Why Heavy Duty Anti-Sway Bars on a Jeep?
You want to make your big-tired, high-lifted, over-weighted Grand Cherokee handle like a sports car? Well dream on! After all, us serious off-road minded types are seeking the holy grail of articulation, suspension flex that is ~ tires going up and down at all kinds of crazy angles where wheel lift and tire spin are things of the past. All that's really great - off road - where we drive 5% of the time, if we're lucky. But that is where are hearts are, so we chase the 5%-solution. We accept the fact that off-road oriented modifications are usually in direct and opposing correlation to on-road handling characteristics. Sometimes though, you can have your cake and eat it too! More-power mods are this way, and now there is a suspension upgrade that will improve street handling and thanks to sway bar disconnects, still leave you with all that sprongy flex, only when you want it. We could be looking at a 95%-percent solution here! I spend over an hour a day on the work commute, both freeway and surface streets. Just going around corners and through dips and of course the all-too-frequent swerve-away-from-the-idiot-because-your-life-depends-on-it maneuvers are constant reminders that my Jeep is too tall and too heavy to be doing these things confidently.
To illustrate the flex characteristics between the stock and Addco sway bars, with both the front connected and disconnected and the stock rear attached, I used a big floor jack to lift by the frame and measure. Note, the lift kit consists of Teraflex 3.5" springs plus 1.5" spacers with Bilstein 5100 series shocks.
- The measurement from the ground to the bottom of the frame before jacking is 18.5 inches.
- Using Old Oscar (the jack has a name - OK) to lift with the stock sway bars connected (slightly biased forward) gets the frame up to 22.5 inches with the tire just off the ground.
- Disconnecting the front and jacking up again yields 24.5 inches, and we've reached Oscar's limit.
- With both Addco swaybars installed, links connected, I was able to jack the frame up to 21.5-inches
These static measurements are an empirical approach to illustrating the differences in suspension movement in various trim. Of course vehicle handling is very dynamic, so this doesn't begin to tell the story. If I had a skid pad and a way to measure lateral G-force and wasn't truly afraid of rolling it, then we could produce some meaningful measurements. But hey, this isn't Motor Trend. Besides, all statistics aside, most of us put a lot of stake in personal recommendation and seat-of-the-pants feel. So, subjective as it is, here are my driving impressions.
Remember, this is an off-road oriented Jeep with big knobby tires, solid steel accessories, a 5-inch lift and heavy-duty shocks. The handling, that is, taking dips and bumps and cornering is now better than stock. Now, I reach the limits of the BFG MT' s adhesion well before the center of gravity raises up and gives that tippy feeling. Even more noticeable in regular driving is the reduction of under-steer. There seems to be more resistance in the steering wheel when cornering and I don't have to turn it as far going in or correct back as much coming out of the turn. It has much more of a go-where-you-point-the-wheels feel.
Note - this installation was performed on a vehicle with front JKS Quicker Disconnects and the optional Addco Greasable Bushing Mounts were used. So, in the case of the front, only the large nut and bolt set was used from the parts box. For the rear, only the link bushings were used from the parts box. Usually, having parts left over is a bad thing, but in this application, the reuse of existing parts justifies it. The instructions supplied with the parts are generic and read like a caveat. No matter, there isn't much to figure out.
Overall, this is a straight-forward wrench job. It is not necessary to jack up the vehicle or remove the wheels for the front install. The only modification was having to enlarge the hole in the JKS top mounting bracket to accept the larger Addco bolt. This larger bolt fits the larger than stock hole in the Addco bar. Also, the flat taper of the Addco bar is wider than stock, so the JKS bracket, which normally slips over the bar, had to be mounted underneath. Note that this modification is contrary to JKS instructions - read warranty violation. That being said, considering the thickness of all these components, I don't think strength is an issue.
Be sure to use RED loctite on the allen head bolt that secures the disconnect to this bracket. If you have the front skid plate, you must remove it. One of the things I always do when removing the front skid plate is to tie it up to the sway bar so it won't fall on my head when I remove the last bolt. I tie it up when re-installing too, so I don't have to support its weight when trying to align the first bolt. The lower radiator hose goes under the bar, but there is enough clearance to slip the bar and brackets through. Since the bar is mounted right next to the radiator, it'll be about the same temperature.
The rear is considerably more involved than the front, not necessarily harder, just more steps.
- Block front wheels and jack up each side of axle and place jack stands.
- Remove both wheels.
- Disconnect swaybar from top of link and remove bushings. Note their orientation to the washers
- TIP - Remove bolts from brake cable mount. You need this slack to get the bar out.
- Remove swaybar bushing brackets.
- Slide old bar out.
- Replace link bushings with new, use new link or retain extended link from lift kit.
- Slide new swaybar in place and loosely attach to links.
- Grease and mount bushing brackets.
- Tighten link bolts. Note, the supplied instructions indicate to squeeze the bushing until they begin to deform, but don't over tighten.
- Replace and tighten the brake cable mount bolts.
- Put your wheels back on and test drive.
Those of us whose Grand Cherokees are daily drivers, the vast majority I'm sure, should be able to appreciate a modification that is beneficial every time we drive. By comparison, most off-road oriented improvements compromise street-ability. This change actually improves on-road manners, and with at least front disconnects, there is very little off-road compromise. These things aren't cheap, but the stock parts look down-right wimpy next to these thick, gold anodized pieces. It's a job anybody can do with little more than a handful of socket wrenches.