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Sway Bar Disconnect

QD's off - allowing maximum compression    Rear view of the quick disconnects    QD's off - separated - blurred photo

Quick Disconnects

So you’re out in the rocks and dirt and you start up the slightest hill when you notice something is not working. A quick glance down at your wheels and you notice one of your wheels is spinning, and no doubt you’ll find the opposite one in the back is doing the same thing. The problem is you do not have lockers, or a limited-slip axle much less. "So that’s what they are good for," you think to yourself, as you’re backing down the hill to give it another try.

Assuming you don’t have the endless budget, another [relatively] inexpensive way to greatly improve your Jeep’s ability to traverse difficult terrain are anti-swaybar quick disconnects. The anti-swaybar (or stabilizer) is a device that links both ends of your front axle together. The bar is attached to the frame, and simultaneously rotates up and down with the axles. In turn, the ends of the axles are restricted from independently wandering too far away from the swaybar. This helps keep the cab from tilting adversely at road speeds in corners – hence the name. The problem is that this "restriction" of the axle movement also limits the ability of the wheel to "reach" down to the ground at times and provide any useful traction.

The cure is the swaybar disconnects. These items replace the fixed length connecting rods between the anti-swaybar and the spring tie-plates. Once disconnected, the axle can contract and extend much further than before. This "twisting" ability will greatly aid off-road traction, even without the lockers.

Installation is pretty simple:

  1. Raise the front end and secure the frame with a jack-stand. Remove the wheel (for better access) and then remove the two nuts from both ends (top and bottom) of the connecting rod.
  2. Slip the bottom of the connecting rod off the stud attached to the spring tie plate.
  3. Try pulling the top end off the stud on the swaybar.  Get frustrated...
  4. Install the bottom end of the connecting rod back on to the tie plate, fasten the two nuts, install the wheel, and drop the front end.
  5. Drive to the auto parts store and purchase a tie rod separator.  Tie Rod Separator  (It looks like a huge tuning fork and costs less than $10!)
  6. Go home and repeat steps 1 and 2. On step 3, use the new tool and remove the top of the connecting rod’s bushing from the stud. Insert the forked end between the old rubber bushing and the end of the anti-sway bar (holding the stud).  With a rubber mallet, pound on the end of the tie rod separator forcing it between the bushing.  A few good blows should do it...
  7. Once the connecting rods are removed, clean all surfaces, grease, and install the new quick disconnects. The new units should come with new bushings.
  8. Replace the two nuts (and wheel) and move to the other side and repeat.

Quick disco - a front view

There are a few types of quick disconnects. Some have only one connecting pin and require you to tie up the swaybar (stabilizer) after you remove the pin. Others like the Rubicon Express quick disconnects have two pins and a removable center section. These do not require the stabilizer to be tied up, but are a little trickier to install the center section. I also noticed my stabilizer bar doesn’t move too freely – probably due to the bushings being too tight (read: dry, not well lubricated).

I opted for the Rubicon Express disconnects because they can grow with my Jeep. If you plan to later change the ride height of the Jeep, you can replace just the center section without having to buy a whole new set. As it turns out, the guy who sold me mine sold me the longer size – but they still seem to work fine on the road.

After I installed them, I ran next-door to a logging road that has a bunch of tall waterbars on it.  I took the CJ up one of the bars at an angle with the quick disconnects connected, and measured how far up the bar I could climb before raising the opposite wheel and spinning the tire. 

Highmark attempt with anti-swaybar connected.

I marked the various spots on the waterbar showing the limits I reached. 

Spinning front dist marked.jpg (36287 bytes)   Rear wheel unweighted and spinning.   Rear wheel weighted.

Then I returned to the garage and removed the quick disconnects.  With them removed I went back to the same spot and drove all the way up and over the waterbar without spinning a tire - what a difference!

High mark - QD off.  Full compression   From the back no QD's off.

Front shot in the snow.

Some Tips (after using these for a while now)

After a day's worth of trail riding, there is nothing "quick" about reconnecting these things!  However, here are a few tips you may want to consider when re-connecting the links:

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First, take all four of the lynch pins and bevel their tips with a file or (my favorite tool) a bench grinder.  This will help guide the pins back through the holes. 

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Second, bring a hammer (you should have one in your tool box anyway).  If you don't have one for your Jeep, get one.  With the hammer you can sometimes use the handle (prying it between the frame rail and the top of the swaybar) to help assist the anti-swaybar back down onto the links.  Once the holes are aligned (as best as you can), you can use the hammer to "lightly" tap the lynch pins back through the holes. 

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Another successful tool you may already have is the red handle from your Hi-Lift Jack.  Pull the cotter pin and use the long handle for leverage to force the swaybar down.  (It's also good for using as an extension on your wrenches for stubborn lug nuts!)

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Grease the rubber bushings on the swaybar mounts.  This will help assist in the movement of the swaybar (and it'll probably need some lubrication anyway!)