Sway bars, or stabilizer bars are one of the most popular upgrades for suspension and there is very good reason for that. Today we are going to discuss why they are one of the most beneficial upgrades you can do and we will also help you decide which setup is the best for you and your driving style.
One of the most common questions we get is “Which sway bars are the best?” That is an open ended question because one is not ‘better’ than another, but there are some very distinctive differences depending on what sizes you use and how the front compares to the rear.
The sway bar’s purpose is to keep both wheels (left & right) at the same level, which reduces body roll and keeps your car from being sloppy in the corners. When you see a car lifting a wheel on the track in a corner that is generally the sway bar trying to equalize the force on both sides of the suspension. The outside wheel is forced up in the fender and the sway bar brings the inside wheel up into the fender as well; hence inside wheel lift.
Subarus come from the factory with a larger front sway bar than rear and that creates a fair amount of understeer, which is generally not desired for a sharp and responsive ride. Understeer will make the car feel like it is pushing the front end to the outside of the corner, whereas oversteer will bring the back end out and point the front end to the inside of the corner.
The most common setups for Subarus are either matching sizes front and rear or having the front bar one size bigger than the rear. Matching your front and rear bars will make the car feel neutral in the corners with a little bias towards oversteer. Having a slightly larger bar in the front will retain a lot of the stock handling characteristics and some people prefer that, but I personally like my AWD cars to be somewhat tail happy with a fair amount of oversteer. You can debate back and forth which setup is better and why, but at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference and nobody is right or wrong.
If you like how your Subaru handles from the factory, but want it to stay flatter in the corners, then stay with an understeer setup and use a slightly larger bar in the front than the rear. If you are not sure whether you prefer oversteer or understeer, then adjustable sway bars of the same size for both front and rear will probably be best for you. The adjustments won’t make your 22mm sway bar a 24mm or vice versa, but you can adjust the tension of the sway bar so your 22mm will perform like a bigger or smaller sway bar.
Whether you know how you want your car to handle or not I recommend adjustable sway bars so you can fine tune your handling to best suit your driving style. You can make the adjustment by changing where your endlink connects to the sway bar and the closest hole to the bar itself will be the stiffest setting.
Stiff setting shown above. This is not a Subaru and is just for reference to show the soft/stiff setting holes.
Some people prefer to not have any adjustments because they can’t decide exactly what they like, and there is no shame in bolting on non-adjustable bars and enjoying them for what they are right out of the box. I’m the type that likes to tinker with settings until they are perfect, but sometimes it is not worth the extra time to find out that your fine tuning just made things worse and you get to do it all over again.
There is a lot more to sway bars than we have covered so far, but you should now get the gist of what they are, what they do and why you should have them. We will save the more technical side such as hollow versus solid for another day.
If there is one thing that I want you to take from this article, it is one sway bar setup is not better than another because one person’s preference could be the complete opposite of another. Just because your buddy is running a bigger bar in the front that does not mean his setup is better than your matching front and rear bars, but they might try to convince you otherwise. We could go on and on about how you could setup your sway bars, but the best way is to find out for yourself.