A sway bar is an essential component of most modern vehicles, but can you drive without one, and is one even required by law?
As a car enthusiast who enjoys modifying vehicles, I have extensive knowledge to ensure that what I drive is road-legal and, more importantly, safe.
So let’s delve into the details of whether you can drive without a sway bar or not.
Table of Contents
Can You Drive Without a Sway Bar?
When it comes to passenger safety, a sway bar is essential, because it reduces car body roll. However, it is not necessary to have one in order to drive.
Unlike other vehicle components such as brakes, transmission, and engine, the sway part is not one that if missing renders the vehicle inoperable.
So, the short and simple answer is that, although having a sway bar is important, you can still drive without one. Rather, most old vehicles lacked one and remained in service for decades.
What is Sway Bar for?
A sway bar, also widely recognized as an anti-roll bar, reduces body roll in vehicles while turning.
This torsional spring-like component connects the vehicle’s suspension system on both sides. It is especially useful when cornering the vehicle, as it allows drivers to easily turn the vehicle even at high speeds.
It works on the principle that when one wheel of a vehicle moves up during a turn, the sway bar twists and forces the opposite wheel upwards, leveling out the vehicle and preventing it from rolling over.
Is Driving Without a Sway Bar Dangerous?
A sway bar is a functional component that improves the overall driving experience by making it safer and more refined. As a result, driving without a sway bar can be dangerous, especially for larger vehicles such as SUVs.
The reason for this is that higher vehicles have an elevated center of gravity, making them more likely to roll over on sharp turns.
As a result, the importance of sway bars on higher vehicles is significantly greater than on lower vehicles.
Can You Get A Fine For A Missing Sway Bar?
A sway bar, like an airbag or a seat belt, is a safety item. Even though it makes the driving experience safer and more comfortable for passengers, it is not required by law.
This means that you won’t get a fine for missing a sway bar. This is true for the majority of countries, including developed nations such as the United States and Canada.
Also read: Can a Car Last 400k Miles? (7 Cars That Do)
What are the Negative Consequences of Driving Without A Sway Bar?
The most negative consequence of driving without a sway bar is a lack of safety. This puts both the driver and the passengers at risk of a serious accident.
A sway bar prevents the car from rolling over, saving precious human lives; therefore, driving without one is a risky move.
However, in addition to safety, the following are some negative consequences of driving without a sway bar:
1. Feeling of Nausea
The wiggly driving of a vehicle without a sway bar on a twisted road is likely to make the passengers nauseous.
2. Irregular Wear & Tear of Tires
Another negative consequence of driving without a sway bar for extended periods is irregular tire wear and tear.
If you drive your vehicle on twisted roads without a sway bar for a longer duration, the outer edges of the tires will wear out sooner than the inner edges.
This is because, in the absence of a sway bar, the entire weight of the vehicle is concentrated on the outer edge, causing this section of the tires to be badly affected than the other.
This not only necessitates sooner replacement of such tires, raising the overall cost but also makes overall driving uncomfortable if these tires are not timely replaced.
Are There Any Positives of Driving Without A Sway Bar?
A sway bar limits how far a driver can flex the vehicle. This is considered good in most on-road situations, but some drivers believe that removing the sway bar improves overall handling.
By removing the sway bar, the off-road performance significantly improves. As a result of the increased articulation, the two front wheels act independently.
This means that if the sway bar is removed while off-roading, if one tire is in the air, the other one can still touch the ground, giving it a better ability to move forward by providing grip.
Which is Worse, No Front or Rear Sway Bar?
A sway bar is pivotal for balancing the vehicle around corners. However, the effect of a sway bar differs depending on whether it is installed in the front or rear of the vehicle.
This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, so there are some essentials of each that you should consider before deciding whether to remove a front sway bar or a rear one.
1. Front-Wheel Drive Vehicle
If a rear sway bar is removed from a front-wheel-drive vehicle, the vehicle will exhibit severe understeer. This means that the driver’s ability to control the vehicle during turns will be affected.
This can easily lead to an accident, especially at high speeds, because understeer causes the vehicle to project outwards on a turn.
If you want to improve a vehicle’s handling or solve an understeer problem, installing a stiff rear sway bar is probably the best solution.
2. Rear-Wheel Drive Vehicle
A missing sway bar in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle can cause oversteer, which can result in skidding off the vehicle. This can also be a major cause of road accidents, which is why it is critical not to remove an OEM-installed sway bar.
3. All-Wheel Drive Vehicle
A sway bar is also extremely important on an all-wheel-drive vehicle. In a similar case, removing the front sway bar causes the vehicle to oversteer, while removing the rear sway bar causes the vehicle to understeer.
This means that it depends upon the situation whether removing a front sway bar is worse or removing the rear sway bar is.
How to Drive Without A Sway Bar?
Driving a vehicle without a sway bar necessitates extra caution to overcome the effects of over or understeer. In the absence of a sway bar, your vehicle is more likely to roll over when turning on tight corners. This is why, in such situations, driving the vehicle at slower speeds is suggested.
How Much Does A Sway Bar Cost?
The price of the item ranges from $55 to $110 depending on the quality of the sway bar in question. However, labor costs can vary greatly depending on where you live. Expect to pay between $50 and $70 to have a sway bar installed by a professional.
Total Cost Of A Sway Bar & Its Installation
So, for a sway bar plus its installation, you might have to keep an amount between $105 and $175 in mind. These rates are valid for the United States and might vary elsewhere
Take It as A DIY Project
However, it is pertinent to mention that fixing a sway bar is no big deal, and a person with even the most basic skill set can install one. In this way, you can save the labor cost.
Also read: Ford vs. Honda- Maintenance Cost Comparison
Used Sway Bar Or New, Which Is Better?
Used sway bars are also easily and widely available. This is because many people around the world prefer to drive their vehicles without sway bars, making these parts redundant. Resultantly, they are then sold off, and you can easily buy one to fulfill your needs.
The condition of the item under consideration determines whether purchasing a used sway bar is a good idea. If a sway bar has been removed from another vehicle in its original condition, there is no harm in reinstalling it on yours. Rather, getting one of these can save you money.
However, there have been reports of damaged or faulty sway bars being sold to people who do not have a comprehensive understanding of the part. And thus for such people, it is always a good idea to get a new one.
When is it Ok, and When isn’t, to Drive Without a Sway Bar?
Because the primary function of a sway bar is to keep the vehicle from rolling over on twisted roads, this component is critical on all routes where vehicles must corner frequently.
The roads in the mountains and hills are often twisted, requiring drivers to turn their vehicles quickly. Furthermore, race tracks usually involve drivers speeding through turns and corners to cross the finish line first.
In such areas, a sway bar is vital for the safety of the vehicle and its passengers, and thus it is not ok to drive without one.
However, for city traffic where there is little cornering or turning at high speeds, drivers can easily move their vehicles without a sway bar.
Furthermore, removing a sway bar while off-roading is a great way to increase articulation and prevent both wheels from spinning in the air. In such cases, removing a sway bar can mean the difference between progressing forward and becoming stuck on an off-roading trail.