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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Front
Suspension Overhaul

Difficulty Level: 7
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

  This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series.  The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts.   With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
 
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[click to enlarge]

     There are lots of bushings and joints on the front end of the 3 Series suspension that can wear and become loose after many miles of driving. If your car’s steering wheel vibrates at highway speeds, there are most likely components in the front suspension that need replacement. For a crisp, firm handling ride, replace every wearable part in the suspension every 80,000 to 100,000 miles.

     There are four main components that need attention when you overhaul the front suspension: control arms, ball joints, sway bar bushings, and tie rods. The PelicanParts.com online catalog has complete replacement kits with everything you need for your overhaul, making the job of acquiring these parts substantially easier.

Control arms

     Both the E30 and E36 use control arms that integrate three joints: two ball joints and a rear rubber bushing contained in what BMW calls a “wishbone bracket.” Worn-out control arm ball joints or bushings are often the cause of suspension problems. If the steering wheel shakes at high speeds, the control arm wishbone bushings are worn, the ball joints are worn, or the control arm itself has bent. If you plan to replace the wishbone bushings, upgrade to the 1996-and-later M3 bushings. This bolt-in replacement for the weaker, stock E36 bushings should give you longer life and a better ride.

     The inner ball joint is integrated into the control arm and is not individually replaceable (you must replace the entire control arm). The outer ball joint is integrated into the control arm on E30 cars, but is individually replaceable on non-M3 E36 cars. The bushing in the wishbone bracket is a common replacement item in a suspension overhaul. It’s typically replaced when the control arm is replaced.

     Removing the control arm involves several steps. First, jack up the car and disconnect the two ball joints and the sway bar drop links, and pull the control arm out. (See the next subsection in this project for instructions on ball joint removal and sway bar drop link replacement.)

     With the ball joints and sway bar drop link disconnected, unbolt the wishbone bracket from the chassis. The control arm should fall right off.

     Use a gear puller to remove the old bushing from the old control arm. Mark the position of the old bushing on the shaft first, since you will need to install the new one in approximately the same spot. I recommend you replace the entire control arm, as you will not be able to tell if it’s been bent by a rogue pothole at any time through the years. With the wishbone bracket and bushing assembly removed from the control arm, you’ll need to purchase new brackets or cut the old bushing out of the bracket.

     Using a saw, you can cut out the inner rubber part quite easily. Then use a Dremel tool to slice away the outer ring of the original bushing. Avoid cutting through the old bushing and into the wishbone bracket. The brackets are not too expensive, and I tell people to replace them with new ones if they can afford it.

     With the old bushing cut out of the wishbone bracket, use a vise to press in the new one (see Photo 7). While I advocate doing most everything yourself, I strongly suggest you have a machine shop press the new bushings onto the end of the control arm. No amount of hammering, pressing, pushing, or swearing will get those bushings onto the end of the control arm without a special tool. Most machine shops can perform this press procedure quite easily with the right equipment.

     BMW recommends a special-formula lubricant (part number 81-22-9-407-284) to aid in pressing on the bushing. If you use the lubricant, however, the bushing becomes “glued” to the control arm shaft after about 30 minutes. The BMW factory manuals state that you should set the car back down on its suspension immediately after you press on the bushing. This time constraint makes it very difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to perform the install, particularly if you need to drop the car onto the control arm immediately following the pressing operation. To learn about other solutions, see 101Projects.com for details on homemade tools that may also work in a pinch.

Ball joints

     The ball joints are key components in the BMW 3 Series front suspension. These joints, located at the bottom of the strut and attached to the front axle support bar, help the entire assembly pivot and rotate as the control arm turns and pivots and the suspension rides up and down. Needless to say, these critical components can wear out over time and should be replaced every 100,000 miles, or when the front suspension begins to feel wobbly. Because the inner ball joint is integrated into the control arm, you must purchase a new control arm if you wish to replace the ball joint. On non-M3 E36 cars, the outer ball joint is replaceable.

     First, remove the nut that holds on the ball joints. For the inner ball joint, this nut is accessible from the top of the front axle support bar. For the outer ball joint, the nut is easily accessible on the lower part of the strut.

