Sway Bars

A sway bar is usually a torsion spring that resists body roll motions. It is usually constructed out of a U-shaped piece of steel that connects to the body at two points, and at the left and right sides of the suspension. If the left and right wheels move together, the bar just rotates about its mounting points and does not bend. If the wheels move relative to each other, the bar is subjected to torsion and forced to twist.

The bar resists the torsion through its stiffness. The stiffness of an anti-roll bar is based on the fourth power of its radius, the stiffness of the material, the inverse of the length of the lever arms (i.e., the shorter the lever arm, the stiffer the bar), the geometry of the mounting points, and the rigidity of the bar's mounting points. Some anti-roll bars, particularly those intended for use in auto racing, are adjustable, allowing their stiffness to be altered by increasing or reducing the length of the lever arms. This permits the roll stiffness to be tuned for different situations without replacing the entire bar. The stiffer the bar, the more force required to move the left and right wheels relative to each other. This increases the amount of force required to make the body roll.

In a turn, the sprung mass of the vehicle's body produces a lateral force at the centre of gravity (CG), proportional to lateral acceleration. Because the CG is usually not on the roll axis, the lateral force creates a moment about the roll axis that tends to roll the body. (The roll axis is a line that joins the front and rear roll centers (SAEJ670e)). The moment is called the roll couple.

Roll couple is resisted by the suspension roll stiffness, which is a function of the spring rate of the vehicle's springs and of the anti-roll bars, if any. The use of anti-roll bars allows designers to reduce roll without making the suspension's springs stiffer in the vertical plane, which allows improved body control with less compromise of ride quality.

One effect of body (frame) lean, for typical suspension geometry, is positive camber of the wheels on the outside of the turn and negative on the inside, which reduces their cornering grip (especially with cross ply tires).


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