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What Does A Sway Bar Link Do?
The main function of the sway bar link is to provide stability during turns. When your vehicle turns, the inner parts of the body get a push in the direction opposite to the one it is turning in. When this is done at a higher speed, the tires may lift up off the ground just a bit, and risk the stability.
The sway bar link is the point of attachment between the bars keeping the internal parts in place, so they are able to prevent the body from being pushed in the opposite direction and keep the internal machinery flat and low. This also keeps the weight of the car focused in one spot, which keeps the car from getting flipped over when it’s moving at higher speeds.
When the weight outside the car goes above the weight on the inner tires, the traction decreases and the chances of being flipped over increases. Usually, the center of gravity for a vehicle will stay stable due to the presence of the sway bar link that keeps the tires in place.
If the sway bar link breaks, the steering wheel loosens because the car’s parts are not kept in place. This results in an unstable drive and if you’re not careful, can even cause accidents.
What to Do If Your Sway Bar Link is Broken?
If your swag bar link is broken, you can still drive your car but will need to take certain precautions to avoid any mishaps.
If the damage is to the front sway bar link, your steering wheel will be noticeably different in functioning. In such cases, you can drive your car, but should do so at much lower speeds – less than 50 km/h. Your drive may not be as smooth because your steering wheel would be looser, but you won’t have to risk losing control of your car, as you would if you were driving at a higher speed. Losing control can put you at risk of accidents.
Damage to rear sway bar link is not as dangerous as it is to the front link. In this case, the ride is a lot more controllable, even if you’re at a relatively higher speed. You may face trouble when changing lanes or turning. In these situations, you’ll have to keep a firmer grip on the steering wheel and make your turns slowly. This way, you’d be able to avoid losing control and can drive better.
Ideally though, you shouldn’t be driving at higher speeds, regardless of which link is broken. Lower speeds will reduce how much air resistance can influence your vehicle and thus decrease how much it sways. It is best to drive in narrow streets which are more closed off, and make sure you turn the vehicle slowly when needed.
However, you should only drive your car with a broken sway bar link in an emergency situation. If the link is damaged, your first priority should be to get it fixed as soon as possible. Regardless of how many precautions you take, there is always the risk of accidents in case you happen to lose control.
How do Sway Bar Links Break?
There could be different reasons for your broken sway bar link. Old or damaged shock absorbers are one reason – if the vehicle’s weight doesn’t stay flat and moves in a specific direction, the link can break.
Sometimes, driving over large objects lying in the road, such as a rock, or passing a speed breaker at a higher speed can cause the link to break as well.
Quite often, sway bar links tend to break when you’re driving on rougher terrain. Because such terrain causes extra strain on the link, it can get damaged.
However, the most common reason for a broken sway bar link is rash and reckless driving. If you tend to drive your car roughly, even on uneven and bumpy roads, you’re putting your car at risk of damage because of the strain.
How Do You Know If Your Sway Bar Link is Broken?
If your sway bar link is broken, you’d hear a loud metallic sound if you’re driving over long distances. This would be amplified when you hit any bumps or speed breakers, as well as if you’re driving on uneven roads.
One of the most prominent signs is a loose steering wheel. If the link is broken, it will be much easier and smoother to turn the wheel, especially when making turns. In such cases, the car will also sway, and if you are driving at a higher speed, you may even lose control of the vehicle. In some situations, the wheel may even start spinning freely.
You can also check the sway bar link to see if it’s in place. It’s easy to check for damage with your bare hands. If the link is not attached and moves freely, you will have to reattach it. You can check for bushing and bolts to see if they have come loose or have been damaged. In these cases, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.
If you find that your sway bar link is broken, it is best to check the entire vehicle’s systems for any other problems. Since the link keeps all the inner parts held in place, a broken sway bar link can result in other problems.
So, there is nothing stopping you from driving your car with a broken sway bar link, except the risk of serious accidents. Ideally, you’d get your car fixed as soon as you can, instead of choosing to drive it.
About The Author
Matt is a VW Master Technician since 2009 after proceeding through the ranks as a Team Leader and Shop Foreman. He has developed software to increase car dealership efficiency, managed 10+ techs, and instructed students at multiple high-performance driving events since 2011. He is also the lead mechanic, engineer, and driver for Blue Goose Racing.Read More About Matt Meurer