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Rear Ball Joint Replacement
 

Pelican Technical Article:

Rear Ball Joint Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

4 hours4 hrs

Tab:

$200

Talent:

****

Tools:

18mm, 21mm, 24mm, flat-jaw snap-ring pliers, flathead screwdriver, chisel, hammer, prybar, large vise grips, ball joint tool, floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, torque wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW 525i/xi Sedan (2004-07)
BMW 528i xDrive Sedan (2009-10)
BMW 528i/xi Sedan (2008-10)
BMW 530i/xi Sedan (2004-07)
BMW 530xi Wagon (2006-07)
BMW 535i xDrive Sedan/Wagon (2009-10)
BMW 535i/xi Sedan (2008-10)
BMW 535xi Wagon (2008)
BMW 545i Sedan (2004-05)
BMW 550i Sedan (2006-10)

Parts Required:

Rear wheel bearing carrier ball joint

Hot Tip:

Read article before beginning

Performance Gain:

Repair faulty ball joint and prepare vehicle for alignment

Complementary Modification:

Replace rear control arms

BMW E60 rear suspension components are primarily made of aluminum alloy, thus reducing weight and helping improve fuel-efficiency. Rear wheel bearing carriers are suspended to the rear subframe using three control arms (or links): 2 uppers and one lower. The lower arm, called the swing arm, is a broad, sturdy component, which is attached to the wheel bearing carrier via an integral link at front and a ball joint at rear.

The springs and shock absorbers on sedan and sports wagon differ. Sedan models are equipped with conventional coil springs and shock absorbers combined in strut assemblies. The sports wagon is designed with a flat floor in the cargo compartment. To achieve this, the sports wagon rear suspension is equipped with compact air springs and shock absorbers. In addition to space-saving, air springs, height is electronically controlled, allowing the rear of the wagon to stay at a relatively stable height regardless of the load. This maintains constant suspension geometry and adds stability. This self-leveling suspension is referred to as electronic height control or EHC.

The rear swing arm ball joint wears out over time and creates free play in the rear suspension. This free play results in poor handling and tire wear. You can check the ball joint free play by wiggling the rear wheel. Grab at the bottom of the tire and push the tire in and out. If free play is felt, have someone place a hand on the ball joint and repeat. Replace the ball joint if movement is present. I am going to show you the way I replace these ball joints. It is quick and saves some disassembly. However, if you want to remove the lower control arm, to make room for yourself to work, I will show what is needed to do that as well.

Always replace these ball joints in pairs, driver and passenger side.

In this tech article, I will go over how to replace the rear wheel bearing carrier ball joint on BMW E60 vehicles.

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 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.

Lift and support the rear of your vehicle. See our tech article on jacking up your vehicle.

The rear ball joint is located in the wheel-bearing carrier, held in by a snap ring (red arrow).
Figure 1

The rear ball joint is located in the wheel-bearing carrier, held in by a snap ring (red arrow).

Start by removing the main bolt for the lower control arm.
Figure 2

Start by removing the main bolt for the lower control arm. Loosen the 18mm nut (green arrow) while counter holding the 24mm bolt (red arrow).

Loosen the nut so there is about a 20mm gap between it and the control arm.
Figure 3

Loosen the nut so there is about a 20mm gap between it and the control arm.

Then lightly tap it using a soft-faced hammer to begin to move the bolt out of the control arm.
Figure 4

Then lightly tap it using a soft-faced hammer to begin to move the bolt out of the control arm.

remove the lower control arm bolt.
Figure 5

remove the lower control arm bolt. If stuck, use a pry bar to lever the wheel-bearing carrier, releasing the tension on the bolt. Then slide the bolt out.

Now move to the front of the control arm.
Figure 6

Now move to the front of the control arm. Loosen the 18mm integral link bolt (red arrow).

Support the integral link from below.
Figure 7

Support the integral link from below. Then remove the integral link bolt.

Now it's time for the short cut.
Figure 8

Now it's time for the short cut. I will show you what to remove later, if you want to get the lower control arm out of your way. Use a large pry bar and lever the lower control arm down. Have an assistant hold the control arm in place.

While holding the control arm down, align the rear ear of the control arm with the ball joint bore (green arrow).
Figure 9

While holding the control arm down, align the rear ear of the control arm with the ball joint bore (green arrow). Slowly release the control arm until it rests on the wheel-bearing carrier, just below the ball joint (red arrow).

