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Front Sway Bar/Stabilizer Bar


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16 replies to this topic

#1 K9Leader

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 02:21 PM

I have a broken front sway bar (stabilizer bar) on my 2000 OB wagon with 41K miles. Heard a 'chunk-chunk-chunk" during a hard left turn the other day. It sheared right through just where it connects to the underbody, so the curved part was hanging down and hitting the wheel on those hard left turns.

I've ordered the part and will make this my Saturday project. I have an AllData subscription and pulled the removal/installation instructions, but there appears to be an important step missing. Looking under the car, it appears that the exhaust pipes have to be disconnected from the manifolds (they are bolted together right at the point at which the sway bar runs underneath). The AllData info does not mention or show this step.

Can anyone who has done this confirm? Any other advice, warnings, prayers for me on this job?

I understand that these things rarely break, and when they do, it is usually from hitting a curb, log, rock, boulder or some other annoyance. Not in this case, as far as I know -- I was just doing a left turn into my son's high school parking lot.

--K9Leader

#2 Subie Gal

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 03:53 PM

this thread / discussion may help

http://www.scoobymod...ight=front sway

it's going to be a very very similar swap.
good luck
Jamie

#3 alias20035

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 06:44 PM

I've seen broken sway bar end links but never a broken bar (accidents excepted).

A broken sway bar can lead to loss of control if it breaks while in a corner. Did you report the problem to a dealer, or complain to Subaru. It could have been a manufacturing defect which they will pay for (and investigate).

Subaru has hade issues with broken suspension parts of late as they started to use crappy American made components. My 2001 Outback has been recalled twice times, once to replace the front A arms (improperly welded and were breaking), and to rust proof the rear suspension (improperly painted at the factory).

Subaru has adopted the US manufacturers method of outsourcing construction of these components to the lowest bidder. Only recently have they re-implemented Toyota like quality initiatives.

#4 K9Leader

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 09:29 AM

Subie Gal: Thanks for the link. I'm sure this info will be helpful.

Alias: No, haven't gone to Subaru. The car is out of warranty on all but powertrain, and I bought it used at 32K miles, so I cannot be sure it didn't run over something at some point that may have contributed to the sway bar failure . . . Although, the guy I bought it from was a mid-50s high school science teacher, who was unlikely to have abused it -- he provided me with very detailed service records that seemed to indicate he jumped onto every little problem.

Anyway, it's not an expensive part and it looks as though I can do the job myself, and will learn something in the process. I hope.

--K9Leader

#5 alias20035

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 06:08 AM

Originally posted by K9Leader
Subie Gal: Thanks for the link. I'm sure this info will be helpful.

Alias: No, haven't gone to Subaru. The car is out of warranty on all but powertrain, and I bought it used at 32K miles, so I cannot be sure it didn't run over something at some point that may have contributed to the sway bar failure . . . Although, the guy I bought it from was a mid-50s high school science teacher, who was unlikely to have abused it -- he provided me with very detailed service records that seemed to indicate he jumped onto every little problem.

Anyway, it's not an expensive part and it looks as though I can do the job myself, and will learn something in the process. I hope.

--K9Leader



I reread your original post and just noted that it broke near the frame mount.

Is it possible that the sway bar bushing is totally worn out?

Or is there any sign of damage to the crossmember, or metal bracket that holds the bar? Since the sway bar is low to the ground and ahead of the front wheels. hitting a curb in a parking lot or a rock could damage it.

If the bushing is worn, or there is damage you could get metal to metal wear causing the bar to break, or there could be friction preventing rotation of the bar limiting cornering stress to one side of the bar instead of the whole bar. In fact if the bar "jams" each bump you hit will place a great deal of stress on it, which would definitely cause it to fail.

When you install the new bar get new bushings, and end links, as these typically wear out every three years or less(when they fail you get steering clunks, particulary when turning and one wheel hits a bump). The bushings and end links are about $30.

If there is damage to the metal bracket, you should be able to get these cheap as well. They are common replacement parts due to rust.

