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> Tech Tips and Tricks > How to Install Stabilizer (Sway) Bar Links (w/pics)
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Bronco638
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Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Itasca, IL
Posts: 72

How to Install Stabilizer (Sway) Bar Links (w/pics)

How to Install Stabilizer (Sway) Bar Links

Tools Used:
4" Grinder with cut-off and grinding wheels
3/8" open end wrench
Torque wrench
3/8" & 1/2" drive ratchets
Hammer
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.

After thoughts:
- 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.

Driver's Side:


Passenger Side:


An example on how to use the locking pliers & 14mm deep socket:


Link removed:


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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Bronco638 is offline Old Post 08-10-2009 01:52 AM
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Dogteam
1st Gear

Registered: Sep 2007
Location: Illinois
Posts: 114

I had a set of Moogs installed and they explained the grease cert versus OEM not having this. Is there a grease cert on top of the sway link ? Nice pics by the way. I did not see one on top of the link in your pic but saw the one on the bottom. Thanks


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Dogteam is offline Old Post 08-10-2009 02:11 PM
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Bronco638
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Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Itasca, IL
Posts: 72

quote:
Originally posted by Dogteam
I had a set of Moogs installed and they explained the grease cert versus OEM not having this. Is there a grease cert on top of the sway link ? Nice pics by the way. I did not see one on top of the link in your pic but saw the one on the bottom. Thanks



I think you mis-heard what the installer was saying. A grease fitting is also known as a "zerk" fitting. To answer your question, yes, there is a zerk fitting on the upper end of the link in the picture. However, you're looking at the passenger side link. In the write-up I mentioned that the upper grease (or zerk) fitting on the passenger side is 'hidden' behind the strut.

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Bronco638 is offline Old Post 08-10-2009 06:38 PM
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Dogteam
1st Gear

Registered: Sep 2007
Location: Illinois
Posts: 114

Okay, Zerk, now about how often should one grease these ? I have been told every third oil change to possibly every second oil change. Of course driving conditions would weigh in on this also.


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Dogteam is offline Old Post 08-11-2009 02:24 PM
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Bronco638
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Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Itasca, IL
Posts: 72

quote:
Originally posted by Dogteam
Okay, Zerk, now about how often should one grease these ? I have been told every third oil change to possibly every second oil change. Of course driving conditions would weigh in on this also.

I think it would depend more on miles driven and road conditions than oil changes (although, they can be used as an indicator). For instance, if you drive a lot of highway miles (relatively smooth pavement) you shouldn't need to grease that often. However, if you drive on rough or dirt roads, you may need to grease more often.

My wife (the Escape is hers) drives on local suburban roads, for the most part. I estimate her mileage to be ~8K per year. I would probably lube each link every 18-24 months depending on the severity of the winter. You might want to consult your owner's manual to see how often Ford suggests lubricating the other ball joint connections (of courrse, they could be "permanently" lubricated, too - that is, no zerk fitting.).

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Bronco638 is offline Old Post 08-11-2009 07:20 PM
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MiccO
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Registered: Sep 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 94

Did you happen to replace the bushings as well?

I had the linkages replace, but i still hear a small clunking from time to time.

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MiccO is offline Old Post 08-11-2009 10:45 PM
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colincarguy
3rd Gear

Registered: May 2007
Location: Indiana, USA
Posts: 349

I just did this exact thing this weekend, took me bout 20 minutes a side. Personally i wouldnt cut any peices in half because you never know if you have to put it back togather if something doesnt fit haha. the Moogs deffinitly made a diffrance, the old ones had 125000 on them and were very givy haha. i wouldnt reccomend greasing them that aften tho, that sounds a bit exxesive, its not like the grease dissapates into thin air over time.

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colincarguy is offline Old Post 08-12-2009 09:45 AM
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Bronco638
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Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Itasca, IL
Posts: 72

quote:
Originally posted by MiccO
Did you happen to replace the bushings as well?

I had the linkages replace, but i still hear a small clunking from time to time.


