Plenty of car brands and models these days come equipped with sway bars, also known as anti-roll bars. They do a fantastic job of reducing your car’s leaning when it takes a tight corner. However, an anti-roll bar’s performance depends on how well its link stabilizers function.
A link stabilizer is what connects an anti-roll bar to your car, and you’ll find one on either side of that bar under your car. More specifically, each link stabilizer attaches to the bar on one side and to the car’s suspension system on the other at the control arm, knuckle, or wheel carrier. Their failure will cause a loss of handling and loud noises.
Link stabilizers are worth getting to know, as they contribute significantly to your car’s handling. So, read through this guide to understand what they are, what they do, and what happens when they stop working correctly.
What Is A Link Stabilizer, And What Does It Do?
A link stabilizer is something that connects a sway bar (or ‘anti-roll bar’) to your vehicle by connecting (or ‘linking’) it to the wheel’s suspension components. Aside from ‘link stabilizer’, the same component also goes by other names like ‘stabilizer link’ or ‘end link’ in some cases.
As you might know, the sway bar runs horizontally to connect two wheels on the same axle. However, that bar doesn’t connect directly to both sides.
Instead, you’ll find a link stabilizer at each end of that bar, connecting the sway bar to the control arm, wheel carrier, or knuckle.
Each link stabilizer consists of a strong, straight structure accompanied by ball joints on both sides. One joint attaches to the sway bar, while the other attaches to the suspension system.
These days, link stabilizers are made from different materials, including aluminum and steel, which are both incredibly durable, or much lighter reinforced plastic.
The sway bar and its link stabilizers work together to reduce the body roll that happens when your car takes a corner, especially at higher speeds.
Body roll is what happens when your car leans as you turn around a corner, and most of the vehicle’s weight shifts to the outside wheels.
By doing their job to reduce body roll, link stabilizers and the sway bar maximize the tires’ grip on the road, thereby keeping it stable. Doing that also reduces other handling problems like oversteering and understeering.
Still, it’s crucial that you’re clear on one thing: the link stabilizer or stabilizer link is not the actual bar that runs from one side of the axle to the other. Instead, the links are attachments that mount the sway bar to the car’s body, particularly at parts of the suspension system.
Unfortunately, many people still confuse the link stabilizers with the actual sway bar. In reality, they are two different components that work together to keep your car stable while cornering.
That distinction is crucial to understand, especially when you’re trying to troubleshoot your suspension system or purchase replacement parts.
Most vehicles on the market come with sway bars and link stabilizers as standard features. However, you can also purchase aftermarket link stabilizers to upgrade your vehicle if you want to.
How Do I Know If My Link Stabilizer Has Gone Bad?
Excessive wear and damage will prevent link stabilizers from doing what they’re supposed to, so it’s crucial that you recognize the symptoms.
The damage happens because link stabilizers experience plenty of wear and punishment whenever you drive. Not only does it shift a lot of force when cornering, but it’s also exposed to road debris, like rocks, that can damage it from beneath.
Here are some symptoms of link stabilizers that have gone bad:
1. Loose Steering Or Bad Handling
Your link stabilizers are closely related to your car’s suspension system. As a result, you’ll quickly realize something is wrong with them when your steering becomes loose or your car suddenly handles badly overall.
While other issues could certainly cause those problems, you should still troubleshoot the link stabilizers to ensure they function correctly.
2. Loud Noises (E.g. Rattling And Clunking)
Your sense of hearing is also crucial to identify when your link stabilizers aren’t working correctly. As you read earlier, the links themselves consist of a solid and straight piece. So, there are no moving parts that should be making much noise.
Rattling and clunking are signs that something is loose or broken at the link stabilizer and requires your attention.
3. Ball Joint Has A Damaged Dust Boot
You can also take a closer look at your link stabilizers to discover signs they’re not in good condition. For example, one or both of the ball joints on a link stabilizer might have a damaged dust boot.
When that dust boot isn’t in excellent condition, dust and other debris can find their way into the ball joint, undermining its movement.
4. Worn-Out Bushings
Bushings are also another crucial indicator of your link stabilizer’s condition. When they’re worn out, you should inspect and troubleshoot the stabilizer. There’s a strong likelihood they’re no longer in good condition.
5. Deformation Or Excessive Corrosion
Lastly, any signs of deformation on a link stabilizer clearly indicate that it’s gone bad. For example, you’ll find that the straight portion of the link is bent or curved.
Besides that, you’ll also discover some of its metal parts have experienced too much corrosion.
These signs indicate that the link stabilizer is no longer as reliable as it should be. So, continuing to rely on them is not a good idea.
What Do I Do If My Link Stabilizer Goes Bad?
When you experience one or more of the symptoms listed above, you must get your link stabilizer inspected as soon as possible.
You can do it yourself if you have the necessary knowledge and understanding of sway bars and link stabilizers. However, it’s always best to leave it to a professional mechanic or automotive technician, as they’ll know what signs of damage and wear to look out for.
In most cases, it’s best to replace your link stabilizers when they go bad. Even if only one side is bad, it’s still an excellent idea to preemptively replace the other one as well.
That’s a form of preventive maintenance, and it’s a wise thing to do. Think about it: both link stabilizers work together and experience the exact same conditions. So, if one side has gone bad, the other one will likely follow very soon after.
Changing both link stabilizers at the same time will save you plenty of time and trouble. That’s much better than waiting for the other one to fail and then having to go back to the workshop a second time around.
There is some good news, though. Link stabilizers rarely need replacing. So, if you have to do it, you’ll likely only do it once throughout the car’s lifespan.
So, remember that the link stabilizer works hand-in-hand with the anti-sway bar, but it’s not the same thing. Instead, a pair of link stabilizers connect the sway bar to the car by attaching it to its suspension system.
Most cars have link stabilizers as standard features, so you probably already have them in your vehicle. As such, you must understand the symptoms that occur when they fail. Recognizing them allows you to get them inspected and replaced quickly to maximize your car’s performance on the road.