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Sway Bar Delete - Throwing Safety to the Wind

April 23, 2018.

A 2000 Toyota Tacoma only comes with so many safety features. Built two decades ago, there was no traction control; no forward, backward and side cameras; no blind spot radar; and definitely no Toyota Safety Sense™.

These were the days of kids riding in pickup beds for fun, seat belt warning chimes that buzzed twice and shut the hell up since they realized that if you were going to wear the belt, you'd have put it on already, and ABS-as-an-option.

These were the days before SMS; before we needed our cars to protect us from ourselves.

Of course, there are still some safety systems on a first gen Tacoma - seat belts, air bags, a 3rd brake light, and bumpers to name a few. And hey, on my truck they threw in ABS "for free," even though I'd explicitly asked not to have it.

And for nearly 20 years, I didn't give these systems much thought - well, except for disabling the daytime running lights as the very first thing I did - since they mostly seemed to work, be relatively innocuous, and I didn't know much about them. So when I noticed a few rubber bushings wearing out, I replaced them - not really sure what I was doing.

On the last several trips, one of the things I've noticed is that roads feel "rougher" to me than most people. Some might argue that I'm getting old; others might say that it's the result of the new load-E tires - but unanimously everyone agrees that having the sway bar isn't making anything better.

See, the sway bar removal is generally one of the first things that Tacoma owners do. By removing it, you remove the (literal) connection between the two front wheels, giving you more flexy-flexy on the rocks, and better bump absorption on those washboarded roads.

I could really use better bump absorption on  washboarded roads. So, just a few weeks after buying new bushings, I finally decided to remove the sway bar. It's a straight forward process:

  1. Disconnect the links.
  2. Unbolt the sway bar bushings
  3. Finagle the sway bar out of the skid plate you were too lazy to remove at the beginning.

And with that I was done.

There are bound to be trade-offs with a mod like this. I'll need to learn to corner a bit differently, and be more aware of unevenness in the road. But that sounds like a great compromise for a smoother ride!

First Impressions (May 9, 2018)

Since removing the sway bar, I've put a couple hundred miles on the truck (but none off-road) and I can definitely tell the difference. The ride is smoother and cornering-at-speed is different (I have to pay a bit more attention), but in general the truck still drives like it's always driven - which is a good thing.

Lastly - I should note - the sway bar is a safety feature of our vehicles, so one should be careful in removing it. I've heard that having heavier-duty-than-stock front suspension can offset the lack of a sway bar to a great extent. That is, removing the sway bar introduces additional body roll when turning, but heavy-duty front coils resist that same body roll. This so far seems true in my experience as well - with 650lb coils in the front.

I'm looking forward to my next adventure, so I can exercise the new setup in a more taxing environment.

7 Comments

  1. Jim
    Jim May 15, 2018

    Although my '66 Jeep Cj-5 didn't come with seat belts, ABS, air bags, a 3rd brake light, a sway bar or a rear bumper, no one has died in it. However, I must admit that I added Chevy saginaw (sp?) steering, a roll cage, extra leaf springs, boxing of the frame and a sway bar from a Jeep ambulance of the era. I have to say that I never noticed the ride getting any rougher, but hell...I was 21 years old. Well, I don't know why I had to tell you all that, but I DO want to know if you think the trade for comfort was worth it. I have gone up on 2 wheels twice in my life and the sway bar was there both times. I have always been of the opinion that the sway bar "helps" you slide instead of the vehicle leaning and the edge of the tires digging in and possibly promoting flipping of the vehicle.

    • turbodb
      turbodb May 15, 2018

      I'm going to be interested to see if the ride quality is worth it as well. I've not driven off-road at all (yet) with the new setup, so only time will tell. My hope is that the upgraded leafs, springs, etc. help to offset what I took out from a stability perspective, and if it turns out I want to put it back in, it's because I noticed something wonky and not because something really crazy - like rolling the truck!!! - happened. 🙂

  2. Jim
    Jim May 22, 2018

    OK...I will be interested in hearing what you think after a few test runs. Don't forget to post what you come up with.

  3. JustSomeOlddude
    JustSomeOlddude April 26, 2019

    Seems like someone could come up with a middle ground design. for example, maybe like some sort of of linkage mod that would allow indentation movement up to say like an inch but would kick in once the suspension travel passed that.

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 29, 2019

      I know that for other trucks (Jeeps, etc.) disconnects exist. Never seen one for a Tacoma, much less a first gen. But yeah, that would be an interesting way to maintain the on-road benefits, and also have additional travel off-road.

  4. JasonLee
    JasonLee May 18, 2019

    So, what's the update on the handling without it before you put on the ADS coilovers and after? Ever thought about putting it back in? Is the ride better and much better articulation off-road? I currently only have OME suspension on my truck with stock bumpers and no armor so I'm still lightweight but as time goes on I'll likely do similar ADS suspension setup to yours and some type of lightweight camper top out back (~300-350lbs empty)

    • turbodb
      turbodb May 19, 2019

      Handling without the sway bar isn't noticeably different for me - as far as I can tell. Even with the Toytec setup, before I ever even thought about going to ADS, I never really noticed it.

      I think the bigger issue is really the spring rate up front. Both setups for me used 650 lb springs, and that was enough to keep the front end from dipping on turns.

      Probably also helps that I'm generally an alert driver and I slow down for turns :).

      If you're on the fence, you could just remove the links for a bit (they are easy to remove) and leave the sway bar in place. If, after a while you decide you like it better one way or the other, you can either take the bar off completely or put the links back in.

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