2015-04-12

2013 WRX Swaybar Installation

Introduction


My wife and I run a 2013 Subaru WRX hatchback at autocross and rallycross events. In an effort to improve handling and reduce tire wear, we decided to upgrade the front and rear swaybars and endlinks. We chose a 24mm two-position adjustable front swaybar and a 22mm three-position adjustable rear swaybar and adjustable front and rear endlinks, all from Whiteline. The rear swaybar comes with an additional support brace to provide a little added stiffness.

The equipment came from the good folks at Subie Autosport, who were more than happy to advise us on what would work best for our purpose. Two days after we ordered, the gear was on our doorstep.

This is the story of two people with limited mechanical ability attempting to do this installation. I have done a few oil changes and many wheel/tire swaps, but little else. My wife has done similar work on other cars but not the WRX yet.

I've read many forum posts on the subject, I've watched about a dozen videos, and I've read the included directions. My wife also read the directions and watched a couple of the install videos with me. Supposedly this is under an hour of work per swaybar; we gave ourselves the better part of a day to do it, given our collective inexperience.

Part I: Front Swaybar & Endlinks


Step 1: Remove the plastic undertray. This went smoothly.

Step 2: Remove the crossmember to gain access to the swaybar. This is where the trouble started. Ten bolts, all stuck like they were glued in. Doused everything in penetrating oil, eventually got all the bolts off using a breaker bar, which we had to run out and buy (I didn't own one). I think this is where I injured my shoulder - seems like a partially torn rotator cuff. Getting the crossmember off took about three hours, including giving the oil some time to sink in, and going to the auto parts store for the breaker bar.

Step 3: Remove the swaybar. Again, every bolt was seized. Doused them all with penetrating oil, let it sit. Got the nuts off the endlinks. Got the nuts off the D-brackets. Removing the bolts from the D-brackets, one of the bolts sheared. We tried for a while to remove the end bolt from the top but access is extremely poor. Did some research, and decided to try using an easy-out in the hope we wouldn't have to drill out and re-ream the bolt hole. We finally got the brackets off, disconnected the endlinks, and got the swaybar off. At this point it was 10pm, about five hours in to our two-hour project, and we don't own an easy-out. I loaded up on NSAIDs and iced my shoulder.

The next day, went to the hardware store and picked up an easy-out, and after a lot of drilling, finally got the bolt out. At this point my wife is doing most of the work, I'm mostly providing technical advice and the occasional third hand. Despite the package's claim of "10 seconds", this took us about an hour and the better part of an 18v drill battery. We also went to the auto parts store and got a replacement bolt.

Step 4: Remove the endlinks. Surprise, these bolts were stuck too. Penetrating oil and a lot of elbow grease finally got them off. It is incredibly difficult to hold an allen wrench while you wrench a nut off, with your hand inside the wheel.

Step 5: Install the new endlinks. The Whiteline endlinks come with nuts that have a plastic piece on the front side, which you usually see in parts where they use it as a stop so you can't over-tighten the nut. In this case, however, you're supposed to torque past it, which we found after some more research. Also, those red plastic things that are in every product picture? For protection during shipping. Remove them before installing - not mentioned in the instructions.

We get them torqued down and run out of depth in the socket. My box-end wrench set only goes up to 14mm and the nuts on the Whiteline endlinks are 17mm. It's Sunday, and the shops are closed by this time. We attach both as best we can and leave it until Monday so we can run out yet again for more tools.

Monday we get a 17mm deep socket (no 17mm box-ends to be found), and get the endlinks attached. Day 3, after 5 trips for parts and tools, we've finally got new parts installed on the car.

Step 6: Install the new swaybar. Once the endlinks were on, getting the swaybar on and the first endlink attached was relatively short work. We put them on the softer of the two settings. The new bushings are grease-less, so there really wasn't much to it.

Getting the second endlink attached turned out to be an ordeal. It seemed physically impossible for the endlink to fit. We did some research online and found some people were attaching the endlink to the swaybar first, then to the chassis, so we attempted that, which worked after some finagling.

