Bad Stabilizer or Sway Bar Link Symptoms | YourMechanic Advice (2024)

What is a Stabilizer/Sway Bar Link?

The responsibility of keeping your car stable and handling smoothly under diverse driving conditions falls on the stabilizer, or sway bar as it's often referred to as. This mechanical unit is attached to the body of the vehicle by way of a body mount with stabilizer bar bushings and the stabilizer bar links, which attach to the lower control arm of the front suspension and have bushings along the link for protection and to ensure a smooth ride. It’s important to remember that you must drive very cautiously if you suspect you have a broken sway bar link.

When the sway bar links are starting to wear out, the symptoms can range from barely noticeable to significant, and if you don't replace your sway bar links, it can result in catastrophic damage to the front end of your vehicle and potentially an accident.

Below are a few warning signs that will let you know when your stabilizer bar links are starting to wear out and need to be replaced by an ASE certified mechanic.

Clunking or Rattling Noises From the Tire Area

The stabilizer bar links attach to the lower control arm at the front end of most domestic and foreign cars and trucks sold in the United States. In certain cars, the rear end will also have stabilizer bar links. However, the sway bar links that cause the most damage are in the front and located directly behind your left and right front tires. If you're driving down the road and you start to hear a clunking, rattling or metal-on-metal scratching noise, it is possibly the stabilizer bar links causing the sound.

The stabilizer bar links are supposed to fit incredibly snugly, without any play or movement except between rubber bushings. When the links are worn out, the sway bar will begin to make these sounds especially when you're driving around corners or over a speed bump. When you hear these types of noises coming from the front end of your vehicle, make sure to contact a certified mechanic and have them inspect and replace the stabilizer bar links and bushings. This job requires that both the driver and passenger side be completed at the same time.

Poor Handling or Loose Steering Wheel

Since the stabilizer bar links are attached to the lower control arm, steering and handling are also negatively impacted when they begin to wear out. Most of the time, the actual culprit is the bushings that are designed to take the majority of the impact and help to protect the metal parts from wearing out. However, the bushings also can cause extensive corrosion, especially if oil, grease or other debris becomes embedded on the stabilizer bar. The direct result of all of these issues is that the vehicle simply doesn't handle the same way that you're used to. The steering wheel will appear to be "loose", and the body will sway from left to right more due to the fact that the sway bar links and bushings are wearing out.

Check During Tire Replacement or Suspension Inspection

A great opportunity for car owners to be proactive about keeping their stabilizer bar and front suspension protected from significant damage is to ask a certified mechanic to inspect them during a front brake pad replacement, tire replacement, or other front end work. When they look under the front end, they will also inspect the tie rods, shocks and struts, CV joints and boots along with the front stabilizer bar links, bushings and other front end components. It's a good idea to have the front stabilizer bar links and bushings fully replaced at the same time that other front end work is being completed.

This allows the mechanic to complete an accurate front end suspension alignment, which properly sets the suspension straight, so that the car drives smoothly, wears your tires evenly, and the car doesn't pull to the right or left when you are trying to drive straight.As with any front end suspension work, it's always best to have a professional and certified mechanic complete your sway bar link replacement. If you notice any of the warning signs or symptoms above, contact YourMechanic so they can inspect your sway bar links.

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Bad Stabilizer or Sway Bar Link Symptoms | YourMechanic Advice (2024)


Bad Stabilizer or Sway Bar Link Symptoms | YourMechanic Advice? ›

If the sway bar links fail, your vehicle may feel less responsive or more challenging to control when steering or braking. Sometimes, you may also notice increased vibration in the steering wheel.

What are the symptoms of a bad stabilizer bar link? ›

What are the symptoms of a bad sway bar? Increased body roll, creaking clunking, or groaning noises, a tighter-than-usual turning radius, and abnormal tire wear are all symptoms of a bad sway bar.

How do I know if my stabilizer is bad? ›

Common signs of faulty stabilizer bar components include rattling or clunking noises from the tire area, poor handling, excessive body roll, squeaking, and a loose or sloppy steering feel. Stabilizer bar components should be visually inspected, and should also be listened to while the vehicle is being driven.

What happens when stabilizer links go bad? ›

Usually, the only symptom associated with a bad sway bar link is a clunking or popping noise while driving over bumps. The noise is typically the most noticeable when traveling at low speeds.

What happens if you drive with a bad stabilizer link? ›

A broken or damaged stabilizer link on your car can be a potentially dangerous situation, leading to impaired handling and increased body roll.

How do you know if you need a stabilizer bar? ›

  1. Clunking or Rattling Noises: ...
  2. Handling Issues: ...
  3. Uneven Tire Wear: ...
  4. Visible Damage: ...
  5. Vibrations in the Steering Wheel:
Dec 1, 2023

How to test a stabilizer? ›

The input voltage needs to be measured:

A multimeter's positive and negative probes should be connected to the input pin and ground pin, respectively, to measure the input voltage. Analyse the results. The stabiliser receives enough voltage if the input voltage is higher than the rated output.

How do I know if I need a new steering stabilizer? ›

How Do You Diagnose a Worn-Out Steering Stabilizer? Turn the steering wheel while the engine is off and the vehicle's front end is lifted. You should feel resistance when turning left and right. If there's only little resistance, check for fluid leaks, worn-out bushings, or lack of tension.

What are the symptoms of stabilizer? ›

When the bushings become torn, worn out or completely break, the stabilizer bar itself will become unstable and cause a rattling clunking sound while you are driving. The noise will get progressively louder when you steer the car in either direction or when you are driving on a rough road.

How to tell if drop links are bad? ›

Symptoms of damaged or worn bushings and drop links
  1. Clunking and rattling sounds from the wheels and suspension.
  2. Knocking within the wheels while driving on uneven roads and surfaces.
  3. Lack of stability while driving.
  4. Poor handling around corners.
  5. Additional body roll while turning.
Jan 6, 2022

What happens if you don't replace sway bar links? ›

Although the sway bar end links are designed to last the life of your vehicle, they are still susceptible to wear and tear. So you must replace yours immediately at the first sign of trouble. Otherwise, it can compromise your vehicle's smooth handling and excellent drivability.

What are symptoms of bad sway bar links? ›

What are the signs of a bad sway bar?
  • Unusual noises. If you hear clunking or squeaking noises while driving over bumps or taking turns, it could be a sign of a worn-out sway bar bushing or end link. ...
  • Body roll. ...
  • Steering problems. ...
  • Uneven tire wear. ...
  • Reduced stability. ...
  • What to do with a bad sway bar?
Apr 24, 2023

How do I know if my suspension bushings are bad? ›

Here are 5 indicators of bushing failure to watch out for:
  1. A feeling of pulling when braking or accelerating.
  2. Uneven tire wear from left to right.
  3. Tire wear patterns that show signs of camber wear.
  4. A clunking noise during accelerating or braking.
  5. A loose feeling in the steering when turning corners.

How do I know if my sway bar link needs replacing? ›

Listen for any knocking, popping, or clunking noises. After putting the vehicle on a lift, hold the sway bar link and move it up and down and side to side to test for any looseness or “play” in movement, which are sure signs that the part needs to be replaced.

How do I know if my anti-roll bar links are bad? ›

Clunking, rattling or knocking sounds.

A loose or damaged link may detach from the suspension or bar, causing it to rattle or clunk against metal components.


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