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Are Aftermarket Sway Bars Worth It?

Jun 05, 2021
- I've been wanting to put these

sway

bars

on the Miata for a while, but my coworkers had other ideas. (engine revving) (maniacal laughter) So it's finally my turn to pick a mod, and I wanted to make the car drive better with one of the most cost effective, easy to install, and often overlooked upgrades. I'm talking about stabilizer

bars

. But am I just being an over-the-top

sway

bar guy? Or do they make a big enough difference to really be

worth

the cost? Today we'll talk about sway bars as we install a set on the Miata to find out for ourselves whether or not they're really

worth

the money.
are aftermarket sway bars worth it
I'm Zach, this is Money Pit, let's swing, baby. (lightning) (rumbling thunder) Alright, it's no secret that I want this Miata to handle as well as possible. And if you've been following us, you know that we've already done a set of coil-over shocks on the car, which did great things for the way this thing handles. But there's still a lot of body roll in the Miata, and coil-over shocks alone can't do much against body roll. So today we're going to combat body roll by installing a set of sway bars on the Miata. Now, before you expertly install a piece of equipment and say it feels better, let's do a little science.
are aftermarket sway bars worth it

More Interesting Facts About,

are aftermarket sway bars worth it...

So, we set up a little slalom course here in my neighborhood, and I'm going to do it real quick with the stock sway bars on, and see how much body roll we currently have. (camera shutter click) And then we'll install our new beefy, thick sway bars, and see how much body roll we get next. And, you know, I'm not really a betting man, but if I were, I'd bet that we'll significantly reduce the body roll that this car has with the sway bars we installed today. Hello? - We've been trying to reach... - (bleep)! Alright, before I can explain how the sway bars work, what they do there, and why they're such a nice upgrade, we have to remove the stock bars so you can really see what we're talking about.
are aftermarket sway bars worth it
So obviously I'm a big proponent of sway bars. But I can't admit that maybe it's not the right way to spend money on every car, right? For the Miata, I think it will be a big improvement. This is a little roadster, a car built to be driven. This is never going to be really fast in a straight line or anything, so the Miata handles the upgrades very well. But if this were an SUV, or, you know, a big old car, maybe sway bars wouldn't be the solution. Maybe that wouldn't be the best bang for your buck.
are aftermarket sway bars worth it
Maybe you would be better off with an exhaust, some subwoofers or something like that. But for the Miata, what we're doing is managing the upgrades. (impact wrench rattling) We can see the front stabilizer bar here. The first thing we will have to do to get it out of the car is remove both end links. The end link is what connects the sway bar to the control arm, which is what makes the sway bar work. Without these, you're screwed. These can also wear out and become clunky. So if you hear a clunking noise when you go over bumps, it could be the end links.
Once you have the end links out, you just need to remove the bars, which is as easy as removing the hardware from the sway bar mounts. It is usually fixed somewhere on the chassis. In this case, we have stabilizer bar supports. It is very easy to access the hardware. Remove them and then the stabilizer bar should be free. That easy. Okay, so we remove the stabilizer bars. Now, let's talk about what a sway bar actually is. It's basically a big spring and what it does is connect the left and right suspension via a shaft. So you have left and right suspension in the front, and your left and right suspension in the rear are connected by a stabilizer bar.
So the sway bar most of the time when you're driving down the street doesn't do much. If your wheels do basically the same thing, it doesn't really influence the driving characteristics much. But, when you corner, your car's outside suspension will compress, while the inside suspension will rise. And the stabilizer bar is connected to the left and right control arms, which do opposite things. So this big spring has opposing forces at each end that twist it. So depending on how heavy this spring is will determine how much it opposes that torque, which in turn keeps the car flat or allows the body to roll.
So what do you look for when upgrading your sway bars? Well, in most cases we will look for a thicker stabilizer bar. That means it's a thicker spring, which means it will resist those twisting forces more. Another thing we look for is adaptability. On our new sway bars, we have multiple holes on the ends where we can attach our end links. So now we'll be able to adjust our balance, our handling characteristics, front and rear, based on these holes. Alright, I think you got the gist of sway bars, now let's put these beautiful blue bars on that car and see how it feels.
First, I'm going to put some grease inside these bushings. You don't need too much. Just stick it in there and give it a good coat. And then again. The front bar is identical whether this way or this way, so the front bar is fine. The back bar is upside down. (upbeat music) Oh! Oh my God, (bleeped). (painfully moaning) (beeping) (sighing deeply) - What did you do? - (bleep) hit the (bleep) side of my knee. My knee (bleeped). Now all hardware is booted. Now we're going to tighten it halfway and then we can put the braces in place.
