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Pelican Technical Article:
Rear Sway Bar Replacement

Jared Fenton
 

 
Time: 2 hours
Tab: $200
Talent:  
Tools:
floor jack & jack stands, socket set, pry bar, impact wrench, screwdrivers
Applicable Models:
R50 MINI Cooper (2002-06)
R53 MINI Cooper S (2002-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
R55/R56/R57 Cooper/Cooper S (2007-12)
Parts Required:
Rear sway bar
Hot Tip:
Use quality jacks and jack stands
Performance Gain:
Improves rear end stability, better handling.
Complementary Modification:
Replace rear control arms
 
   

  This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Pelican Parts' new book, How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 500+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any MINI owner's collection. The book is expected to be released in 2015. See The Official Book Website for more details.
 

Check out some other sample projects from the book: 

Need to buy parts for this project? Click here to order!
   
     Front wheel drive cars have an inherent nature to understeer under hard cornering due to the placement of the drive wheels. The idea is to make the car easy to control in the event of a high speed turn; i.e. you let off the gas and the car will turn. In a performance setting, one would prefer to have quicker turn-in. The solution is to increase the size of the rear sway bar. Basically, the larger the bar, the less the car will sway side-to-side. By increasing the rear sway bar diameter over the front bar, the car will lean less and begin to oversteer.

     Probably the most cost effective handling improvement you can make to the MINI Cooper and Cooper S is replacing the rear sway bar with a larger, stiffer one. Just changing the bar will reduce the car's tendency to understeer in a turn. The effects will be immediately noticeable. For our purposes, we used the 22mm adjustable rear sway from MINI Madness. The Madness rear adjustable sway bar features a 3 hole adjustment to fine tune the MINIs handling for street or competition use (See Figure 1).

     To replace the sway bar, start by jacking the car up and placing it on jack stands. Remove both rear wheels to gain access to the suspension components behind. Locate the rear sway bar links and remove the 16mm nut holding the upper sway bar drop link to the rear sway bar. You'll need to counterhold the drop link shaft with a 5mm hex socket or key while removing the nut (See Figure 2 and Figure 3). Once the drop link nut has been removed, maneuver the upper sway bar link out of the sway bar and set it aside.

     Directly in front of each shock, you’ll see the mounting points for the rear sway bar. It is held in place by a bracket secured by two 13mm bolts. Remove the two bolts and pull the bracket off the bushing. This will disconnect the sway bar from the rear subframe (See Figure 4). At this point you’ll probably be thinking “How do I get the bar out of there?” The answer is to lower the rear subframe enough to pull the bar up and over the mounting flange. You’ll need to locate the 16mm bolts holding the subframe to the chassis. These are usually torqued down pretty good, so it helps to use an impact wrench to remove them. There are two bolts near the front of the subframe and two inboard. It's difficult to see the inboard bolts but an impact wrench with a long extension will be enough to reach and remove the bolts (see Figure 5 and Figure 6).

     Once the subframe mounting bolts are removed, you should see the gap between the subframe and the body (See Figure 7). To gain more access it’s really helpful to remove the rear shocks from both sides of the car. Remove the two 13mm bolts holding the upper shock mount in place, then pull the grommets holding both the ABS sensors and brake lines out of the rear shocks. At the bottom of the shock, remove the large mounting bolt and carefully lower the shocks down and out of the way (See Figure 8 and Figure 9).

     At this point, you will need to carefully coax the subframe down enough to slide the sway bar up and over the mounting flange. I found that I had to use a pry bar to get just enough clearance (See Figure 10).

     You'll now need to maneuver the sway bar out of the car. This is the hardest part of the whole job. I found that if you play with the angle of the bar, you'll find just enough clearance to slide it out on one side of the car. You may need to do some careful pulling on the subframe to give the bar a bit more room, but it is doable (See Figure 11). You can remove the sway bar on either side of the car, the key is to rotate it and angle it enough to clear all of the components.

     Now carefully fit the new sway bar in place of the old one. Take your time to adjust the angle of the bar as you install it. You may find it easier to install with a helper on the other end of the bar to guide it into place. Once both ends of the bar are in the car, work it up and over the flange on the subframe (See Figure 12).

     Coat the inside of the new sway bar bushings with the supplied polyurethane grease. This stuff is quite thick and sticky, so you might want to wear gloves when installing it. Get a good amount inside and coat the whole inside surface. This grease will help to prevent and squeaking from the new polyurethane bushings (See Figure 13).

     Open up the slot in the new bushings and slide them over the new bar. Slide them both back so they rest against the flanged stop built into the new bar (See Figure 14). Now fit the new mounting bracket over the new bushings and thread the 13mm bolts for the old sway bar brackets in place. Tighten them down on both sides to 14ft/lbs (See Figure 15).

     The sway bar allows three points for adjustment. The first hole (towards the front of the car) is the stiffest setting, whereas the furthest from the front is the softest. Keep in mind that setting the bar stiffer will cause the car to oversteer. I decided to set the bar in the middle setting for the best balance of the two (See Figure 16).

