Swaybar mods for Your Dodge
By Bill Cooke
If you have lifted your Dodge Pick-Up like we have you probably had to ditch the swaybar in the process. While this is very common and can be just fine for most people we decided to see what adding ours back would do for our handling. WOW! Let’s just say that we were impressed with the results. All in all it was about 1 hour work for the biggest improvement to the truck yet. Best of all, with a welder and a $5 worth of steel you can do it too. Follow along and we’ll show you how.
First off, what is a swaybar and what does it do? A swaybar is actually an ANTI swaybar. It helps keep the body parallel with the axle. That is important for driving fast on twisty roads but what about off-road? Most will agree that unhooking your swaybar in the rough stuff will help your truck suck up the bumps much better. That is true for slow speeds but at higher speeds the control a good swaybar offers is fantastic. Look at the big trophy trucks and they are all running front and rear swaybars. Those guys know what they’re doing so it must help. With this information in hand we set out to make this work on our Project Powerwagon. This now brings you up to speed on the what and why, now for the how and where.
Here’s what you get when you add a Superlift 5″ suspension to your Dodge. The swaybar is at such a steep angle you can’t reinstall the end links at all. In the past most people would lower the bar but the frame mount is at an angle. That means you are moving the bar to the rear as you lower it. The way around that was to build an offset bracket that lowered the bar without moving it back. Great, do you know how hard that is to build? It’s not going to be as strong as a direct frame mount and it is now hanging down waiting to hit stuff as you drive. The best solution is to extend the links. It’s fast, it’s easy and it works. What more is there?
So, how much do you have to extend the links? That’s easy, unhook the bottom mount on the end links and place them back in the swaybar. Not rotate the bar back up to level and measure the distance between the holes. Ours was 4″. That means you add 4″ of 1/2″ steel rod to the links.The easiest way to do that is to cut the pin off the tube of the links. Cut them nice and square if you can. Clean them up if they aren’t perfect. Then you take 4″ of 1/2″ steel rod and weld that to the tube that is the lower mount. Welding will cause the rubber bushing to catch fire if you haven’t removed it already. I just kept a squirt bottle handy to put out the fires as I didn’t want to have to try to find a new bushing. This worked OK but getting a new bushing if you can find it is a better idea. As you weld the three pieces together make sure you are getting everything nice and straight. It’s all too easy to get things twisted.
Once you have all your welding done you’re ready to install them on the truck. New upper bushings are easy to find and polyurethane is a great idea here. We picked up a set of Energy Suspension Bushings from Pep Boys that worked just great. They offer two sizes of universal replacements and these are the larger ones. The only thing left to do is paint the end links and snug it all up. Once you hit the road you’ll immediately notice a difference in the way your truck handles. Our ’79 was much more comfortable on the road and a lot better on high-speed sand washes. The little bumps that used to kill the truck are now hardly even noticed and we gained a lot of control, allowing us to go on average 15 MPH faster off-road. I still un-hook for technical trails of course.
So, how hard was this? If you are a fairly competent welder then you’re better than I am. This is a high stress part so you want it to be right. When in doubt hire out! Cut the pieces yourself and take them to a welder that will do it for you. Muffler/Trailer hitch shops or a fabricator should be able to help you out. For me it took about an hour total and cost $5 for steel and $20 for bushings. If you haven’t already replaced your frame mount bushing (that actually hold the swaybar to the truck) do that as well. Polyurethane is the only way to go for those and the new greaseable style from Energy look good. Ours don’t squeak and don’t bind so I don’t see a huge need for those at this time.
That’s it, now you have a front swaybar and a truck that will carve the canyons with the best of them. The best thing is that this mods helps both on and off road. When was the last time you saw a one hour job for under $30 that did that? We haven’t had any problems with our links and strength has not been an issue so far but I figure I can break it if I try hard enough. Heck, you can break anything it you try hard enough.
For an update, the links out lived the truck. When I went to dual shocks and Shaggy’s shock hoops the swaybar came off but these links live on on another truck. If your welding skills are lacking but your wallet is full you can get a set of Jeep XJ stock length links for your Dodge. These fit and work well with a 5″ to 6″ lift. They can be pricey if you buy the quick disconnect version but think of how cool that would be to have!