|The MGA With An Attitude
SHORTENED LINKS For Sway Bar -- FS-103D
This article comes from Jeff Sienkiewicz in New Milford, CT, USA.
My car came with an MGB style 3/4 inch sway bar, with the MGB 8 inch sway bar links. The sway bar was mounted below the frame extensions and extended rearward in an upward direction and over the steering tie rods. The sway bar was tied to the A-arm pans with the standard 8” MGB links. I always felt binding as the steering turned towards full lock, but could not identify the source of the problem until I noticed wear in my sway bar link ends.
Bill Spohn has a solution which involves cutting out a piece of the sway bar link and welding the two ends back together, resulting in a short sway bar link about 4-1/2 inches long. This shortened link permits the sway bar to sit under the tie rod ends.
Unfortunately, I do not weld. I could cut the links as Bill suggested and take them in for welding, but I was concerned that the clevis and ball ends of the tie rod are not aligned at 90 degrees. I didn’t know how the alignment might be affected with shortened links. Bill states: “Once length and angle of the clevis has been accurately set up, the joining tube can be MIG welded to the ends”. So the angle of the clevis was a concern.
The rod on the stock 8 inch link has a 1/2 inch diameter. I became aware of Heim joints and decided that sway bar links with Heim joints might offer me a solution. But I didn’t want to sacrifice my existing links for this experiment. New links are available through British Victoria at about $25 each. But since I was planning to cut them up, I decided to try to find some used links. I wanted the upper clevis joint end to be in good condition. The ball joints on the bottom would be discarded.
I decided that I wanted female threaded joints for the bottom connector. These are widely available. But as I researched the parts, I decided that a ball joint type rod connector (technically a “spherical rod end with bolt”) would suit the application better. I ordered two Female Spherical Rod Ends with Nylon Race from Midwest Control Products. These are perhaps not the best rod ends on the market, but they were only $8.22 each. I could have gotten similar rod ends for as much as $35.00 each. Given that this was a bit of an experiment, I went with the cheaper product. If the ball joint loosens up and starts to slap around, I can easily replace with a higher grade rod end. The ball joint type rod end that I purchased also has a bolt with the same 1/2-20 thread. This is the same thread pattern on the stock sway bar links.
I then needed to find a cutting die to match the tread pattern. There are two kinds of dies, one for cutting new threads and one for rethreading. Make sure you get the type for cutting new threads. I ordered the die from DrillsandCutters.com. I ordered a hex shaped die so that I could use a socket wrench to turn it to cut the threads.
I cut the sway bar links with my Makita saber saw using a “heavy metal” cutting blade. I was careful to cut all the way through with gentle pressure at the end so as not the bend the rod. I ground the end slightly to remove any burrs and to round off the tip. For the cutting die, I used my 1/2 inch ratchet wrench with a 3/4 inch socket. The sway bar link rod steel was pretty soft and surprisingly easy to cut. I cut about 1-3/8 inches worth of thread so that I had room for the jam nut and so that I could thread the rod end all the way down onto the rod.
I used Bill Spohn’s measurements as a guide. My finished link is about 4-3/4 inches long. With all of the weight off the wheels, it binds slightly from below with the tie rod end at full steering lock. I believe I will have no binding when the wheels carry the weight of the car. This is a test fitting. Although it clears the steering tie rod with the wheels straight, it was a little too long at full lock so I shortened the clevis section about 3/4 of an inch.
Fabrication of both links took about 2 hours, but then another hour or so for test fitting. I had to remove the sway bar from the front end extensions and then reinstall in order to get the sway bar ends to line up below the tie rods. I took that opportunity to replace the sway bar bushings on the extensions. Length wise the new links seem right, but they are difficult to install because of tension in the alignment. The tips of the sway bar are wider than the distance between the holes in the pan for the bolts. My pan is reinforced where the links connect. Only time will tell if these shortened links will hold up to the abuse of racing. My sense is that they will be just fine. If I do, in fact, replace, I will opt for the Teflon or PTFE lined joints.
DWTHSHEX1220 - 1/2-20 HSS Hex Die, $17.93, with shipping $25.92.
MPF-8S, Female Spherical Rod Ends with Nylon Race $8.22 each, total $16.44, not including shipping.
Two 1/2-20 jam nuts from local auto supply store $0.62 each.
Two sacrificial MGB style sway bar links. Purchased through the MG Experience buy-sell forum for about $17.00 shipped.
Other suppliers of the rod ends: Aurora Bearing Co.; FK Rod Ends; QA1 (www.QA1.net); Radial Bearing Corp; and Viking Performance. They are also available through Pegassus racing.
Another idea from David Friswell in Boca Raton, FL, USA:
"I did something similar when I installed the Moss hollow sway bar on my A. I cut the threaded rod from the kit and assembled the two Heim joints directly together (with a lock washer in between). The steering arm does rub on the bar at full lock (just barely) so I've considered shortening the barrel of the Heim joints just a bit but it really hasn't been an issue in the couple of hundred miles I've put on it since installation".
For an even shorter link, consider using one male threaded and one female threaded Heim joint with a jam nut.