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If you have a phantom rattle in the front or rear of your P2 Volvo (V/XC70, S60, S80) that you can't pin down, it's possible that your sway bar bushings are on their way out. While most manufacturers typically use a sway bar setup comprised of separate components, Volvo designed a single assembly that encompasses the bar, mounting bushings, and 2-part metal bushing brackets.

The bushings are vulcanized directly onto the bar and the problem arises when, either through age or altered ride height, the bushings tear away from the bar and become dislocated. They then rotate much like normal rubber bushings but at some point they can no longer isolate the bar from the rest of the car, producing a rattle.

According to Volvo, you need to replace the entire bar assembly to get rid of the rattle. The rear sway bar retails for $175 (or more), plus there's the labor charge to put the bar in. In the case of the rear bar, service requires the removal of one rear coil-over and the dropping of the rear exhaust (total 2-3 hours according to some folks' experience); the front bar requires that you drop the rear of the front subframe. In both the front and the rear, the stock bushing bracket locations are accessible without major work so it would make better sense to devise a method to just replace the bushings without removing the whole bars from the car. Each bushing (two total for each bar) is held in place by a bushing bracket with one or two bolts and, as expected, the cost of the bushings is far less expensive than buying entirely new sway bars.

Using the rear bar as an example, the first step is to try and find a bushing that will fit as Volvo does not list these separately in their parts catalogue. My 2002 XC has a 14mm rear bar, which I believe is standard throughout the 2001-07 XC model years. A search for cars with 14mm bars found Acuras, Hondas, Mazdas, and Toyotas, none of which had a bushing design that was comparable to Volvo's. A BMW 540i bushing has exactly the same design as what Volvo uses but the overall size of the bushing is slightly smaller than Volvos and therefore would not fit the stock bracket properly. To their credit, Volvo seems to use a fairly beefy bushing for such a small bar.

I finally went with a 13mm poly bushing from Energy Suspensions (Part Number 9.5102 for non-greaseable set, 9.5152 for greaseable). I chose this smaller bushing to compensate for the wear on my bar. Preferably, you should use a micrometer or caliper to check for the actual diameter of the bar in question and, if necessary, go with a slightly smaller bushing as I did. In my example, the bushing is also a bit larger in overall size than the stock bushing, but close enough that a slight modification to reduce its height will make installation much easier. This photo shows one bushing and bracket combo right out of the box.

Volvo-Sway-bar-bushings-bracket

To begin the installation of the new bushings, I unbolted both mounting brackets for the rear bar after driving the rear of the car up on ramps. No matter how you elevate the car, you need to load the car evenly side-to-side to unload the sway bar and to eliminate any force that might be applied to the mounting bushings. There is no need to remove the rear wheels; in fact, the only parts you need to unbolt are the bushing brackets themselves (total of two bolts). The brackets consist of two pieces that are U-shaped with one smaller piece nested into a larger piece with the whole thing encircling the bushing and mounted with a single bolt through a boss in the rear subframe.

Once unbolted, twist the bracket/bushing assembly around so that the open end of the “U” is pointing down. Tap a flat-bladed screwdriver into the joint between the two pieces. By twisting the blade you can pop the bracket apart and remove it from the bar assembly.

Volvo-Sway-bar-bushings-bracket     Volvo-Sway-bar-bushings-bracket

At this stage, you can simply cut away the old bushing. You may want to clean the bar of any rust, scale, or flaking paint and do a bit of paint touch-up. Doing so will make it easier to press the bushing into place.

The Energy Suspensions bushing set comes with two bushing and two brackets that are shaped something like the Greek omega (Ω). By bending the bracket into a U-shape, you can use this bracket to replace the larger "outer" stock bracket.

     Volvo-Sway-bar-bushings-bracket

You will also need to slightly file open the bracket's mounting holes with a rat-tail file to size them to the stock mounting bolt. Additionally, the poly bushing is just a bit taller than the stock bushing, not allowing the stock “outer” bracket to properly “nest” with the "inner" bracket. I used my bench grinder to remove about 1/8" of the bushing height from the flat mounting side of the bushing. The poly used is dense enough that a fine grain wheel actually works fairly well to make this slight "adjustment". Here, you can see the nearly finished replacement bushing.

Volvo-Sway-bar-bushings-bracket

I liberally applied the poly-grease on the bar where the bushing would go to aid in its installation. Surprisingly, this is actually the hardest part of the whole service as you need to pry the bushing open enough to get it on the bar. This can be a bit difficult due to the stiffness of the poly bushing and the tight clearance onto the bar. A large flat-bladed screwdriver inserted into the “cut” in the bushing and a 90 degree twist of the blade should open it enough to allow the bushing to start onto the bar. Plenty of grease also helps. With the bushing mounted on the bar, you simply place the smaller, lower bracket into position between the bushing and the subframe and the larger bracket over the whole thing. Retain with the stock bolt and off you go! Hopefully, you'll never need to replace these bushings again.

Total time involved was about 1.5 hours; however, all but 20 minutes of that was working out how to do the first one. The second bushing was much easier to install and if I had had instructions similar to these to start with, the total job would not have taken more than an hour.

Is this job worth it? In my opinion, the ability to breakdown a hard-to-replace assembly into a more easily replaced and cheaper set of alternative components nearly always makes sense to the DIYer. In the case of replacing stock sway bushing with poly, you also get a slight improvement in cornering feel.

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Written by :
Uilleam Ross

Uilleam (Bill) Ross is a 60 year-old retired 30-year veteran of the IT industry and a 45-year car guy. Living in Western Head, Nova Scotia, he now indulges his passions for landscape photography and cars, principally Volvo’s and Land Rovers.


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