Raising the Bar: Installing Maximum Motorsports’ Sway Bars for Better Handling and Adjustability
Sway bars, or antiroll bars, are an often overlooked piece of a Mustang’s handling puzzle. Though less glamorous than a set of lowering springs or coilover dampers, sway bars sharpen a Mustang’s cornering reflexes without the jarring ride of super-stiff suspension springs.
A sway bar is a torsion bar spring connected to each side of the suspension. When your Mustang enters a corner, the outside suspension compresses while the inside suspension extends. The sway bar endlinks, attached to the control arms, push up on the outside end of the sway bar and pull down on the inside end. The stiffness of the sway bar resists this motion as it tries to keep both sides of the suspension moving together. This makes the chassis act as if it has much stiffer suspension springs while cornering. But when your Mustang accelerates or brakes and the car heaves backward or forward on its suspension, the sway bar simply pivots in its bushings. The weight transfer under acceleration and braking is unaffected by the sway bars.
Because sway bars only affect cornering behavior, changing the sway bar rate is a convenient way to adjust the handling balance of the car. A stiffer front sway bar shifts the balance toward understeer, and a softer front sway bar shifts the balance toward oversteer.
However, a stiffer front bar sharpens steering response during initial turn-in, which is good, but a stiffer bar also makes the car ultimately understeer, which is (usually) bad. So, a stiffer front bar is often partnered with a stiffer rear sway bar. Viola! Steering response is improved, and handling balance is maintained.
For Mustangs, here’s where Maximum Motorsports comes in. To complement the company’s adjustable rear sway bars for Mustangs, Maximum Motorsports now offers a front sway bar for 1994-2004 Mustangs.
Stiffer sway bars are usually larger copies of the OEM parts. (Imagine twisting a coat hanger versus a piece of pipe.) Indeed, Maximum Motorsports’ adjustable front sway bar is larger, but is also adjustable. Changing the position of the endlinks on the sway bar affects the leverage it has on the control arms, which changes the effective rate of the bar.
The sway bar fits all 1994-2004 Mustangs with stock or Maximum Motorsports’ suspension systems. The kit includes adjustable endlinks with modern, low-friction resin ball-stud joints. Not only do the endlinks provide bind-free operation but their “zero compliance” design transfers even the slightest suspension movements to the sway bar, getting the chassis “on the bar” more quickly for enhanced steering response.
We paired Maximum Motorsports’ adjustable front sway bar with an Eibach rear sway bar, also available from Maximum Motorsports. (Because our 2003 Cobra test subject was equipped with a Maximum Motorsports rear coilover spring kit, Maximum Motorsports also supplied us with shorter coilover springs to avoid a clearance issue with the larger Eibach rear sway bar.)
The Maximum Motorsports adjustable front sway bar has three holes on each end; the Eibach rear sway bar has two holes on each end. (The endlinks can be installed in different holes on each end to offer an in-between setting.) This results in five settings on the front and three on the rear, for a total of 15 levels of adjustment—enough to satisfy even the most obsessive-compulsive chassis tuner.
Follow along as we highlight the installation, features, and benefits of adjustable sway bars from Maximum Motorsports.
1. The Maximum Motorsports adjustable front sway bar kit includes a powdercoated, tubular, 1 1/4-inch sway bar, adjustable endlinks, and polyurethane pivot bushings.
2. The levers of the Maximum Motorsports adjustable front sway bar include three holes to adjust the rate: Use the hole farthest away for soft, the middle for medium, and the closest for stiff. (The endlinks can be installed in different holes on each end to offer an in-between setting.)
3. Maximum Motorsports includes adjustable endlinks in the sway bar kit. The links feature modern, low-friction resin ball-stud joints. The adjustable length allows users to remove all preload from the sway bar when the chassis is at rest, and the “zero compliance,” ball-stud design is a massive improvement over the old pillow-style endlink bushings.
4. To match the higher-rate front sway bar, Maximum Motorsports also supplied us with Eibach’s adjustable rear sway bar kit for IRS Cobras, as well as shorter coilover springs (so the lower spring perch cleared the larger Eibach sway bar).
5. The Eibach rear sway bar features a tubular design and two adjustment holes on each end (for a total of three rate settings).
6. We started at the rear by removing the wheels and exhaust.
7. Then we removed the rear coilover spring and shock.
8. To provide clearance between the lower spring perch and the larger Eibach sway bar, Maximum Motorsports supplied us with shorter Hyperco coilover springs of the same rate. We swapped these onto our Maximum Motorsports/Bilstein rear shocks.
9. To swap the rear sway bars, you need to drop the rear of the IRS cradle a couple inches. With the rear of the cradle supported by a floor jack, we loosened the front cradle bolts and removed the rear cradle bolts.
10. We removed the upper end of our Maximum Motorsports rear sway bar endlinks from the OEM sway bar.
11. Then we removed the two bolts retaining the sway bar pivot bushing brackets.
12. With the rear of the IRS cradle dropped enough for clearance, we removed the OEM rear sway bar.
13. The Eibach rear sway bar includes larger polyurethane pivot bushings to match the sway bar’s larger diameter. We lubricated the bar and bushings with the included grease.
14. Before we installed the Eibach rear sway bar, we compared it to the OEM bar. Even though the Eibach bar is 3 mm larger than the OEM bar (29 versus 26 mm), its tubular design resulted in no weight difference.
15. After installing the lubricated bushings, we moved the Eibach rear sway bar into position.
16. We reinstalled the pivot bushing brackets using the OEM hardware.
17. Then we reconnected the Maximum Motorsports adjustable endlinks to the Eibach sway bar using the stiff setting (rear hole).
18. With the Eibach rear sway bar installation finished, we tightened up the cradle fasteners and reinstalled the rear coilover shocks.
19. Moving to the front, we disconnected our existing endlinks from the OEM sway bar.
20. Then we removed the OEM sway bar pivot bushing brackets.
21. With the OEM sway bar free, we removed it from the car.
22. We used the supplied grease to lubricate the supplied polyurethane pivot bushings.
23. Before installing the Maximum Motorsports adjustable rear sway bar, we compared it to the OEM part. Even though the new bar is 3 mm larger than the OEM bar (32 versus 29 mm), it was only 1 pound heavier.
24. We lifted the Maximum Motorsports adjustable front sway bar into position.
25. We tightened the pivot bushing brackets around the new polyurethane bushings. Note how the shape of the sway bar lever brackets increases tire clearance when turning.
26. With the sway bar installed, we connected the adjustable endlinks to the sway bar using the middle setting.
27. With the endlinks installed and our car at ride height, we adjusted and tightened the endlinks so there was no preload on the sway bar.
28. This chart compares the rates of different OEM and the Maximum Motorsports adjustable sway bar. The OEM 2003-2004 Cobra bar is slightly stiffer than the front bar used on the 1999 Cobra and 2000 Cobra R. The Maximum Motorsports bar ranges from 25 percent stiffer to over twice as stiff than the OEM 2003 Cobra sway bar.
29. The Eibach rear sway bar ranges from 20 to 30 percent stiffer than the OEM Cobra rear sway bar.
30. During our test drive, we immediately noticed an increase in the car’s response to steering input. We credit the endlink’s precision and the increased rate of the sway bars. We also didn’t notice any increase in noise or ride harshness—an excellent, no-compromise upgrade!