part to hitting a pothole, is recommended (as do I) have the alignment checked after replacing sway bar inks.

How long does it take to replace sway bar links?

About an hour for both front sway bar links; add about another half-hour if you’re replacing the sway bar bushings.

Do sway bar links require maintenance?

Yes, especially if your sway bar links are the ball stud type and have grease fittings, they need to be lubricated whenever changing the oil. If they are sealed bushing or threaded rod type, they need to be inspected for wear, rust, and bushing fatigue or cracking, during regular scheduled maintenance.