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Front Control Arm Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Control Arm Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

3 hours3 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

*****

Tools:

Set of sockets, soft faced hammer

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Front control arm, control arm bushing

Hot Tip:

Replace is pairs if you're able to

Performance Gain:

Replace faulty control arm, ball joint and control arm bushing

Complementary Modification:

Replace control arm bushing at same time

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 control arm has three areas of trouble: the ball joint that connects to the steering knuckle, the ball joint that attaches to the sub frame and the control arm bushing. Diagnose looseness in your control arm ball joints and the bushing by jacking the front your vehicle and moving wheel side to side. If you feel movement 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. The ball joint at the steering knuckle and the control arm bushing are serviceable separately. In most cases I suggest to replace the entire control arm if one ball joint is bad.

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 the front of the vehicle on the jack stand. See our tech article on jacking up your vehicle.

Remove front wheel from side of vehicle you are replacing control arm on.

Start by loosening the sway bar end link bushing bolt (green arrow) loosen the 13mm nut while counter-holding the 13mm bolt.
Figure 1

Start by loosening the sway bar end link bushing bolt (green arrow) loosen the 13mm nut while counter-holding the 13mm bolt. Just loosen it a few turn. Then remove the 16mm nut (yellow arrow) for the sway bar end link mounting bracket. This part has to be transferred over to the new control arm. The nut is accessed from the bottom of the control arm.

Loosen ball joint 18mm nut (green arrow).
Figure 2

Loosen ball joint 18mm nut (green arrow). Nut size may vary if it is not a BMW ball joint.

Using a ball joint separator, separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle.
Figure 3

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 4

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).

Working at rear of front control arm, remove two 17mm control arm bushing fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 5

Working at rear of front control arm, remove two 17mm control arm bushing fasteners (green arrows).

Next, pull bushing down and away from vehicle body.
Figure 6

Next, pull bushing down and away from vehicle body.

Next, working at sub frame, remove inner ball joint 22 mm nut (green arrow).
Figure 7

Next, working at sub frame, remove inner ball joint 22 mm nut (green arrow). I use a flex-head ratchet with a 22mm socket. Keep in mind if the control arm has been replaced before the nut may be a different size. I have also seen them in 21mm variations.

Knock ball joint out of sub frame using a hammer.
Figure 8

Knock ball joint out of sub frame using a hammer. To do this, hit control arm in area of ball joint. Since you are replacing control arm, it does not matter if you mar it. Support control arm, be prepared for it to fall out of the vehicle. Then remove control arm from vehicle. When installing new control arm; first, install sub frame ball joint nut finger tight. Then install ball joint at steering knuckle. When tightening sub frame ball joint, it may be necessary to place a jack under ball joint to stop stud from rotating. Next tighten steering knuckle ball joint nut. Apply a liberal amount of tire lube or dish soap to inside of bushing, assuming you are replacing the bushing. Questions on bushing removing or replacing see our tech article on Control arm bushing replacing. Then tap bushing onto control arm using a soft-faced hammer. Install bushing fasteners and tighten. Be sure to properly align bushing to body using the alignment tabs. If you have uneven tire wear, have your vehicle professionally aligned.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Bergy Comments: NOTE: I've found the Z3M to be a bit different. I was not be able to access the nuts on top of the subframe with a flex-head, because the motor mounts and peripheral components physically limit access. While it was possible to get the socket onto the nut, the head of the ratchet was be impeded. For both sides, I had to access the nuts from the topside using several wobble extensions. On the passenger's side, I had to remove a grounding cable to get proper clearance. On the driver's side, I had to remove my air filter, remove the power steering fluid reservoir from its bracket, and carefully shift it aside. Not terribly hard to execute with proper tools, just time-consuming.
September 28, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:07:46 AM