I'm doing a small write up on my ZJ sway bar upgrade. First some background info: 96 Grand Cherokee Laredo ZJ with the 5.2 V8 - tow package, EMU front/rear heavy duty springs, 235/75/15 radials, 249 TC. Main use of my ZJ is - a DD and tow rig for my pop up camper and boat.
After some research on several forums, I have decided on a HellWig rear sway bar. Its the biggest available bar that bolts in without any mods at a good price. Its a 7/8" bar and made of some stronger spring steel than your stock sway. I bought this bar via amazon, and it was almost $20 cheaper than the Addco bar. Price was $150 to my door.
Here are the rear sway bars side to side for comparison. The stock rear sway bar is a hair under 5/8" in diameter. The new Hellwig measured to 7/8" in diameter. It has a interesting wrinkle finish, not sure if its powder coated or not. Its a graphite silver/black color. The new bar comes with new D bushings and u-mounts(no new bolts for this), new end link bushings and hardware, some lube for the bushings.
Heres the new bar in with the new end link hardware.
Bar with the finish(some puddle water on it after a test drive).
The results: A short test drive after the install with the stock front bar on. Body roll was non existent in the back, and seemed like the front body roll has increased. Some quick swerving, the rear really tightened up, not sure, but felt like the rear was skidding a bit. I coulda sworn this bar lifted the rear of my Jeep a tad bit ! Perhaps there was some torsion pressure pushing downward on the rear axle from the unibody after I tightened it all up. I just Did new EMU springs front and rear, and the front was a little bit higher than the rear, and now it seemed to level out a bit more. The end link hardware is at a slight angle, and I feel that this might cause premature wear to the end link bushings. Hopefully it'll last a good while, and not start clunking.
Now I had plan a head a little bit, and had a front sway bar upgrade to do to match the rear upgrade. This rear sway bar alone will SUCK as driving characteristics is very much out of balance. I didnt know this ahead of time, but I was glad I got the front bar in the next day...
For the front I have decided on a Stock WJ bar(99-04). This bar is stock on the WJ GC's, size is 1.25" in diameter. The stock ZJ front bar is 1.0". I had considered other aftermarket bars Addco was the only other one I really could find in a decent price range, and it is smaller than the WJ bar. There was 2 main reason that swayed me over to using the WJ bar, they are: The style of end links that the WJ uses. And the price. WJ uses a far superior end link type, that you can visually see the massive improvement in design by just looking at them. Price was almost free comparing the Addco new price.
Ok, time for a pic: WJ bar with end links. I got it for $30 at the local Junk yard, pulled. It was a good deal for me as I didnt have time to go pull it, or wanted to brave the weather. Dont forget the U mount brackets as they are larger for the WJ bar.
WJ vs the stock bar. 1.25" vs 1.0"
End links installed. They bolt right up without any problems.
Heres where it gets difficult. The WJ bar is not a direct bolt in. It requires some modifications and has a flaw that you may not like. The Sway bar mounts will not go in the ZJ stock location.. it will need to be moved back(towards the front end). Thanks to another thread I learned about this mod and how to do it.. but heres How I did it. You use one of the mounting bolt hole for the stock sway bar, and one mounting bolt hole for your front lower tiebar(radiator craddle or whatever you call it).
The above pic is sideways.. but if you look, the sway bar u mount is sandwiched between the unibody rail and lower tie bar(radiator bracket). I dropped the tie bar enough to wedge the u mount in between and tightened everything up. I decided to do it this way instead of going on top of the tie bar because I wanted the bushing to be mounted flush to the unibody rail. In addition to making this fit, the WJ u mounts will need to be shaved down to fit. I used my grinder to do this, and it was not that much grinding required. It needed to be narrowed on one side, and some clearance at the bend of the u mount. Very simple and easy. I doubt it weakened the mount much at all since it is pretty beefy already.
The above pic shows where I grinded the mount. Material was taken away at the front inside mounting flange, and at the front bend to clear the radiator tie bar. It all lined up after wards without any problems.
Now for the flaw I mentioned. The WJ bar makes contact to your lower radiator hose. It pushes it up some, maybe about 1/4-1/2". The hose looked to oval out some and did not kink to any point. I also want to note here that I have a aftermarket all aluminum replacement radiator in there. Also, a replacement radiator hose, that I had to shorten to fit properly to the radiator at this inlet. So your results may vary.
The results: Amazing improvement over stock !!! I now can haul *** though turns with this high COG aerodynamic brick on over sized tires !!! The handling gives this rig "a not so soccery mommy feel". Just dont hurt your kids when you whip around that turn.
Overall for less than $200, this was a great upgrade for me. Handing is great, very balanced for these 2 bars. I cant tell if it has more over steer or under steer, etc. Its great, dose not feel funny.
After the install, a couple thoughts:
I want to correct the front sway bar contact to the radiator hose. I am considering making a mounting plate to lower the bar and clear the hose.
I am wondering if I should stick with my current tire size as It handles well, or if going to 31" would not make much difference. Also I was planning on a more aggressive tread, which may not provide adequate traction control if I develop the habit of taking turns hard.
Will my MPG increase ? I'll make less accelerations now as I wont slow down as much for turns.