2002 Toyota Camry LE --- SWAY BAR BUSHINGS worn out! Metallic thump happen'n

My '02 Camry LE 4-cylinder has 95k miles (I expect to get 300k out’a this thing like I did with my '93 Camry, so the night is young). Slowly over time, the car developed this maddening, ever-worsening metallic-like thump, somewhere in the front suspension, which became louder and yet louder over time, audible when you go over routine bumps in the road. My first best guess: front strut mounts. I replaced the front struts and mounts, which resulted in nicer ride (yes, they were due anyway), but still that nagging metallic clunking. Next logical suspect, sway bar links. Removed one sway bar LINK to inspect it, but the sway bar LINK was okay, tight.

Then, while I had the sway bar link removed, I wiggled the big sway bar itself… BAM! Sombase swaybar was slappin around lucy goosey inside the severely worn sway bar bushings. The bar was moving up and down half an inch!.. so therein lies the problem. Why in heck these bushings wearing out so soon I ask. I’m not driving off-road or any such’a thing! Inferior bushing material maybe… was Tyoter cutting corners with bushings back in '02 ? These boy’s make one helluva reliable road machine, but that noise… I couldn’t take it no more. The split replacement bushings (there are two required) are reasonable enough at about $30 for the pair, but you must REMOVE FRONT SUSPENSION MEMBER DYNAMIC DAMPER to get to 'em. A full Saturday afternoon project no doubt.

So, the take away from this is that… you must remove one (or possibly both) sway bar links to inspect for worn sway bar BUSHINGS, cause you can’t see 'em, and the whole assembly is TOO TIGHT to feel any slop… until you remove a Sw.B. link or two.

Congratulations. You’ve just stumbled upon perhaps the single most common source of thunking in aging cars, the bushings that hold the sway bar to the unibody (or chassis for vehicles with frames). Every time a wheel on either end moves, the bar twists in the rubber bushing hole. And the holes can grow greatly.

By the way, you WILL hear the thunking if you get under the car and shake the bar vigorously.

Oh, and a tip: when you put the new busings in, lube them. They may or may not come with a little tube of silicone grease, and if they don’t regular axle grease will work great too. White lithium grease would probably work well too.

Great info and tips. thanks!

I’ve think I recall hearing the experts here say polyurethane is the preferred choice for replacement suspension bushings.

Cool…The OP posted his problem AND his solution. I believe this MIGHT BE A FIRST!!!


Why in heck these bushings wearing out so soon I ask. I’m not driving off-road or any such’a thing! Inferior bushing material maybe…


I dunno, 13+ years for a rubber bushing doesn’t seem bad. The rubber is sitting there getting old and rotten whether you drive the car or not.

I agree. Thirteen years is not at all premature.

Even if you never do off roading, as you drive your tires are each constantly going up and down, and every time one does it twists the metal sway bar inside the hole in the bushing. That causes the rubber to wear away, which when added to normal shrinkage makes the hole bigger.

There are replacement bushings made of nylon designed to improve handling that might hold up a bit better, but they’ll also dampen less road noise and stiffen the ride just a tad. I would not recommend them to anyone but a kid doing autocross on weekends. Kids aren’t sensitive to bumpier rides and road noise.

I've think I recall hearing the experts here say polyurethane is the preferred choice for replacement suspension bushings.

Depends on what you want/can put up with. Poly bushings are going to transmit more vibration and noise. The noise factor won’t be a huge deal on suspension bushings (but avoid poly engine mount bushings if you don’t like a loud cabin). As with everything automotive related, it’s a tradeoff. You get better handling, but there will be some drawbacks that you might not like.

It might be poly rather than nylon that I was thinking of. The ol’ brain doesn’t work as well as it used to.
Shadow’s points are all true and well defined.

The original bushings lasted 13 years. Replacing them with the same bushings should give another 13 years. Why replace with anything else and end up with noise or harsh ride? Is the car going to be on the road for more than 26 years?

One reason is cost. Poly bushings often cost much less. I replaced my MR2’s engine mount bushings with poly for $84. It would have been more than double to get the OEM ones even going through RockAuto, mainly because they’re out of the rear ones which would have forced me to get it from somewhere more expensive. Even if they’d had it, the front engine mount came in at $50-something so I doubt I’d have gotten both as cheap as I got the poly inserts.