This photo shows the alignment of the control arm and wheel-bearing carrier from below.
Figure 10

This photo shows the alignment of the control arm and wheel-bearing carrier from below. Note how the control arm rests on the carrier.

Using a large pair of vise grips, clamp the lower control arm right below the wheel-bearing carrier.
Figure 11

Using a large pair of vise grips, clamp the lower control arm right below the wheel-bearing carrier. This gives a little support to the control arm, helping to prevent it from coming undone. Now keep in mind, this is not the factory method. It is a time saving method passed onto me by an old timer BMW mechanic. The control arm is under tension when in this position. If you work roughly with the ball joint, it could come loose. Be careful when using this method, if it doesn't seem like it is for you, see the following steps to get the control arm out of the vehicle. If you want to use the short cut method, skip the steps noted with removing the control arm.

Control arm removing: Starting at the sway bar end link, remove the 18mm nut (red arrow).
Figure 12

Control arm removing: Starting at the sway bar end link, remove the 18mm nut (red arrow).

Control arm removing: Next, move to the rear most control arm mounting bolt.
Figure 13

Control arm removing: Next, move to the rear most control arm mounting bolt. Mark the eccentric washer. Marking the washer (red arrow) allows you to get the rear wheel alignment as close as it was before removing. You will need an alignment when done, but this helps when transporting the vehicle.

Control arm removing: Now you can remove the rear most control arm bolt.
Figure 14

Control arm removing: Now you can remove the rear most control arm bolt. Counterhold the 18mm bolt while removing the 21mm nut. Then remove the bolt with the eccentric washers.

Control arm removing: Now you can remove the forward most control arm fastener.
Figure 15

Control arm removing: Now you can remove the forward most control arm fastener. Counterhold the 18mm bolt while removing the 18mm nut. Then remove the bolt from the control arm. While removing the bolt, support the control arm. Then remove the control arm from the vehicle.

With the control arm supported, remove the integral link from the lower control arm.
Figure 16

With the control arm supported, remove the integral link from the lower control arm.

Using a chisel and a hammer, lightly tap the ball joint snap ring to break it free.
Figure 17

Using a chisel and a hammer, lightly tap the ball joint snap ring to break it free.

Using flat-jawed snap ring pliers, remove the snap ring from the ball joint.
Figure 18

Using flat-jawed snap ring pliers, remove the snap ring from the ball joint.

This photo shows the snap ring being removed.
Figure 19

This photo shows the snap ring being removed.

This photo shows the BMW factory ball joint tool.
Figure 20

This photo shows the BMW factory ball joint tool. There are many aftermarket options available. I will show you how to remove the ball joint using this tool. Other tools will be similar. Follow the instructions that came along with your tool.

Install the ball joint tool onto the wheel-bearing carrier in the removal configuration.
Figure 21

Install the ball joint tool onto the wheel-bearing carrier in the removal configuration.

Using the ball joint tool, remove the ball joint from the wheel bearing carrier.
Figure 22

Using the ball joint tool, remove the ball joint from the wheel bearing carrier.

Once the ball joint clears the mounting bore, remove the ball joint with the tool.
Figure 23

Once the ball joint clears the mounting bore, remove the ball joint with the tool.

Thoroughly clean the ball joint mounting bore (red arrow).
Figure 24

Thoroughly clean the ball joint mounting bore (red arrow).

Remove the old ball joint from the tool.
Figure 25

Remove the old ball joint from the tool.

Install the new ball joint into the mounting bore so the retaining lip (red arrow) faces the front of the vehicle.
Figure 26

Install the new ball joint into the mounting bore so the retaining lip (red arrow) faces the front of the vehicle.

Then press the new ball joint into the wheel bearing carrier until it stops.
Figure 27

Then press the new ball joint into the wheel bearing carrier until it stops.

Install the new snap ring.
Figure 28

Install the new snap ring. Be sure it is properly seated in the groove in the ball joint.

Install the integral link and install the mounting bolt finger tight.
Figure 29

Install the integral link and install the mounting bolt finger tight. Raise the rear swing arm into place. Install the rear swing arm and tighten the fasteners. Then repeat the steps for the opposite side of the vehicle. Have the vehicle professionally aligned. The integral link to the wheel-bearing carrier needs to be torqued to 100 Nm. Torque the lower control arm bolt to 240 Nm.


