Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Itasca, IL
How to Install Stabilizer (Sway) Bar Links (w/pics)
How to Install Stabilizer (Sway) Bar Links
4" Grinder with cut-off and grinding wheels
3/8" open end wrench
3/8" & 1/2" drive ratchets
14 & 15 mm regular & deep sockets
1/2" drive 3" extension
3/8" x 1/2" adapter
14 & 15 mm open/box end wrenches
Locking pliers (vice-grip)
Hub cone wrench (bicycle tool)
I've read through a few posts on this forum site and most are very comprehensive but lack pictures. So, I figured I would do the work on my wife’s 2001 Escape XLT (V6, 4x4, ~85K miles) and take pictures along the way. As detailed in some of the other posts, I decided not to battle with rusty hardware and let my 4” grinder do the “grunt” work. If you don’t have a grinder, you can probably use a hacksaw but I don’t know if you’ll be able to get the normal “D” shaped handle to work. You may need to source one of those “pistol grip” blade holders (so the saw blade can be used with one hand) to fit into tight locations. I would think you’d be able to find such a thing at a home improvement store. I would also highly recommend new (sharp) blades.
Research – I did quite a bit of surfing to try to determine which parts chain had the best selection and best pricing. I live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and have a pretty good selection of parts stores in my area. I checked the following web sites: NAPA, Advanced Auto Parts, Auto Zone and O’Reilly (Murray). I did not think to check Car Quest.
Part Numbers & Pricing:
Ford: YL8Z-5K483-AA ($35 based on most recent post, here, that I read)
Moog: K80104 ($16.99)
MasterPro: K80104 ($9.49)
AutoPart International: 2700-95074 ($23.99)
NAPA: NCP2651558 ($24.99)
Prices in different areas of the country may differ. I was surprised to discover that O’Reilly listed two different suppliers that used the same part number. Since one of their stores was close to me (I have an AZ & NAPA closer), I decided to check them out first (plus, their web site indicated stock of both parts at this store). I asked the counter person to see both the Moog and the MasterPro links. Guess what? They’re identical right down to the fasteners and grease fittings. They even say "MOOG" on the rubber grease covers and the instruction sheets were the same. The only difference was the box. The manager was stunned. So, I went with MasterPro and spent a grand total of $21.25 which included two link kits and lock washers (purchased at a local hardware store).
As you’ll see in the pictures, I chose to put the Escape on jack stands and remove the front wheels. While the work can be done with the front wheels on and the vehicle on ramps, I felt more comfortable with the wheels removed. Whatever method you select, I would not suggest a “half & half” which would be one wheel on the ground and the other in the air. Using this method may put a load on the sway bar and when you cut the old link it may “pop” apart due to the load. You would also have a very difficult time installing the new link because the distance between the mount point on the strut and the hole in the sway bar will be greater than the link’s length.
To start, I simply used the grinder, with cut-off wheel, to cut the old link in half. I then grabbed each half and twisted each end socket off of the balls. This leaves the ball (with threaded stud) attached to the strut & sway bar. Use the locking pliers to grab the ball and the 14mm wrench (or socket) to back the nut off. You’re not looking to completely undo the fastener, just give yourself enough space so that the cut-off wheel can get between the collar (under the ball) and the strut bracket and/or the sway bar. A couple (720º) of complete turns of the nut should do it. Now, use the grinder to cut the ball off. (NOTE: if you’re using a grinder, for safety sake, wear hearing protection, eye protection and leather gloves. Sparks will shoot everywhere.). Once you have removed the two ball joints you’re ready for installation.
Orient the grease fittings – I chose to orient the 90º grease fittings so that the fitting on the upper joint is pointing towards the ground. On the driver’s side, this will provide easy access for the grease gun. On the passenger’s side, the same holds true but the fitting will be hidden behind the strut. For the lower joint on the driver’s side, I pointed the grease fitting towards the ground. There's a hole in the lower control arm that provides access to that fitting. For the passenger side, I pointed the grease fitting upward. My links came “pre-greased” (I could see grease inside the hole for the grease fitting). But, I chose to add some grease to each joint (two 'pumps' from the grease gun) for peace of mind. Additionally, I used M10 lock washers (split type) in addition to the provided (thread distorting) lock nuts. Coming from a racing background, I’m "tushy" retentive when it comes to loose fasteners (due to vibration). The upper lock nuts were set to 35 lb/ft. of torque. I could not get the torque wrench on the lower nuts and simple went by “feel”. I quick test drive confirmed the issue was resolved. Interestingly, my wife never could hear the rattle but it drove me nuts.
- If you’re looking for an excuse to purchase one of those ratcheting box-end wrenches, this is as good an excuse as any. You only really need the 15 mm since you’ll be cutting the 14 mm fasteners off.
- You don’t need to turn the grease fittings until they bottom on the ball joint housing. Get them so that they’re close to all the way in and then orient them to way you want.
- Taking my time and documenting the process took about 90 minutes in total. Once you do one side, the other side goes about four times faster.
- I chose to use anti-seize compound on the stud threads. If I have to replace this link set, perhaps it won't be such a chore to remove them.
- The Moog links have a 14mm hex at the base of each stud (visible in the pictures). You'll need a thin width wrench to keep the stud from spinning while you put the lock nut on. I used the hub cone wrench for this. If you have an old 14mm wrench you don't care about, you could grind it thinner. You may be able to find a thin width wrench at a local hardware store.
I'll do my best to keep an eye on this thread and answer questions. Good luck - Dave.
An example on how to use the locking pliers & 14mm deep socket:
OE Link cut & removed (note the rusty lower socket - this is the source of the rattle):
Compare & contrast - OE versus Moog:
New link installed:
Last edited by Bronco638 on 08-17-2009 at 07:13 PM
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