What Is A Sway Bar and How Does It Work?
August 22, 2022
Alright guys, do us a favor - imagine a wheelbarrow, the ones with just the single wheel up front and the two grab handles in the back. Now, imagine you're holding up the wheelbarrow off the ground. And before we even begin to throw anything into the wheelbarrow, your job is to keep it as level as possible with the ground without letting the legs touch the ground. We're gonna start shoveling dirt and throwing it into the wheelbarrow, and with each shovel full of dirt going into the wheelbarrow, guess what's happening - the weight of the dirt becomes increasingly heavier, and you'll need more strength to keep the wheelbarrow level with the ground to combat the additional forces of the weight.
This is exactly how an anti-sway bar works, at least on principle. So, today, we want to take you through what sway bars are, how they operate, and which ones are the best for your off-roader. Let's take a look!
What Do Anti-Sway Bars Do For Vehicles?
Also known as roll bars, anti-roll bars, stabilizers, or sway bars, an anti-sway bar reduces your body roll and sway. Anti-sway bars are an important component of a vehicle's suspension, and though not every vehicle has a sway bar installed, they can be extremely useful, especially for four-wheel drive vehicles.
The more your vehicle is forced to turn throughout a curve or corner, the more the gravitational forces are going to shift towards the side of the vehicle on the outside of the corner, and the more the anti-sway bar has to work to counteract those forces to keep the vehicle as level as possible.
How Are Anti-Sway Bars Constructed and Do They Help With Handling?
Simply put, a sway bar is a torsional spring that connects to both the left and right sides of the suspension to reduce body roll. When both wheels take a bump equally, the wheels move the same amount without twisting the anti-roll bar. Individual wheel movement or body roll will force the bar to twist as the lever arms are moved, thereby adding the bar's own spring rate to that of the vehicle springs.
Although an anti-roll bar's main function is to reduce body roll in cornering, it also influences your vehicle's overall handling more than you would think. And one major vehicle performance limitation that a lot of us forget to think about is the overloading of our four-by-fours with too much weight, more than the vehicle is even designed to handle. On top of that, we increase the center of gravity by lifting our vehicles and, in turn, decreasing the stability of our 4x4s, especially when it's windy or when we're off-roading in situations where we might be sidehilling and off-camber.
How To Reduce Stress On A Sway Bar
When we start adding more weight on or into the vehicle itself, especially a lifted vehicle, the harder the sway bar has to work when cornering or off-roading. And if we add more weight than what the threshold capacity of the anti-sway bar is, the higher the chances that the vehicle may roll over. This is where it's important to know your vehicle's gross weight capacity rating, and not only make sure you're staying within those weight carrying capacities, but also make sure you're not loading too much weight too high up in the vehicle either.
Read More: Secrets To Know Before Off-Roading
Should You Get A Stronger Sway Bar For Your Off-Roader?
This is where it makes the most sense to try and keep as much cargo weight as possible as low on your vehicle as possible. As much as we'd love to upgrade our anti-sway bars to something stronger and beefier, the truth of the matter is that if you end up going that route, you'll end up sacrificing your suspension's capabilities by limiting the amount of articulation you often need when off-roading. The stiffer the sway bar is, the more it'll reduce the full extension of your suspension and the pressure of the tire contacting the ground when the opposing tire is trying to climb up an obstacle.
What Are the Best Sway Bar Upgrades And Components?
This is why many avid off-road enthusiasts will purchase quick disconnects like the ones from JKS Manufacturing, or why several automotive brands will include an option for an electronically-controlled disconnecting sway bar or a hydraulically-controlled sway bar disconnect, like on new Ford Broncos. Anti-sway bars were great for on-road handling, but they can handicap our vehicle's off-road performance by not allowing the suspension to work at its maximum articulation potential.
Besides having factory sway bar disconnects or JKS quick disconnects, there are also off-road friendly anti-sway bars that provide a balanced performance of the front and rear suspension for rugged off-road conditions, as well as a balanced on-road handling feel. The one from RockJock 4x4 is an excellent example.
Read More: What Fits A Ford Bronco For Off-Roading?
How to Get The Most Out of Your Sway Bar For Off-Road Performance and Handling
To sum it all up, to maintain your vehicle's on-road performance handling while cornering, try not to overload your vehicle with too much weight or pack it up too high on your vehicle. And to really optimize the full potential of your vehicle's off-road performance, check into the JKS quick disconnects or the RockJock anti-rock sway bar kits if your vehicle isn't already equipped with a factory sway bar option.
And of course, feel free to let us know if you've already upgraded your sway bars or removed them, or done any modifications to try and get the best possible performance from your rig. Don't forget that we offer off-road wheel and tire packages with free mounting, balancing, and shipping - get your package today and we'll see you out on the trails!