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Audi Rear Sway Bar Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Audi Rear Sway Bar Replacement

Peter Bodensteiner

Time:

1 hr

Tab:

$220

Talent:

****

Tools:

17 mm and 13 mm wrenches and sockets/ratchets, 5 mm Allen wrench

Applicable Models:

 
Audi A4 (1997-01)
Audi TT (2000-04)
VW Beetle (1999-02)
VW Golf (2000-02)
VW Jetta (2000-02)
VW Passat (1996-00)

Parts Required:

New sway bar with bushings and bushing brackets; replacements for self-locking nuts.

Hot Tip:

Don't go too aggressive with the rear bar stiffness"this can make the rear end of your car slide too easily, which can be scary on the street, particularly in inclement weather.

Performance Gain:

An upgraded rear sway bar can improve the handling balance of your car and provide a more secure, "sporty" feel while driving.

Complementary Modification:

Rear differential fluid replacement, exhaust upgrade, rear brake pad/rotor replacement.

Sway bars are components that you typically only remove in order to upgrade to more performance-oriented parts. After all, a sway bar is just a simple metal bar that, by connecting to the suspension on both sides of one end of the car, helps keep the bar from rolling as much in turns. In other words, it is a torsion bar that provides resistance by twisting, and as such it's not really a component that wears out or needs regular maintenance.

A sway bar is designed so that if both wheels on one end of the car move up or down together, the bar simply pivots in its bushings and doesn't impart any force upon the suspension. If one side of the suspension compresses while the other extends, however, such as during a turn, the bar resists this motion. This works against the tendency of the car to roll, or sway, to the outside of the corner.

Changing the size (i.e., stiffness) of a sway bar can change the feel of a car dramatically, and they can be used to tune a car's handling to suit a particular performance application. The particulars of tuning a car with sway bar changes and adjustments are beyond the scope of this project. Suffice to say that upgrading sway bars is an extremely popular modification for almost any sporty road car given their low price, ease of installation, and the resulting improvement in driving enjoyment.

If you have already swapped out the front sway bar, or if you are reading this project first and planning to read the front bar project next, you'll note that these two jobs are quite similar. The rear bar is a lot slimmer than the front bar, but it's actually harder to remove because of the more complicated fasteners involved, and because you have to snake the bar out from above the car's exhaust to remove it.

Swapping out the rear sway bar is a matter of getting both wheels off of the ground (remove them too--it's easier to reach the necessary hardware that way). Hit the fasteners with a penetrating lubricant before you start, perhaps even the night before.

Overall, I'd give this project a 2 or 3 difficulty rating, but if you have sway bar links like mine with a ball joint at the end, you'll find these fasteners a bit tough to deal with. Mine weren't overly rusted, but were corroded enough to make it hard to remove the end links from the bar itself, requiring a work-around.

Obviously this photo is from the end of the removal process, but it gives a look at the overall shape and setup of the rear sway bar.
Figure 1

Obviously this photo is from the end of the removal process, but it gives a look at the overall shape and setup of the rear sway bar. The vertical pieces at each end are plastic links that connect the end of the bar to the suspension. These are connected to the bar ends with somewhat troublesome ball joints. Each end of the central, straight part of the bar is equipped with a rubber bushing. A U-shaped bracket holds the bushing, and the bar, to the chassis and in place underneath the car. Three fasteners on each end of the bar must be removed in order to separate the bar from the car.

Starting on the passenger side, the ball-jointed fastener connecting the end of the bar to the plastic link is held in place with a 17 mm nut.
Figure 2

Starting on the passenger side, the ball-jointed fastener connecting the end of the bar to the plastic link is held in place with a 17 mm nut. I found that you could break the nut loose here, but the nut would not come off because the other end of the bolt forms a ball-and-socket joint and simply rotates freely as you turn the nut. In other words, the friction holding the nut in place on the threads was greater than that holding the ball end of the bolt in the socket. Later I'll show you how you may be able to remove the nut from this bolt.

At this stage I decided to remove the other end of the plastic end link, up where it connects to the suspension arm (the slightly curved, vertical piece in this photo).
Figure 3

At this stage I decided to remove the other end of the plastic end link, up where it connects to the suspension arm (the slightly curved, vertical piece in this photo). This, too, is a 17 mm nut, backed by a bolt that is also 17 mm. Thus you will need two wrenches to hold one component in place while you turn the other.

With the nut removed, the upper end of the link is free.
Figure 4

With the nut removed, the upper end of the link is free. Perform the same job on the other side of the car before you move on to the bushing brackets.

Moving inboard a bit and looking past the plastic end link you can easily see the rubber bushing surrounding the rear sway bar, as well as the bracket and two bolts and nuts holding it in place.
Figure 5

Moving inboard a bit and looking past the plastic end link you can easily see the rubber bushing surrounding the rear sway bar, as well as the bracket and two bolts and nuts holding it in place.

This nut-bolt combo is 13 mm on each side.
Figure 6

This nut-bolt combo is 13 mm on each side. You will probably need a deep socket to turn the nut side without rounding it off; in this position I was able to access the bolt head with a ratchet and socket, but this may not be possible in all four positions. In the background of this photo you can see the bar stretching over to the driver's side of the car. You can also see daylight in the gap above the exhaust pipe heading into the rear muffler. You will use this gap to maneuver the driver's-side end of the bar out from under the car.

Here is the bushing bracket as it is removed from the car.
Figure 7

Here is the bushing bracket as it is removed from the car. Note the split in the rubber bushing, which allows it to be removed from/installed on the bar. If you're going to be replacing the stock bar with one of a different size, the new bar should come with bushings of the appropriate size, along with brackets that fit the outer diameter of the new bushings. Rubber bushings are usually pretty quiet and don't require any additional lubrication, but replacement bushings made of polyurethane or other materials can be noisy as you drive down the road. These kinds of bushings often come with some lubricant that is appropriate for the application. Another, more intensive solution is to install brackets equipped with grease fittings, with corresponding holes in the bushings, so that they can be lubricated periodically without removing the whole bar.

Once you've removed all of the fasteners, you can pull the bar out toward the passenger side.
Figure 8

Once you've removed all of the fasteners, you can pull the bar out toward the passenger side. If you have the plastic end link still attached to the end of the bar, fold it parallel to the end of the bar, as shown, in order to make it easier to pass through the gap between the exhaust and the bottom of the car.

Here's a closer look at those fasteners connecting the end of the bar to the ball-jointed end of the plastic end link.
Figure 9

Here's a closer look at those fasteners connecting the end of the bar to the ball-jointed end of the plastic end link. The end of the threaded portion of the ball joint has a 5 mm receptacle for an Allen-headed wrench.

Hold the threaded end of the ball joint steady with the Allen wrench while you loosen the 17 mm nut.
Figure 10

Hold the threaded end of the ball joint steady with the Allen wrench while you loosen the 17 mm nut. If your fastener is corroded, however, you may strip out the center of the Allen receptacle, so be careful--or budget for a new set of end links. Installing your new rear sway bar (or reinstalling the old one) is a simple matter of retracing your steps, although it's best to save the final tightening of your fasteners until you have the car on the ground (or, better from an access standpoint, with the wheels supported by ramps, or with the suspension jacked up to simulate the car's resting ride height). This will prevent the bar from preloading the suspension. Start with the bushing brackets (remember to lubricate those bushings if necessary) and tighten their bolts to 18 ft-lbs. Then connect the end links, tightening those fasteners to 37 ft-lbs.

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