     Replacement of the ball joints is relatively simple--if you have the proper tools. Each ball joint attaches with a beveled fit, meaning the ball joint end is securely pressed into the spindle arm and cannot be removed without a special tool. The best removal tool is an angled pitchfork-shaped tool called a “pickle fork,” designed specifically for this task. Do not hit the top of the rod end with a large hammer to remove the ball joint, as this will only bend or damage the strut. Place the pickle fork tool between the strut and the rod end, and hit the tool repeatedly with a large hammer. The wedge in the pickle fork tool will drive the rod end out of the arm. You may have to hit the pickle fork tool several times before the rod end pops out of its location. Installation of the new ball joint is easy--simply insert it into its hole and tighten the nut on top.

Sway bar bushings

     As BMWs age, the sway bar bushings wear. Carefully inspect your bushings for cracking, and ensure that their inner diameter hugs the sway bar tightly. If they do not appear to be worn, simply apply a bit of lithium grease inside the bushing. If they are worn, they will need to be replaced.

     Replacing the bushings is very easy. With the car elevated (see Project 1) and the front wheels removed, disconnect the bracket that holds on the sway bar bushing. The bar and bushing together will drop down slightly if you release both sides at the same time.

     The new replacement bushings are split down the middle to easily slide onto the bar and into the bracket. Remove the old bushings and insert the new ones, coating the bushings with white lithium grease on the inside.

     The sway bar drop links are also easy to replace. The upper part of the drop link contains a small ball joint, and the lower part has an integrated rubber bushing. Remove the bolt from the lower drop link to disconnect it. The small upper ball joint may present a challenge. If it does, use a special thin wrench to remove the retaining nut (see Photo 9). Bolt the new drop link into place. Replacing the rear sway bar bushings is nearly identical to the front.

Tie rods

     The tie rods commonly need replacement. These rods have two universal joints on each end and control the angular position of each front wheel when the car is steered. If the tie rods’ joints are worn, precise steering is impossible and the car will have wobbly front wheels and a possible alignment problem. Sometimes vibration in the steering wheel can be caused by worn out tie rods too.

     As with the ball joints, replacing the tie rods is relatively simple with the proper tools. Each tie rod attaches to the spindle arm with a beveled fit. The tie rod is securely pressed into the spindle arm and cannot be removed without the angled pickle fork tool discussed previously. Do not hit the top of the rod end with a large hammer, as this will only bend the entire spindle arm.

     Remove the top self-locking nut with a socket wrench. Place the pickle fork tool between the spindle arm and the rod end, and hit the tool repeatedly with a large hammer. The wedge in the pickle fork tool will drive the rod end out of the arm. You may have to hit the tool several times before the rod end pops out of its location.

     Once you have the outer rod ends disconnected, remove the boot clamps that attach and secure each end of the rubber boot (bellows) to the tie rod and steering rack. Using a small clipper, carefully snip the spring retainers from the boot and remove it. You will see the exposed metal shaft of the steering rack. Don’t get any dirt or debris on the rack while you are working on it.

     Now, unscrew the old tie rod from the rack. This sounds easier than it really is. Bend back the small lock plate that secures the tie rod end. The old tie rod may be snuggly secured to the rack and could require significant force to remove it. There are specialty wrenches designed for this purpose, but I’ve had good luck with channel locks and/or a plumber’s wrench. Bend the small retaining clip backward prior to removing the tie rod.

     Before the final install of the new tie rod, place the new one and old one side by side on a workbench, and adjust the new tie rod so the length from the rod end to the rack-mating surface is the same (see Photo 12). You want to set the two lengths of the tie rods to be equal to minimize the change in alignment of the car. Have the car realigned regardless, but get the alignment close so you can safely drive to the alignment shop. Mark the final position of the tie rod end on the new tie rod (white paper correction fluid comes in handy), and then remove it. Don’t install the new rod end just yet. Before you screw the tie rod into the rack, spread a few drops of Loctite onto the threads. Only use a new locking plate, and install it onto the shaft of the rack. Insert the tie rod into the rack, and use a pair of large Vise-Grips or channel locks to tighten it down. There isn’t much to grab onto with a regular wrench, and you likely won’t have the special thin wrench required to tighten the tie rod. Tap down the retaining clip with a small hammer.

