How disconnecting sway bars work

You off-roaders out there know all about disconnecting your own sway bars. You crave articulation, and you’ll disconnect parts of your vehicle to get it.

For those who don’t seek out tough trails and mud-covered body panels, the idea of a disconnecting sway bar might be an odd concept. It’s less odd when you listen to Jason Fenske from Engineering Explained talk about it.

A sway bar provides stability and helps to mitigate body roll in a car or truck. It’s a great bit of bent mental that helps keep your vehicle feeling planted on the road. You don’t want that when you’re crawling off road, however, because you need all the wheel travel you can muster. More specifically, you want a greater degree of freedom when it comes to the angle at which your axle can articulate.

More simply, you want your left and right front tires to be able to move up and down more independently from one another. With your sway bar connected, this movement is limited. If you disconnect that sway bar, you can roam the dusty hills more freely.

A number of modern vehicles feature electronically disconnecting sway bars. On these vehicles, you don’t need to get under your rig with a set of tools to disconnect your sway bar. You just sit on your heated seat and press a button. Once pressed, an electronic motor pushes against a shift fork that’s held in position by a spring. This fork presses against a collar that holds two ends of your sway bar together on a splined axis. The collar separates the sway bar, and it essentially disconnect the left side of the bar from the right.

When it comes time to head home, you can reconnect the sway bar in basically the same fashion. There is a position sensor to make sure it’s all lined up, plus the spline itself has a unique layout so the sway bar ends can only fit together one way. This means you won’t have a poorly lined up connection and a wonky ride as you roll down the road.

For a better explanation of it all, click on the video above.

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