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Do I need sway bars?

Old 8/7/15, 06:35 PM
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Do I need sway bars?

Hey everyone, I could use some advice. I'm planning ahead to doing a suspension build on my Mustang in the spring of 2016.

My goals are:
1) Daily drive-ability and ability to handle the cracks and potholes of Michigan roads
2) Improved track lap times, transitions, and higher lateral G numbers

Basically I want a setup "soft" enough for street driving with the "stiffness" to reach 1.05 to 1.1 g lateral with extreme performance summer tires for "weekend track warrior" duty. I realise that means adjustability, so here is what I'm thinking for sure:

a) Lowering springs with stiffer spring rates
b) adjustable dampers, and here I'm pretty set on Koni Yellow's
c) CC plates
d) panhard par

and this is my question: is this enough for 3-4 track days/weekens per year? Or do you think i also need

e) sway bars


Budget is $1200 to $1700. Not opposed to modular build (some parts now, some parts later).

Opinions and experiences welcome. My car is a 2014 Track Pack GT. By the end of this season I will have 7 track days on stock suspension. I've learned the car and I'm ready to push it's limits as well as mine.

Thank you.

Last edited by 5.M0NSTER; 8/7/15 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 8/7/15, 10:13 PM
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Do I need sway bars?

I haven't been to a track day but I do go canyon driving whenever I can. I started with the koni sports and stress springs with the ground control cc plates. It was really good and worked very well. I had no intention of adding sways. I ended up deciding to add sways when the linkage in my sways went bad. I won't say it was night and day but it just felt sharper. I felt more confident and felt more planted. Honestly, it could be the placebo effect but I think it's worth the price.
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Old 8/9/15, 11:59 AM
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It's not placebo.

The car doesn't lean 'out' of the turn, so it feels and performs better as the Center of Gravity doesn't try to shift out of the turn as much. This allows the tire on the side that's inside the turn grip a little better too.

I put my front Eibach GT500 sway bar on full stiff, and put on the GT500 rear sway bar (not adjustable itself, but thicker so it's stiffer) and man. MAN.

This is the way the car should have been set up, you ask me, in stock form. Even if you do nothing else, this should be an immediate 'wake up' for the car on turning. It won't really do anything about the road conditions or soaking up bumps, but it will get the car more level in the turns.

Get them. Do it. DO IT NOW.

That said... OP, I think your Track Pack has the bigger, stiffer sways, so... :shrug:

Last edited by houtex; 8/9/15 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 8/10/15, 06:42 AM
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I say if the roads are sub par start out with the sways with out dropping it. I have heard of very good results by just doing this and you won't lose the ride quality. If you are really set on lowering springs I say wait on the sways.
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Old 8/10/15, 07:34 AM
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I'm thinking of adding these to my setup. How difficult is the install?
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Old 8/10/15, 12:01 PM
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Need? No.

Sway bars can help performance in some situations but their primary function is to improve driver confidence. In many cases, they may even hurt objective performance numbers.

They reduce the indepenent movement of the front suspension which may be noticably worse on bad roads.

Many folks look at sway bars as a bandaid for inappropriately selected shock/springs...they may have a point.
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Old 8/10/15, 08:06 PM
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Interesting discussion. Thanks for the input everyone.

The #1 thing I want to change is the dampers. Mustangs lack this more than anything else compared to a Camaro 1LE (which is the handling benchmark I'm chasing after). Most aftermarket dampers are made to control the increased spring rates of lowered springs. So I think I have to get a spring/shock pair, with adjustable rebound and CC plates to dial in the camber correctly. Stiffer springs and lower CG will also help. I'm pretty set on Steeda springs which drop the back of the car a bit more. I think that will make the front rar balance a bit better than the factory 54/46 split too.

I'm starting to think that I'll make the call on sways after I experience the ride with springs/dampers first. I want to play with the damper settings and feel the difference that makes. After a few months of DD with the new set up, and a few track days I'll make the call on sway bars. Otherwise it might be difficult to narrow down what I need to do with suspension. Like do I tighten/loosen front/rear sways, or tighten/loosen front/rear shocks?
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Old 8/10/15, 09:19 PM
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Indeed, an interesting discussion!

And while I agree the restriction of the suspension is a thing, sure... I don't want my car to wallow about and lean over. So I'll take the bumpier setting, thanks!
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Old 8/10/15, 11:05 PM
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Do I need sway bars?

Originally Posted by 5.M0NSTER
Interesting discussion. Thanks for the input everyone.

The #1 thing I want to change is the dampers. Mustangs lack this more than anything else compared to a Camaro 1LE (which is the handling benchmark I'm chasing after). Most aftermarket dampers are made to control the increased spring rates of lowered springs. So I think I have to get a spring/shock pair, with adjustable rebound and CC plates to dial in the camber correctly. Stiffer springs and lower CG will also help. I'm pretty set on Steeda springs which drop the back of the car a bit more. I think that will make the front rar balance a bit better than the factory 54/46 split too.

