Parts Catalog Accessories Catalog Tech Info Tech Forums
 
Follow Pelican Parts on Facebook Follow Pelican Parts on Twitter Follow Pelican Parts on Instagram Follow Pelican Parts on YouTube Follow Pelican Parts on Pinterest Follow Pelican Parts on Tumblr
  Search our site:    
View Recent Cars  |   Cart  | Project List | Order Status | Help    
 >  >
Replacing Your Front Control Arms on Your RWD BMW
 
Bookmark and Share

Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing Your Front Control Arms on Your RWD BMW

Nick Czerula

Time:

3 hours3 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

*****

Tools:

Set of sockets, soft faced hammer

Applicable Models:

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

Parts Required:

Front control arm, control arm bushing

Hot Tip:

Wiggle the control arm side-to-side to test the bushings

Performance Gain:

Smoother, stiffer suspension

Complementary Modification:

Replace faulty control arm, ball joint and control arm bushing

BMW E46 front suspension main components are as follows:

  • The front subframe provides a rigid platform for mounting the drive train (engine and transmission), steering rack and most front suspension components. The subframe design on rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models differs substantially.
  • Lower control arms on left and right, each with three attachment points: 
    • Bushing at rear anchors control arm to car frame (rear-wheel drive) or subframe (all-wheel drive).
    • Ball joint at front attaches to subframe.
    • Ball joint at outer end attaches to steering knuckle.
  • Coil springs and shock absorbers in MacPherson strut configuration. 
  • Stabilizer bar anchored at front subframe and attached via stabilizer links to struts.

The front control arm on the E46 chassis has three common areas of trouble: The ball joint that connects to the steering knuckle, the ball joint that attaches to the subframe and the control arm bushing. Bushing failure can cause a number of ride quality problems. You may have a shudder when braking or a clunk when you hit a bump. When replacing your front control arm, I suggest replacing the bushing and both ball joints. Inspect your control arm bushing and ball joints for looseness by jacking up the front of your vehicle and moving each wheel side to side. If you feel looseness in the attachment points, this indicates a problem. You may need help from a friend to watch the control arm components while you wiggle the wheel.

In this tech article, we will go over the steps required in replacing the front control arm on your rear-wheel drive E46. If your model is all-wheel drive, there is a separate article for you. 

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.

The control arm has three areas of trouble: The ball joint that connects to steering knuckle (yellow arrow), the ball joint that attaches to subframe (green arrow) and the control arm bushing (purple arrow).
Figure 1

The control arm has three areas of trouble: The ball joint that connects to steering knuckle (yellow arrow), the ball joint that attaches to subframe (green arrow) and the control arm bushing (purple arrow).

To begin, raise and support the front of the vehicle on jack stands. If you need help with this step, please refer to our Pelican Parts Technical Article on Jacking Up Your BMW. Now remove the front wheel from the side of the vehicle you are replacing control arm on. Next, remove the lower splash shield and reinforcement plate. If you need help with this step, please refer to our Pelican Parts Technical Article on Removing the Splash Shield and Reinforcement Plate.
If your vehicle is equipped with Xenon headlights, remove the Xenon headlight height sensor from the control arm.
Figure 2

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

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 16mm ball joint nut (green arrow).
Figure 3

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 16mm ball joint nut (green arrow).

Then separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle using a pickle fork.
Figure 4

Then separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle using a pickle fork.

Next, working at the subframe, remove the inner ball joint 21mm nut (green arrow).
Figure 5

Next, working at the subframe, remove the inner ball joint 21mm nut (green arrow).

Knock the ball joint out of the subframe using a hammer.
Figure 6

Knock the ball joint out of the subframe using a hammer. To do this, hit the control arm in the area of the ball joint. Since you are replacing the control arm, it does not matter if you mar it.

Working at the rear of front control arm, remove the two 16mm control arm bushing fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 7

Working at the rear of front control arm, remove the two 16mm control arm bushing fasteners (green arrows). Then remove the control arm from the vehicle. When installing the new control arm; first, install the subframe ball joint nut finger tight. Then install the ball joint at the steering knuckle.

When tightening the subframe ball joint, it may be necessary to place a jack under the ball joint to stop the stud from rotating.
Figure 8

When tightening the subframe ball joint, it may be necessary to place a jack under the ball joint to stop the stud from rotating. Next tighten the steering knuckle ball joint nut.

Apply a liberal amount of tire lube or dish soap to the inside of the bushing.
Figure 9

Apply a liberal amount of tire lube or dish soap to the inside of the bushing. Then tap the bushing onto the control arm using a soft-faced hammer. Install the bushing fasteners and tighten. Be sure to properly align the bushing to the body using the alignment tabs. Install the Xenon light height sensor.

Install the splash shield and reinforcement place and double check your work. If you have uneven tire wear, have your vehicle professionally aligned.
Bookmark and Share
Comments and Suggestions:
Jay Comments: I've referenced this DIY 2 and a half years ago when I 1st did my FCA's, they where absolute hell, rust is the spawn of evil. Due to my aggressive driving style, the ball joints went bye bye, had to change them again last week. Thus I came back here for memory refreshment and inspiration. Thank God they weren't as much of a bear as the first time. Being that I now use MeyleHD only, the hardest part of my DIY was getting the old/new ball joints out/in. I added a little copper anti-seize pre-installation last time and this time. Thanks Pelican
November 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
pauloregon Comments: When I last replaced my control arm bushings, upon reassembly, one of the bushing fastener bolts screwed into the frame just fine but when it hit bottom, i couldn't torque it since it just "spun". Likely a previous mechanic hit it with a air wrench and stripped something. I assume it's the frame part but it could be the bolt. Is there a helicoil size suggested to use as an insert with a new bolt?
May 22, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't know the thread size off the top of my head.

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
 

  Search our site:    

View Cart & CheckOut | Project List | Order Status |  Help    

 

[Home] [Customer Service] [Shopping Cart] [Privacy Statement]
 [Contact Us] [About Us] [Shipping] [Map to our Location] [Careers]

Copyright © Pelican Parts Inc.

Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:20:38 AM