Sway bars are an important component of a vehicle’s suspension. Also known as anti-roll, anti-sway, stabilizer, or roll bars, a sway bar reduces your vehicle’s body roll and “sway”. Not every vehicle has a sway bar, but they can be extremely useful, especially for larger vehicles like RVs and motor coaches.
To give you a better understanding, we’ll go through what a sway bar is, what it does, and how to determine if you need a replacement. Let’s dive in!
A sway bar is part of your vehicle’s suspension, which includes your wheels / tires, springs, shocks, steering system, linkages, bushings, and joints. Sway bars help your ride handle turns and prevent body lean, the last thing you want while operating a motor coach or RV!
At its core, a sway bar is really just a torsion spring—a piece of metal that reacts to a twisting movement. When your vehicle turns, the sway bar works to level everything out and fights that tilting feeling you may have experienced when taking a corner too fast.
The number and variety of sway bars depends on the vehicle, and the actual bar attaches across the vehicle’s body from one wheel to the other.
As mentioned above, the purpose of a sway bar is to prevent body lean in the vehicle, typically caused by turning. When a vehicle—especially a large vehicle like a truck or motor coach—turns, force is distributed to the outside (if you were turning right, force and weight would be naturally shifted to the left.) This typically causes the outside tire to lift higher than the inside tire. But, with a sway bar, tires are brought back to the same level, thus leveling the entire vehicle.
As a torsion spring, the sway bar reacts to the twisting movement (again, most commonly experienced in turns) and levels your vehicle’s wheels. On the flip side, if both tires hit something at the same force, there would be no need for a sway bar because there would be no twisting motion.
The most obvious reason why sway bars are important is to ensure your vehicle doesn’t roll too much when handling turns. Aside from safety, sway bars help prevent lopsided wheel alignment and work to maintain an overall better grip on the road.
Now that you understand the importance of a sway bar, the question is “do you need a new one?”.
The easiest way to determine if you need a new sway bar would be by taking your vehicle to a certified mechanic. In the meantime, you should be on the lookout for rattling or clunking noises coming from your suspension (especially when going over bumps), poor handling, or a loose steering wheel.
Because of their size, motor coaches can lean quite a bit without a sway bar. Not only will driving an RV without a sway bar wear you out physically (large vehicle + lots of wind pushing you side to side = full body workout for the driver), it can also be dangerous. So, if you’re planning on hitting the open road, a sway bar can be useful to alleviate some of that force and provide a smoother, more enjoyable ride.
In the end, it’s not a question of whether or not you need a sway bar—it’s what kind of sway bar you need. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. So if you’re not happy with how your vehicle handles turns and high winds, consider talking to a mechanic about whether or not a more rigid or flexible sway bar would be beneficial for you!