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Front Control Arm Ball Joint Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Control Arm Ball Joint Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$60

Talent:

***

Tools:

Set of sockets (16mm, 18mm), soft faced hammer, pickle fork, BMW tool # 31 1 440

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Front ball joint

Hot Tip:

Replace ball joints in pairs

Performance Gain:

Restore ride quality

Complementary Modification:

Replace control arm bushing

BMW Z3 front suspension main components are as follows:

  • The front sub frame provides a rigid platform for mounting the drive train (engine and transmission), steering rack and most front suspension components. 
  • Lower control arms on left and right, each with three attachment points: 
    • Bushing at rear anchoring control arm to car frame.
    • Ball joint at front attaching to sub frame.
    • Ball joint at outer end attaching to steering knuckle.

  • Coil springs and shock absorbers in MacPherson strut configuration. 
  • Stabilizer bar anchored at front sub frame and attached via stabilizer links to the control arms.

The front ball joint connects the control arm to the steering knuckle. The ball joint is pressed into the control arm and can be replaced. If your ball joint is faulty, you may have a knock or noise in the front end. There could also be a loose feeling in the steering. To inspect the ball joint, jack the front of your vehicle. With the wheel installed, wiggle the bottom of the tire in and out. The ball joint should resist movement and feel firm. If you feel a small amount of movement and need to confirm it is faulty, hold the ball joint at the connection to the steering knuckle, then have a friend wiggle the wheel. There should not be any movement in the ball joint. The ball joint can be replaced with the control arm installed. If you want to remove the control arm for this procedure, see our tech article on front control arm replacing.

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're 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.

Raise and support front of vehicle on jack stand. See our tech article on jacking your vehicle.

Loosen ball joint 18mm nut (green arrow).
Figure 1

Loosen ball joint 18mm nut (green arrow). Nut size may vary if it is not a BMW ball joint. The sway bar end link is shown removed here, it is not necessary to remove it for this procedure.

Using a ball joint separator, separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle.
Figure 2

Using a ball joint separator, separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle. If you donÂ't have a ball joint separator, you hit the spindle with a hammer to break the ball joint loose. If using this method, be careful not to mistakenly hit the wrong component. Once loose, remove the nut from the ball joint.

If the ball joint is spinning when you are trying to remove the nut, I use a thin jaw pair of vise grips (green arrow) to grab the ball joint shaft while loosening the nut (yellow arrow).
Figure 3

If the ball joint is spinning when you are trying to remove the nut, I use a thin jaw pair of vise grips (green arrow) to grab the ball joint shaft while loosening the nut (yellow arrow).The ball joint can be replaced with the control installed in the vehicle. You will have to move the strut out of the way to do this. I will show you how I do that. If you are not comfortable with this, see our tech article on control arm replacing, remove the control arm and replace the ball joint on a bench.

Remove the wheel speed and break pad wear sensor wiring from the strut.
Figure 4

Remove the wheel speed and break pad wear sensor wiring from the strut. Then pull the strut toward the front of the vehicle. Place a piece of wood (green arrow) in the wheel well to hold the strut in the extended position. Next, mark the position of the old ball joint to the control arm. Use the metal bracket on the bottom of the ball joint to trace a line onto the control arm. This will help when installing the new ball joint,

Press the old ball joint out of the control.
Figure 5

Press the old ball joint out of the control. You will need a ball joint press as shown here. This is an aftermarket version of the BMW tool # 31 1 440. Follow the instruction that came with your press, as the tool parts and steps may vary depending on manufacturer. Once removed, check that the ball joint mounting bore is clean and free of damage. Press the new ball joint into place. Confirm that the mark you made aligns with the new ball joint. Install and tighten the ball joint nut. 62 Nm (45 ft-lb). Then reassemble vehicle, reverse disassembly steps.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Rabbid mongoose Comments: Craps... I didn't realize I posted this in the incorrect article. It was irrelevant to this guide. I accidentally posted this in the wrong sectionbare in mind, I'm using a smartphone it was ment for the article that went over the installation of the regulator arm for the e36, but for what ever reason I posted it here. Sorry again!
September 20, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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