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Replacing Your Rear Shocks
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing Your Rear Shocks

Nick Czerula

Time:

3 hours3 hrs

Tab:

$200

Talent:

**

Tools:

Set of sockets, 16mm 6mm wrenches, flathead screwdriver

Applicable Models:

BMW 323Ci Coupe/Conv (1999-00)
BMW 323i Sedan/Wagon (1999-00)
BMW 325Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 325i/xi Sedan/Wagon (2001-06)
BMW 328Ci Coupe (1999-00)
BMW 328i Sedan (1999-00)
BMW 330Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 330i/xi Sedan (2001-06)

Parts Required:

Rear shock, rear shock mount

Hot Tip:

Replace rear shocks as a pair

Performance Gain:

Car will ride well

Complementary Modification:

Replace shock mounts

Shock absorbers and springs are the suspension components that maintain the mass of the vehicle suspended above the rolling gear at the wheels. Springs hold the weight up and shock absorbers dampen suspension movements so that passengers inside the vehicle experience a smooth ride. 

The BMW E46 is equipped with separate shocks absorbers and coil spring in the rear. For the front suspension, BMW utilizes a combined shock absorber and coil spring assembly referred to as a MacPherson strut.

When shock absorbers begin to wear, ride quality and vehicle handling suffer. You may notice your vehicle is not smooth over bumps or feels soft when cornering. This could be an indicator of worn shock absorbers. To check the shock absorbers, push down on the corner of your vehicle (the corner you want to diagnose). When you give the corner one good push down, it should bounce up, then slightly down and stop. If it continues to bounce, the shock absorber is worn out. You have the choice to replace your shock absorbers with a factory spec set or a performance set. Performance shock absorbers can greatly improve the handling of your E46. You can also replace all four coil springs on your E46 with performance springs, giving it a slightly lower stance and stiffer handling.

It's important to replace your shock absorbers as a pair in order to avoid an uneven suspension.  I suggest replacing the upper shock mounts as well. The shock mounts tend to wear and fall apart over time. It's better to replace them while you are servicing the shocks than to have to go back later. I am going to describe how to replace your E46 rear shocks with the rear tires on; however you can remove them if you want. I personally like to leave the wheels on the vehicle because when I am reinstalling the shock and have to jack the suspension; it is nice have the tire to use as a jacking point surface. When replacing, do one side at a time. It's helpful to have an assembled shock to use as a reference point if needed during reassembly.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Start by loosening the rear wheel studs, but do not remove (only loosen wheel studs if you plan to remove rear wheel when replacing rear shocks).

Raise the rear of the vehicle and support it safely on jack stands. See our Pelican Parts technical article on Jacking Up Your BMW. When raising your vehicle, try and get it as high as possible since you will have to be able to fit a hydraulic jack under the rear trailing arm.

Remove the rear wheels, or leave them on if you prefer to jack on the tire.

Sedan: While working in the trunk, remove the rear trim liner clips and pull the trim liner away from the body (steps highlighted below).

Convertible: Open the convertible top storage compartment to access the upper shock mount fasteners.

Wagon: Remove the trim panel next to the rear seat backrests to access the upper shock mount fasteners.

Start in the trunk and locate the four interior trim clips (green arrows).
Figure 1

Start in the trunk and locate the four interior trim clips (green arrows).

Remove the side trim clip by prying out the center rivet and pulling the clip out of the body.
Figure 2

Remove the side trim clip by prying out the center rivet and pulling the clip out of the body. You can use an interior trim panel tool or a small flathead screwdriver with needle nose pliers (green arrows).

Next you will have to remove trim clips (green arrows) at the seatback area in trunk.
Figure 3

Next you will have to remove trim clips (green arrows) at the seatback area in trunk. The center clip (yellow arrow) pulls out later when you pull carpet away from the body.

Using a flathead screwdriver, remove the trim clips by them rotating 90 degrees counterclockwise and pulling them away from the body (yellow arrows).
Figure 4

Using a flathead screwdriver, remove the trim clips by them rotating 90 degrees counterclockwise and pulling them away from the body (yellow arrows).

Once all trim clips have been removed, pull the carpet away from the body, start where the carpet at the trunk side meets the carpet at the seatback.
Figure 5

Once all trim clips have been removed, pull the carpet away from the body, start where the carpet at the trunk side meets the carpet at the seatback. Pull it away until you see the shock tower sound insulation (green arrow). Once you have access to shock tower sound insulation, you have to open it to gain access to shock mount nuts. The insulation is designed to open and has a perforated area that can be pulled away (green arrow).

Most of the time when attempting to open the sound insulation it tears or breaks - the sound insulation becomes brittle and hard over time.
Figure 6

Most of the time when attempting to open the sound insulation it tears or breaks - the sound insulation becomes brittle and hard over time. If it breaks you can replace it or deal with the minimal extra road noise from the lacking sound insulation. In this photo, you can see how the sound insulation tore and is not reusable.

Remove two 13mm shock mount fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 7

Remove two 13mm shock mount fasteners (green arrows).

Next place the hydraulic jack under the trailing arm or under rear tire (green arrow).
Figure 8

Next place the hydraulic jack under the trailing arm or under rear tire (green arrow).