This is the brace, it's very simple. Basically, the ends of the sway bar hardware go into these two small holes and then push against the frame horn to try to solidify this mount a little. It's really simple, but it should work fine. (ratchet click) Well, unlike the front sway bar which really can't be installed wrong, this one can. See how this is angled? That means there is a way to turn this upside down. And to be honest, I wasn't paying much attention when I put out the original, which is something you should try to do, pay attention.
So I just put in an end link to see how it wants to sit, and it clearly wants to meet the sway bar at that angle. (upbeat music) It's time to install the final links, and these are adjustable, so we'll have to pay attention to that. Currently, we have them all adjusted to be about the same length as the original end links. And the reason we do this is because the length of the end link determines where the sway bar will go. So where the sway bar travels determines what kinds of things it might run into.
And we know that it doesn't clash with anything in the stock position. So, that's where we're starting. Okay, now we have to make a decision. Should we put it in the rigid position or the soft position? The hole closest to the bar is the stiffest. The farther the mounting point is from the bar itself, the further this arm is, the smoother the bar will act. Because the longer this arm is, the more leverage the control arm will have to turn the stabilizer bar. And I think I'm going to go with mild to start. I'm going to go easy in the front and probably medium in the back.
These are adjustable end links, so the locknuts jam them so they are no longer adjustable. Locks them in place. So if you don't tighten them really well before you go out driving, they can come loose and basically rattle to death, and then you'll need new ones. So make sure you tighten the locknuts well. When you tighten the end links, you want to make sure that they do not load the sway bar in any direction. To know this you have to have the car at driving height with the suspension loaded and everything fixed. So we'll have everything installed about 75% of the way there.
And by that I mean a fully installed end link and an end link hanging off the sway bar waiting to go into the bracket. (upbeat music) Alright, we've got the car on the ground, now we're going to roll it back and forth to make sure the suspension is seated and in its initial location, wherever it sits. You can also put your body weight in the driver's seat to simulate how the car will actually be loaded with your body inside. So I'll have one of the other roommates come out and sit in the driver's seat while I do this.
So I'm going to dig into the Miata and adjust this end link until I can line it up with the hole in the sway bar. Alright, now let's get the rear end in place and then we'll let Russo get back to work and then we'll tighten everything up. (ratcheting clank) (beep) (breathing heavily) (beep) Oh my god! Did my head get stuck? (laughter) (suspenseful music) (tools ringing) Let's see if it was worth it. Alright, half a day of work, a little frustration and about $500 later, we got some sway bars on the Miata. Now is the time to try it and see if these things were worth it. (upbeat music) So first of all, the first thing you notice is how much more responsive the front-end is.
When we finished doing that slalom test, I felt like I could have done it twice as fast as with the stock slalom bars. Honestly, one of my biggest complaints with the Miata in the handling department is that the front end feels a little slow, a little lazy, you know. But now with these sway bars, my goodness. Weight is transferred immediately when you turn the wheel, and the front end simply sinks to wherever you want to go. And we haven't even driven yet. I can already feel how responsive it is, it's amazing. Alright, since the sway bars will keep the car much flatter, that keeps the weight of the car much more centered on the car, so we don't have as much weight transfer outward.
So we will have a much better grip. As soon as you turn the wheel, the outboard stabilizer bar is loaded and immediately transferred to the inboard suspension, and you feel a directness that wasn't there before. This is what the Miata should have felt like from the factory. Now sway bars are good because they don't affect your handling except when you're in a high performance driving situation, which is pretty cool when you think about it. You can put giant sway bars on a car and just drive down the street you won't notice the difference. Well, I'd say we have our answer.
For this car, for the amount of money it cost. Now, we have a little better stuff than you have to get, but you can do what we did today for about $250. So for the cost, the time it takes to install them, and the big impact they have, sway bars are definitely worth it. Make sure to subscribe to the channel and hit the notification bell to know when the videos come out. Like every Wednesday morning. You get a notification and, boom, you're in the Money Pit. And then bam, who do you find? Me, in the comments, every Wednesday morning for an hour.
You can also find me on Instagram @zachjobe. And you can follow Donut Media @donutmedia on all social networks. Thanks again guys, see you next week.

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