If the subframe is damaged, it is not likely a job you can do yourself as a body mounted engine retainer is required to remove the crossmember so the engine will not fall out.

Since the sway bar is one peice of wire that is bent to shape there should be no welds to fail or weak areas (aside from the ends). As I stated the only bar failures that I have seen are accident related. So it is really important to determine the cause.

If the bar failed for no determined cause I would still deal with Subaru since it could have been a manufacturing defect, which they should cover regardless of mileage. In fact they may have a TSB or secret recall for the problem. As I indicated earlier a failed sway bar presents an extreme hazard.

#6 K9Leader

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 09:20 AM

Alias:

Good point about the bushings and links -- mine as well replace them, just in case they contributed to the bar failure and while I've got the thing disassembled.

The prices, though, are a bit more than you noted -- list prices are bushings $17.03 each, and links $51.70 each, and $12.84 and $38.78 from an online dealer. I did not think to order these when I ordered the bar, so I would either have to pick them up from a local dealer (and pay the list price, but no shipping or tax -- I'm in sales-tax free Delaware) or order them from the discounter and delay the repair.

The break was about 3/4 of an inch from the bracket, and snapped off pretty clean. There is no evidence of impact or other damage on the bar, the bracket or anywhere else in the vicinity.

You mention the bar being wire that is bent into shape. But, is the bar bent into shape or is it cast in that shape? And would that make a difference in its structural soundness? I have an engineer friend who could answer this question for me, but that would mean devoting at least two hours of my life to listening to the answer.

--K9Leader

#7 alias20035

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 04:55 PM

Originally posted by K9Leader
Alias:

You mention the bar being wire that is bent into shape. But, is the bar bent into shape or is it cast in that shape? And would that make a difference in its structural soundness? I have an engineer friend who could answer this question for me, but that would mean devoting at least two hours of my life to listening to the answer.

--K9Leader



The prices for the bushings are a lot higher than what I pay in Canada, but perhaps my dealer is giving me a break? I would just change the bar bushings, and keep the old end links unless damaged.

The bar is one peice of wire that is bent by a computerized machine, it is kind of like a pipe bender. Once bent the ends are stamped and a hole is made for the endlinks.

I would take the broken bar in to a Subaru dealer, and perhaps leave it with them to show a factory rep. As I have said before, these things just don't break......

#8 remarcable

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 09:03 PM

This is a little bit of thread necromancy, but I just found these on my old digital camera. Seeing as how my experience is identical to the original poster's, I thought I would reply with the pictures. Mine went with a BANG! as it hit the 1/8" aluminum skidplate covering my engine bay. I thought a tire had exploded at first.

This is where my front swaybar on the 99 outback snapped when going over some rough pavement at speeds under 15mph. My entire suspension has sustained increased wear from offroad excursions so I wasn't too surprised. That's also why I didn't make a warranty claim.

You are looking at the driver's side of the swaybar.

Posted Image

In the second picture I propped the broken part there to get it in the shot.

Posted Image

I removed the broken part and drove around (slowly) like that for two weeks until I could locate a used front swaybar ($50).

The swaybar in question had less than 50k miles on it at the time and no visible damage that could have caused the break (no chips or dents from impacts - I have a sturdy skidplate). I might still have the broken end somewhere in the garage if anybody wants better pictures.

#9 Commuter

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 09:49 PM

As someone who has worked in the metals heat treating industry for years, and has a smattering of metallurgy, I find it not totally surprising that a sway bar fails now and again.

There are a lot of (small) variables when it comes to metals. The compositon and impurity levels, the micro and macro structues of the metal, the heat treatment, etc. Add to that the forming process and it's related variables and stresses. Now factor in all that the underside of a car sees in its lifetime. A sway bar flexes; this is classic fatigue situation. Add road salt, corrosion, grit, flying bits of stone, etc. Anything that causes even a minor scratch on the surface can act as a crack initiator. One day, the combination of hundreds of thousands of flex cycles, a surface crack, cold weather, higher than normal stress, etc. and "bang", it fails.

