Hellwig Rear Sway Bar Installation
I bought a used 2008 FX4 and noted it had no rear sway bar, so I ordered a Hellwig rear sway bar from Summit Automotive, and installed it about a month ago. Before I installed it, I researched four Ranger sites to see what if any installation problems there may be with this bar. I found three responses and they only noted the poor instructions from Hellwig - and that the sway bar link on the drivers side to the frame was difficult to install because of the fuel tank and tank skid plate being there alongside the frame rail.
You need to look the directions and photos supplied over carefully as they don't show you much nor tell you a lot. There were no photos showing where you would find the hole in the frame to connect the swar bar link to - but as it turns out, there is only one in the area that could be correct. Instructions also are vague on how to assemble the link to the bar, but you should be able to figure that part out. There is also a separate sheet showing what washers to use and you should pay attention to it.
The Hellwig bar is a 7/8" bar and it's pretty heavy. I did the installation myself, but it would have been faster and easier if I had someone working with me. I found on my FX4 that it wasn't too difficult to align the bar on the axle side to side as you'll find that when you put the brackets on, relative to the shock mounts and brake lines, the brackets can only go in one location that can make the bar centered at all. I centered the bar in the brackets relative to each wheel by measuring from the end of the bar to each wheel. One problem I couldn't overcome thoughh was due to the shock brackets welded on the axle, was leveling the sway bar relative to the axle and/or pavement. The bar passes in front of one shock bracket and behind in the other and I kept about 1/4 clearance between the bar and the shock bracket and I could not level the bar relative to the axle. The best I could do, I'd say, is one side of the bar is about 1/4 higher than the other side.
Components: as always, check before installing. I had one of the sway bar to frame link bolts with some rolled threads and I couldn't clean them up well. As these link to frame bolts go into the frame and you have little visibilty to see whats going on, and if you install like me laying on your back and you're having to reach up there to install these, you don't want any difficulty mating nut to bolt. So I replaced this bolt with another I had on hand. The links are painted - don't even think about installing them to the bar without spending the time chasing the threads on them with a good die to clean them up. The U-bolts that go over the axle and through the brackets that bar goes through are just barely long enough to attach the nuts to. In fact I had to use a pair of vise grip pliers to close up the bracket up enough to put the flat washer on and start the nuts on. When torqued, the threads on the nuts are fully engaged - but that's it.
Also make sure and use the lubricant supplied on the all the bushings to keep them from squeeking.
The trickiest part I found was as my research indicated: getting the 3/4" nut on the bolt that runs through the link into the frame on the drivers side, as that is where the gas tank with the skid plate sits, right next to the frame rail. It would have been easy if you could get the bolt inside the frame rail and then though the link, but I could find no way to get the bolt in there with the gas tank and skid plate setting next to the frame rail and there was no way I could get any fingers in up there. Here's what I did: first I very carefully cleaned off the threads on the bolt and nut I was using and put the bolt through the link and bushing into the frame rail. There is a slot, I'd guess about 3/4 to 1 inch long and about 1/2" wide directly underneath where the bolt goes, and with a lead light on the pavement next to my head, I could see the bolt threads protrouding into the frame. There is also a fuel line in the same area almost directly opposite the bolt. So I took and put a box ratchet wrench on the bolt head on the link outside the frame, and took a screwdriver in one hand and put it in that slot and pushed the fuel line away from the bolt - and then with my other hand balanced the nut for the bolt carefully on top of a pointer magnet and very very carefully eased the nut/magnet up into the slot opposite the bolt (with the lead light I could just see the end of the threads on the bolt) - then I took out the screwdriver I was using to hold the fuel line away from the end of the bolt and let the fuel line press on the nut a bit - and then with my now free hand, slowly started to rotate the bolt with the box ratchet hoping to catch a thread on the nut - and lo and behold I managed to do it! I then ground the sides of a 3/4" end wrench down and inserted it into the slot and put on the nut and tightened the link bolt down.
The sway bar does stiffen the rear end up in curves. For example before going onto a curved entrance ramp onto an interstate, it always felt a bit understeering. Now with this rear Hellwig sway bare bar intalled, it has a more neutral to over steer feeling and it definitely gives you a more solid feel of control in curves.