The sway bar is a critical component of a truck’s suspension system. Its purpose is to keep the truck’s body from rolling or swaying while turning. Most of today’s pickup trucks come with a factory front sway bar only—our truck was no different—but a rear sway bar is also needed for better stability. This is especially true when hauling a truck camper because the camper’s weight and high center of gravity magnifies sway even more. Without a doubt, one of the best sway bars to control this potentially dangerous condition is the Hellwig Big Wig. This is a Review of the Hellwig Big Wig Sway Bar.
Hellwig Products, based out of Visalia, California, has a high reputation for producing quality suspension products and the reputation well deserved. As the name implies, the Big Wig is big and heavy, 45 pounds to be exact. It’s made of heat treated, 4140 chromoly steel which, according to Hellwig, has a fatigue strength that is 50 percent stronger than non-heat treated regular steel bars. The diameter of the Big Wig is a beefy 1-5/16 inches and is powder coated with an attractive dark gray, hammer-tone paint. All Hellwig products are American-made and come with a lifetime warranty. The company manufactures front and rear Big Wig sway bar kits for heavy duty trucks made by Ford, GM, and Ram. For our 2013 Ram 3500 4×4 truck with the 6.7L Cummins diesel, we purchased Big Wig Rear Sway Bar kit 7293. Not including shipping and tax, the cost was $291 through Amazon.com, which was the best price we could find on the Internet.
Big Wig Installation
Overall, the installation of the Big Wig Rear Sway Bar was fairly easy and straightforward. For the most part, the installation instructions were well-written and easy to understand though some steps weren’t explained very well and a few steps even appeared to be superfluous (more about these below). Overall, the install took about three hours, including the time it took to remove the spare tire and reinstall it after the Big Wig installation was complete. We should mention that removing the spare tire is important for this install. Doing so gives you much more elbow room underneath and made the installation far more pleasant than other sway bar installations in the past.
A few items in the directions are worth reiterating. First, the saddle brackets must be installed on the axle with one leg over the raised lip on the cast iron center section. If you don’t do this, the bar won’t fit properly and you’ll encroach upon the brake lines. Second, the instructions state that you should hand tighten or loosely install the sway bar until the end so that adjustments can be made to the overall fit. This is important as you will most likely require some fine tuning to ensure all pieces and parts fit together well and that you have enough clearance between the exhaust pipe and driver side shock absorber (we had only 1 inch between each).
Like any job, having the right tools will make the install go much quicker and easier. You’ll need a pair of socket wrenches with a 3/4-inch standard socket, a 7/16-inch standard socket, a 3/4-inch deep socket, and a torque wrench. A 10-inch extension for the socket wrench is also recommended during the installation of the passenger side clevis plate. You’ll also need a flat bladed screw driver to pry open the brake line clips, a hammer to install the metal spacer tubes, and a rubber mallet to adjust the position of the sway bar before everything is tightened up. A crescent wrench will also be needed to tighten the bolts on the threaded portion of the end links. Lastly, a torque wrench is required to tighten all nuts to the specified foot-pound ratings: 60 foot pounds for the axle U-bolts, 50 foot pounds for the frame mounted U-bolts, and 35 foot pounds for the end link clevis bolts.
Now let’s delve into those instructions issues we mentioned earlier. Step 10 of the instructions simply states to, “lubricate outside and install hourglass bushing and spacer tubes into the sleeve in end link,” but nowhere in the instructions does it explain how to do this. There’s a technique used to install both and we had to find a YouTube video on how to do this. First, you apply a small amount of grease to one end of the hourglass bushing then the sleeve of the end link is pressed down into the bushing using the palm of your hand. Once the bushing is in place, then you can install the metal spacer tube using a small amount of grease on one end. To install the spacer tube in the bushing, lightly hammer it into place. Do NOT install the spacer tube into the hourglass bushing first or you won’t be able to install it in the sleeve. We found out the hard way that this approach doesn’t work. We also recommend performing this step first before getting underneath the truck for the main install.
The remaining issues with the instructions were less egregious, but still wasted valuable installation time. Step 7 calls for the removal of two small screws that secure the spare tire heat shield to the truck’s frame rail. These do NOT need to be removed on a 2013 Ram 3500, and least that was the case for my truck. Similarly, Steps 12 and 13, which calls for drilling and mounting an offset support bracket for the heat shield as part of the passenger side clevis installation, can simply be ignored as we had plenty of room to install the frame mounted U-bolts and clevis plate. Lastly, Step 14 requires that a jam nut be installed on the driver’s side end link. The directions require that this nut be installed on the driver’s side only. Why isn’t there one for the passenger side, too? The directions don’t say. If anyone knows the answer, we’d love to know.
How the Big Wig Performs
Hellwig’s website claims that the Big Wig will “improve stability more than 20 percent” and will provide, “better cornering, traction, and handling.” Is this true? We think so. It’s amazing how much better the truck handles corners and winding mountain passes now. The “tipping” sensation is almost completely gone with the rear sway bar installed. Indeed, the improvement in handling was so dramatic that even the wife noticed the difference and she was very skeptical when we first ordered this product. Are there any negatives with this sway bar? Just two, and they are pretty minor. The fit around our spare tire is much tighter now. We had to adjust the tire a few times for it to winch up in the right location. The other, which applies to all sway bars, is that the sway bar will hinder off-road axle articulation. We simply disconnect one of the end link bolts to disengage it before we go off-roading.
The Hellwig Big Wig Rear Sway Bar is a quality product that delivers “big” on its promise to reduce sway and roll. How much? That’s difficult for us to quantify, but it’s certainly larger than 20 percent claimed and that makes the Big Wig well worth it in our book. Still not convinced? Try doing 50 arm curls with this 45-pound sway bar before you install it and you’ll really come to appreciate how well its constructed. Is the $300 price tag of the Hellwig Big Wig Sway Bar is worth it? That’s up to you to decide, but if you’re driving a $60,000 truck and hauling either a $50,000 truck camper or a pulling an $80,000 fifth wheel, will $300 really be that much of a hit to your wallet if it improves handling and control? We don’t think so. When it comes to driving safety, we think it’s worth it. So what would we rate the Hellwig Big Wig Rear Sway Bar? On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, we enthusiastically give it a rating of 5 stars. It’s a winner.