Automotive

Broken Sway bar...safe to drive?

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[OP]
Deal Addict
Feb 23, 2006
1133 posts

Broken Sway bar...safe to drive?

So on the way home today, I started hearing a noise that sounded like a metal-on-metal clinking. When I got home I looked under the car and sure enough my sway/stabilizer bar is broken. Unfortunately it's not just the link...the actual bar is broken, although it's broken right at the end (just before the link, where the bar goes from being a round bar to a flat area). The following picture illustrates where exactly it's broken.

Image

Now, I called a dealer to see if I could get the replacement bar, but not only does the Canadian warehouse not have it, it's on backorder for North America, so the guy said it could be a few weeks before they can get one.

I don't use my car very much usually...a few km here and there to drive to the grocery store/hockey, and I don't think it would be unsafe to drive the car for short in-town trips, however this was TERRIBLE timing, as my sister is getting married this weekend AND my girlfriend has a flight on Tuesday, meaning that I need to drive from Waterloo to Toronto TWICE in the next week.

Can anybody shed some light on the situation? There's no way I can avoid driving on the highway for the few weeks it may take to get a replacement. Will it be safe to drive, or am I screwed?

Thanks!
- Ian
20 replies
Deal Addict
May 16, 2006
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It should be ok to drive, but your car is gonna handle different and feel very loose in corners.
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Mar 23, 2004
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ian1386 wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:10 pm
Now, I called a dealer to see if I could get the replacement bar, but not only does the Canadian warehouse not have it, it's on backorder for North America, so the guy said it could be a few weeks before they can get one.
Wow broken anti-sway bar is a pretty rare occurence I think. What kind of car is it and is it the front or rear bar that broke? You should try to get one from a wrecker instead, no need to buy a new bar it's just a piece of metal.
ian1386 wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:10 pm
I don't use my car very much usually...a few km here and there to drive to the grocery store/hockey, and I don't think it would be unsafe to drive the car for short in-town trips, however this was TERRIBLE timing, as my sister is getting married this weekend AND my girlfriend has a flight on Tuesday, meaning that I need to drive from Waterloo to Toronto TWICE in the next week.

Can anybody shed some light on the situation? There's no way I can avoid driving on the highway for the few weeks it may take to get a replacement. Will it be safe to drive, or am I screwed?

Thanks!
- Ian
It's not really unsafe to drive with a broken or disconnected bar, but it will adversely affect handling. It depends if it's the front or rear bar and if the car is a front or rear (or all) driver.
If it's the rear that's broken the car will understeer much more quickly than normal, so go easy on corners/curves for sure. Also body roll will be noticeably increased (hence why they are also called anti-roll bars). Since the car will experience more body roll, you're less likely to push the [new, lower] limit when you feel the body roll, so you probably won't have much of a problem.

If the front bar is broken it should produce the opposite effect. I.e. the car will have more tendency to oversteer than it would normally. The rear bar would hold the rear end down but the front bar would not do it's job at the front obviously, meaning the rear end may want to slide out. This can be particularly dangerous considering most road cars are setup for understeer and most people do not expect this to happen, especially on a front-driver.

That said you're probably not too badly off provided you don't attempt curves at high speed or do any hard cornering. Just hope that you don't end up in a situation where you have to swerve aggressively to avoid something as you may end up out of control a lot easier than you expect.

Other than that I would assume the bar is clunking/clanging away so you may want to suspend it/tie it up somehow to minimise that between now and whenever you replace it.

Oh one other note, use extra caution in the wet. Though you would normally do this anyway, I'm sure, I'm just saying when it gets wet the effects of the broken bar may become a lot more apparent, rather quickly!
Deal Guru
Nov 16, 2004
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My father is asking what type of car it is. Depending on the type of car (big or small) it could make a difference (according to him).

Try an after market part, why are you trying the dealer?
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Nov 18, 2007
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How about getting a shop to weld it?
[OP]
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Feb 23, 2006
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ES_Revenge wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:22 pm
Wow broken anti-sway bar is a pretty rare occurence I think. What kind of car is it and is it the front or rear bar that broke? You should try to get one from a wrecker instead, no need to buy a new bar it's just a piece of metal.
It's broken on the front left of my 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix which is, for some reason, mush more rusted than most 10-year old cars. The quote I got from the dealer for the part was $110, so it's not really that much.
ES_Revenge wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:22 pm
Other than that I would assume the bar is clunking/clanging away so you may want to suspend it/tie it up somehow to minimise that between now and whenever you replace it.
The entire bar is mounted above the chassis, so nothing is hanging loose. The small end is the only 'loose' part, but it's so small to begin with so it doesn't really 'hang' as much as just sit there.
DaVibe wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:29 pm
My father is asking what type of car it is. Depending on the type of car (big or small) it could make a difference (according to him).

