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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Strut Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

*****

Tools:

Set of sockets, wrench set, spring compressor

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:

Front strut, front spring, stabilizer link locking nuts

Hot Tip:

Replace stabilizer links also.

Performance Gain:

Great vehicle ride performance

Complementary Modification:

Install performance springs and struts

Shock absorbers and springs are the suspension components that maintain the mass of the vehicle suspended above the rolling gear - 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 springs 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.

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. 

Servicing the MacPherson strut assembly requires the use of a sturdy spring compressor. Be sure you have one available before you start this work.

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.

Raise and support the front of the vehicle on jack stands. See our Pelican Parts technical article on Jacking Up Your BMW for more information.

Remove the front wheel from the side of the vehicle you are working on.

Working at the front strut, pull the brake hose and the sensor harness out of the holder.
Figure 1

Working at the front strut, pull the brake hose and the sensor harness out of the holder. They are held in by a rubber bushing and will pull straight out of the holder (green arrows).

Working at the front strut, remove the stabilizer link nut by counter holding link with a 15 or 16mm wrench and loosening the 16mm nut.
Figure 2

Working at the front strut, remove the stabilizer link nut by counter holding link with a 15 or 16mm wrench and loosening the 16mm nut. The stabilizer link has a flat spot for holding while tightening. This flat spot size can vary between 15mm and 16mm.

Working at the front stabilizer bar, remove the stabilizer link nut (green arrow) by counter holding the link (purple arrow) with a 15 or 16mm wrench and loosening 16mm nut.
Figure 3

Working at the front stabilizer bar, remove the stabilizer link nut (green arrow) by counter holding the link (purple arrow) with a 15 or 16mm wrench and loosening 16mm nut. Next, remove the stabilizer link from the vehicle.

If your vehicle is equipped with Xenon headlights, remove the Xenon headlight height sensor from the control arm.
Figure 4

If your vehicle is equipped with Xenon headlights, remove the Xenon headlight height sensor from the control arm. Remove the nuts (green arrows) and lay the sensor arm (purple arrow) aside.

Remove the strut pinch bolt from the strut (green arrow).
Figure 5

Remove the strut pinch bolt from the strut (green arrow).

Next, spread the strut clamping area with a small pry bar while pushing down on the brake rotor to slide the strut out of the steering knuckle.
Figure 6

Next, spread the strut clamping area with a small pry bar while pushing down on the brake rotor to slide the strut out of the steering knuckle. It is not always necessary to spread the strut; most times it comes apart easily.

Next, remove the upper strut mounting nuts and remove the strut from the vehicle (green arrows).
Figure 7

Next, remove the upper strut mounting nuts and remove the strut from the vehicle (green arrows).

If the alignment pin is missing (yellow arrow), remove each strut mounting nut individually (green arrows) and mark the location.
Figure 8

If the alignment pin is missing (yellow arrow), remove each strut mounting nut individually (green arrows) and mark the location. This will help with getting the strut in same position as before.

Once the strut has been removed from the vehicle, place in the spring compressor.
Figure 9

Once the strut has been removed from the vehicle, place in the spring compressor. The one shown is a wall-mounted model. There are many versions available, follow the directions that came with your spring compressor to compress the spring.

Remove the dust cap from top of the strut (green arrow).
Figure 10

Remove the dust cap from top of the strut (green arrow).

Remove the nut from the spring top by counter holding the center shaft with an Allen bit (usually 6mm) and loosening the nut (usually 20mm).
Figure 11

Remove the nut from the spring top by counter holding the center shaft with an Allen bit (usually 6mm) and loosening the nut (usually 20mm).

Once the nut has been removed, transfer the spring and parts over to the new strut.
Figure 12

Once the nut has been removed, transfer the spring and parts over to the new strut. Dust the boot with the bump stop (green arrow) and the rubber insulator (yellow arrow).

This photo shows the order the strut components are installed.
Figure 13

This photo shows the order the strut components are installed. This will help you in the case you drop or do not remember installation position of an item. The washer orientation is important, pay close attention when reassembling.

Once parts have been transferred over to the new strut install spring top nut and tighten. Then install the strut in the vehicle. Start by installing the upper nuts and finger tighten. Then install the strut into the steering knuckle and install the pinch bolt finger tight. Align the strut top as before and tighten the upper fasteners. Then tighten the clamping collar bolt. Reassemble the remaining items and have the vehicle professionally aligned.

