I recently took my car into the mechanic and he said I have a broken front passenger side sway bar link.

  • Do I need to get it fixed? I can't tell anything is wrong driving the car around. I would never have known it was broken if he hadn't told me. What are the consequences for leaving it broken for another 50-100K miles?
  • If I get one fixed should I do both front sway bar links?
  • Can I put in used sway bar links from the junkyard?

Car: 2005 Honda Civic LX Special Edition, 63K miles

  • The two answers you have are both good, but I would be very surprised if you didn't hear a knocking noise with BROKEN sway bar link. Also, its not as much of a "you will die" situation as these answers make out. I've known people who have removed the sway bar for various reasons. Personally, I would never do that, and I would never put used ones on my car or advise that to anyone. If money is an issue, buy the cheapest new ebay ones and DIY. I've had ebay ones on my Toyota for 3 years now.
    – DizzyFool
    Mar 28 '17 at 8:27
  • Oh and definitely do them in pairs!
    – DizzyFool
    Mar 28 '17 at 8:27

The sway (anti-roll) bar only comes into play with body roll. It affects tire loading (among other things) and thus over or under steer. You won’t notice it in normal driving, but can be very important in an emergency.

Replace both sides with decent aftermarket items.


The parts are about $60 to do both front sides with new parts. Fitting shouldn't be too expensive - I'd guess an hour in total.

I'd do both sides; one has broken, and the other is of the same age, so have it done. You could use junkyard parts, but you don't know the quality of them, and you still need to get them fitted; labor will be the largest part of the cost.

For anything to do with steering, suspension, brakes or safety in general, I never take the parts off a junker; my life is worth a little bit more than that.

  • I was quoted $101 for both parts and $110 for labor on both sides. $211 total. Mar 29 '17 at 0:57

You can get a new pair of cheapo links from eBay for $13. For the sake of mother's and children on the road, never ever pull 12 year old rubber/ball joint parts from some high mileage junker. An 05 Civic isn't a bad car, especially at such low mileage! I would suggest investing more in it now so you're not out thousands later.

Perhaps a pothole or something similar managed to break your old sway link. If it happens again, that energy has to be absorbed by something. So, instead of paying $50 bucks for a sway link replacement, you're out $400 for suspension work. It really makes sense to fix it properly.


To directly answer your questions:

  • No, you do not need to replace it. Many cars exist without an ARB (anti-roll bar, also know as a sway bar). The purpose is to help prevent the body from rolling excessively. Without it, you will notice the car rolls left/right more when cornering. Unless you enjoy pulling g's through corners--and some of us do--this isn't strictly bad.
  • Anytime you replace a component that is mirrored (ex. drop links, headlights, control arms) you replace them in pairs. If the first one broke, the second isn't long for this world.
  • You can use junkyard parts, but drop links (end links) typically have ball joints or bushings on them. These are wear items, so using a junkyard part means you take the risk that the part is at or near the end of its life. If you're particularly savvy, you might know what to look for on a drop link to determine how worn it is, but it's better to simply replace it with a new part. How many miles did you get on these ones? 63,000? If I told you that for $75 you could drive another 60,000 miles would you risk spending $30 for parts that may get you anywhere from 0 to 60,000? You're paying $0.00125 per mile. Drive a little lighter and you'll save more in gas (and the parts will last longer). No reason to cheap out here.

As for ARBs in general:

Background: Under ideal conditions, the body remains parallel to the road at all times; however, cornering tends to create a moment about the vehicle center of mass, which is often above the roll center (don't worry too much about terminology) of the vehicle. As a result, you end up with the body rolling toward the outside of the turn.

Purpose: ARBs are designed to control how the body rotates about the vehicle X-axis (runs forward/backward) relative to the road. They work by linking the travel between the left and right side of the vehicle. This actually removes some of the independent nature of the suspension, since now the left and right sides have a semi-rigid connection. As a result, upward travel on the left front shock will induce a lesser degree of travel in the right front shock. Because body roll manifests as (nearly) equal and opposite travel on the left and right suspension components, this linking reduces the travel, keeping the body from rolling excessively.

Benefits: Aside from high-frequency turning, it makes little difference to most driving conditions and instead exists as a comfort feature. It's nice when the car doesn't roll violently from side to side when entering and exiting turns at speed. It also matters when you go from turn to turn because even though the center of mass doesn't move much (really, it doesn't), that small motion amplified by higher frequency turning leads to very high induced forces. In fact, the force is proportional to the frequency squared:

F ∝ Aω²

If you'd like a proof, I can edit my answer to include it. Either way, it only matters significantly when you go from turn to turn quickly.

Detriments: As I said before, it works by linking left and right suspension travel. This is fine for obstructions like speed bumps where travel is nearly equal anyway, but it can actually induce body roll over other obstructions, like potholes. This is because one wheel is forced to travel much farther than the other and the ARB links them, causing the other wheel to travel, leading to body roll. From a pure comfort perspective, it actually contributes negatively under most driving conditions because of this.

Thoughts: Others have made this sounds like quite the life-or-death situation, but it's really not. You can remove the ARB with little consequence, though that's not the case for most suspension components. That said, just fix it. You probably don't even need to remove the wheel and it's typically just a bolt-on component.

  • His car did come with an ARB though. So, it's inherently a different design. I think the comparison is apples and oranges.
    – justinm410
    Mar 29 '17 at 2:26
  • @justinm410 Your argument could be made for the spare wheel in most cars. While I agree the chassis engineers would have designed with the ARB as a component, the role it plays would not cause the handling or dynamics to change radically. It would still be safe to drive, albeit with the caveats I mentioned before.
    – Hari Ganti
    Mar 29 '17 at 18:06
  • No because the spare wheel is a spare. How on earth do you know that its design does not necessitate an ARB? The vehicle you're comparing it to could be 1000lb lighter and have shorter, stiffer suspension to compensate. Just because cars exist without ARB, does not mean you can safely remove any car's ARB links.
    – justinm410
    Mar 29 '17 at 18:30
  • @justinm410 A spare, yes, but vehicle crash safety and handling are designed with the spare tire in the designated location. I'm also not comparing to it a different vehicle but stating what its purpose is and why it's not necessary. You also don't "compensate" for not having an ARB. That would be like "compensating" for not having shocks. They perform an independent role (unless you get really exotic with cross-linked dampers or active suspension). As for how I know, I am not a chassis engineer but I do work with them daily. I simply ask them to help fill in the gaps.
    – Hari Ganti
    Mar 29 '17 at 19:15
  • Factors like weight, suspension stiffness, and travel will make an ARB's function (keeping the tires in contact with the ground) less critical. That would mean it is compensated for. You might work with them daily, but you're missing the forest looking at the trees when it comes to the broader concepts.
    – justinm410
    Mar 30 '17 at 5:15

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