     Once the tie rod is tight, place the rubber boot over the tie rod and onto the steering rack. You have to remove the tie rod end in order to make the boot fit. Getting the boot to cooperate and properly cover the rack and the tie rod may be the most difficult part of this process. Use pliers and screwdrivers to stretch the boot over each end. This may take a few tries, but it is possible. Once the boot is in position, install two new clamps over the two ends of the boot to secure it to the rack housing.

     After the boot is installed, reattach the tie rod end. Make sure the length of the tie rod is the same as the measurement of the old one. Adjust the position of the rod end to match up with the mark you made when you compared it to the original tie rod.

     To complete the job, install the new rod end into the front control arm. Perform the same procedure on the opposite side. Take the car directly to an alignment shop, as it is very easy to mess up the toe-in of the front suspension when you replace the tie rods. If you plan to perform any other front suspension work that might affect the alignment, do it now to save yourself a second trip to the alignment shop.

     If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs.  If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one.  Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Figure
Figure 1
This photo shows a typical front left control arm for the E30/E36 suspension. The control arm is attached to the car at three points. The rear fits into a wishbone bracket and bushing that attaches to the chassis (orange arrow). The midpoint pivot attaches to the front axle support bar with an inner ball joint (purple arrow). The outside of the control arm connects to the bottom of the strut (red arrow) with an outer ball joint (blue arrow). A small drop link (green arrow) affixes the front sway bar to the control arm. Finally, the tie rods(yellow arrows) are attached to the front of the strut.
Figure
Figure 2
This is everything you need for a complete front control arm overhaul (see Photo 11 and Photo 19 for the tie rods and steering rack). A: Left control arm. B: Right control arm. C: Sway bar drop links. D: New mounting hardware. E: Rubber mount. F: Wishbone bracket.
Figure
Figure 3
Use a pickle fork tool (inset) to remove the ball joints. This pitchfork-shaped tool is wedged between the control arm (yellow arrow) and the strut (green arrow). When the tool is in place, tap the end with a hammer and the wedge will force the ball joint apart from the strut (see also Photo 10). The blue arrow in this photo points to the top of the ball joint thread. For reference, the red arrow points to the brake caliper in the background, which is attached to the strut.
Figure
Figure 4
On all E36 models except the M3, the outer ball joint is replaceable. This ball joint can be replaced with the control arm still installed in the car. The retaining clip (purple arrow) attaches the ball joint to the arm.
Figure
Figure 5
The inner ball joint attaches to the front axle support bar, which holds the steering rack. The nut that secures the ball joint is located on the top side of this support bar (green arrow) and must be removed prior to inserting the pickle fork tool. The nut can be difficult to get to—I had to use several socket extensions, a universal joint, and a large breaker bar to remove it (inset photo, upper left). When the nut is removed, use the pickle fork tool to loosen the ball joint from the front axle support bar (inset photo, lower right).
Figure
Figure 6
Here’s a close-up shot of the wishbone bracket on the right side of the car. Although it may appear at first glance that the left and right brackets are the same, they are in fact different for each side of the car. There are small indentations on the inside mounting surface of the bracket that must line up with corresponding bosses on the chassis of the car. Pay attention to which bracket fits on which side of the car.
Figure
Figure 7
New bushings usually come separate from the wishbone brackets. Press the bushing into the bracket using a vise or an industrial press. Make sure the bushing is centered width-wise in the bracket when you have finished pressing it into the wishbone. Each bushing has a small arrow cast into the rubber that should line up with the corresponding dot on the outside of the wishbone bracket (inset photo).
Figure
Figure 8
This photo shows the front sway bar and drop links (blue arrow). To completely renew the front suspension, replace the sway bar bushings (yellow arrow) and drop links as well. Unbolt the bracket and slide the old one off. The bushings have a slit down the center to easily pry them on and off the sway bar.
Figure
Figure 9
Drop links can be a challenge to remove, as the ball joint on top of the link may spin when you try to remove the outer nut. If this happens, use a thin wrench (green arrow) to hold the ball joint in place while you loosen the nut. You can purchase a set of these wrenches specifically designed to fit into places where a normal, thick wrench will not They are typically about 1/8-inch thick, and are a very useful tool to add to your arsenal.
Figure
Figure 10
Steering tie rods are removed in a similar manner to the ball joints. The pickle fork tool is essential for popping the tie rod ends out of the strut end. The rubber boot will likely be damaged when you remove the tie rod end, but you will replace the tie rod end with its accompanying boot anyway.
Figure
Figure 11
Shown here is a set of new tie rods. The tie rods connect the steering rack to the strut and adjust the critical toe-in alignment specification. If your car’s steering wheel shakes on the highway, or if the steering wheel feels like it turns a lot in either direction with no effect on the car, then you may have worn-out tie rods. A complete tie-rod kit comes with the pair of tie rods, a set of rubber boots, and clamps. Beware of cheap kits—the boots in these kits often don’t last very long. Purchase only high-quality OEM replacements; otherwise, you may be replacing the boots again in about a year.
Figure
Figure 12
