If your car has a lot of play in the steering or corners like the steering wheel is loose, the issue might be the sway bar.
Here, the most common issue is one of the two sway bar links, which connect the control arms on each side of the vehicle.
When the link starts to go bad, the sway bar gets too much play, meaning your vehicle can turn or steer loosely.
The average cost of replacing a sway bar link is just $45-$155 per side. However, you’ll normally want to have both sides replaced at the same time. In addition, that works out to about $10-$150 for parts and about an hour of labor, which is usually $60-$150.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of sway bar link replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Sway Bar Links (set)||Labor|
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Estimated Sway Bar Link Replacement Cost*
In most cases, the largest cost of replacing a sway bar link is the cost of labor. However, if you get performance parts, you might pay upwards of $300 for a set of sway bar links.
In addition, the actual costs will depend on the make and model of your car. E.g., pickups normally use different and more expensive stabilizer bar links than a passenger car.
For example, the following includes quotes for replacing the front sway bar links in 10 popular vehicles. In most cases, replacing the rear sway bar links (if your vehicle has them) costs about the same as the front.
|Vehicle||Sway Bar Link Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (March 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Sway Bar Link Replacement Pricing Factors
Depending on your vehicle, where you go for repairs, and what type of parts you buy, replacing a sway bar link can range from under $20 to well over $300.
In most cases, you’re looking at about $74-$100 per wheel on your vehicle. In addition, you’ll rarely want to replace just one sway bar link at once, which will impact costs as well.
The following factors will impact the cost of your stabilizer bar link replacement:
Make and Model of Vehicle
In most cases, the make and model of your vehicle is the second most significant factor in the cost of replacing your sway bar links.
Here, the make and model affect everything from ease of teardown to the cost of OEM parts to the availability of parts.
That’s also important depending on what type of vehicle you drive. E.g., pickup trucks use wider links with rubber bushings on the ends.
These offer more shock support but are more prone to damage and to fail. However, the actual cost difference in parts, while visible, is usually a few dollars.
In some cases, you can also simply replace the bushings, however, not all sway bar ends come apart.
In addition, if you buy performance or luxury parts, you can always expect the price to be higher. Or, if you go to a dealer for the repairs, you can expect rates to be at the maximum.
E.g., if you look at the chart above, the lowest costs are always aftermarket links by brands like MOOG while the highest costs are OEM parts supplied by the dealer.
Your mechanic’s rate is the most significant factor of cost in installing most sway bar links. Here, the mechanic’s rate can double or even quadruple the cost of the parts.
That’s because, on average, you’ll pay at least $60 for an hour of your mechanic’s time.
In fact, mechanics’ rates vary from about $15 to well over $205 depending on your location, the mechanic, and whether you’re working with a chain or not.
For example, big chains like Firestones, Valvoline, and Pep Boys offer basically guaranteed service at any location. However, they charge higher rates, with an hour of time usually starting out at around $94.99.
In most cases, replacing both sway bars will take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half of your mechanic’s time, so plan accordingly.
Type of Part
An Original Equipment Manufacturer part will always cost more than an aftermarket or made-to-fit part. Most people don’t need specialty parts.
However, you do have to check that yours are the right size, type, and length for your vehicle. So, the same parts can cost anywhere from $10 to $300 depending on the manufacture and specifications of that part.
Finally, you might have to replace more than the sway bar links.
While the links are the weakest part of the system, if something is wrong with one part of the suspension, it’s likely that something is wrong with other parts of the suspension.
Having the control arm, the tie rods, the steering rack, and the ball joints checked is a good call.
In addition, it’s always cheaper to have everything fixed and replaced at once, rather than taking the wheels and the suspension apart multiple times.
4 Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar Link
If your stabilizer bar links are going out, you’ll likely notice. However, it may be difficult to tell from problems in other parts of the suspension.
However, you’ll generally see the following symptoms:
The sway bar connects both sides of the steering, bridging the two-part axle and transmission system to directly link both control arms together.
This forces your wheels to turn at the same time, preventing instability, reducing the chance of rolling, preventing lean, and forcing the wheels to turn together.
So, if the sway bar is loose or has too much play on one side, such as because of a bad sway bar link, your car might swerve to the left or right when you stop, hit a patch of ice, or even when you turn.
That’s obviously extremely dangerous and something you want to get checked right away.
Unfortunately, it can also relate to other issues with the suspension, such as bad tie rod ends or ball joints. You’ll want to inspect the sway bar ends for damage or physically move the bar to see if it has play in it.
2. Weird Noises
If the nuts on your sway bar links are loose, the rubber bushings have worn out, or there’s physical damage, you’ll usually hear rattling.