I'm starting to think that I'll make the call on sways after I experience the ride with springs/dampers first. I want to play with the damper settings and feel the difference that makes. After a few months of DD with the new set up, and a few track days I'll make the call on sway bars. Otherwise it might be difficult to narrow down what I need to do with suspension. Like do I tighten/loosen front/rear sways, or tighten/loosen front/rear shocks?
I really think you are doing it the right way. When you go piece by piece, you know what each part added to your car or took away from it. I went with the steeda sport springs, and ground control c/c plates. Once the sticker shock wore off, I loved it.
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Old 8/11/15, 08:13 PM
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I started with a modular approach similar to what you are describing. I initially was ordering Steeda sport springs, camber plates, and adjustable pan hard bar along with Koni orange shocks and struts. The second phase was going to be billet lower control arms and the adjustable upper control arm. The third phase was the sway bars. I ended up doing phase 1 and 2 at the same time since I got a great price on the parts. I love the way car drives now and am not sure that I will upgrade the sway bars at this point.
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Old 8/12/15, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by houtex View Post
Indeed, an interesting discussion!

And while I agree the restriction of the suspension is a thing, sure... I don't want my car to wallow about and lean over. So I'll take the bumpier setting, thanks!
I have Eibach Pro/Bilsteins on mine with stock sway bars and "wallow" is the last adjective anyone would use for the way it goes around corners

IIRC the most competitive S197 autox people do run upgraded sway bars so there probably is some benefit...If so, I'd suspect that those benefits (if any) may only be found in an autocross environment and not on the street.

Smooth/flat pavenent, quick transitions only...
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Old 8/12/15, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by MRGTX View Post
I have Eibach Pro/Bilsteins on mine with stock sway bars and "wallow" is the last adjective anyone would use for the way it goes around corners

IIRC the most competitive S197 autox people do run upgraded sway bars so there probably is some benefit...If so, I'd suspect that those benefits (if any) may only be found in an autocross environment and not on the street.

Smooth/flat pavenent, quick transitions only...
I'm certain there is a benefit, particularly in road racing and autox like you said, which is what I'm after. When you're doing a near 1g lat corner at 90mph I would certainly prefer the car to stay flatter.

And at the same time be able to absorb the bumps and potholes of Michigan roads. Which is why this is a touch decision for me. I want the best of both worlds dammit!
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Old 8/12/15, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by 5.M0NSTER View Post
I'm certain there is a benefit, particularly in road racing and autox like you said, which is what I'm after. When you're doing a near 1g lat corner at 90mph I would certainly prefer the car to stay flatter.

And at the same time be able to absorb the bumps and potholes of Michigan roads. Which is why this is a touch decision for me. I want the best of both worlds dammit!
Keeping a car flat through corners can be accomplished through means other than a sway bar though it might be the easiest way.

At the very least it certainly shouldn't be taken for granted that a car with a heavier sway bar will have more grip than a car with a stock away bars. The opposite is often true!

Last edited by MRGTX; 8/12/15 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 8/14/15, 09:18 AM
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My $0.02....

Get stiff springs with the Yellows. I'm out-driving my suspension setup with the slicks. Call BMR and tell them what you're after and they'll get you springs at the right rates. My friend Tod did this (he's on this forum... chime in if you're listening) and had great feedback.

Yellows - they'll be perfect. You can dial in the car nicely.

CC - definitely do these. I did not and I regret it. I'll add them this winter. I ended up with about -1.3 degrees camber as a result of lowering, which is not enough for the track, although fine for DD.

Panhard - not required, but why not if you're doing it all. I had to adjust mine a bit when I lowered

Sways - you do not need a stiffer rear sway. The last thing these cars need is less traction in the rear.... keep it a bit softer and it'll put the power down better. For the front sway, I did upgrade mine. I had it on the 4th out of 5 stiff initially, which was too much. Backed down to the middle setting and I've been happy. Turn in is a a bit quicker, and it does not push in general. Overall, it seems to keep the car better balanced. I'm not convinced it gained me any time at the track, but the FEEL is better, and that counts a lot for me.

If you have not already, do wheel studs too. Not really suspension related, but if you're in there, do them at the same time. Nice peace of mind.

I could probably consolidate my thoguhts a bit more and better describe the differences I noted when I swapped suspension if you want.
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Old 8/14/15, 10:13 AM
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^ THIS. Thnak you for sharing your experiences and thoughts so far. Interesting take on the rear sway. Have you kept your factory rear sway bar then?

I haven't considered this option yet, and getting a front adjustable bar would only add about ~$200 to my planed build so far.

