Roll Control – Hellwig Products C5 Corvette Sway Bar Upgrade

Hellwig C5 Corvette Sway Bar Upgrade 13

*photos by: the author

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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.

Removing the factory sway bars is easy, whether the car is on a lift or jacked up on stands. First, disconnect the sway bar ends from the connecting rods from the control arms.

Removing the factory sway bars is easy, whether the car is on a lift or jacked up on stands. First, disconnect the sway bar ends from the connecting rods from the control arms.

Next, unbolt the mounting backets on the frame.
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Next, unbolt the mounting backets on the frame.

Hellwig C5 Corvette Sway Bar Upgrade 04 copy

After that, the bar comes right out.

Here’s a comparison between the new Hellwig Products front sway bar and the factory unit. Notice the dramatic increase in diameter, overall shorter length and different shape. Increasing a sway bar’s diameter makes the bar stiffer with more roll rate/roll resistance. Understeer/oversteer characteristics and lateral weight transfer when cornering are also changed.

Here’s a comparison between the new Hellwig Products front sway bar and the factory unit. Notice the dramatic increase in diameter, overall shorter length and different shape. Increasing a sway bar’s diameter makes the bar stiffer with more roll rate/roll resistance. Understeer/oversteer characteristics and lateral weight transfer when cornering are also changed.

Here you see the Hellwig Products (top), stock (center), and factory C5 Z06 (bottom) sway bars compared. While the Z06 bar is almost the same diameter as the Hellwig Products bar, it is also a bit longer and doesn’t have the multiple mounting holes like the Hellwig Products bar, so it is non adjustable. Hellwig Products’ Ben Knaus explains further “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, Hellwig Products’ bars are adjustable, thanks to because multiple mounting 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 acts. This is very popular, since different drivers like to set up their cars differently, and some will even use this feature to change the sway bar rates between the setting for daily driving, track driving, or even between different tracks. Also, there are other benefits such as high quality powdercoat, and heavy duty polyurethane bushings.”

Here you see the Hellwig Products (top), stock (center), and factory C5 Z06 (bottom) sway bars compared. While the Z06 bar is almost the same diameter as the Hellwig Products bar, it is also a bit longer and doesn’t have the multiple mounting holes like the Hellwig Products bar, so it is non adjustable. Hellwig Products’ Ben Knaus explains further “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, Hellwig Products’ bars are adjustable, thanks to because multiple mounting 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 acts. This is very popular, since different drivers like to set up their cars differently, and some will even use this feature to change the sway bar rates between the setting for daily driving, track driving, or even between different tracks. Also, there are other benefits such as high quality powdercoat, and heavy duty polyurethane bushings.”

Included with the Hellwig Products sway bars are new polyurethane mounting bushings. They have superior durability to the factory rubber bushings, along with increased durometer so the function of the sway bars isn’t affected by soft bushings that allow the bar to move while under load. To install the new bushings on the sway bar, first apply some of the included grease to the bushings can slip easily onto the bar. More importantly the grease prevents the polyurethane bushings from squeaking as the bar actuates under load.

Included with the Hellwig Products sway bars are new polyurethane mounting bushings. They have superior durability to the factory rubber bushings, along with increased durometer so the function of the sway bars isn’t affected by soft bushings that allow the bar to move while under load. To install the new bushings on the sway bar, first apply some of the included grease to the bushings can slip easily onto the bar. More importantly the grease prevents the polyurethane bushings from squeaking as the bar actuates under load.

The new bar is installed using the factory mounting brackets.

The new bar is installed using the factory mounting brackets.

Then is it bolted to the factory connecting rods from the control arms. We used the innermost holes on our new Hellwig Products bar, giving us the most anti-sway setting.

Then is it bolted to the factory connecting rods from the control arms. We used the innermost holes on our new Hellwig Products bar, giving us the most anti-sway setting.

For the rear sway bar, the removal and installation procedure is identical to the front.

For the rear sway bar, the removal and installation procedure is identical to the front.

Here’s how things look in the back with the new Hellwig Products bar fully installed. Besides offering improved handling, the tubular design of the Hellwig Products sway bars also makes them lighter than the factory units, while offering adjustability so the front and rear suspension can be easily tuned for different track/autocross course conditions, along with tuning for street driving.

Here’s how things look in the back with the new Hellwig Products bar fully installed. Besides offering improved handling, the tubular design of the Hellwig Products sway bars also makes them lighter than the factory units…

On the post install road test, we found a good, sharp curve we could take with some speed to try out the new Hellwig sway bars. The first run into the turn we instantly noticed an amazing difference. The Corvette felt much more sure footed, and we noticed the steering was more responsive, with the oversteer/understeer tendencies of the car greatly improved. Additionally, the C5 felt more stable, even when taking the turn at more “enthusiastic” speeds!

…while offering adjustability so the front and rear suspension can be easily tuned for different track/autocross course conditions, along with tuning for street driving.

Hellwig C5 Corvette Sway Bar Upgrade 13 copy

On the post install road test, we found a good, sharp curve we could take with some speed to try out the new Hellwig sway bars. The first run into the turn we instantly noticed an amazing difference.

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The Corvette felt much more sure footed, and we noticed the steering was more responsive, with the oversteer/understeer tendencies of the car greatly improved. Additionally, the C5 felt more stable, even when taking the turn at more “enthusiastic” speeds!

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  1. GM EFI Magazine 19 April, 2017 at 16:00 Reply

    […] we’ve typically seen from other Hellwig products. For further proof, you can check out our C5 Corvette install and the results we’ve obtained from our sister title, Timeless Muscle Magazine. In […]

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