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Front Tension Strut and Bushing Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Tension Strut and Bushing Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

3 hours3 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

****

Tools:

Set of sockets (18mm, 21mm), floor jack, jack stands, wheel chocks, lug wrench, 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)
BMW M5 Sedan (2006-10)

Parts Required:

Front tension strut, tension strut bushing, front tension strut, self-locking nuts

Hot Tip:

Always tighten the bushing with the suspension in the loaded position

Performance Gain:

Replace faulty tension strut, ball joint and control arm bushing

Complementary Modification:

Inspect with each oil change

BMW E60 front suspension components are primarily made of aluminum alloy, thus reducing weight and helping improve fuel-efficiency. The suspension features a double-pivot design with dual lower control arms and a MacPherson strut. The front lower control arm is often called the tension strut. The steering knuckle is attached to the control arms using a pair of ball joints. The inboard end of each control arm attaches to the front subframe using a bushing. The rear control arm bushing is a conventional bushing. The front control arm (tension strut) inner bushing is hydraulic.

With age and use, each end of each control arm may become worn and loose. Check ball joints and bushings for looseness by jacking the front of your vehicle and moving the wheel side to side. If you feel looseness in the attachment points, this indicates a problem. You may need help from a friend to watch the control arm components while you wiggle the wheel. The tension strut bushing can leak hydraulic fluid. If you see signs of fluid leaking from a bushing, replace it (always replace bushings in pairs). A bad bushing may also give you a brake shake when you first apply the brakes at cruising speed, or a knocking sound.

When replacing your front tension strut, I suggest replacing the bushing every time. Keep in mind that the bushings have to be replaced in pairs. BMW recommends that the inner tension strut bushing may be replaced only once. If it wears out again, replace the complete control arm. In this article I will show you how to remove the front control arm. The rear control arm is covered in another tech article.

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 you're 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.

Raise and support the front of the vehicle on jack stands. See our tech article on jacking up your vehicle. You're going to want both wheels off the ground.

Remove the front wheel from the side of the vehicle you are replacing the tension strut on.

Remove the engine splash shields and reinforcement plate. See our tech article on engine splash shield removing.

The front tension strut (yellow arrow) connects to the steering knuckle via a ball joint and to the subframe via a bushing (green arrow).
Figure 1

The front tension strut (yellow arrow) connects to the steering knuckle via a ball joint and to the subframe via a bushing (green arrow).

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 21mm ball joint nut (red arrow).
Figure 2

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 21mm ball joint nut (red arrow). The ball joints on E60 models are not an interference fit. You do not need a pickle fork to remove them. While loosening, the pressure is relieved from the connection. The ball joint may spin when you try to remove the nut. If this happens, place a jack under the ball joint and apply only enough pressure to remove the nut. If the ball joint is stuck, it could be due to corrosion. If needed, tap the ball out of the steering knuckle by hitting it on the top of the threads using a soft-faced hammer.

Next, working at the subframe, remove the control arm 18mm fastener.
Figure 3

Next, working at the subframe, remove the control arm 18mm fastener. Loosen the bolt while counter-holding the nut (red arrow).

Pull the tension strut down and away from the subframe to remove it.
Figure 4

Pull the tension strut down and away from the subframe to remove it. Then remove the tension strut from the vehicle. To replace the bushing, use a press tool or shop press to remove and install the new bushing.

Be sure to align the bushing notch (red arrow) with the nub (blue arrow) on the tension strut when installing.
Figure 5

Be sure to align the bushing notch (red arrow) with the nub (blue arrow) on the tension strut when installing. When installing the new control arm, first install the bushing into the subframe. Then install the ball joint nut finger tight. Replace both of the self-locking nuts. Next tighten the steering knuckle ball joint nut. Tighten the bushing fasteners. You will want your suspension in the loaded position when you tighten it. The loaded position is the angle of the control arm when the wheels are on the ground. You can do this by lowering your vehicle onto ramps or blocks. Install the splash shield and double check your work. If you have uneven tire wear, have your vehicle professionally aligned.


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Comments and Suggestions:
Janice Comments: Sorry Nick I am just a girl but; I have to side with the others. We could use a little more instruction in removing the ball joint end of the tension strut. Not that we do not appreciate and respect the guidance provided. I have used instructions by Pelican parts on previous jobs without issue. I will try to lift the ball joint end again, but am going to loosen the wheel hub/base if it does not work. I have a 2008 528I
November 20, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the ball joint is stuck, it could be due to corrosion. If needed, tap the ball out of the steering knuckle by hitting it on the top of the threads using a soft-faced hammer. Then remove at angle to clear strut.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Lindy Comments: General questions: May I assume the time required for this 3hrs is the same as the shop rate manual the dealer uses?
Is your tab for cost $300just for labor or parts or both?
My dealer wants $760 to replace "tension strut bushings and alignment". Just trying to compare. Thank you!
June 14, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, the time we show is what we think it would take article users. Not the same as a shop.

Tab does not include labor, as the labor is free in DiY.

if you don't trust the price, get an estimate from another local shop. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
wuj Comments: About first comment Peter's:
On Figure 2 U can clearly see that there is not enough space to take out ball joint without loosing wheel hub from McPherson...
I am not sure about models from this article, but on 2004 3.0i saloon it is not doable...

Regards
June 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You are incorrect. There is room, as the ball joint allows movement around the strut. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Ryan Comments: Which nuts need to be replaced? Just the ones at the ball joint, or also the ones for the through-bolt at the bushing?
June 1, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: All of them, as they are self-locking nuts and can't be reused. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dan Comments: what is the torque specification on that .I have a 525i
February 12, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don’t have that info.



I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Peter Comments: re e60 Is there enough clearance to allow the tension arm ball joint to be lifted out of the steering knuckle if the McPherson strut is still in place?
March 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, the tech article you commented on shows you how. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:39:58 AM