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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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