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Comments and Suggestions:
dox Comments: Helpful hints: STEP 0: loosen the nut at the top of the strut a couple turns see Fig 11. STEP 1: no need on my 2002 to remove hoses; bracket is held by pinch bolt Fig 5. STEP 3: skip this unless replacing strut link. STEPS 9 & 10: wouldn't it be nice to have one of these? If using "bolt spring compressor" place on second turn from each end positioned just beyond spring ends. STEP 12: what does "dust the boot" mean? Line up the notch on the strut plate with the notch on the strut rubber and the painted marks on the spring. STEP 13: my 2002 did not have a tower spacer top studded disk and the "top drilled disk" shown is the strut mount on the vehicle frame.
June 12, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Wcedgar Comments: On my 2001 325i
Is there a difference between the front strut mounts on the sport suspension and on the standard suspension?
Also do you sell the new rubber pieces?
March 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sport suspension parts are usually different.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need by using your VIN.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
TrentW Comments: Are there any differences in replacing front struts on the xi AWD models? Need to remove the axles?
March 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, the axles have to be removed from the wheel hub. We don't currently have that tech article. If we get a chance to perform the procedure, we will be sure to document it.

I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
shaggy Comments: Can the old rubber pieces on the top and botton of the strut spring be reused?
February 27, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, if they are not work out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
TevScale Comments: I'm having trouble with the step corresponding to your Fig. 6. I can work the strut loose from the steering knuckle, but the knuckle does not drop far enough to free the strut it seems like it would need to go down another couple of inches or so. It acts like the control arm doesn't have enough downward travel. Is there an easy way to correct this so I can remove the strut? Thanks for any help!
February 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should drop enough. If not, detach the tie rod end, see if that helps. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jglover Comments: Looking for struts for my e46 325ci. Having trouble telling if I have sport suspension or regular. Looked up my vin and it said sport suspension adjustment. Does this mean I have sport suspension?
Please advise
February 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would assume so. To be sure, 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
 
Infantasy Comments: Do I need a torque wrench for restoring the strut pinch bolt Step 5 and nut Step 11 to ensure its tightness and how many newton for them if required?
Thanks.
November 3, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You should torque all fasteners. I don’t have that info.

I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
E34 Comments: I was able to use a deep socket normally for spark plug removal that allows you use a wrench on the socket along with an allen wrench to loosen and tighten the nut on the top of the strut shown in step 11 extra easy. Thanks as always for helping me maintain my baby.
Chris
October 24, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Rusty Comments: The only way I could get step 11 done is by filing grooves on the outside of a 20mm socket so I could grab onto it with a vise grip, this allowed me to stick a 6mm allen key through the center of the socket to counter hold the strut rod. It is impossible to get to that nut with a wrench.
September 14, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There are wrenches for every job, some made just for that one. It can tough without them, thanks for sharing the tip. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DYInewbie Comments: using manual spring compressors, we couldn't get the washer put back on the new struts. After getting it checked by wheel alignment professional, he said he couldn't get it to aligned due to some binding. If I steer much to the right, it will pull to the right. Left, it will pull to the left. While replacing the front struts, we also replace control arm bushings. Do you know if the missing washers are causing the binding for the alignment to pull? Your comments?
September 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The washers could be. Everything you removed has to go back in. Give the shop the washers and have them install them. They may have a spring compressor that will work better. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
diva_3181377 Comments: A bad strut mount can cause unstable steering? One of them have some cracks in it forgot to change them when struts were replaced. It is not binding and no noise. Just the steering wobbles on pot holes at slow speeds even when backing out from garage and at the end of garage where it meets the driveway . Car drives fine and no issues in braking or driving at high speed. I did the "push down" test and seems the mount is not moving at all vertically as expected.
May 22, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sure. If the rubber is blown out, the front wheel angle can change, affecting steering. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
rednightist Comments: You may want to give some advice and tips on bottom and top rubber mounts as re-installing them in its original position is important. If they are not in the correct position, you will hear some clunking sounds as you drive over rough spots on the road.
May 4, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Correct, although it seems self-explanatory it may not be. The end of the coil has to align with the rubber mount. Flat end of coil with recess made for on the rubber end. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:20:31 AM