I'm not saying that it should be taken lightly, or that you shouldn't notify Subaru. They may do something, they may not. But anything man made, can, and eventually will, fail. Mother nature and 'chaos' will eventually win in the end. ;)

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#10 alias20035

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 10:32 PM

Great photos...

Thats quite a break, and something that a metals expert should look at first hand. I would guess manufacturing defect, but as I said in an earlier reply a "jammed" sway bar will stress one side causing it to act more like a suspension spring than a sway bar and lead to this type of failure in exactely this location.

Sway bars are made of spring steel just like coil springs which have a very low failure rate. Sway bars receive a fair bit more torsional force though.

I have only seen this one other time, and that was on a rally car that had a coil spring fail, causing one side of the cars load to be transferred to the other through the sway bar. The car finished the stage with one front corner on the ground, the crew changed the hole A-arm/axle/strut assembly and sway bar in under 5 minutes!! Unfortunately I had to treat one of the mechanics for second degree burns after he accidentely grabbed the hot brake rotor.

Broken ends where the end link connects is a more common point of failure, but even that is rare.

#11 torxxx

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Posted 09 December 2003 - 03:51 AM

****, just take the sway bar off.. from what I'm told, soobs drive better with out em

#12 K9Leader

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Posted 09 December 2003 - 08:21 AM

Remarcable:

Your photos are the mirror image of the break on my front swaybar -- mine broke in the exact same spot on the passenger (right) side. Similarly, mine had no dents or other obvious cause of the break. As the poster with metallurgical expertise noted, probably just a weak point that after 42,000 miles couldn't take it anymore.

I finally got it resolved yesterday but had to resort to letting a dealer do the replacement, although I had obtained the replacement swaybar part on my own, so that minimized the expense. The removal/disassembly/dropping of the exhaust system was beyond what I was able/willing to do while on my back, with only minimal clearance with the car on ramps, in an unheated garage in December.

--K9Leader

#13 remarcable

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Posted 09 December 2003 - 12:57 PM

I put mine on without removing anything, but it did take me about two hours to play the puzzle game with it. A newer model soob might be different.

Square peg, round hole, etc. :banghead:

#14 roadtrip

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 12:26 AM

I just got back home after hearing a grinding noise when turning hard left. I took a peek under and I have a sheared sway bar in exactly the same location on my 2000 Legacy Brighton wagon. I'm going to take pictures, but I'll probably resort to having the work done at a dealer, as I'm a college student without tools, expertise, or a place to work.

So.. once is nothing, twice is coincidence, third is alien conspiracy. Anyone sensing a manufacturing problem?

#15 K9Leader

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 08:29 AM

The swaybar part should be between $93 (what I paid through one of the online dealers) and $125 (list price). If the dealership you go to tries to charge more than $125, try to get them to cut the price to at least list price, or order it from an online dealer. The labor should be about $120 to $150.

Good luck!

--K9Leader

#16 ramono

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Posted 14 February 2005 - 04:59 PM

HEllo ya all!!

My sway bar broke a couple of days ago...passing diagonaly over a deep..suddenly snnaped! :eek: I`m living down in Mexico, does any body know about any compatible sway bars for my '99 legacy outback? or where to get it used in the states? should I worry about driving without it?

Please send me any usefull info!!

peace
Ramono :D

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#17 cidion

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 06:29 PM

Hi Ramono, and others

I too, while going (slowly) diag, over a small dip in our driveway, broke the sway bar in the same place.

But my bar was broken on both sides.

I'm just trying to work out how it could break on both sides.

It would seem that if one side was broken, it would release the pressure on the other side, and it wouldn't break.

If one break occured before we got it (we purchased this 2 days ago from an individual) it would seem that there wouldn't be resistance to break the other side.

Anyway... just thought i'd put in my 2 cents. Also... where can I get a replacement one? Or should I? I've got some epoxy in the garage. *grin*

Bryan
Chattanooga, TN




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