If you don't mind describing your experiences in more details that would certainly help me and perhaps others who are contemplating suspension upgrades. Thanks!
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Old 8/14/15, 11:12 AM
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Yes dmichaels, please give more info. Are you using an adjustable Whiteline sway bar on the front, and what sway bar are you using on the rear? Also, when you said you had it on 4th out of 5, were you talking about struts/shocks or sway bars? All of the adjustable sway bars I've seen only had 3 adjustments, but I haven't seen that many.
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Old 8/14/15, 11:36 AM
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On my phone at the moment but I'll write more when I get back to a computer with a big boy keyboard
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Old 8/15/15, 08:16 PM
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OK lets see if I can summarize things in a manner that reads well....

On street tires last season, I ran my Koni SRT.T's with SR springs. Great improvement over stock. I ended up with about -1.3 degrees camber up front, and slightly adjusted the rear axle to re-center. The setup VASTLY improved brake dive, which thereby improved the speed at which I could apply the brakes. With the previous setup, the car would take so long to transfer weight, I'd lock up the front wheels right away, then the car would dive, load up the front wheels, and I'd unload the rear wheels getting significant ABS intervention there. To compensate, I'd have to apply the brakes more slowly to let the weight transfer occur, then apply brakes more forcefully. With the new suspension, the dive was reduced so much that I could get on the pedal harder faster, and cut braking distances.

From a turning perspective, the previous setup was OK in that there was always traction, but the feel of turn in and corner exit was "rolly." Firming things up improved turn in so that it was quicker and more precise, helping me put the car on the apex, and for tracking out, it made it a little more rotateable. However, when I went to stickier tires, roll started coming back (more ultimate grip) and turn in was not as sharp as I wanted. Tracking out was fine, actually awesome, as with the OEM rear sway, the rear would roll some but keep both tires on the ground and I could almost stab the pedal (bad practice, do not do this, only stated for emphasis) and the rear would just bite and go. As I have pushed corner speed more and more, I roll on the gas of course to not break free, but the point here is I did not want any changes exiting corners.

Entering corners, the car started feeling too un-precise though on the slicks. So I tried out a stiff front sway in attempts to keep the front of the car flatter and effectively increase the spring rate by more firmly connected LHS to RHS. The darkside to this though is with too stiff a front sway, the inside wheel will lose traction as it's lifted up, resulting in more understeer. That's in line with my comment on the #4 out of 5 setting was too stiff... I started there and while turn in became very precise, the car would push (low speed and high speed) because I was reducing front traction. Backing off one setting seems to have found the sweet spot for me though, as turn in is still crisp, but understeer was managed to make the car essentially neutral. This is with a square tire setup might I add - if you're staggered, the above input would be all different... anyways, for square setup, the slightly stiffened front sway, made for more precise turn in and any increase in understeer I've been able to manage through a bit of lift throttle mid-corner and then early power application tracking out to induce rotation

All of THAT said, my driving style is different than others. I like a bit of a tail happy car I'm discovering, especially once I learn a car well, as I've developed a pretty good ability to predict oversteer and almost start correcting before it happens so I'm often very early on throttle application which helps offset any understeer I've induced with the stiff front sway bar.

To my point about do not change the rear sway - I absolutely would not change the rear sway bar from the OEM one, as the car is more than happy to rotate for trail braking at turn in, for lift throttle mid corner, and for heavy throttle application at turn exit. So why anyone would want MORE tail happiness is beyond me. Yes, a stiffer rear sway will reduce body roll and might "feel better" on the street, but it's going to create a car that is more prone to snap oversteer. I like being able to "crystal ball" my oversteer conditions so I can catch them almost instantly and correct. Making the car more tail happy would make it less predictable and harder to drive

Hope all that makes sense. It's late (for me) and I'm trying to visualize driving various tracks over the past 3 seasons with various tires, suspension, driver abilities, etc...
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Old 8/15/15, 10:41 PM
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Excellent writeup dmichaels. Your explanations are clear and easy to understand. I have not upgraded my stock sway bars, but have gone to adjustable shocks and lowered my car. being able to dial in the suspension is very nice. I have had a couple of hazard avoidance scenarios which left me very happy to have upgraded the springs and shocks. lately as a van decided an instant u-turn in front of me was a good idea. at about 80km/h the car zigged, then zagged very confidently. no loss of traction (with virtually no braking). I have not autocrossed yet with this setup.

very informative thread!
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Old 8/16/15, 07:19 AM
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That's good stuff right there. Great explanation D Michaels. This guy knows what he's talking about, he's learned alot about the S197, with all the seat time, tracking his car. I've read on other forums where Boss 302 owners who track their cars alot, will put a small rear sway bar, or even take the rear bar out, depending on their susp setup. There are options, depending on your driving style as well. Keep it up Derek, we appreciate your insight!
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