How To Tell If Stabilizer Link Is Bad? [Diagnose & Fix]

Are you wondering whether your stabilizer link is still within its useful life? If you want to tell if the stabilizer link is bad, a worn-out link will cause a clunking noise at the vehicle front. You may also notice a degradation in the vehicle’s handling. It is a danger, especially in cars that have a higher rollover risk.

stabilizer bar

Body roll occurs when the outer wheels support more of the car’s weight than the inner wheels during a turn or on uneven road surfaces. Thus, the outer side of the vehicle gets pushed down toward the road while the inner side lifts away from the road surface. If you take a turn too fast with a damaged stabilizer bar link the vehicle could flip over.

What Is A Stabilizer Link?

A stabilizer link or a stabilizer bar link attaches to the front suspension of a car, usually to the lower control arm. Two stabilizer links connect the left and right-side suspensions to the stabilizer bar.

stabilizer link

In this manner, they maintain the wheels at approximately the same height and prevent or reduce vehicle body roll.

What Does A Stabilizer Bar Do?

The purpose of a stabilizer bar is to reduce body roll. It also fine-tunes the suspension so that the vehicle stays flat on the road in all driving conditions without impairing the independent movement of each wheel.

During a turn, centrifugal force increases the weight on the outer wheels and decreases that on the inner wheels. It leads to reduced traction and poor handling. The sway bar or stabilizer bar equalizes the compression on the left and right-side suspensions, making sure that the two sides of the car rise and lower by a similar amount.

what a stabilizer bar does

Components Of The Stabilizer Bar System

Just like any other system on the automobile, the stabilizer bar system consists of a few parts.

  • The Stabilizer Bar itself
  • Stabilizer Links
  • Bushings or Sockets of the stabilizer link
  • Stabilizer bar to vehicle frame bushings
    bushig for the stabilizer bar
  • Bushing brackets to hold the bushings in place against the frame or unibody member.

How To Tell If The Stabilizer Link Is Bad?

Stabilizer bar links should have a snug fit, without any movement between the parts. The only exception is at the rubber bushing or the controlled movement of the ball and socket joint. You can move a loose sway bar link by hand, which is not the case with a new link.

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stabilizer bushing may be loose in case the stabilizer link is bad

Symptoms Of A Broken Sway Bar Link

Before even inspecting under the hood, there are ways to diagnose a damaged stabilizer link that needs replacement. Does a bad sway bar link cause vibration? No, it does not cause a constant shaking. If the links have worn, the stabilizer system will make rattling and clunking sounds when you make turns or drive over bumps in the road.

this stabilizer bar link is bad since the bushings have cracked

Other symptoms are:

  • poor handling
  • excessive body roll
  • squeaking
  • loose or sloppy steering feel

If you were thinking, “What are the symptoms of bad stabilizer links?” your question has its answer.

How Do You Test A Stabilizer Link?

Upon noticing any of the above symptoms, use the method in the video to find out which component is faulty. You will either need to raise the car with a car lift or use a creeper to look under the car.

The squeaking occurs due to water intrusion in the bushings. As a result, rust may have formed on the bushings or the portion of the metal rod where the bushing makes contact.

Also, you should check for any visible damage like cracks or worn out areas. In this manner, you can quickly tell if your stabilizer link is bad.

Fixing A Malfunctioning Stabilizer Bar System

Driving with a faulty stabilizer system is unsafe. Once you have identified the defective component, you need to replace it as soon as possible.

1. When You Can Tell That The Stabilizer Link Is Bad

You will need to remove the wheel on the side that needs a replacement to access the sway bar links. The tools required are your car’s nut remover bar, appropriately sized wrenches, wheel chocks, a floor jack and jack stands. Bolt and nut loosener oil will come in handy when removing the stabilizer links bolts. You will also need a breaker bar and extension and a socket of the correct size for your car.

Do note that breaking the nut means loosening the nut, not damaging it. If your car’s sway bar fastens with an Allen keyhole bolt or star keyhole bolt, you will need to get an Allen key or a star key for the purpose.

2. Replacing The Stabilizer Link Bushings

If the bushings on the sway bar link have become damaged, you may have to replace the sway bar link itself. It is because the link and link bushings come as a set.

a bad stabilizer link compared to a new one

However, if you can procure the link bushings separately, you can change them by removing the sway bar link and reinstalling it with the new bushings.

3. Changing The Sway Bar Bushings

The bushings between the vehicle body and the sway bar or stabilizer bar can wear out with regular use. In this case, you will need to replace them with new bushings. It is possible to buy them at any automobile spare parts store. You will also need a 13mm socket (or the correct size for your car) and a ratchet and extension.

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You will not need to remove the sway bar since the bushings have a split in them for easy installation. Make sure to tighten the bolts as much as necessary.

4. In The Case of Damaged Bushing Brackets

If the brackets that hold the sway bar and bushing to the vehicle frame are damaged or broken, you can replace them in the same process as the bushings above. The only difference is that, in this case, you will have new brackets instead of new bushings. The tools required are the same as those in the above method.

new bushing brackets in case the sway bar link is bad

5. Replacing the Sway Bar Itself

If you notice any damage like cracks on the sway bar, change it for a new one. It rarely happens because the sway bar is designed to be sturdy with a high factor of safety. In the exceptional case that it has sustained damage, you can install a new one by following the steps in the video.

replacement sway bar

You can use the other components of the old sway bar, like the bushings, brackets, links, etc., if you buy an identical new sway bar. The tools you will need are a hammer (if the bolts are hard to remove), an impact driver (or torque wrenches), sockets of the appropriate size (usually 13 or 14 mm), your car’s wheel nut remover, a floor jack and jack stands.

Driving with a bent sway bar may be possible but is not safe.

Can You Drive With Bad Stabilizer Links?

It is indeed possible to still drive with a damaged stabilizer link. Caution is necessary because the handling and steering of your car will be looser than before. You could lose control of your vehicle during sharp turns.

Do not ignore the signs when you can tell if a stabilizer link is bad. It is best to replace the faulty component as soon as you can to be safe while driving.

sway bar diagram to tell if the stabilizer link is bad

How Much Does It Cost To Replace Stabilizer Links?

A sway bar link’s replacement cost is not very high. New sway bar links come for between $40 to $110 each. The whole replacement will cost between $125 to $160 at a mechanic’s shop. If you do it yourself, you can avoid the labour charge of $50 to $70.

The sway bar bushings cost between $5 to $13 per piece, depending on the car.

Conclusion

You can carry out all the methods listed above at home without much of a hassle. You only need to have the proper tools and know the process. You can buy OEM parts or aftermarket replacements either online or from brick-and-mortar stores. As long as the spare parts are compatible with your car, you will be fine. You can read the car’s manual to check compatibility.

If you need any help, feel free to consult a friend who knows about car repairs.

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