It worked for me because I like the additional response I get from a less flexible engine mount, and since it’s a weekend toy I don’t mind the noise.

@asemaster, I’m still driving my 27 year old '88 Toyota. It may just last that long. And, I agree with @shadowfax 's comment. The poly end links with steel shafts I bought for my Ford were cheaper and better than the rubber and plastic replacements at both Ford and Autozone.

The worn out struts is what took out the sway bar bushings.

If the worn struts can’t dampen the oscillation of the of the strut springs, the rest of the steering and suspension components take a beating from this. And the sway bar bushings are components that take this beating.

To check for worn sway bar bushings, you take a pry bar and place it in between the sway bar and the structure where the bushings mount. Then pry on the sway bar to see if there’s any lateral movement.

When you start hearing the same noise from the rear of the vehicle, you’ll know it’s time to replace the rear struts and sway bar bushings.


I finally replaced the worn front sway bar bushings on that '02 Camry LE, mentioned in my prev post. I found the job to be a bit of a challenge, but satisfying 'cause it fixed that annoying rattle-thumping. You will spend some time down under on your creeper, but it’s do-able for an 'ol general handyman/curious tinkerer (me). If you’re not interested in the finer points, you can stop reading here.

I seem to remember someone posting (somewhere?) asking how to do this job. Amazingly, the Toyota repair manual doesn’t offer much detail here. So, for anyone looking to make this repair, here are a few tips while it’s fresh in my mind… because the mind does wander. Unlike the rear wheel sway bar bushings, which are out in the open and a piece’o cake, the fronts are buried on top of a frame crossmember, and the bolts, of course, were royally rusted solid (I’m in Mass, where salt definetly eats cars). A cheap MAPP gas torch did the deed, but the rust was so bad I had to get those nuts glowing red. I would not have tried this with regular propane; not hot enough. The burning rubber got the wife’s attention, “You’re filling the house with smoke you lame-brain geezer, stop it!”

“Ah, fer xxxxssake…open some windows you ditzy moonbat.”

Hey, after 35 years you do what you can to those keep lines of communication open,.

Anyway, man, such a tight space. You’ll have to remove one end of each sway bar LINK to loosen and move the bar so you can get your hands up in there. Remove the air cleaner and its attachments, so you have room to get your 3/8 drive/12mm socket, universal, and 3-feet of ratchet extensions down to the forward bushing U-bracket BOLT whilst up top leaning over the engine. This long socket set up is particularly helpful when re-installing because the new bushing will be very tight around the bar, which forces the bracket to lift up – you can apply considerable downforce force in order to close the gap and get the bolt into hole, and then ratchet it home.

The rear bushing bracket BOLT has to be dealt with from down under, and you won’t get much travel on your open-end wrench… very tight quarters. That bolt is a slow go. I couldn’t get a gear wrench in there either. I re-assembled with a liberal amont of synthetic brake grease on the new bushings, inside and out. This grease is thick, and the label says safe for rubber. I was able to clean the threads, apply antiseize, and re-use the 4 bolts.

The end result certainly made my day – peace and quiet. Well worth the effort and savings.

Do you mind sharing what brand strut mounts and struts you used. I have read a lot about aftermarket mounts not being good. I have an 05 that is probably due for new suspension work due to a clunky rear.

KYB is the primary OEM to Toyota for their struts & mounts.
Here’s a link to a good source.

Camry bushings are cheap. looks like about $13 the pair at Rockauto.

NAPA’s ‘premium’ quickstruts (included new springs), Monroe’s I think. $165 per quickstrut. Of course, you can easily get the spring compressor tool to remove and reinstall the old springs (carefully), which I would agree would probably be fine too. Different strokes.

I tend to disagree with almost the entire previous statements

Assembled quickstruts are definitely the way to go on an older car

Monroe struts are very mediocre, and that’s being nice

“remove and reinstall the old springs . . .”

And presumably reuse the old strut mounts, also ?

A penny wise . . .

No disrespect intended to anybody

But sometimes, going to a lot of trouble to save a few bucks is not worth it in the long run


Definetly use NEW strut mounts, no question there. I prefer to install struts w/new springs (quickstruts), but for those on tight budgets, hey, you do what you have to.