This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
In this technical article I will go over the steps involved with replacing the sway bar drop links on the BMW E30 3 Series cars from 1984-92. Over time the rubber inserts in these small links tend to dry up and wear out, causing the sway bars to lose efficiency in providing lateral control during hard cornering. The good news is that these links are easily replaced, and should take only an hour or two to complete. The sway bar links are designed to replaced as a unit, rather than replacing the bushings inside. This makes installation relatively simple. We will also be replacing the bushings that secure the sway bar to the vehicle's chassis.
Let's 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 Wayne's article on the subject.
Now place a jack under the control arm and compress the strut assembly so that it is nearest to normal ride height as possible. This will take the tension off the sway bar, and help you remove the links. Repeat this for both sides.
Next, locate the drop links. They will behind the brake rotor assembly. One end attaches to the sway bar itself, the other connects to the control arm. Start out by disconnecting the upper mounting bolt on the drop link. This will allow you to remove the drop link from the sway bar.
Now we will need to remove the sway bar itself from the chassis. This is done by locating the mounting points on either side of the car and removing the two bolts in the bracket that holds the sway bar to the chassis. Once the bolts are removed, pull the bar down towards you. This will allow you to remove the pieces of the old bushing on either side of the bar. Now remove the drop link mounting nut at the bottom of the control arm and remove the drop links from the car. Once the drop links are out, remove the lower mounting bracket and transfer them onto the new drop links. Torque the brackets to 16 ft./lbs.
We are now ready to install the new bushings/drop links. Start out by first installing the new drop links into the mounting holes on the control arm. Thread a new self-locking nut on at the bottom, but do not tighten it yet. We need to keep some play in the link so we can get the top portion lined up.
Install the new sway bar mounting bushings around the bar and place the bracket overt the bushing. Some suspension grease might help you in getting the bushings in place. Line the bracket up with the mounting holes on the chassis and reinstall the bolts, but do not tighten. You want to keep some free play in the bar. This will help you to line up the sway bar links.
Now place the jack under the control arm again and jack the arm up until it is near normal ride height. This will become evident, as the upper drop link stud will rise up to meet the sway bar. Slide the stud on the new drop link through the mounting hole on the sway bar. This may take a little force and time, but eventually it will go in. Now thread a new self-locking nut on the end and torque it to 30 ft./lbs. Repeat this for both sides.
Now go back to the sway bar mounting bolts and torque them to 16 ft./lbs. It's important to keep the jack under each control arm while torquing the bolts. This will relieve the stress on the sway bar. Now with the jack still in place, torque the lower drop link mounting bolts to 30 ft./lbs.
Lastly, put the wheels back on and install (but do not tighten) the lug bolts. Jack the car up again, and remove the jack stands from either side. Now lower the car and tighten the lug bolts.
And that's it, you're done!
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.