     Now use the floor jack to jack the rear subframe back up into position on the rear of the car. One trick is to get the front of the rear subframe centered directly under the threaded hole for the bolt. Thread the bolt up through to act as a locating guide as you jack the subframe up. Once the subframe is in position, refit all the bolts and torque them to 100Nm (74ft/lbs.). (See Figure 17 and Figure 18 ). Then re-fit the rear shocks and wheels and you're all set. Enjoy the new added stability and improved handling!
Begin by jacking the car up and placing it on jack stands.
Figure 1
Begin by jacking the car up and placing it on jack stands. Remove both rear wheels then remove the 16mm nut holding the upper sway bar drop link to the rear sway bar. You'll need to counterhold the drop link shaft with a 5mm hex socket or key while removing the nut as seen in the photo.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Shown here is the rear sway bar drop link removed from the factory sway bar.
Figure 2
Shown here is the rear sway bar drop link removed from the factory sway bar.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Remove the two 13mm bolts holding the rear sway bar bushing to the rear subframe on both sides of the car (green arrows).
Figure 3
Remove the two 13mm bolts holding the rear sway bar bushing to the rear subframe on both sides of the car (green arrows). .
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Use an impact wrench to remove the two bolts at the front of the rear subframe (green arrow).
Figure 4
Use an impact wrench to remove the two bolts at the front of the rear subframe (green arrow).
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Next remove the inboard bolts holding the rear subframe up in place (green arrow).
Figure 5
Next remove the inboard bolts holding the rear subframe up in place (green arrow). It's difficult to see the rear bolts but an impact wrench with a long extension will be enough to reach and remove the bolts.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
In order to remove the factory rear sway bar, you'll need to lower the rear subframe enough for the sway bar to be moved over the rear subframe.
Figure 6
In order to remove the factory rear sway bar, you'll need to lower the rear subframe enough for the sway bar to be moved over the rear subframe. With the subframe mounting bolts removed, you can see the gap between the subframe and the body (green arrow).
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
It's much easier to remove the sway bar with the rear shocks removed.
Figure 7
It's much easier to remove the sway bar with the rear shocks removed. Remove the two 13 mm bolts holding the upper shock mount in place (green arrows).
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
  Pull the grommets holding both the ABS sensors and brake lines out of the rear shocks and remove the lower shock mounting bolts (green arrows).
Figure 8
  Pull the grommets holding both the ABS sensors and brake lines out of the rear shocks and remove the lower shock mounting bolts (green arrows). Then carefully remove the rear shocks from the car.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Shown here is the sway bar being pulled over the subframe mounting flange.
Figure 9
Shown here is the sway bar being pulled over the subframe mounting flange. I found that I had to use a pry bar to coax the subframe down enough to get the bar out.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
You'll now need to maneuver the sway bar out of the car.
Figure 10
You'll now need to maneuver the sway bar out of the car. This is the hardest part of the whole job. I found that if you play with the angle of the bar, you'll find just enough clearance to slide it out on one side of the car. You may need to do some careful pulling on the subframe to give the bar a bit more room, but it is doable.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Now carefully fit the new sway bar in place of the old one.
Figure 11
Now carefully fit the new sway bar in place of the old one. Taking the time to adjust the angle as you install it. Once both ends of the bar are in the car, work it up and over the flange on the subframe.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Coat the inside of the new sway bar bushings with the supplied polyurethane grease.
Figure 12
Coat the inside of the new sway bar bushings with the supplied polyurethane grease. This stuff is quite thick and sticky, so you might want to wear gloves when installing it. Get a good amount inside and coat the whole surface. This grease will help to prevent and squeaking from the new polyurethane bushings.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Open up the slot in the new bushings and slide them over the new bar.
Figure 13
Open up the slot in the new bushings and slide them over the new bar. Slide them both back so they rest against the flanged stop built into the new bar.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Now fit the new mounting bracket over the new bushings and thread the 13mm bolts for the old sway bar brackets in place.
Figure 14
Now fit the new mounting bracket over the new bushings and thread the 13mm bolts for the old sway bar brackets in place. Tighten it down on both sides.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
The sway bar allows three points for adjustment.
Figure 15
The sway bar allows three points for adjustment. The first hole (towards the front of the car) is the stiffest setting, whereas the furthest from the front is the softest. Keep in mind that setting the bar stiffer will cause the car to oversteer. I decided to set the bar in the middle setting for the best balance of the two.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
 Now use the floor jack to jack the rear subframe back up into position on the rear of the car.
Figure 16
 Now use the floor jack to jack the rear subframe back up into position on the rear of the car.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
One trick is to get the front of the rear subframe centered directly under the threaded hole for the bolt.
Figure 17
One trick is to get the front of the rear subframe centered directly under the threaded hole for the bolt. Thread the bolt up through to act as a locating guide as you jack the subframe up. Once the subframe is in position, refit all the bolts and torque them to 100Nm (74ft/lbs.). Then re-fit the rear shocks and wheels and you're all set. Enjoy the new added stability and improved handling!
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Need to buy parts for this project? Click here to order!
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Comments and Suggestions:
deli Comments: Is alignment/geometry check required after rear sway bar replacement? Or replacement work will not change wheel alignment?
June 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The wheel alignment should not change when replacing the bar. You should not have to align the vehicle - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Andrew Comments: On my mini one of my back wheels sticks out from the fender about 10mm more than the other even though my camber is identical and my control arms, trailing arms etc are all undamaged. I think this is because of the way the subframe was installed from the factory. Do you know if there is a few mm of play how you align the subframe before you tighten it down? i.e. could I just loosen all the bolts attaching it and shift it over a few mm to even up the back wheels?
March 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like something is bent. I would have the subframe inspected. I do not think there is 10mm of normal adjustment anywhere. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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  Applies to: R50 MINI Cooper (2002-06) - R53 MINI Cooper S (2002-06) - R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08) - R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08) - R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08) - R56 MINI Cooper (2007-) - R57 MINI Cooper Convertible (2007-)
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