Sway bars, which technically are anti-sway bars, have been discussed in our magazine lots of times, but never have we really explained the steps to prep a vehicle for proper installation. Like most setup procedures, the technique is only as good as the installation, and depending on what class you are racing, having the setup right before you hit the track makes a big difference. We called up Todd Hodge from Team Losi to come down and show us how he gets anal with sway bars.

Words: Derek Buono
Issue 137 (April 2007)

NOTE: This procedure will work on any car, on or off-road. As an example we used Todd's New JRXS Type-R—probably the class that feels the ill affects of improper setup the most.

1. The first step of this procedure takes into account that you know how to set up your car and it isn't tweaked or out of spec to begin with. If you're doing this for the first time, go over your shock lengths, make sure you check all your droop settings, and check to make sure nothing is bent or bound up. Any sort of setup problem can be amplified down the line.

2. Measure the rough distance from the lower ball on the A-arm to the sway bar. At this point it may be an approximation, but keep the sway bar level with the chassis and the arms at ride height. This will give you your target length for both sides.

3. Adjustable links are required for proper installation. They allow you to account for changes in mounting location. The first thing you need to do is build them to the same length, and get the ball cups pointing in the right direction so you don't alter them too much when you actually mount them to the vehicle.

4. Mount the sway bar to the chassis. This is different on just about every car, but the principal is the same. Use the mounting brackets on the car. Adjust the setscrews to push against the bar to eliminate slop. Todd notes that if you set the sway bar without any slop, the car may become hyper-reactive. They often allow for a little play in the mount to take away some of that edge.

5. Snap the ball cups on the a-arm and the sway bar. At this time you can visually check that the lengths are correct. They should line up perfectly and not move the sway bar up or down.

6. Adjusting the position of the ball studs on the sway bar is critical. Make sure both sides are equidistant from the end of the sway bar. Always start with the mounts the furthest out, and if you feel you need more bar, move them in on the sway bar.

Todd Tips

When setting up any car that has ball cups, having them as free as possible makes for a better suspension. Todd says when he feels like the balls cups are on too tight, squeezing them with pliers will loosen them up.

Adjusting the sway bar is easy. Todd told us it's easy to remember that adjusting the sway bar on one end affects the opposite end. Stiffening the rear will add steering, and similarly stiffening the front adds more rear grip (less steering). Instead of changing sway bars, altering the position of the mounts on the actual swaybar is a more subtle option. Todd explains that having them all the way out is the softest setting, and sliding them in is the firmest. He also said you don't want to go too far from having the setup as close to 90 degrees as possible. If you find yourself moving the mount way in, it's time to go to a stiffer sway bar.

Todd Gets Anal'er
One of the ways Todd suggests to get the sway bar installation perfect is by working on a tweak station. We pulled out our APS Racing tweak station for photos. As you install the sway bar, you can watch the tweak station to see if the installation is upsetting the balance of the car.

Swaybars are a simple and effective tuning aid that can make you faster in a corner. Applying these tips to get your car ready for sway bars—or making sure your installation isn't causing that nasty tweak—will help you get lower lap times and better performance. And don't forget the added bonus of knowing that when Todd Hodge gets anal on something, it's for a good reason.


XRC #137, April 2007

Tested: Associated RC18R, Kyosho Mini Inferno 09, Sportwerks Recoil, CEN Matrix, Robitronics Avid

How To: Show Up and Race, Installing Sway Bars with Todd Hodge

Features: Rock Crawler Battle, TC Scheduled Mainainence with David Jun