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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Technical Article

BMW E36 3 Series Front Sway Bar Bushing Replacement
Jared Fenton
Wayne R. Dempsey

Difficulty Level: 3
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     With most of the BMW E36 3 Series models reaching well over 100,00 miles or more, itís pretty common to see bushings start to wear out. Usually, replacing the various suspension parts on the car will restore that feeling of stable and precise control that BMWís are known for. In this tech article, I will focus on replacing the front sway bar bushings on the BMW E36 3 Series. Keep in mind that this tech article is not vehicle specific as it applies to every 3 Series model equipped with sway bars from 1992-99. Note:  on M3 models, the sway bar design is a bit different, as the sway bar links attach to the strut assemblies rather than the control arms. Keep this in mind if you have an M3.

     So what are sway bars? Why do I need to change the bushings? Sway bars are used to control lateral movement of the car, sometimes known as body roll. Basically, when you go around a corner in a car very fast, you will notice that the car will roll to one side and feel as though it might tip over. The sway bars are used to control that rolling and to keep the car as flat as possible when going around a corner. If the bushings as starting to go, you may notice ďclunksĒ coming from the front when you go around a turn hard. What happens is that the bushings wear out and cause the bar to shift and become less effective. The obvious fix is to replace the bushings. I have seen cars that were thought to need all new components, fixed by merely replacing the drop links.

     Letís start out by first chocking the rear wheels of the car. This will prevent the car from rolling when we have it up on jack stands. Keep in mind we will be working under the car, so safety first. With the car on the ground, loosen (but do not remove) the lug nuts for both front wheels. This will be difficult to do once the wheels are up in the air. Now, jack up the front of the car, sing a suitable point on the chassis. There are two outboard brackets near the rear control arm bushings that will provide enough support to jack the car up. Once in the air, place some quality jack stands under the car. NEVER rely on a jack to hold the car up. For those of you not familiar with how to jack up a car, I highly suggest you read Wayneís article on the subject.

http://www.pelicanparts.com/bmw/techarticles/E36-Jacking_Up/E36-Jacking_Up.htm

     Once the car is up in the air and firmly supported on the jack stands, remove the wheels. You will now be seeing the rotor/hub assembly. Look behind the rotor and locate the sway bar itself. There are two major components we will be replacing here. They are the sway bar drop links and the sway bar bushings that secure the bar to the chassis. We first need to disconnect the drop links from the sway bar. You may find it necessary to use a 17mm open-end wrench on the inside of the link to keep the ball joint from rotating if the links are badly worn. With the open end on there, use a 17mm socket to remove the nut on the other side. Once the nut is off, jack up the whole control arm assembly until it is as close to normal ride height as possible. This will take the pre-load off the sway bar and allow you to push the drop link off the bar. Repeat this for the other side of the car as well.

     Now use a 13mm open-end wrench and a 13mm socket to remove the nut and bolt securing the drop link to itís mounting bracket on the control arm. Use the open-end to hold the bolt while you remove the nut. Once off, slide the bolt through the drop link and remove the drop link from the car. Repeat this for the other side as well.

     Once both of the drop links have been removed, we can take the sway bar off the car. Start off by locating the left and right mounting brackets. Remove the bracket on each side of the car. Now lower the bar off the car.

     Once off, remove the old bushings off the bar by either sliding them off or cut them off. I have even heard of people using a blowtorch to burn the old bushings off. I donít really recommend you do this as you can cause damage to the bar itself. When you heat the bar up, you can actually reverse-temper the metal and make the bar weaker. If you slide the bushing off, itís a good idea to use a fair amount of soapy water to act as a lubricant.

     Once off, slide the new bushings into place using the soapy water, and place the mounting bracket around the new bushing. Now take the bar and locate it on the car in the relative position in which it is held on. Itís a good idea to thread one bolt in on both sides to keep the hold the bar in place and free up your hands. Now install all the bolts around the bracket and torque them to 16 ft./lbs.

     Now on to the drop links. BMW recommends that you replace the whole link rather than simply replace the bushings. The bushings can be purchased separately, however in order to install them, you will need access to a press. Itís easier to simply replace the whole link. In this case I am using new links.

     Install the new links by first attaching them to the sway bar. Push the threaded stud into the hole on the end off the sway bar and thread the 17mm nut onto the end of the stud. Snug the nut down, but do not torque it just yet. Repeat this for the other side of the car as well. Next, center the bottom of the drop link into the mounting bracket. You will notice that the two holes do not line up. Thatís ok. In order for the sway bar to work correctly, there is a small amount of pre-load on the bar. What this means is that we will need to jack up the control arm until the holes for the drop link and the mounting bracket line up. Once the holes line up, slide the bolt through both holes and thread the nut on the end of the bolt. Use a 13mm open-end wrench to hold the bolt wile you torque the 13mm nut on the other side to 31 ft./lbs. We can now torque the upper connection to 31 ft./lbs. You may need to hold the back of the stud with a 17mm open-end wrench while you tighten the nut.

     Now re-mount the tires and snug up the lug bolts, so that the tire is seated in place. Jack the car up on either side, and remove the jack stands supporting it. Now lower the front end of the car, and tighten the lug bolts using a criss-cross pattern. And thatís that!

     Now take your car for a drive. You may be surprised at how much this improves the overall ďfeelĒ of the car. On my car, I found that steering under hard cornering was greatly improved. Hell, it was almost effortless! Also the carís front end feels much more stable under braking.

     Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all.  If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs.  If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one.  Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Comments and Suggestions:
desca Comments: Hi, i have a 328i convertible from 99 the car and steering well are shaking a lot when driving on uneven road or driving on rods with pot holes in rest drives good. this comparing whit another e36 which i own. Ends of sway bar bushes looks a bit cracked!Any idea if can be something else? Thanks George
June 5, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would check the control arm bushings. If worn, they can cause a wobble. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Norm Comments: I just purchased a '95 325is for my son as a project car. The car has 113k miles and is in decent shape for a 20year old. At highway speeds, there is a front end vibration related to road speed, but at times the vibration is gone. Initial thought was unblalanced wheels. Could the vibration be related to front sway bar bushings? Thanks.
August 21, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suspect wheel balance first, then control arm bushings. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bob Comments: My vehicles are e46 1 330ci, 1 M3 and an e90 335i. Currently changing out the e46 M3 sway bar bushings with OE rubber bushings. not using poly Thanks.
July 9, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No grease on the factory stuff. Poly, check with the manufacturer. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bob Comments: So I take it the new rubber sway bar bushings are not supposed to be greased or lubricated before installation - only if the bushings are poly. I thought maybe lube should be applied to the hole in the bushing that the bar sits in. Please clarify for me. Thank you.
July 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What kind of vehicle?

On E36 BMW states to remove grease from the sway bar and bushings. Dry installation sounds right. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Pete Comments: I'm wondering if I can use my rhino ramps to just lift the front end to replace the bushings and links, since you say normal ride height is optimal, but the car is lowered as well. Is there room to work on it with the wheels still on? Or is it absolutely necessary to take the wheels off?
August 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not much room to perform this repair with the wheel on. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
gt Comments: is it dangerous to remove the sway bar,stabilizer bar on my m3 e36? i used normal e36 shocks on my car,for there is no bracket to mount the stabilizer on,can i remove it?
June 21, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will drastically change the handling of your vehicle. I would suggest leaving it installed as intended. You may want to install the right shocks on your vehicle to accommodate the sway bar. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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