*photos by: the author
You can have the best looking, most powerful car on the street. But it’s all for naught if your car can’t handle any better than a school bus in the turns. Keeping the most amount of rubber planted to the road’s surface is critical to good handling, along with making sure the car’s weight is balanced appropriately front to rear and side to side when going through a turn. Sway bars are a big factor in controlling these two things. In a turn if your car becomes unbalanced, and the weigh and horsepower overload one particular wheel/tire, your vehicle will never hold a tight turn.
Hellwig Products has been in business for 65 years, specializing in load and sway control products for a variety of performance and industrial applications. Check out Hellwig Products’s website, to see everything they offer. We talked to Ben Knaus, Director of Engineering for Hellwig Products, to find out what the benefits were exactly for going to larger aftermarket sway bars.
“The most obvious advantage is the larger diameter, and therefore stiffer rate, than the factory bars to lessen body roll and improve cornering performance. Besides that, the bars are adjustable, thanks to the multiple holes in the end of the sway bar. By changing which hole you bolt the end link to, it lengthens or shortens the sway bar’s arms, therefore the lever arm and the rate of the bar.”
“The longer the arm, the softer the bar behaves. This is very popular since different drivers like to set up their cars differently.” – Ben Knaus
He continued, “The longer the arm, the softer the bar behaves. This is very popular since different drivers like to set up their cars differently. Some will even use this feature to change the sway bar rates between the settings for daily driving, track driving, or even between different tracks. Also, there are other benefits such as high the quality powdercoat on all of our sway bars, and heavy duty polyurethane bushings. Besides diameter, the actual shape of a sway bar can also be critical to its performance,” Ben explained this to us.
“Shape is extremely critical to a sway bar’s performance. Most people only compare material diameters, but arm length, shoulder widths, angle of the arms, etc. all affect the rate of the sway bar. A 1-inch diameter sway bar with 9-inch arms will be totally different than a 1-inch diameter sway bar with 4.5-inch arms. The same goes for a 1-inch diameter bar with 6-inch arms, but if one is 46-inches wide and the other is 24-inches wide, they will have entirely different rates.”
“Shape is extremely critical to a sway bar’s performance. Most people only compare material diameters, but arm length, shoulder widths, angle of the arms, etc. all affect the rate of the sway bar.” -Ben Knaus
Our subject car in this story, a 2001 base C5 coupe equipped with a cammed up LS1 and automatic trans, is definitely a fun driver on any day, but we noticed that in hard turns you could feel the factory sway bars being pushed to their limits under certain conditions. So, to improve our C5’s handling, we grabbed a set of Hellwig Products bars, bolted them on in less than an hour, then hit the road to see what a difference they made.
Patrick Hill has grown up around the automotive aftermarket, and carries a lifelong passion for performance, racing and automotive nostalgia that spans from the Tri-Five era to the current modern performance market.