Another title for this post (hopefully): "How to turn a 3-hour job into a 45 minute job". I am not a stranger to vehicle DIY projects, but I have never worked on suspension parts, so several things were new to me and cost me some time and effort. For you veterans at this, you will likely scratch your head at why anyone needs these pics and instructions, but if I had them I would have been done in less than an hour rather than three (including the obligatory trip to the hardware store).
I ordered the SRT rear sway bar (aka stabilizer bar, aka anti-roll bar) part #68184507AA to put on my stock Laredo. Hellwig makes a good one, too, but they only list it for 2014+ units, and while it probably would work fine, I did not want to try it and possibly have to send it back.
You will need:
- 18mm closed end / box wrench. This is apparently an unusual size, as I have plenty of 17mm and 19mm wrenches, but no 18mm, and neither did my neighbor. It took two stores to find one in stock.
- 8mm socket. Again, you may not have one of these. My 3/8" set only went down to 9mm, but I have a little emergency 1/4" kit that had one, shown in the pics.
- PB Blaster, liquid wrench, etc. This is mandatory if you have some miles on the WK2. There will be rust to deal with on the sway link bolts.
- (Optional) 18mm socket for the cradle bolts holding the bar to the frame. Or just use the wrench.
- (Optional) Torque wrench. According to the repair manual, the sway bar link nuts (2) should be tightened to 66 ft/lbs and the cradle bolts (4) should be tightened to 81 ft/lbs.
- (Optional?) A cheater bar to break these bolts loose. The cradle bolts are facing backward and were not corroded so they were not too bad. Hopefully you will soak the link bolts enough that they will be easy to break loose with the 18mm wrench and a glove.
- First, I did this project flat on the garage floor. It was fine, but I would suggest putting the rear wheels on some 2x10s or similar to give yourself just a little more room. It will really help when you have to put 80+ ft/lbs of torque on the cradle bolts while in an awkward position.
- Liberally soak the upper sway link bolts with penetrating oil, and let it soak for a while. Then do it again, and use a rag or paper towel to wipe the threads. Otherwise, as you loosen the bolt you will plow rust along with it so the bolt is very tight the whole way off.
- See if you can break loose the upper sway link bolt. Put the 18mm box wrench on, then put on the 8mm socket so that it is leaning against the sway bar itself as you turn left. That way you won't have to bother holding the socket to counter-turn the wrench; the bar will do it for you. See pic:
- If you can break the nut/bolt loose, you can then try the other side before removing it all the way.
- If you can't break them, you might want to stop now and regroup, and maybe take it to a shop, because this is no longer a 45-minute job and could turn ugly if you break the bolt or strip the nut.
- But that's crazy talk. Of course they both broke free and you are forging ahead. Now you can break the four cradle bolts holding the sway bar to the suspension frame.
- On each cradle there are cable holders, holding the parking brake (I assume). The cable is in a plastic semicircle ring which is inserted into the holder. Just take a flathead screwdriver and pull evenly on either side of the cable while using the flathead as a lever on the back side of the plastic semi-circle ring and it will pop out. I did not get a pic of these, sorry, but they don't require any kind of clamping to remove, just muscle them out while limiting how much tension you put on the cable itself.
- Remove the cradle bolts. I kept one cradle bolt on each side barely threaded in so I could slide the bar forward and back, but it was still held up. The sway bar link will pivot and move, giving you easier access to the link bolt, but keeping one cradle bolt in keeps you from having to hold the bar up and in one place. If you have someone helping, they can hold it up and you can skip this.
- Now remove the sway link bolts. Helpful tip: If you do not have an 18mm ratcheting wrench, keep the 8mm socket pinned against the sway bar and just twist the 18mm wrench to the right. The nut and bolt should spin in the sway bar link and you will hear your 8mm ratchet click as you turn. My little ratchet just needed its own weight to click without turning, but you could zip tie the ratchet to the sway bar if you need to keep it from turning. This greatly sped up removing and replacing this bolt with the box wrench.
- Remove the sway bar, then put the new one in place in reverse order. I put one cradle bolt in each side and threaded the slightly so I could adjust the position front/back.
- Using your penetrating oil, clean and wipe the sway link nuts and clean the bolts on the links.
- Replace the link nuts in the same way you removed them.
- Once the sway links are connected, replace the cradle bolts and torque to 81 ft/lbs.
- Finish tightening the sway links to 66 ft/lbs. You are done.
Is it worth it? Yes, I could tell a difference as soon as I left my driveway, but if you drove it once a month you might not notice. The old sway bar is pretty substantial, and looks identical to the SRT bar. Once you grab it, you can tell the SRT is thicker and heavier, though. The SRT bar is 21 lbs, so I would guess the stock bar is about 17lbs, which would make the SRT bar 20-25% heavier. That's about the improvement you can expect. You should notice the missing roll that used to be in the rear of the vehicle in turns. But it is not night-and-day, because frankly the WK2 does not have a lot of body roll for its size and purpose. If the roll bothers you and you want to reduce it, and you can get a good price on the sway bar, it is worth it.