There are many routes you can take when modifying your car and the list of possibilities seem endless. Fortunately, there are some mods – like changing out your sway bar – that give you a big return on your investment. Otherwise known as anti-roll bars, upgrading your car’s sway bars will make the most dramatic difference in handling characteristics by reducing body roll. If you’re not familiar, a sway bar connects the opposing side wheels through arms linked by a torsion spring with the purpose of keeping stability when cornering.
With many auto builders looking to optimize comfort in a car’s ride characteristics, stock sway bars are often on the thinner side, which contributes to a softer ride but can also exaggerate understeer. Understeer occurs when a vehicle can no longer increase its lateral acceleration within a turn, leading to a wider turning radius than the driver intends. Essentially, understeer is when you ask your car to turn in harder and the car simply says “no — can’t do it”.
Switching your sway bar out for a thicker one allows for less body roll in turns and improves driver control, cutting understeer pretty dramatically depending on the bar installed and your car’s setup. You may be pleasantly surprised that sway bars aren’t as prohibitively expensive as many mods and not at all difficult to install with the right tools on hand.
Another side benefit is steering response. The further the body rolls, the longer it takes for the vehicle to become stable into a turn. With less body roll, steering response is greatly increased as the car will set in to a turn much quicker with less suspension travel. The quicker a vehicle finishes it’s suspension travel, the quicker it can respond to new steering inputs by the driver.
Additionally, reducing the body roll helps the driver maintain balance in the cockpit and concentrate on driving. The centrifugal forces of the corner are already pulling on the driver hard enough, when the car leans over the driver is then also subject to the force of gravity.
To that end, check out this quick tutorial video from our Aussie friends at Mighty Car Mods. In this episode, Marty and Moog run through why changing out your sway bar can be the best bang-for-your-buck suspension mod you can do. You’ll not only get to watch a sway bar replacement in the Mazda 3 hatchback, but you’ll get some sound (if unexpected) relationship and slow-cooker advice from Moog, who goes slightly off-topic here and there.
If you want sharper turn-in from your ride and a great suggestion for your next lentil soup recipe, you can’t miss this episode of Mighty Car Mods!