Before you install the new tie rods, get each one as close in length to the originals as possible (distance between green arrows should be the same). Place them on your bench and compare the lengths, then mark the position of the tie rod end with white correction fluid (small white arrow). Adjust the new tie rods as necessary to match the lengths of the old ones to get as close as possible to the toe-in alignment adjustment. You’ll still need to take the car in for an alignment, but you can minimize tire wear while you’re driving to the alignment shop.
Figure
Figure 13
There are several steps in the tie rod removal process. In Frame A, remove the boot clamp using a set of snips. With the two boot clamps removed (inner and outer), cut off the rubber boot, exposing the tie rod. There’s a special tie rod wrench for removing the ends of the tie rods, or you can use a plumber’s wrench, especially if you secure the entire assembly in a bench vise (Frame B).For this overhaul, we removed the entire steering rack, tie rods and all, and placed the entire assembly into the vise. Screw the new tie rods into the ends of the steering rack, as shown in Frame C. Although there is a torque specification for this, it’s nearly impossible to measure, as you need the tie rod wrench or plumber’s wrench to tighten the assembly. I tighten it as tight as I can with the tool. Insert a new retaining washer—this washer bends over the edge of the tie rod to prevent any accidental loosening of the tie rod. Finally, Frame D shows the attachment of the new boots. The OEM clamps are difficult to work with. Place them over the boot and then pinch the inside of the clamp together with a strong pair of needle-nose pliers. Try not to pinch your fingers in the process.
Figure
Figure 14
Attach the other tie rod end to the strut arm. Use a new nut on the threads of the tie rod end. The tie rod will often turn and rotate as you’re trying to tighten it. Place a floor jack underneath the tie rod end and gently apply pressure to wedge the tapered shaft in place. Don’t lift the entire car up—just use enough force to raise the strut up slightly. The springs in the strut will be compressed slightly at this point. Tighten the tie rod nut, and it should squeeze itself tightly into the strut arm.
Figure
Figure 15
Another item you might want to inspect and/or replace the motor damper shock. Found only on some cars, it absorbs vibration from the engine and prevents it from being transferred to the chassis. Replacement is easy—simply unbolt each end and replace with a new one. The one is shown installed on a 1984 318i.
Figure
Figure 16
Steering rack removal is a somewhat complicated job. Shown here are the lower steering column joint assembly and coupler. Remove the bolt that secures the coupler to the upper steering shaft (blue arrow). Mark the position of the top of this coupler with respect to the shaft that attaches to the steering wheel, as you will need to line these two up later on. Also remove the bolt that attaches this shaft to the steering rack itself (not shown) to loosen the shaft when you remove the rack. Inspect the steering coupler at this time, too. It’s made of rubber and can deteriorate over time, leading to a sloppy feel in the steering wheel. For a complete overhaul of the front suspension, replace this rubber joint. For reference, the yellow arrow indicates the fuel filter. Replace the fuel filter as well if it’s due (see Project 4).
Figure
Figure 17
Here are two views of the power steering lines, which must be disconnected from the steering rack prior to removal. Remove the two banjo bolts that attach them to the rack (yellow arrow). Warning: The lines are full of power steering fluid and will leak all over the place when you disconnect them. Have an oil drip pan ready, along with plenty of paper towels. When the lines are disconnected, simply bend them up toward the top of the engine, and they should stop leaking. When you reconnect them to the rack, use new aluminum sealing rings (green arrow) to guard against fluid leaks.
Figure
Figure 18
The steering rack (green arrow) is affixed to the front axle support bar at two attachment points (yellow arrow). Disconnect the rack at these two points. With the tie rod ends disconnected, the power steering lines detached, and the steering column shaft loosened, you can maneuver the steering rack out of the car. On some models, you may have to remove the lower oil pan cover (shown here) to gain enough maneuvering room to remove the steering rack.
Figure
Figure 19
There’s a night-and-day difference between a new and used rack. This photo shows an OEM ZF rebuilt power steering rack-and-pinion assembly. If the rack wears out, the steering will be sloppy. Leaky racks may also deposit power steering fluid on the floor of your garage. However, it may be the power steering lines that are leaking and need to be replaced instead of an expensive rack. Carefully check the rack and lines before spending your money on a rebuilt rack. The most common leakage point for the rack is out the ends. If you cut open your tie rod boot and a lot of power steering fluid comes leaking out, chances are the seals in the ends of your rack are worn, and it needs to be rebuilt or replaced. Unfortunately, there are no individual repair parts available for you to fix the rack yourself—it must be sent back to the manufacturer.
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Comments and Suggestions:
theonetruetom Comments: One cure for "spinning ball joint syndrome" is to stick the end of a jack underneath the ball joint and apply enough pressure to lock the joint in the housing but not enough to lift the car off the jackstands you *ARE* using jackstands *AREN'T YOU?*.
November 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't understand your comment. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
saneesh8 Comments: 200 z3 2.5 auto-121k-I took the car for tire balance and rotation at pep boys. Air pressure was low at 25 and they balanced and rotated the tires less than 5K on them. I saw them swapping tire from front to back on each side. After that and proper air pressure, now the steering wobbles from 40 mph to 50 and then it reduces dramatically, but not so stable as before. What can cause this? Some weight on tire has fallen out or bent wheel? Even before also, the steering was not good as my other car. Was feeling light.

