In this tech
article, we will discuss replacement of the front strut assemblies on the
BMW E36 3 Series. This article applies to the front suspension on all 318, 325,
328, and M3 models from 1992-99.
first step in overhauling the front suspension is to loosen the legs on the
front wheels while the vehicle is on the ground, but do not remove them.
Just get them loose and then snug them back up. Next jack up the front of
the car. If you are unfamiliar with the correct way to jack up the front of
the E36, you can check out Wayneís tech article on jacking the E36.
the vehicle is firmly supported by jack stands, remove the lugs and take the
wheels off. You will now see the suspension strut assembly.
To remove the strut assembly, first look at the brake calipers. On
both sides of the car, you will need to first disconnect the ABS sensor
wire. Simply unplug it at the connector. On the driverís side, you will
need to disconnect the brake wear indicator sensor.
you will need to remove the calipers. Look at the backside of the calipers;
you will see two rubber grommets that have plastic plugs inserted into them.
Remove these plastic inserts. Directly behind them are two 7mm Allen head
bolts. These are the caliper mounting guide bolts. Use a 7mm Allen key to
loosen then remove them. Now look at the front, you will see the brake pad
retaining clip. Use a screwdriver to pry it off. Once removed, pull the
caliper off the rotor. You may need to force it a bit to get the caliper
off. Take the brake pads off at this time as well. Use a zip tie to secure
the caliper to frame and to prevent it from hanging by the brake line.
the caliper off, we will now have to remove the lower caliper mounting
bracket. Two large bolts on the top and bottom hold this on. They are
located behind the rotor. Remove these bolts and take the frame off the
rotor. Next we have to remove the rotor. A single Allen head screw in front
holds this on. Itís a good idea to use a fair amount of penetrant spray
around this screw to prevent stripping or seizing. Use an Allen key to
remove this screw and pull the rotor off the hub. Now, with the rotor
removed you will now see the dust shield behind the rotor. Locate the three
bolts that hold it in place and remove the dust shield.
we will need to remove the sway bar drop links. Some E36 models were sold
without sway bars, so if your vehicle does not have sway bars, skip to the
next step. To remove the sway bar links, you will first need to place a jack
under each strut and compress the strut until the sway bar links become
level on either side. To do this, place the jack directly under the strut
itself and carefully compress the strut. What you ideally want is roughly
the angle that the car sits at when on the ground.
Make sure both sides are compressed to roughly the same amount,
otherwise the links will not come out. To remove the links, just undo the
199mm nut on the bottom of the control arm. When you decompress the strut,
the sway bar links will pull out of the control arm merely from the tension
on the sway bar.
Now we are ready to
actually remove the strut. The first step is to place a jack stand under the
hub to prevent the control arm from dropping to the floor and causing a lot
of damage to the tie rods. With the control arms supported, open the hood
and locate the upper strut mount perches. There are three 10mm nuts holding
the strut assembly in the perch. Remove these nuts. The strut assembly will
be free of the strut perches.
at the back of the control arm assembly. The strut is held onto the control
arm below by two bolts. Secure
the strut assembly and remove these two bolts. You may need a helper to hold
the strut assembly as you undo these bolts. Once the bolts are out, the
strut will be free from the car.
that the strut is removed, place it in a vice and hold it from the bottom.
Now you will need a spring compressor to take the tension off the coil
spring, so we can remove the top mounting plate and spring retainer. Now is
a good time to mention safety. When you are using a coil spring compressor,
be sure to wear goggles and use extreme caution, if a compressor slips off
the spring, it can cause SERIOUS damage. These springs, while compressed,
have enough potential energy stored in them to break bones or worse. When
compressing the springs, turn each side equally, til you have relieved
enough tension on the spring to remove the retainer.
we will remove the upper strut mount/spring retainer. To do this, look at
the top of the strut. Remove the small plastic cover in the center of the
mount. Directly below is the retaining nut for the mount/retainer. Using an
impact wrench, take this nut off. Pull the strut mount off the top of the
assembly. Next, remove the
upper strut retainer. Once both
are free, remove the compressed coil spring and set it aside. In this
instance, we will be re-using the stock springs. However if you are
replacing the springs, carefully relieve the compressors from the old
springs and place them on the new spring, and compress it.
at the new strut assembly. It will be necessary to remove the lower rubber
gasket from the old strut and transfer it onto the strut assembly. This is
the lower spring retaining pad. Once the pad is in place, put the old (or
new) compressed coil spring over the upper strut rod. Make sure that the
coil spring fits in the pad correctly with the end of the spring in the
recessed portion of the rubber pad and strut. Slide the protective boot or
bump stop over the strut rod. Now place the upper retaining rubber pad over
the coil spring, making sure it fits correctly. Place the metal retaining
plate over the rubber pad also making sure that it fits correctly. With
these two parts in place, place the upper strut mount over the strut rod and
thread the new strut retaining bolt on the shock rod. Use an impact wrench
to tighten the nut down. Now remove the spring compressors on the coil
spring. As before, use caution while doing this.
that we have changed the strut assembly, we are ready to bolt it back onto
the car. Have a helper hold the strut assembly from below the car, and guide
it up through the strut perch. Make sure that you have the studs lined up
correctly whole doing this as they indexed to fit in only one way. Once the
strut assembly is through the strut perch, re-install the three 10mm nuts
that hold it in place and torque them to 16 ft/lbs.
get back under the car and use two new self-locking bolts to attach the
strut assembly to the control arm. Torque them to 24 ft/lbs. Now remove the
jack supporting the control arm. Bolt the splash shield back on the hub
using the three bolts removed earlier. Now re-install the rotor, itís a
good idea to use a new set screw to hold it in place. With the rotor in
place, re-attach the caliper mounting bracket and torque the bolts to 50
ft/lbs. Now cut the zip-tie securing the caliper. Place the brake pads in
the caliper, and slide the caliper over the rotor. Re-install the two 7mm
Allen head bolts and place the plastic inserts back in the rubber grommets.
On the front of the caliper, re-install the brake pad retaining clip.
Now re0install the brake pad wear indicator on the driverís side as
well as the ABS sensors on both sides.
to re-install the sway bars links you will need to position the link in
itís mounting hole as you jack up the control arm. As you jack it up, the
sway bar link will slide in. Use a new 19mm self-locking nut on the bottom
and tighten. Now remove the jacks from under the strut assembly.
re-install the wheels, snug up the lugs and lower the car. Once on the
ground, using a criss-cross pattern, tighten the lugs.
Well, there you have it - it's
really not too difficult at all. If you would like
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