We found a service manual online for the torque specs, and torqued everything down... except the torque wrench we have is too large to use on the endlinks, so yet another trip to the auto parts store had us a new torque wrench for smaller spaces.

Step 7: Reinstall the crossmember. Just a matter of elbow grease.

Finishing up: At last, we got everything torqued down and took it for a test drive - we were going to do the front and rear at once, but at this point we were three days in and wanted to see some results. Turn-in is much improved, and the reaction to steering input is much quicker, making all that work worthwhile. Re-torqued everything after the test drive, per the instructions.

Part II: Rear Swaybar, Endlinks and Braces


We did the rear the following weekend, so my shoulder had a chance to heal and I was back to doing my fair share. The rear went far more smoothly than the front, but we did run into some small snags.

Step 1: Remove the factory swaybar. This wasn't terribly difficult, it just required some muscle and a breaker bar.

Step 2: Remove the factory endlinks. This was a little bit harder; the lower connection point in the rear crossmember was pretty well seized. A good deal of penetrating oil and muscle on the breaker bar finally got them free.

Step 3: Install the new endlinks. Because of they way they slot into the crossmember, which is a tight fit, this took some finagling; wiggling them back and forth and applying pressure got them into the proper position. We greased the new bolts and hand-tightened them, so they could still be moved side to side to make it easier to get them into the swaybar.

Step 4: Install the new swaybar. Again, greaseless bushings make this a pretty streaightforward task... until we stripped the upper bolts for the D-brackets that attach the bushings. Both of them. I'm not sure what the issue was, but both sides did the same thing - tighten, tighten, fine, then as we tried to torque them down, just as it seemed to be getting close to the proper torque setting, they suddenly got easier to turn again - and kept turning. Not spinning free like it was totally stripped, they just never got tighter.

Since the rear of the bolt is accessible, we picked up a couple of M8 bolts, put them on the back, and torqued it down to spec without issue. Then we got the endlinks attached, putting the rear on its middle setting, and torqued those down. There was also an issue with the lower bolt on the driver's side, which was inaccessible with a socket because the exhaust is in the way; this hand to be hand-torqued. We basically just torqued the bolt on the passenger side with the torque wrench, and then torqued the driver's side with a box-end wrench so it felt the same. Certainly not perfect, but the best we had available.

Step 5: Install the braces. The most difficult part was getting the lower control arm bolt off in order to attach the braces; these seemed to be torqued far tighter than the factory-specified 59 ft-lbs. It was tight enough that we couldn't do it with a breaker bar using a 1/2"-to-3/8"-drive adapter, and had to run out for a 1/2"-drive socket set. A lot of penetrating oil, patience, and torque finally got them off. We attached the braces, which connect the lower attachment point of the D-bracket to the inner attachment point of the control arm.

Finishing up: We torqued everything down and took it for a test drive; all good. The steering is solid and stable, roll is vastly reduced, turn-in is better, steering is significantly more responsive, and much more neutral, with just a hint of oversteer. We lift it back up and torque everything down again per instructions.

A week later, we torqued it all down one last time; you're supposed to do it after the first 100mi but we didn't have a chance until the next weekend with almost three times that. Most of the bolts were still set, a couple were off just a little.

Conclusion

All in all it took us much longer than it probably should have, certainly longer than we thought it would have, and required all sorts of equipment we didn't know we'd need. But the car is better for it, and we get the pride of knowing not only did we install it ourselves, but we were able to navigate a few difficulties along the way and surpass them to get the job done. Not to mention that our garage is a bit better equipped - we spent $5 on nuts and bolts and all the rest was on tools that will last and we'll use again.

We both learned a lot doing it - my wife commented on how far she had come just in terms of knowing the tools. At the start I had to occasionally explain here and there what some tool was called or what the differences between them were, but by the end she knew them all and had no trouble choosing the right socket set for the job out of what was available at the store when we founded we needed something we didn't have.

And you know what? Working on a car with your wife is pretty nice. It might have gone more smoothly and quickly if there was someone there who knew what they were doing, rather than two complete amateurs. But it was a shared experience, it was time spent together, and I can't imagine anyone I'd rather crawl around under a ton and a half of Japanese engineering with.
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