How to Diagnose Faulty Sway Bar End Links?

QuestionsCategory: Ask An ExpertHow to Diagnose Faulty Sway Bar End Links?
Amelia White asked 4 months ago
I've been experiencing some issues with my 2017 Nissan Altima that lead me to suspect the sway bar end links might be faulty. Normally, I would jack up the front of the car and check for any looseness, but I'm not sure if this is the correct approach. With both front wheels off the ground, the links move freely by hand, unlike new ones which are typically stiff. There's no clunking when pulling on them, and I'm considering whether they should be checked with the car's weight on them instead. The car's steering feels sloppy, and I notice significant sway on the highway. The inner/outer tie rods and ball joints seem fine, showing no play or stiffness issues. I'm thinking of replacing all four sway bar end links, but I'm not sure if this will address the steering and sway problems. Additionally, I've experienced a persistent pull to the left, a recent issue that started after getting new tires and an alignment. There's also a vibration, not caused by the tires, that hasn't been resolved by replacing the front wheel bearings. I've gone this far, but I'm not really sure what to do now, can you help me?
1 Answers
Zack Norman Staff answered 4 months ago
Hi there, Amelia! Diagnosing faulty sway bar end links can be tricky, but you're on the right track there. Here's a guide to help you out, given that you've already done most of the heavy-lifting thus far, so here's what I'd recommend that you do next:
  1. Inspection Method: It's best to check the sway bar links with the car lifted, so the suspension hangs freely. This way, you can identify any excess movement or wear in the links.
  2. Common Symptoms: Sway bar link issues usually manifest as unusual noises, especially during turns, rather than directly affecting steering or causing a sway on straight roads.
  3. Steering Issues: Given your description of sloppy steering and highway sway, it might be wise to look beyond just the sway bar links. Consider checking:
    • Wheel bearings
    • Strut tower bushings
    • Shocks and springs
    • Power steering components (rack, fluid level/condition)
    • Lower control arms and bushings
    • Tire pressure and alignment
  4. Vibration Concerns: The vibration you're experiencing could be related to suspension components, alignment issues, or even something as simple as tire pressure. Since it persists after wheel balancing and bearing replacement, a more comprehensive suspension and steering system check might be necessary.
  5. Regarding Replacement: If you do decide to replace the sway bar end links, it's generally a good practice to replace them in pairs to maintain balance and consistency in the suspension.
  6. Professional Opinion: Given the complexity of your situation, it might be beneficial to get a second opinion from a professional mechanic, especially to address the steering sensitivity and vibration issues.
Remember, a thorough diagnosis is key to solving such problems effectively. Good luck with your Nissan Altima, and do let me know if you need further help! Zack - Motor Verso Mechanics Team