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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:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$300

Talent:

****

Tools:

Set of sockets (18mm, 21mm), floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, torque wrench, lug wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW X5 (2000-06)

Parts Required:

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

Hot Tip:

Always tighten bushing with suspension at loaded position

Performance Gain:

Replace faulty tension strut, ball joint and control arm bushing

Complementary Modification:

Replace front ball joint

As you drive your car you suspension systems absorb the shock from bumps in the road. The strut absorbs the up and down motion of the suspension system. The front suspension has a front tension strut and a control arm. Each help to maintain a straight track down the road as the suspension moves up and down due to road surface changes.

The tension strut has two areas of trouble, the ball joint that connects to the steering knuckle (it is bolted to the steering knuckle, not part of the tension strut) and the tension strut bushing. 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. Inspect your control arm or ball joints 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 bushing can leak hydraulic fluid. If you see signs of fluid leaking from a bushing, replace. Always replace the 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.

Remember your car may have been serviced before and parts 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. Never work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

In this tech article, I will show you how to remove the tension strut and replace it as a unit. I will also show you what is involved in pressing the bushing in and out.

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 connects to the steering knuckle via a ball joint (green arrow) and to the subframe via a bushing (red arrow).
Figure 1

The front tension strut connects to the steering knuckle via a ball joint (green arrow) and to the subframe via a bushing (red arrow). The ball joint stays attached to the wheel bearing carrier when the tension strut is removed. If you need to replace the ball joint, see our tech article on front ball joint replacing.

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 22mm ball joint nut.
Figure 2

Working at the steering knuckle, remove the 22mm ball joint nut.

Remove the nut (red arrow) and discard it.
Figure 3

Remove the nut (red arrow) and discard it. It is self-locking and has to be replaced.

The ball joints on E53 models are an interference fit.
Figure 4

The ball joints on E53 models are an interference fit. You need a pickle fork or a swift blow from a hammer to remove them. I like to use a hammer (red arrow) and strike the spindle. This usually breaks the connection free. At times the nut on the ball joint may become stuck or spin the ball joint shaft. 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. Remove the ball joint from the steering knuckle by pulling it straight down.

Next, working at the subframe, remove the control arm's 21mm fasteners.
Figure 5

Next, working at the subframe, remove the control arm's 21mm fasteners. Loosen the bolt (red arrow) while counterholding the nut (yellow arrow).

Pull the tension strut down and away from the subframe to remove it.
Figure 6

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 (red arrow), use a press tool or shop press to remove and install the new bushing.
Figure 7

To replace the bushing (red arrow), use a press tool or shop press to remove and install the new bushing.

You can also replace the bushing (red arrow) with the tension strut still installed.
Figure 8

You can also replace the bushing (red arrow) with the tension strut still installed. However, this takes a special hydraulic bushing replacement tool. To do it that way, remove the bushing fasteners. Then pull the tension strut down far enough to access the bushing. Follow the instructions that came with your tool to replace the bushing. The shop press is more readily available. I will show you that technique.

Mark the old bushing and the tension strut to help with installing the new bushing.
Figure 9

Mark the old bushing and the tension strut to help with installing the new bushing. Transfer your mark over to the new bushing. Be sure to align the mark on the bushing to mark on the tension strut when installing. Use a shop press (red arrow) with the correct adapters (yellow arrows) to press the bushing out and into the tension strut (green arrow). When installing the new tension strut, first install the bushing into the subframe. Then tighten 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. If you have uneven tire wear, have your vehicle professionally aligned.

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:43:23 AM