Bent wheel on back, how to find it? I think on front it will make this wobble? I checked suspension at 6 and 12 , 3 and 9 and no play there.

Suspension: Have new sway bar bushings, tie rods outer, control arm bushings, p/s reservoir and hoses + fluid and did the special alignment. Other parts of the front suspension is still the original. When the control arm bushings were bad, it used to wobble at 20 mph and once it is changed, it is gone.
November 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If it started after the tire rotation, I would suspect you have a out of shape or mis-balanced tire. I would have them recheck balance and road force on all the tires. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Charmaine Comments: Good day

Please can you tell me what the size of the lower control ball joint are for a bmw 318i 1995 model?
November 17, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don;t know off the top of my head. Are you looking for a replacement bolt? Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Daniel Comments: Hi I was wondering if the control arms and tie rods from an e36 325i 94 will work in an e36 318ti 1999 thanks
November 13, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, they will not. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Rach Comments: Hi, I have a 2004 bmw 320d m sport and recently the steering wheel does some serious vibrating from 70 onwards and bumps in the road feel very exaggerated. Not an enjoyable ride. There is no noise but feels like your fighting the steering on bumpy roads!
November 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Inspect the control arm bushings, they may be faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Lucho Comments: I have an issue with my 1999 323i E46 the signal lights left and right front and back keep going off and on as if the contact with the bulbs is not there all the time.What can i do to correct this.
October 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Inspect the bulb sockets / holder for shorts or signs or burning. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Matsjen Comments: Oops, its an 94 320cia e36, imported from germany! But now I have gotten it loose, what remains is getting the new ones in
October 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: How did you get it done? Would you mind sharing your experience? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Matsjen Comments: Hi

