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Front Stabilizer Link Replacement
In a 2012 Dodge Caravan and a 2015 Jeep® Renegade
The front stabilizer link has the important task of optimizing the exchange of forces between the suspension and chassis and efficiently filtering out vibrations, which improves ride quality. If the link wears, ride quality can suffer as well as steering response.
Refer to Figure 1. This is an illustration of a typical McPherson-style front suspension. A strut ⑤ is connected to the steering knuckle ④ and a coil spring ⑥ is mounted on top of the strut. There is also a lower control arm② that is attached to the steering knuckle at a lower mounting point. A stabilizer, or anti-sway, bar ① is attached to each strut by means of a stabilizer link ③. Two stabilizer bar bushings ⑦ hold the bar in place.
When the wheel/tire assembly encounters an irregularity (bump/pothole) in the road, it moves up or down, depending on the road condition. The strut and coil spring control the deflection of the wheel/tire assembly. The stabilizer bar connects the two struts and stabilizes (thus the name of the bar) the overall movement of the front end. This allows for better control of the vehicle. When the vehicle goes through a turn, the vehicle leans in the direction of the turn. The stabilizer, or anti-sway (the secondary name of the bar) bar controls the amount of lean or sway of the vehicle.
This stabilizer, or anti-sway, bar is actually a long spring. When the front wheel/tire assemblies move up-and-down and right-to-left, this bar twists, providing resistance to this movement. If the driver wants more control and less sway (typically found in a sport suspension package), the diameter of the bar is increased. The tradeoff for this increased control is a harsher ride.
The key to the functionality of the stabilizer bar is the stabilizer link that connects each end of the bar to each strut. Each end of the stabilizer has a ball-and-socket assembly enabling the link to essentially twist as the struts move and the bar twists. If the link was bolted directly to the struts and bar ends (no ball-and-socket assembly), the mounting stud would break whenever there was any suspension movement.
As you might think, the ball-and-socket assembly does wear out over time; however, these assemblies are usually lubricated-for-life designs which cannot be lubricated. That is the case with our two subject vehicles, the 2015 Jeep® Renegade and the 2012 Dodge Caravan. As a matter of fact, all minivans, going back to the original NS platform in 1996 through the 2021 RT platform, use lubricated-for-life ball-and-socket assemblies. A clunking noise in the front suspension when traveling over bumpy roads might be an indication that the assembly is worn and has reached the end of its service life. It is also important to check the stabilizer bar bushings as those components that secure the bar to the subframe can deteriorate.
A New Design
On both the minivans and the Jeep Renegade, a decision was made to upgrade the design of the stabilizer link. Refer to Figure 2. Shown are the original design and the revised design for the Renegade. The differences in the two designs can be clearly seen. The original design is a thick, composite material unit; whereas the revised design is a slim, metal component.
The ball-and-socket assembly is encapsulated in a steel housing in the revised design which improves the service life of the assembly. In addition, the steel rod connecting the two assemblies provides greater overall strength. The net result of the revised design is greater service life and stabilizer link performance. Note that the revised design is also lubricated-for-life.
The minivans also used a composite material design for its stabilizer links. And, for many of the same reasons, that link was replaced with a new metal design (see Figure 3). This component is a couple of inches longer than the Renegade piece, but it, too, is lubricated-for-life.
A bad stabilizer link will make a clunking noise when driving over uneven surfaces. To verify that the link is bad, with the vehicle on the ground, or, preferably on a lift rack, grab the link and see if you twist it. If you can easily twist it, the component is bad.
Replacing Stabilizer Links
Let’s review removal and installation procedures for the stabilizer links on a 2015 Jeep® Renegade. Raise and support the vehicle, then remove the wheel/tire assembly on each side of the vehicle.
Note: It is strongly recommended that if the stabilizer link on one side of the vehicle is replaced, the link on the opposite side should be replaced, too.
Remove the nut on the stabilizer link connection at the stabilizer bar. Separate the link bolt from the end of the stabilizer bar. Next, remove the nut from the stabilizer link at the front strut and separate the link bolt from the strut. Now the link can be removed from the vehicle.
To install the new stabilizer link, insert one end of the link into the mounting gusset on the strut. Thread the nut onto the link bolt and torque the nut to 59 ft.-lbs. Next, install the other end of the stabilizer link into the opening on the end of the stabilizer bar. Next, thread the nut onto the link bolt and torque the nut to 59 ft.-lbs.
The replacement procedures for the Dodge Caravan are very similar to those for the Jeep® Renegade. The main difference is that the steel design has a flat at the base of the stud. Place a separate wrench on that flat to prevent the ball stud from rotating when tightening the nut. Also, the tightening torque for the link nuts is 65 ft.-lbs.
Replacing the Stabilizer Bushings
When replacing stabilizer links, it’s always a good idea to inspect the stabilizer bar bushings. If the bushings are bad, they must be replaced. Remember, worn stabilizer links do not necessarily indicate the stabilizer bar bushings are bad.
In order to replace the stabilizer bar bushings, the bar must be removed. This requires that the front crossmember be removed. This procedure can be very involved and the required steps vary depending on the engine installed in the Jeep Renegade. Refer to the appropriate service manual.
Regardless of the vehicle on which the stabilizer bar bushings are being replaced (Jeep Renegade or Dodge Caravan), the bushings are replaced by opening the slit on the bushings and peeling them off the stabilizer bar. Install new bushings on the stabilizer bar, by spreading bushing at the slit and forcing them on the stabilizer bar.
Note: Bushings must be installed on the stabilizer bar so slit in bushing will be facing toward the rear of the vehicle when the stabilizer is installed.