Remove rear shock 18mm mounting fastener (green arrow) and carefully lower shock out of vehicle.
Figure 9

Remove rear shock 18mm mounting fastener (green arrow) and carefully lower shock out of vehicle.

Using a 6mm wrench and a 16mm wrench, remove the shock mount from the shock.
Figure 10

Using a 6mm wrench and a 16mm wrench, remove the shock mount from the shock. If you are replacing the shock mount, still do this part. You need the small parts to go with new shock and shock mount. Pay close attention to the order and orientation of the washers.

First, install the shock bump stop (green arrow) onto the new shock.
Figure 11

First, install the shock bump stop (green arrow) onto the new shock.

Next, install the small washer (green arrow) onto the shock shaft.
Figure 12

Next, install the small washer (green arrow) onto the shock shaft.

Next, install the large washer (green arrow) onto the shock shaft.
Figure 13

Next, install the large washer (green arrow) onto the shock shaft.

Next, install the shock mount and the large washer (green arrow) onto the shock shaft.
Figure 14

Next, install the shock mount and the large washer (green arrow) onto the shock shaft. Pay attention to the shock mount top washer orientation. Be sure the convex points toward the shock mount. Then install the new shock mount nut and tighten.

Now you can install the shock back into the vehicle. Once you get the upper mount studs aligned, install the lower fastener. Make sure the rectangular washer is between the shock bushing and the mounting bolt (do not tighten bolt yet). Install the upper shock mount fasteners and tighten. Install the rear wheel and lower the vehicle to ground. Tighten the lower shock fastener with the vehicle suspension fully compressed. Reinstall trunk trim carpet and test drive the vehicle. Then recheck the lower shock fasteners tightening torque.
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Comments and Suggestions:
Jesse Comments: Is this process the same on the 2001 325xi AWD model? For the front end the axel must be removed, is the rear end also a different procedure?
November 2, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Rear will be the same. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Don Comments: Thanks for a great article, as an experienced engineer I found it helpful, as I have not worked on this model before. Anyone with reasonable mechanical aptitude could do this job, your instructions will give them the confidence to get started. My only comment would be that the removal of the trunk boot lining can be a bit different on some variations, So if you find it doesn't look the same don't be put off, just think about it and and go at it carefully, there is nothing too difficult about it. Do be sure to treat that sound insulation with care it is very fragile. After having ripped the right hand side beyond repair, I found I could gently fold the the left side away from the turret without damaging it.
September 12, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
dave212 Comments: any idea why my e46 320d would be knocking in the rear going over bumps..it doesnt knock when im turning or taking off.cv joints seem ok and no movement in the trailing arms. any help would be grateful thanks
May 14, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would inspect the sway bar links and the sway bar bushings. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
BKL Comments: I was able to remove the insulation w/o it breaking. At the back seat back, under reinforcement, the insul. is perforated. I popped the perfs and it came out and in easy. Option:the bump in the insul is where the shock is so you can just cut small access there.
My shock was bad so when I took off the lower bolt and the shock nut it fell out with car on ground. If the shock is good you will want to jack the car b/c most good shocks are going to push to extend and that can be a pain. That's why its easier to jack the car a little to get them back in or out.
May 5, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Kest Comments: Thanks as always for your great guides.
I have a little oil leaking from one rear shock but it is still stiff by hand when you undo the nut securing it to the trailing arm and move it up and down.
Are failed shocks usually very soft and loose? Or do you replace them as soon as you see any oil leak?
Cheers
March 6, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you see oil, replace them.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Johnny Comments: I have a 1999 323i and the car is a sport model. E46: if it rides loose in the back meaning every bump in the road I hit It rocks back and forth. What parts should I order to make it ride tight again? Thanks in advance!
January 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You could have a bad trailing arm bushing. Inspect the suspension for loose or worn parts to be sure. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
estimatorman Comments: How do I disconnect the green Cas cover release cable so I can remove the passenger side trunk liner?
October 4, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Pull the knob out of the panel, then detach the cable from the knob. The cable will then feed through the panel. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
antiparticleman Comments: There is no appreciable difference in road noise with the padding missing. It looks a bit neater if you cut it away, however. use a sharp knife and cut slowly.

People really should purchase all the wear and tear parts if doing suspensions for the first time on older cars. This should be stated when purchasing suspension parts. And Pelican, PLEASE STOCK ALL the parts. I had the hardest time finding the bumpstops for the front and had to buy elsewhere. And DIYers PLEASE be CAREFUL not to let the wheel assembly plop down while doing this work. All sorts of mayhem can ensue.
September 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Jeff K. Comments: Can shock/upper shock mount replacement be done with the rear of the car on ramps and weight still on the wheels?
August 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bob Mitchell Comments: What are the torque values for the upper shock mount and the lower attaching bolt?
April 12, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You didn't mention what vehicle you have, assuming E46.

Shock to trailing arm: 100 Nm
shock to upper mount 14 Nm
Shock mount to body 28 Nm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Scott Comments: Why does the top shock mount need to be removed? Can a person only remove the shock shaft nut 16 mmthen pull it through from the bottom? Does the rear tire need to be removed?
January 23, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The mount does not have to be removed, it is easier to do it this way. Also, you can then inspect it. The tire does not have to removed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:20:16 AM