Are you sure that the inner balljoint cannot be replaced? I just bought one, but cant seem to get out the old one! I have managed to change all the other bushings and balljoints!
October 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You didn't mention what vehicle you are working on. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Terry Comments: Just did the lower control arm bushing replacement and it seemed to have solved the vibration shaking problem 100%...not sure if I need an alignment, any suggestions?
October 13, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: COULD be a tire issue. I would have balance and road force on the tires looked at. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
GGee Comments: Oops my car is a 1995 bmw 325i
October 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Got it, Thanks. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
GGee Comments: I have a E36 325i and steering has noise when turning. Had the power steering changed still the problem there. I saw on line about a spring in the wheel. But I don't have some of the problem that come with that. Can you tell me what is it.
October 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Check if the power steering reservoir is restricted. If the filter inside does not flow well, you will have a noisy pump. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
david Comments: no need to reply, part was manufactured faulty, got it replaced
September 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
David Comments: I am almost done replacing my entire front suspension, only thing left to do is to screw in tie rod knuckle into steering rack. But the threads on the knuckle will not catch the threads in the steering rack, driving me crazy, what am I doing wrong? E 36 325i 1993
September 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Inspect the threads on both sides for damage. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Steno Comments: I have a E38 7series with slightly sloppy steering, resulting in me frequently working to keep it in a straight line. Would this more likely be tie rod replacement?
September 5, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be a tie rod or more likely the steering rack. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bt Comments: Opps sorry, I meant the frame of my 1986 BMW 325 is bent from the accident. How sucessfull is bending it back into place?
August 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would think it needs to be replaced. You can check with a body shop that does frame straightening. I think they will tell you the same. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bt Comments: My 1986 BMW 325 has a bent front suspension from an accident that it was in. It is only off by less than 1/2 inch. How sucessfull is the procedure to pull/bent it back into place?
August 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would think it needs to be replaced. You can check with a body shop that does frame straightening. I think they will tell you the same. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
skerr1 Comments: Thanks I got it figured out its on works great.
Thanks for your time. my car is an 1988 325i convertible
for future.
thanks again
June 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem. What did you find wrong with the vehicle? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
325iconv Comments: I have to put front control arm bushing and cannot get it
on the control arm, it does not seperate
June 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What type of BMW are you working on? Is the control arm stuck on the vehicle or the bushing on the control arm? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tyler Comments: Hi! I recently replace both tie rods on a 1998 M3 conv. To get the new passenger tie rod the same length as the old, I had to screw in the outer end all the way until it stopped. When I got the car aligned, there was not enough adjustment to keep the steering wheel straight and still get the spec amount of toe-in. The caster and camber on the passenger side is also a couple degrees out of spec. Is this indicative of a bent control arm, worn FCAB, or worn strut mount? Or all of the above?
May 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This could be a rack that was not centered or a bent component. I would guess at it being the spindle. When the vehicle is being aligned, have the suspension and subframe inspected. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
unruly e30 Comments: Hey I wanted to know if I can use a e36 control arm on my 88 e30?
May 7, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, they are different parts. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bjohn Comments: Bjohn Comments: Hi I have a 99 bmw 328i I changed the front lower control arm, the tie rod, and the bushing, whenever I'm driving even if it's at 30mph and I hit the smallest pothole my car feels like it's about to loose control, if I drive faster it sways like crazy, I need help I don't know what to do, now i don't know if it's because my tires are 225 50 17 which are too big and I need an alignment and also my struts are bad.
April 15, 2014
Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would confirm the work you did is OK. if the problem wasn't there before the repair, you may have caused the issue. - Nick at Pelican Parts

It's been there before I did anything, and it's still there, I jacked the car up and I can see the rack pinion shaking from inside, and I have brand new tie rods on
April 19, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the rack is moving around, you will have t determine if it is the inner tie rod or the rack itself. Then replace what is worn. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bjohn Comments: Hi I have a 99 bmw 328i I changed the front lower control arm, the tie rod, and the bushing, whenever I'm driving even if it's at 30mph and I hit the smallest pothole my car feels like it's about to loose control, if I drive faster it sways like crazy, I need help I don't know what to do, now i don't know if it's because my tires are 225 50 17 which are too big and I need an alignment and also my struts are bad.
April 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would confirm the work you did is OK. if the problem wasn't there before the repair, you may have caused the issue. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mike Comments: Hi. My car's a 1997 318ti with 151k. I hit a pot hole the other day, and now the driver's front suspension on my car creaks when I turn the wheel while at a complete stop, and at very low speeds; it also creaks even when the front end is jacked up. Anyways, the car still drives fineno steering wheel vibration or wheel wobble, and everything on the front end looks good; nothing looks to be bent, either. The poly bushings and ground control coilovers with 500lb springs only have 15k on them.

I came to this article hoping to find out something I forgot to inspect, but everything checks out. Any ideas? Maybe it's something with the df coilover? Thanks.
April 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The creaking could be a dry ball joint. I would disconnect the tie rod end, then manually steer the noisy wheel. If the noise is still present, see if you can feel the noisy ball joint binding. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Clayton J Comments: Hi

I have a 2000 model 323i and recently replaced control arms with ball joints and bushings, also steering rack ends and link rods.

After balancing and alignment I still have a problem with a shudder on the steering at freeway speeds.

