Sway bars and how they work are one of the most difficult items to explain. It is even harder to explain why you want to use one when you are driving off road. We are going to attempt it anyway and hopefully, even if you don’t agree with us, you will learn something new.
Sway Bar/Anti-Roll Bar
The basics are generally described as follows: An anti-roll bar (anti-sway bar, sway bar, stabilizer bar) is a part of many automobile suspension systems that helps reduce the body roll of a vehicle during fast cornering or over road irregularities. It connects the opposite wheels together through short lever arms linked by a torsion spring.
As either wheel moves up or down it puts pressure on the roll bar. That pressure is transferred through the bar to the other side and try to move that wheel the same direction. The pressure is not 1:1, the bar has some engineered twist to it dissipating some of the force. This allows you to tune how much body lean or movement you want the vehicle to have. Sway bars also help to balance the vehicle weight front to rear.
Many people disconnect the sway bar when they off road to get more suspension travel (articulation) when going over obstacles. It works and we aren’t here to argue that. We are here to present a compelling case that using a properly tuned set of sway bars off road may be a better option.
Off Road Disconnected
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes from the factory with sway bar that is able to be disconnected electronically. It works great and it gives you more suspension movement off road.
What is also does is put a lot of stress on the remaining sway bar in the rear. Watch a friend off road and you will see how little the rear end moves compared to the front.
Remove the rear sway bar at the same time and you get equal amounts of travel but a loss of stability. The suspension has nothing keeping it coordinated. If all you do is low speed rock crawling and don’t care if the body of your vehicle flops around like a wet fish this is the most articulation you can get out of a suspension.
Off Road Sway Bar
Remember above how we said the sway bar balances weight front to rear? This is where using that sway bar off road really comes into its own.
If you have ever driven off road and hit any off camber terrain without a sway bar you know how much the body of the vehicle tilts over towards the low side of the obstacle. Because there is no sway bar the body doesn’t try to stay parallel to the axles making these obstacles much harder to deal with. When you have both sway bars working together an obstacle gets shared between them. Instead of the front wheel traveling 6 inches by itself to climb a rock the front will go up 4 inches and the rear will drop 2 inches. This is because the frame is transferring that movement from front to rear because the sway bar is transferring force from the axle movement to the frame.
That transfer side to side and cross ways puts force into the ground which equals traction. You can flex like Stretch Armstrong but if you can’t put the power to the ground to move – you end up all twisted up and sitting still.
So the question is do you want an additional inch of articulation on a RTI ramp or do you want to wheel safer and stay more in control?
Stay tuned for some testing and practical use of an off road sway bar system from Currie Enterprises.