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How to change your sway bar drop links

Drop links, sway bar links, anti-roll bars - different names, same job.
But if you want to change them, it's actually quite easy to do. And they are pretty much the same from model to model.  An easy job to do if you're competent with a spanner, have some decent kit and a bit of muscle.

You don't need to take the wheels off, nor do you need heat or an air spanner.  You might do...
The symptoms are side to side rolling at high speed corners, and more noticeable, feeling every stone you drive over. A jolting, jarring ride.  And you'll never get the tracking right as there is too much play.
Their purpose is to connect the axle/wishbone to a torsion bar so that the 'bump' is transferred to a piece of spring steel and not to you.

It's pretty much the same parts and procedure from model to model.  If it's this way on an Outback, then it's the same on a Legacy etc.

Step by step, read on.

Photo 1.  I made my own ramps out of old scaffolding boards. Drive on, handbrake on and in gear.

Photo 2.  The tools you need:

  • 1/2 inch ratchet with a 17mm socket.
  • 5mm allen drive on a 3/8 ratchet
  • 17mm ratchet spanner
  • 17mm ring spanner
  • Crow bar - to move things around if needed
  • Torch
  • A hammer for fine adjusting
  • Penetrating oil.

Photo 3.  How it starts.
Spray the threads, the nut and any joining surfaces with penetrating oil and then go away. Have breakfast, drink coffee, watch a film. You may need to spray again.  Notice the alignment of the threaded bars - they're nearly parallel. This will change as you put in the new ones.

Photo 4.  Not going to photograph every step of the way so this is a picture of the new one but the procedure is the same.  Use the 1/2" 17mm socket to loosen the nut because you get a better fit, more leverage and you're not going to round off the nut. Put the allen drive into the end of the bar to stop it from rotating and a 17mm spanner to undo the nut. A ratchet spanner is really handy.

Photo 5.  They come off the same way that they go on.  Notice the alignment of the threaded bars - not parallel any more because the torsion bar has moved - it's under a different strain from the other side of the car.

Photo 7.  When the nuts are off, it looks like this.  No air spanners needed, just British muscle.

Photo 8.  If you are forcing the new links in, they you're doing it wrong. You do not need a hammer. Use a trolley jack to alter the position of the torsion bar. Either it needs to go up of the wishbone needs to. Line up the holes and pop the new drop links straight in.

Nuts on and tighten with your ratchet spanner, allen drive to hold it steady and tighten them up with a ring spanner. The nuts are nylon lock nuts so they'll lock on.  I have no idea as to what torque setting it is, but you won't get a torque drive in their anyway. Just pinch them up with a ring spanner.

Photo 9.  The finished article.  It shouldn't need tracking as this doesn't effect that alignment.

Photo 10.  The old.  These are ball and socket joints, covered by a rubber gaiter. The bottom two were seized solid. The gaiter on the top left has a hole in it so was full of water. The top right was the only one that was working reasonably well.  Quite possibly the originals with 92000 miles on them.

Photo 11.  The new.  These are made by 'Blue Print' a brand available in England. Just reboxed OEM kit.  £18 each, cheaper online.

Photo 12.  Side by side.

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