Any suggestions?
April 8, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would inspect the brake rotors for lateral runout. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Clayton J Comments: Hi

iv got the 2000 model E46 323i and recently replaced complete control arms with ball joints and bushings, steering rack ends and link rods.
After balancing and alignment I still now have a problem of a shudder on the steering at highway speed.
Any suggestions?
April 8, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would inspect the brake rotors for lateral runout. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mtecnik Comments: What is the best way to get the outer ball joint out of the control arm? I am hung up at that step!!
March 17, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure what vehicle you have. This tech article shows the tools required to replace the E36 style ball joint. http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/techarticles/BMW-Z3/65-SUSPEN-Front_Control_Arm_Ball_Joint_Replacement/65-SUSPEN-Front_Control_Arm_Ball_Joint_Replacement.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts  
SWO Comments: Nick, I took off each toe link, one at a time, left then right. I'm happy yet embarrassed to say I figured it out - the brake shield on the passenger side was contacting the lower control arm through about 15 degrees of travel. One gentle pull and no noise - but I put a dab of grease on the spot it was touching to make sure - can' do more than a in garage optest until the do some more shoveling. I must have pushed out the shield when wrestling off the previous set of tie rods.
February 14, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
SWO Comments: e36 M3, 178k miles. I replaced the tie-rods to pass a CCA HPDE tech and immediately the front end started making a creaking noise when turning the front wheels L-R when less than 15 mph or so, noise seams to be from the left front. Not repeatable when the car is on jack stands. During the tie-rod repair, I found the whole steering system covered in fluid, and the rack leaking - I later replaced the reservoir, rack reman ZF, and all hoses, and filled with Redline fluid in prep for another track year. Steering is much tighter - but the creaking noise remains. Before the tie-rod was replaced I had zero noises over a season of autocross and 2 HPDEs - my guess is that the play in the tie-rods was masking something in the LF suspension - or the new tie rod end is bad, or somehow there is preload on the tiered end wheel side during install. Any thoughts before I start chasing bearings and bushings?
February 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Could be a dry ball joint. I suggest disconnecting the tie rod ends, then manually turning the hub and seeing if the noise remains. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Adino Zoe Comments: The wishbone for my bmw 318i is worn out, is it ok if I replaced it with the wishbone for the old control arm which the car came with upon purchase as it is in good condition?
January 29, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the used part is indeed in good shape. sure. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Pauly Comments: Had new snow tires put on about 4 weeks ago. While other cars were traveling 60 mph on the freeway, I was going 50 mph and every now and then my 2002 BMW 325i would sway a little from side to side as if it was going over ice. Other cars were not having the same issue. What could it be? Now, having said that... the gentleman who installed the snow tires said my "rear - front control arm bushings" need to be replaced. Would that cause the issue?
January 7, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: if your control arm bushings are faulty, I would start by replacing them.

Moving around on ice is almost impossible it prevent. It is ice afterall. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
rocker Comments: here is an odd one:
make a standard left turn and as you guide the steering wheel back to center after the left turn is complete the steering wheel is off centered toward 11:00 position with car going straight. it then eventually gets straight. its very subtle, but making a left feels less responsive than right. feels like to have to turn steering wheel further left before she bites into the turn. making right turns ok!
December 31, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest not driving the car, in the case that the wheel jams.

Inspect the front end for tightness. You could have a work rack, bad rack bushing or steering coupler. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
nana Comments: Hi der I'm from south africa I drive a 99 e36 m3 four door
And the problem is that the front wheels
Are to forward I changed the control arm
Bushes and still the same need help
Thanx Roshane toysan spares
December 28, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would inspect the ball joint and mounting points. If everything is tight, something could be bent. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
yikes Comments: Loud clunk and front left tire now touching wheel well. Still steers. Any ideas?

