With the rise of the internet and ultimately social media, people are able to exchange good and bad ideas more quickly than ever. A disturbing trend I’ve witnessed over the last few years has been to modify vehicles where safety becomes an issue.
If you get on any forum or social media group and do a quick search for “should I remove my front sway bar?” The answers would be comical if they were not terrifying at the same time. “There is a minor safety issue on road if you get really sideways. Basically, it could increase your roll over risk, but there are bigger factors at play, like the tires, tire pressures, road imperfections, etc.” The same person continues by saying, “For me, with the stiffer suspension on my Sport, I’m considering testing it and would definitely drop it off before going off road.” Others make comments like, “I just have to remember to brake and not swerve.” “It’s a truck and not a sports car.”
Removing the front sway bar from your SUV or truck may produce a minor increase in articulation. These results will be dependent on the vehicle and suspension in question. How much articulation you gain and is it worth the risk will vary. Trailered rigs do as you choose- this article isn’t for you. Rock crawlers and dedicated off-road rigs are a whole other animal. This article is also not for those who have factory sway bars disconnects. This article is for those who daily their rigs (drive the truck for day to day use and wheel with the same vehicle) and those who have built trucks for the purpose of “overlanding”.
Let’s cut straight to the point. I strongly recommend keeping the front sway bar connected.
Sway bars are designed to control vehicle body roll. Sway bars bring understeer (vehicle turns less than input) and oversteer (vehicle turns more than input) to neutral steering as close as possible. When the front suspension and rear suspension have different stiffness, you get a varied amount of roll. Sway bars resist the vehicle’s pitch and roll.
Those of us using our vehicles for touring, overlanding, hauling, and pulling camper trailers should consider the weight being added to the rear of the vehicles. Especially those adding rooftop tents and heavy gear to roof racks. Adding weight to the vehicle and towing trailers changes the vehicle’s center of gravity and weight distribution from front to rear.
Traveling a significant amount on the road we should be taking into consideration the on-road manners when building our vehicles. Having trained in high speed maneuvers you want to have as much control of the vehicle to reduce roll and maintain steering of the vehicle. Excessive body roll can cause a loss of control of the vehicle when weight is shifted with vehicle pitch.
Vehicles, animals, pedestrians entering the lane of travel, and debris in the roadway are hazards you can encounter when traveling. You may not have the time and/or distance to orient, decide, and act. It can be even more difficult when cresting a hill or making a corner. The response is then reactive in a moment’s notice. With the proper setup the vehicle stays controllable. If you take off the factory sway bar you reduce your ability to control the vehicle.
Reduced control puts other motorists at risk too. The last thing I want is to do is injure another person for minimal articulation increases. I travel with my family regularly and would not want them to be injured due to my negligence. I can’t justify the removal of the sway bar when I have so much responsibility for myself, my family, and those on the road with me.
Not only do I suggest not removing the front sway bar I would encourage those of you with heavy loaded vehicles to consider a rear sway bar. When you add more weight to the rear of the vehicle you are inducing understeer.
After adding the AT Overland Habitat, drawers, fridge, dual battery, front bumper, rear swing away bumper, and sliders the vehicle’s weight was changed from factory specs. Suspension had been installed prior to installation of these items. But I was still experiencing some pitch and roll. To correct this, I added Hellwig air bags and a rear sway bar. I know you are thinking this is heresy to off-road with a rear sway bar and airbags. When these were added my vehicle’s road manners changed dramatically. Turning and avoidance maneuvers were now controlled and more predictable. Adding the rear sway bar and airbags have added no negative effects to where I go and how it performs off-road. I’m not rock crawling. I’m also not running a long travel suspension. Contrary to great marketing and internet keyboard warriors I don’t believe I need it. (another topic for another day) If you need further proof I would suggest take a look at any of the ARB Tacoma setups. They are running… Airbags and rear sway bars. ARB spends tremendous amounts of time and money in research and development. I do not believe they would add this product to their vehicles if it was not necessary. The other influencing part about ARB having them on their vehicles is they don’t sell sway bars and air bag suspension components.
Having worked accident reconstruction for 5 years in law enforcement, I think a lot about those who were seriously injured or killed in traffic collisions for needless reasons. Overlanding, touring, back country discoverers, and daily drivers spend a majority of their time on the pavement. We do this to get to where the asphalt ends. We then drive to camp, explore, photograph, fish, hunt, and all the other reasons we go into the mountains, desert, and forests. To those who trailer your vehicles do what you want and rightfully so. For the rest of us let’s think about what we are doing to our vehicles and how it affects our ability to conrol our vehicles and the risk to others.