Are Traction Bars Worth It For Your Truck Build?
April 14, 2022
When it comes to your truck, traction is the name of the game. After all, it's kind of important if you're looking to maybe start, or stop, or turn, or move your vehicle in any direction in any situation. Guys up north know just how important traction is because, well, if you don't have the right set of wheels and tires when it gets snowy, there's not a lot of movement that happens.
We're not here to talk about snow and ice and tires and wheels at all today, nor the seasonal depression that comes with winter. We're talking about arguably one of the biggest and best upgrades that you can do for your truck, outside of a brand new set of wheels and tires. Today, we'll be finding out if traction bars are actually worth it. Let's get into it!
Cons of Using Leaf Spring Suspension On Your Truck
Traction bars - ladder bars and track bars for short - go by a lot of different names, but what exactly do they do?
Contrary to popular belief, the suspension on your truck doesn't stay still when you're driving down the road - most folks like to believe that your rear axle (including leaf springs, etc.) only moves up and down as you go over bumps, but that's simply not truck, and honestly couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to the rear axle of your pickup truck, especially with leaf springs in the rear. Suspension moves, and it moves a lot.
One of the biggest downfalls of the leaf spring suspension is that under load, these springs have a tendency to bow or bend slightly, typically, in sort of an "S" shape right where the axle tips forward. This not only creates a lot of stress on the leaf springs themselves, but it also puts a ton of stress and strain on the different parts of the rear end of the truck, including the rear differential, seals, and U-joints.
This is because the differential is tipping upwards as those springs turn into an S - all those parts are getting stressed. If you're chasing horsepower or tow a lot, this problem will only be made worse because of the additional load that you're putting on the springs from the factory - this is commonly known as "axle wrap."
How Did Traction Bars Become Popular?
But how do you help solve axle wrap? Enter the traction bar.
The 1950s were a wild and beautiful time in American history for a lot of reasons, but perhaps one of the biggest was the rise of the American hot rod scene. A quick thumb through any history book or magazine will let you know that the rage of the 50s was souping up your car and making big power (or so they thought 250 horsepower was at the time), and one of the biggest challenges they faced was putting power down to the ground. Skinny little tires and leaf sprung suspension systems were the perfect storm for axle wrap, and it left guys puzzled as to how to put their power down effectively. In an effort to combat axle wrap, a company out of California devised a way to brace the rear axle to the frame of the vehicle, and thus the traction bar was born.
How Does A Traction Bar Help To Prevent Axle Wrap?
Now, a traction bar works by essentially creating a third mounting point for the rear axle. Typically speaking, this traction bar is going to mount the rear axle - usually the U-bolts - right where the leaf spring and the block sit on top of the axle, then it mounts underneath and runs on an angle up to the frame of the vehicle. This creates a triangle and essentially braces that axle against the frame under load, keeping it from tipping forward.
All of that is pretty fancy and sounds super cool, but what really matters here is that a traction bar will keep your rear axle planted where it needs to be, and keep it from moving around so that it doesn't kick up or slide around when you're punching the gas.
Read More: Are Coilovers Worth It For Your Truck Build?
How Much Do Good Traction Bars Cost?
If you are shopping for traction bars, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. The first is that not all traction bars are created equally - when you shop for track, traction, or ladder bars, you'll find that they range in price from just a few hundred bucks all the way up to as much as $2000.
While fundamentally, most traction bars are doing the same thing, the cost difference comes in a few key areas. First and foremost, if you're after looks, there are some great-looking traction bars on the market - typically, these will be more of your ladder-bar style bars like McGaughy's traction bars, for example.
On the other side of the spectrum, though, are the traction bars like the BDS Recoil system, which is more of a simplistic, less flashy, tube-style design that'll run between the frame and axle, and just keep it planted. It's really a no bells, no whistles, all work-type setup.
Read More: Easiest Truck Mods To Install
What is the Difference Between Fixed and Floating Traction Bars?
More importantly than that, though, is that some traction bars will be fixed, and some float.
Fixed traction bars mean that they have no movement - they have no give when you're driving down the road. This is a solid mount between the frame and the axle, and it's going to be best for putting down a lot of power because fixed bars don't move. However, this also means that your rear suspension is going to be limited in some movement, which is ultimately just going to stiffen the ride of your truck up at least a little bit.
Floating traction bars on the other hand, like the McGaughy's bars we talked about before, are kind of the best of both worlds. They have a floating mount design that only really contacts the frame when it's under a lot of load, and the axle is starting to swing forward so you don't get quite as much rigidity. However, it also rides a little bit smoother.
Shop Traction Bars For Your Truck at Custom Offsets
Regardless, though, whether you want a fixed or floating traction bar, one thing is for sure - traction bars are a great form and function mod. They look cool, they help you put power down to the ground, and they're just freaking awesome. If you're running traction bars on your truck we salute you, but if you're not, don't worry - we've got them in stock and ready to ship today!