Try an after market part, why are you trying the dealer?
'98 Grand Prix. As for aftermarket parts, I looked around briefly online and could only find "high performance" aftermarket sway bar kits, which seem more expensive than the standard OEM parts.


Other that the standard "be cautious while turning and avoid high-speed turns", is there anything else I should worry about? Going 115km/h on the 401 is ok?

Thanks!
- Ian
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2004
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ian1386 wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:46 pm
It's broken on the front left of my 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix which is, for some reason, mush more rusted than most 10-year old cars. The quote I got from the dealer for the part was $110, so it's not really that much.
No it's not but you could pick one up from a wrecker for about half that I think, and you'd get it right away (which was the main difference so you don't have to wait weeks).

ian1386 wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:46 pm
'98 Grand Prix. As for aftermarket parts, I looked around briefly online and could only find "high performance" aftermarket sway bar kits, which seem more expensive than the standard OEM parts.
Hmm yeah you could also go for an upgraded bar (I mean might as well since you have to replace it anyway). There's probably different stock sizes too so you could look into that. If you have a GTP already it probably has the largest bar available from the factory anyway though. Increasing the front size too much without increasing the rear isn't a good idea though. But a step up isn't so bad. Note though that some factory bars only fit on cars with different/uplevel control arms; other times it's just the endlinks that are different.

ian1386 wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 6:46 pm
Other that the standard "be cautious while turning and avoid high-speed turns", is there anything else I should worry about? Going 115km/h on the 401 is ok?

Thanks!
- Ian
In a straight line you'll never know the difference (except maybe the noise, heh). However again though, watch out for the swerving! Driving slower will reduce stopping distances and make for lower speed swerving, should you need to swerve in an emergency. That said, I think 115km/h is perfectly fine. :)
Sr. Member
Mar 25, 2005
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Bowmanville
you'll be fine - my 98 olds intrigue has its front sway bar broken and i'm daily on the hwy from bowmanville to oshawa.

i also make a weekly/bi-weekly trip to markham/toronto to see friends. You will feel the steering to be a bit loose - and its hell in snow and rain(not so much rain i find). i've been fine comfortable driving at 120 on the hwy. and bumps in the road will be a b***h.

can you let me know how much you find the replacement part and where? As i'd also like to get mine replace and have not had much luck finding a part (to be fair though, i haven't put that much effort into it either).
Deal Addict
Dec 4, 2004
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I had the U-bracket break off that holds the bushing on the front sway bar causing it to be loose. The whole chassis felt like it was really rocking around corners as others said but, to me, it was most scary on the highway (where it broke off). On the ride home after it let go, the whole front end was swaying back and forth with just a tiny amount of wheel movement. Driving 100km/h and feeling like you're sitting in a bowl of jello is quite scary.

I'd bet the importance varies by car type, but definitely grab one from the wreckers if you can. Surely by calling around you could get it for no more than $20 if you're willing to pull the part yourself - probably $50 if you want them to do it for you.
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Jun 22, 2006
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If you must drive on the highway, keep in the right lane and don't go too fast, in case there is a problem. If I were you I'd go get it fixed at a private mechanic ASAP instead of waiting for the dealer. This isn't a serious repair, but it's important.
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[OP]
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Feb 23, 2006
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JAGpilot wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 10:01 pm
If you must drive on the highway, keep in the right lane and don't go too fast, in case there is a problem. If I were you I'd go get it fixed at a private mechanic ASAP instead of waiting for the dealer. This isn't a serious repair, but it's important.
As far as I know, private mechanics still order parts directly from GM. The problem isn't delays with a specific dealer, it's the fact that the part just isn't available. And I'm sure this isn't kept in stock by any private dealers...
Deal Addict
Nov 6, 2003
1007 posts
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Some car older car (i.e. older Corollas, i'm sure there are others) doesn't even have rear sway bar as standard equipment. There will be more body roll, but your car should be safe to operate (if that's the only thing broken).
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Aug 22, 2007
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evolution921 wrote:
Jul 16th, 2008 10:31 pm
Some car older car (i.e. older Corollas, i'm sure there are others) doesn't even have rear sway bar as standard equipment. There will be more body roll, but your car should be safe to operate (if that's the only thing broken).
Exactly. Yes the car will handle less tightly, but this is a piece of equipment which is still not standard on most vehicles, so how will it make the car much 'less safe to drive' ?
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If you can, go aftermarket. Cheaper and better.
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Prince15 wrote:
Jul 17th, 2008 9:08 am
Exactly. Yes the car will handle less tightly, but this is a piece of equipment which is still not standard on most vehicles, so how will it make the car much 'less safe to drive' ?
umm..i think you'll be hard pressed to find a car with NO rear sway bars even in the last decade?
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