You might also hear squeaking, grinding, clacking, or even a sound like something is loose in the steering. This can still relate to other parts of the suspension.
However, if you hear rattling from directly under the car, the sway bar links are a good culprit. Normally, you can see this kind of issue with a physical inspection.
3. Visible Damage or Wear on the Bushings/Nuts
You can always climb under your car to visibly inspect the links to see what kind of condition they are in.
If you have rubber bushings, you’ll want to see if they are cracked, hard, worn out, torn, or have lost their shape. If you just have nuts, you might notice that they’re loose or that they are worn down.
In any case where you can grab the sway bar links and move them with your hand, it’s time for new ones. If your links are in good condition, they shouldn’t actually move.
If the links are broken or bent, you probably don’t even want to move your vehicle. However, this is extremely unlikely and shouldn’t ever happen unless you’re in a car accident or drive over something that catches and breaks the links.
4. Difficulty Steering
If your sway bar is loose, the car tires won’t turn with the same ease. Instead, the tires won’t turn at quite the same speed, meaning you’ll have to fight more traction.
That can make it harder to turn the steering wheel – resulting in a symptom very similar to when you have a power steering issue. Here, you can check the play in the links.
However, you should also always take time to actually check the power steering fluid as well, just in case that’s actually the issue.
Changing A Sway Bar Link: 8 Steps
Replacing the sway bar links on your car is relatively simple, providing you have good jack and jack stands.
In most cases, you can do the work yourself, in about an hour per axle – although you might want to budget a bit more time if you’ve never taken the wheels off before.
Tip: Buy penetrating oil and thoroughly coat the bolts 24 hours in advance of taking the links off. Links can get very stuck because they’re exposed to moisture, dirt, and debris at the bottom of the car.
Things You’ll Need:
- Wrench set (probably metric)
- Ratchet and socket set
- Lug wrench
- Disposable gloves
- Breaker bar
- Hey/Allen wrench set
- Penetrating oil
- New sway bar links (2)
- Jack + jack stands
Replacing Your Sway Bar Links
It’s always a good idea to start out with basic safety protocols by parking your car on a flat and level surface, chocking the back wheels, and taking the key out of the ignition.
You might also want to loosen the lugs on your wheels before jacking the car up.
- Jack your car up and stabilize it on jack stands. You need the full front end of the car up off the ground and both wheels off the ground, even if you’ve decided to replace just one sway bar link. That’s because the wheel that’s still on the ground will put an immense amount of pressure on the bar, making it extremely difficult to get the link out. So, you always want to lift the full front/rear end depending on which side you’re working on.
- Remove the wheels.
- Find the bolts attaching the sway bar link and spray them with penetrating oil if you haven’t already. Wait at least 20 minutes.
- Use a breaker bar (if it fits under your car) to pull the bolts loose. This can require significant effort. In most cases, cars use 17mm bolts for this. However, you may have imperial bolts instead. In addition, many use hex bolts, which you can undo by putting an Allen key in the center and turning the nut with a wrench. You’ll want to check what you have and get tools accordingly.
- Remove the link.
- Put the new link in the same direction and fit it in. Put the bolts back as tight as you can physically manage.
- Repeat the process on the other side.
- Put the wheels back on. Then, test drive the car to make sure everything works as expected.
If you still have questions about replacing your sway bar links, these answers should help.
Can I replace sway bar links myself?
Yes. You can normally replace sway bar links in about an hour.
All you need is a jack, a hex wrench set, a wrench set, and maybe a hammer to get the bolts in tight.
The only thing to be sure of is that you do tighten the bolts enough that they don’t rattle loose.
Can I drive with a broken sway bar link?
No. You won’t have any control over your steering.
In fact, the vehicle could swerve dangerously even when driving normally. That could make driving extremely dangerous and you should never do it.
If you must drive your car to the mechanic’s with a broken sway bar, do so as slowly as possible.
Should I replace sway bar links in pairs?
Yes. Sway bar links should always be replaced in pairs to reduce the chance that the other fails as well.
In addition, if one sway bar link has more play than the other, your steering still won’t be as predictable as you’d like. Therefore, it’s always best practice to replace them together.
How long does it take to change sway bar links?
You can normally change a set of sway bar links in an hour to an hour and a half, depending on tooling and experience.
However, you might also find that you want to soak the bolts in penetrating fluid for some time before actually taking them off.
Replacing a sway bar link is a relatively fast and affordable job. In most cases, you can expect to pay around $150 at the mechanic.
Because most of that is labor rather than parts, you can easily save money by doing the work yourself.
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