1984 528e
December 18, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You could have a bad ball joint or control arm bushing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
heinemannak Comments: I have a persistent steering problem that I cannot seem to figure out. On my e30 325is the steering wheel vibrates at highway speeds. It also exhibits minor bump steer at highway speeds. I noticed this is a very, very common problem with bmw's and no one seems to have a good answer. I have replaced the front control arm bushings, ball joints, complete tie rods, front wheel bearings, strut bearings, sway bar links w/ bushings, balanced wheels, and had the car aligned. Additionally, the car has new rotors and front calipers. The car still carves fine and the shocks seem fine. I cannot figure out this problem and it is making considering getting rid of the car, which I don't want to do. Any ideas? Thanks.
November 24, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Have tires balanced, rotate tires and make sure you don't have a bent rim. - Kerry at Pelican Parts  
AustinRoss Comments: I'm getting a very loud grinding noise when I turn the steering wheel in my 1995 318ti. What could be some issues that would cause this? Thanks n advance
September 15, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Low fluid level, and p/s pump or rack that is worn. Check the fluid level and look for leaks at the pump, rack and hoses.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Turbo Comments: Hi Wayne

My bmw 318 E46 is troubling me, when i drive at above 80km/h the front left wheel vibrates together with the steering wheel. I put new tryes, did a wheel allignment and changed shock absorbers but this failed to solve the problem. I sometimes feel the vibration when i drive off at a high accelleration. Please help.

Thanks in advance for ur help.
June 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would inspect the ball joints and control arm bushing. A worn suspension component could cause a vibration like you are describing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bk6662 Comments: Hi,

I will be in Germany for 4 months, so I picked up a 96 320i. It runs and drives great. But I noticed that the front end shutters badly when I'm on the Autobahn, in a right curve. To stop the shudder I can either straighten out not possible, or tap the brakes. I can feel the shudder in the steering wheel. It never happens when I'm going straight, or in a left curve. But I can pretty much predict when it will occur, as soon as the road starts curving to the right. Any ideas?

Thanks!
May 28, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Inspect the control arm bushings. If they are worn it can cause a shake. When you tap the brake the shake may worsen at first, but then go away aw you further apply the brakes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
lyman0403 Comments: Great artical,great info and this tool helped the job go so quick and easy.

http://www.pelicanparts.com/BMW/catalog/shopcart/TOOL/POR_TOOL_WTD182_pg8.htm
March 16, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback! - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Fistos Comments: Sir how much can it cost 2 buy & send the rear suspensiowhole kit for all the rear wheelsfor a bmw e46 320i 1999.to botswana
March 7, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call, they will be able to answer your question: 888-280-7799- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Spawn69 Comments: Great info!
February 15, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
oksailor Comments: hey Jpspohn, just line up the arrows on the 3m bushing with the arrow on the outside of the bushing holder. it should have an arrow cast into it. I just did my e30 and one was very clear and the other was not very clear.
January 2, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Solid advice, thanks. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
e30 x10 Comments: The inner ball joints are serviceable and can be pressed out. The e30 ones are a direct fit.
October 26, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
jpspohn Comments: Very helpful article however there is one mystery: How do you orient the M3 bushing in the bracket? I cut the old bushings out and now I want to press the new M3's in but since they are built differently, I can't figure it out and neither can my machine shop. Any clues?
September 17, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There will be a notch on the bushing and an arrow on the bracket to line it up with.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Anto Comments: As Bunny said, great write-up BUT it really should be emphasized, highlighted and in bold that without a hydraulic press you will NOT get the front outer ball joints out of the control arm. It fails to mention this both in this article and the Bentley manual.
May 8, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Bunny Comments: Great tech article. I know it's tough to get the 22mm bolt off the inner ball joint, especially the passenger side figure 5. I used a GearWrench 22mm rachet wrench not a flex head between the engine/tranny and exhaust manifold/down tubes. Once you get the ratchet/box end over the nut you can get enough leverage to back it off. The hardest part was not letting the wrench drop below the nut as it backed off the ball joint end. $18.00, 5 minutes, plus some mild cursing optional and it was off! Another note: Get the whole tie rod assembly as shown. I made the mistake of getting the just the rod end, waste of time, short of using a vise and torch mine are not coming apart. Just ordered 2 assemblies.
August 22, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the tips, we appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
YAA Comments: THANK YOU MADE THE JOB EASY
May 27, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
E30ist Comments: I just wanted to say thanks for what you've done with this site. I know very little abut cars and got one of these awesome E30's for $650 and thanks to you and this site it runs well and is looking sharp! So thanks!
February 14, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No sweat! Thanks for the kind words. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
BOb Comments: This is a very comprehensive but not overly difficult write up. Thanks
December 13, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
TimdaToolman Comments: Thanks for the instructions guys! Worked outperfectly
November 27, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
 

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