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BMW E39 Suspension Tie-rod Ends and Center-link Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E39 Suspension Tie-rod Ends and Center-link Replacement

Kerry Jonsson

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

***

Tools:

16mm, 17mm, 18mm wrench or socket with ratchet, vise grips or pliers, small puller

Applicable Models:

BMW 525i Sedan/Wagon (2001-03)
BMW 528i Sedan/Wagon (1997-00)
BMW 530i Sedan (2001-03)
BMW 540i Sedan/Wagon (1997-03)

Parts Required:

Tie-rod ends, center-link, fasteners

Hot Tip:

Remove mounting nuts completely before attempting to remove ball joint shaft

Performance Gain:

Correct vibrations and uneven tire wear

Complementary Modification:

Replace idler arm

When you turn your steering wheel you turn a column shaft. This moves a gear in the steering box. The steering box moves the pitman arm which moves your center-link left and right. The final link is the tie-rod end. The tie-rod ends move both spindles to the left or the right. Each step of the way a ball socket allows this rotation or the steering linkage for steering and suspension movement. As you drive your car these ball joints can wear and create excessive play in the steering. This reduces the secure handling of your BMW and causes uneven tire wear. In this tech article we will go over all of the steps to replace the tie-rod ends and the center-link.

These fasteners are going to be tight and there is not a lot of room to swing the wrench. You are going to have to be patient and use some force to remove fasteners and components to rebuild your front end. Corrosion may hold a joint in even after you have loosened a fastener. Keep in mind the joint may pop out when you use a removal tool so keep your hands clear and wear protective gloves.

Lift and support front axle of the vehicle. See our tech article on jacking up and supporting your vehicle. Remove the front tires.

The procedure to replace the tie-rod ends and center-link is the same for both the left and right side. In these pictures we will be alternating between the left and right side. We will note it in the caption just keep in mind the step applies to both sides. Where there are exceptions it will be noted in the picture caption. It is recommended you replace both sides at the same time to keep your handling neutral.

Replacing Tie-rod Ends:
This photo illustrates the right side wheel well with the steering wheel turned all the way to the left.
Figure 1

This photo illustrates the right side wheel well with the steering wheel turned all the way to the left. We will be removing the tie-rod end (green arrow). Remove the 17mm nut (yellow arrow) that holds the ball joint shaft into the spindle.

Use a separating fork to force the tie-rod end out of the spindle.
Figure 2

Use a separating fork to force the tie-rod end out of the spindle.

Do not lose the washer (green arrow) at the top of the tie-rod end.
Figure 3

Do not lose the washer (green arrow) at the top of the tie-rod end. Notice how the tie-rod end spacer (yellow arrow) is still attached to the tie-rod end. Use the fork again to separate the spacer from the tie-rod end.

We are now on the left side of the car in the wheel well.
Figure 4

We are now on the left side of the car in the wheel well. When we separated the tie-rod end the spacer stayed in the spindle and the tie-rod end came out properly. If the spacer does fall out just remember to put it back during installation,

Turn the tie-rod end 180°.
Figure 5

Turn the tie-rod end 180 degrees. The inner ball joint will allow you to spin the tie-rod end easily. Remove the 16mm bolt (green arrow) that pinches the tie-rod end on to the center-link inner tie-rod shaft.

Use a flat head screwdriver to wedge in between the pinch gap to spread it apart.
Figure 6

Use a flat head screwdriver to wedge in between the pinch gap to spread it apart. This will make spinning the tie-rod end much easier. The inner tie-rod end will spin with the outer tie-rod end. Grip the inner tie-rod end (green arrow) with a vice grip to hold the inner tie-rod shaft still while you spin off the outer tie-rod end. Installation is the reverse of the removal steps. Hold the inner tie-rod end shaft with a vise grip and thread on the new outer tie-rod end in approximately the same position as before. This will change your toe reading on your wheel alignment so you will have to take the car for a wheel alignment when you are done. Install the pinch bolt and rotate the tie-rod end 180 degrees and install in the spindle with the spacer.

Center-link Removal:
This photo illustrates underneath the car on the left side of the suspension.
Figure 7

This photo illustrates underneath the car on the left side of the suspension. We are looking at the pitman arm (red arrow). It connects the steering gearbox (yellow arrow) to the center link (purple arrow). Remove the 18mm nut (green arrow) and use a puller to push the ball joint shaft of the center link in the direction of the blue arrow.

This photo illustrates underneath the car on the right side of the suspension.
Figure 8

This photo illustrates underneath the car on the right side of the suspension. We are looking at the idler arm (red arrow). Remove the 18mm nut (green arrow) that holds in the center-link ball joint and force the center-link (purple arrow) in the direction of the blue arrow. Use can use a small puller to get that done. If you are going to replace the idler arm at the same time remove the 16mm bolt (yellow arrow). There is a 16mm nut on the other side of the bolt that you need to hold still with a wrench. You can leave the idler arm attached to the center-link if you are going to replace both idler arm and center-link and pull them out together.

Pull the center-link out of either the left side or the right side of the car.
Figure 9

Pull the center-link out of either the left side or the right side of the car. The right side has slightly more room if you are also removing the idler arm. Here we are pulling both pieces out of the left side. Installation is the reverse of the removal steps. Position the center-link in the middle of the car. Install the left side ball joint shaft in the pitman arm. Install the idler arm or the right side of the center-link into the old idler arm. Tighten down all the nuts that hold it on and follow the instructions earlier to install the outside tie-rod end links.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Desmond Jones Comments: Beware of the "Applicable Models" listed! This is not an "early model" vs "late model" difference. Only 540i's and M5 had the recirculating ball steering, all six-cylinder cars had rack & pinion. So if you have a 528i/525i/530i, this DIY does not apply to you!
August 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it. I will have the article updated.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Honolulu Comments: This DIY only applies to vehicles with recirculating ball steering a "steering box" at the bottom of the steering column. IIRC the 2003 e39 I'm gonna change out has rack and pinion steering and this is a different animal.
October 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Correct. In the 6-cylinder models a rack and pinion was used. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Mon 12/5/2016 02:05:59 AM