If you are referring to the sway (stabilizer) bar bushings, no, I did not. There's a couple of threads that discuss this and it doesn't seem like a very easy job. I (think) there may have been a recall on the sway bar bushings at one point. I know I took the Escape to the dealer for some type of warranty work. I know it was front end, that's for sure.
quote:
Originally posted by colincarguy
I just did this exact thing this weekend, took me bout 20 minutes a side. Personally i wouldnt cut any peices in half because you never know if you have to put it back togather if something doesnt fit haha. the Moogs deffinitly made a diffrance, the old ones had 125000 on them and were very givy haha. i wouldnt reccomend greasing them that aften tho, that sounds a bit exxesive, its not like the grease dissapates into thin air over time.

Well, if your link's hardware was in good enough condition that you didn't have to cut the link, then you must live down South or out West. After 125K miles, I wouldn't think that would be the case. If by some chance you could not get the new links installed, you would not do any damage by driving without links. The Escape may seem a little more "tippy" but no harm would be done.

No, the grease does not dissapate into thin air but it is subject to water (rain & snow), chemicals (salt, et. al.) and heat. In conbination, those three can break down grease over time. In addition to that, there's the constant motion/vibration from the control arm.

It doesn't take much grease to keep the ball joint lubricated. Half to one "pump" on the grease gun should be plenty. Grease is also "sacrificial". It's meant to get dirty and break down so the ball joint remains intact. And, grease is cheap, why skimp? (I'm not advocating a 180º swing here and telling you to grease every week).

Now, there is something to be said for the condition of the top joints of the (OE) links I removed. With 8 years and ~85K miles, they were still clean and in good shape. It was the bottom joints that were failing. Additionally, the Moog part is heavier in construction and should therefore last much longer. Ultimately, it's up to you as to how often you grease the ball joints.

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Bronco638 is offline Old Post 08-12-2009 07:38 PM
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Tron
New Member!

Registered: Aug 2007
Location: Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Posts: 20

Question

Nice Thread.

Question...After doing this, should I get a wheel alignment done?

Craig


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Tron is offline Old Post 08-13-2009 10:18 AM
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DA59a
Platinum Member

Registered: Dec 2007
Location: Tarentum, PA
Posts: 1356

quote:
Originally posted by Tron

Question...After doing this, should I get a wheel alignment done?


No need (unless you needed it before ) - this doesn't change the steering geometry.


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DA59a is offline Old Post 08-13-2009 03:54 PM
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ROMEY G
1st Gear

Registered: Apr 2005
Location: Richmond,Ca
Posts: 133

I used 1 ratchet , 1 socket , and one allen wrench ,30 min to pick up the part's and 15 min per side to install .


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ROMEY G is offline Old Post 08-18-2009 03:50 AM
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mishmish
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Registered: Jun 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 47

Do i need to grease to MOOGS at installation or do they come "pre-greased"?


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mishmish is offline Old Post 01-13-2010 09:35 AM
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lvon5401
3rd Gear

Registered: May 2008
Location: S.E. Michigan
Posts: 317

No need to grease

From what I remember, the Moogs are pre-greased.

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lvon5401 is offline Old Post 01-14-2010 02:29 AM
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greyboy
Managing Editor

Registered: Oct 2001
Location:
Posts: 4299

Replaced the OEMs on Dolqua's '04 this eve.

What utter crap they are!

I started on the driver's side and the top nut I was able to just spin off with an air wrench, no muss no fuss. For the bottom, I just pulled down on the bar and, pretty easily, was able to just snap the plastic cup right off the ball. I then used Vise Grips and wrench to remove the remaining hardware.

On the passenger's side, the top nut did not want to come off, no way, shape, form, or fashion. I could not foul the bolt, period. I ended up using an air chisel to split and push the cup off the ball. I used Vise Grips and wrench to remove the remaining hardware. The bottom nut was removed the same way as was done on the driver's side.

I went with the Moogs for replacement, and MAN are they robust compared to the skinny, 'plastic-cupped' originals.

One difference in the ones I got and the ones shown here by Bronco: the zerks were on the main top (bottom) of the 'heads'.
I installed them so both top and bottom would point to the rear of the vehicle. The instruction sheet that came with them said to grease 'em up after install. I pumped 'em full of "Green Grease".

I can say without hesitation, her Escape has never had this solid of a feel in the steering and overall handling!!!

Even if your links are not clunking, this is one job that is totally worth the time and money.


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greyboy is offline Old Post 08-16-2011 05:27 AM
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