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BMW E30 3-Series Sway Bar Bushing / Drop Link Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E30 3-Series Sway Bar Bushing / Drop Link Replacement

Jared Fenton

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$85-$125

Talent:

***

Tools:

Floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, lug wrench, torque wrench, dish soap, metric socket set, metric wrench set

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)

Parts Required:

Front drop links, bushings, self locking nuts

Performance Gain:

Much improved handling

Complementary Modification:

Replace the front shocks and springs
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

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.

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

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.

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Comments and Suggestions:
IHaSO Comments: So after reading a lot about the rear drop link replacement, today I finally had the courage to try it, hehe. I've used several tricks that I've read here and there, and the primary one was the dishwashing liquid. Just lube up the swaybar and droplink, and with a lot of elbow grease, it is doable.
Getting the old ones off wasn't that easy as well. I ended up drilling some holes in the rubber. Just don't damage the swaybar while doing so.
Important note: I see a lot of guys lubing the swaybar with all kinds of grease. It's not a good idea, because quite a lot of greases will eventually kill the rubber bushing.
Thanks Pelican, for this guide!
June 6, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Bo Jangles Comments: Not sure if my message got through before, but for the rears you don't need a press, I put some lube and a slightly smaller diameter cylinder in the bushing then pushing it on became a cinch before I couldn't move it a mm with a hammer or prybar. I was shocked how such a simple thing made it so much easier to put the dogbone on.
November 14, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
DIRTY30 Comments: The front sway bar you gotta use vise grips or you will never get the bracket back in place. I thought maybe i had to wrong bushings but they were right just hard to get the mounting brackets back in place. Links in front simple as pie links in back not so simple hard to slide the bushing on the sway bar itself without some kind of lubricant. Stay at it though basically have two choices pull the entire sway bar out which requires removing a spring on one side or get some lubricant, be determined and get it on!
January 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Al Comments: I installed new front and rear sway bar links on my E30 M3, which I believe is very similar to other E30s. The front links are easy; they just bolt in. There rears are harder because the rubber bushing in the top of the link is a very tight fit on the end of the sway bar. I had to remove the sway bar from the car, which requires removing the spring on one side. With the sway bar out, I pressed the link onto the sway bar in a vise. If you use this method I suggest you put tape or some other marking on one end of the sway bar before you remove it to make sure you don't try to install it upside down and backwards when you put it back in. This step can save you a lot of time, sweat, and foul language, as I found out the hard way.
July 27, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for giving our readers the tip - Kerry at Pelican Parts  
SLRigger Comments: I did not jack up the control arm and did just fine. If the entire front end is on jacks, then the weight is equal on both sides of the sway bar, which should be neutral.
April 13, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Correct, the suspension will be pulling the bar down, but you can perform the repair this way. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
salteedog Comments: I purchased some rear sway bar bushings and end links. I started with the bushings and could not compress them to bolt back in place. Frustrated, I moved to install the drop links. I tried regular suspension grease, muscle, and everything to get a drop link in place, and after an hour and a half of frustration, I couldn't get the job done. Yesterday, I visited my mechanic at NAPA He doesn't touch my E30 by the way., and from his tool box, he gave me a 4 oz. tube of a NAPA product called "Sil-Glyde" lubricant. Costs about $7. I applied some to the end link hole and the end of the sway bar. I still had to remove the rear wheels and push and twist, but the end link went on. I was able to install both end links in 15 minutes! I then started on the rear sway bushings and coated the inside of each bushing and the applied some to the outside of them too. I got both sides installed in 20 minutes! Of course, after you figure how to do the first one of the bushings and drop links, the second one of each is much faster to install. So, using this lubricant saved me much time, effort, and frustration. The lubricant has other uses as it is water repellant, won't freeze, or melt. Good luck.
October 11, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes any lubricant will work but silicone stays slippery longer - Nick at Pelican Parts  
doug sauce Comments: Write up lists simply installing front sway bar bushings on bar and install bolts; maybe with some grease. Ive greased, soaped, clamped, beat, trimmed, cussed, etc to try and get the 10lbs of rubber bush into the 5lb space existing between subframe and bracket. No luck. Even the old bushes not wanting to go back in. I had some welding done reinforcing the replacement subframe motor mounts tore out of original frame, maybe it distorted a bit. Suggestions ?
April 14, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Every time I've done this I've encountered similar issues (on just about all cars). You really need to get them into a vice and compress them into place - they will deform and snap in...eventually. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Norts Comments: I did my links with the car on stilts under the subframe.
I didnt need to use a jack at all. They just swapped straight out.
You might need to turn the steering to help you line up a little but thats about it.
Easy job.
April 22, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Rocket Comments: Dude, how are you going to get a vice under the car with the spring etc in the way? They have another article on here that implies the sway bar drop links will just slide onto the sway bar. Yeah, let me see that. When you go to replace these with new, you would have to be Arny or Jay Cutler to do that by hand. I don't mind the article so much, but at least be accurate.
November 28, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sorry, I meant to say "a big set of u-shaped vice grips" in the previous comment. I have used them many times to install bushings like these. It's a pain, but they do work. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
doug Comments: What method and/or tool is used to press the rear sway bar link bushings over the ends of the sway bar rod?
August 4, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can use a press, although if you don't have one, a big vise typically will work fine as well. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Greg Comments: This does not seem to be the instruction for replacing the rear sway bar links.
June 16, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Pretty sure this article is for the front, the rear is similar. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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