Comments and Suggestions:
Guffrus Comments: 19mm socket and dremel versaflame this is a nice looking little tool actually, +1 arrived today.
The aftermarket pressing tool is in bad shape, the nuts have extremely shape edges having eaten their ball race and I have had to file them down a little bit but i still have a couple of minor cuts.
However upon reassembly and slightly better alignment of the tool on the bush and with the additional firepower of the air gun the bush is out effortlessly.
It has been soaking in wd40 overnight which may have helped some too.
Did not need to apply heat but i have read that aluminium expands twice as much? as fast? whatever as steel so heat would have been on my side if i had needed to use it, especially on this winters day.
I am not expecting further problems and the jack has held up just fine for several days now, its still a concern and i would not recommend it but it is certainly possible to carry out repairs using only a jack.
But you are rolling the dice and it could cost you your life or a limb.
Best of luck to you all.
December 1, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your repair process, tool use tips and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Guffrus Comments: Ah snap ring, sorry I was calling that a split ring, no I have removed that but as i say i had to remove the brake caliper in order to access it as the opening was tucked right in next to the back plate.
Was in 2 minds before i did it as i felt like i was making work for myself but that ring was not going to come out and in less time than i had wasted the caliper and the ring were out so I feel it was a good call.
November 30, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Guffrus Comments: Ok so update:
Jack hasnt arrived so still have only one side jacked up and no axle stands.
The load was coming from the air suspension, I have removed a cover from under the bumper to access the pump and loosened the air lines to relieve the pressure, that has allowed me to remove the integral link.
I have levered the lower suspension arm down and clamped it against the rose bush housing so that its out of the way.
Due to the position of the opening in the split ring I have had to remove the brake caliper to access it.
I am now trying to press out the old bush but it doesnt want to come out, I have an aftermarket pressing tool which is potentially rubbish or I am perhaps using incorrectly, in anycase it had a pair of ball raced bearings to allow easier tightening but they have been destroyed under the load and the bush has not moved at all.
I am now looking at trying to source a 19mm impact socket and a blow torch in hopes that I will be able to remove the bush with this additional firepower.
November 30, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is the snap ring for the bearing still in place? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Guffrus Comments: I am having a lot of problems trying to do this job, everything seems to be under load and I cannot remove the integral link. I have undone and removed the 3 bolts / nuts.
I dont have a lot of space to work as my jack is small and does not lift very high.
I should have come here sooner and read the article on jacking so that i could have put an axle stand under the side of the car, that would probably have allowed me to jack up both sides of the car aswell.
Now I have ordered a larger 3 tonne jack with a higher lift so that i can jack up both sides of the car together and get it on axle stands in the hope that having both sides off the ground together will take away the source of the load on the integral link which i am assuming is an antiroll bar.
Oh how I wish I had a ramp..
November 28, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: try unbolting the sway bar. It may be the pressure of the opposite side of the axle stopping you. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Twobeemers Comments: I have been trying to get the right rear ball joint out all day today and it is just plain stuck. I've been alternating heat and liquid wrench for about 4 hours. Any suggestions?
March 10, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Are you using a installing / extractor kit to remove it? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Thepontif Comments: Thanks for this. I'd done it before but wanted a reminder before I do it for the second time on my E60. One thing that might be helpful to DIY'ers is that on both my E38 740iL and my E60 540i, when I did this job the rear axle on one side or the other popped out of the diff a little. Not so much that the car wouldn't move, but enough that I had a strange vibration on the E60. The E38 exhibited no symptoms until I went around a curve and suddenly had no drive wheels! My mechanic charged me a lot to take the rear cover of the diff off to remove the debris from the broken snap ring. Fortunately the diff wasn't damaged.
I remembered the E38 when I did the E60. What works is to take a long piece of wood or something that won't damage to put up against the axle shaft bolts at the diff end and give it a few firm taps with a hammer...to be sure it's seated after assembly and before the wheel is reinstalled. I remembered to do this on the right side but forgot about it on the left. And low and behold the left was vibrating and spewing diff oil. I did something similar to the "shortcut" and I think manhandling the thing when moving the swing arm out of the way is what did it.

My hard learned $0.02! :-
January 6, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your 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 12/13/2017 02:46:49 AM