Pelican Parts
BMW Parts Catalog Accessories Catalog BMW How To Articles BMW Tech Forums
Call Pelican Parts at 888-280-7799
Get FREE Ground Shipping with the purchase of $75 in qualifying parts!

Pelican Technical Article:

BMW Technical Article

BMW E36 3 Series Rear Sway Bar Drop Link Replacement
Jared Fenton
Wayne R. Dempsey

Difficulty Level: 3
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     In this continuing series of tech articles for the E36 3 Series, I will focus on replacing the rear sway bar drop links. This is a relatively easy procedure and should take no more than a few hours with a decent set of tools. Keep in mind that this article is not specific to any car, however the procedures and practices within are for all models from 1992-99. Keep in mind that this article does not apply to the M3 or the 318ti, as they have a different rear suspension design than other models.

     Over time, heat, flex and dirt cause the sway bar drop links to wear out, causing unpredictable handling and possibly a dangerous situation while driving. With most of the E36 models reaching over 100K on the clock, itís probably a good bet that the bushings in the drop links have seen better days. Have you noticed a perpetual squeak coming from the wheels as you go over bumps? Have you also noticed a weird ďkick-backĒ feeling when you turn left or right? Chances are, the drop links are worn and need replacement.

     The drop links are designed to be replaced as a whole unit, rather than the individual bushings. While the bushings are available separately, I highly recommend just replacing the whole link. To replace merely the bushings, you will need access to a hydraulic press, which most of us donít own.

     Now, letís jack the car up. First, chock the front wheels to keep them from rolling while you have the rear wheels jacked up. Next, loosen (but do not remove) the rear lug bolts. Now, use a floor jack and jack up the rear of the car. Be sure to jack the car up on a re-inforced part of the body, such as a crossmember or chassis beam. Be sure not to jack the car up on any other part, as you could put a hole right through the bottom of the car. I have seen Porsches in the past where jacks have punctured the floorboards. A handy reference is Wayneís article on jacking up your BMW.


     Once the car is firmly secured on jack stands, the next step is to remove the lug bolts on the rear wheels and take the wheels off. Once the wheels have been removed, look at the inside of the wheel hub. Follow the control arms until you have located the suspension drop links. They will be connected to the upper control arms near the spring perches.

     Once located, place the jack under the control arm and jack the wheel hub assembly until it is as close to ride height as possible. We need to do this in order to take the torsional load off the sway bar. Once you are near level road height, Loosen and remove the nut the secures the drop link to the sway bar. Do not pull the link off the bar just yet. Next, loosen the nut on the top of the control arm that secures the drop link in place. Once removed, you should be able to simply pull the old drop link out through the bottom of the control arm and off the end of the sway bar. If you feel any resistance or dragging while taking off the drop link, STOP, go back and check to see where the link is hanging up. Keep in mind that the link is under some pressure and you donít want it flying anywhere in your general direction if the link is under tension.

     Repeat this procedure for the other side. Once you have both drop links free of the car, remove the mounting brackets off the top of each old link. Use an open-end wrench to hold the bolt while you remove the nut on the other side. Once removed, transfer the brackets to the new drop links, slide the bolt through and thread the nut on (but do not tighten yet)

     Make sure that the ride height is level on each side of the car and first install the new links onto the sway bar. Thread on the nut securing it in place but do not tighten it yet. We just need to secure the link and keep it from falling off the sway bar. Next, work the drop link into place at the top of the control arm. Once it is through the control arms, thread the nut on at the top and torque it to 30 ft./lbs. next, tighten the mounting bracket to the drop link. Use an open Ėend wrench to hold the bolt as you torque the nut to 30 ft./lbs.  Now torque the nut securing the link to the sway bar to 30 ft./lbs. Remove the jack holding each axle level.

     Lastly, re-mount the wheels and snug up the lug bolts, (but do not tighten just yet) now jack the car up on each side and remove the jack stands underneath. Next, lower the car and tighten the lug bolts while the car is on the ground.      

     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.

Comments and Suggestions:
Jfryjfry Comments: 98 M3. Just pulled bar with both rear wheels unsupported. This puts no tension on the bar. As long as both are supported or not equally, you can remove., although you will likely be fighting the preload on the bushings see below

What is not mentioned is the importance of aligning the new end links to prevent preloading the bushing. You want the bushing under no stress at ride height. There are instructions how how to position the end links on the bar; alternatively you could replicate the position of the endlinks and brackets as removed if you believe they are as-installed from the factory.
August 6, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Bill Comments: I have a 1999 e36 M3 and I'm getting ready to replace my rear sway bar links. In the article you mention to put the car on jack stands and once the rear wheels are off to jack up the control arm and wheel assembly to release torsional load on the sway bar. If both rear wheels are off the ground is there any torsional load on the sway bar? If you jack up only one side won't that ADD torsional load to the sway bar?

I guess I assumed that if both wheels are off the ground that the sway bar was "unloaded" and I could remove it without fear of releasing any stored energy. Is this not true?

Can I remove the end links with the bar still on the car, or do you recommend to remove the bar, push/press the links onto the bar, and then reinstall the bar on the car?

August 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The bar is still under a load when jacked, as the suspension will pull the bar with it. I would suggest working with the vehicle jacked, just keep in mind you will have to jack the suspension or pull the bar to get it back in place when bolting things together. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ayhaytch Comments: Hey, do I need to do both side at the same time or can I do one side first then move onto the other? Not sure how many jacks I have lying around! Thanks
January 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can do one side at a time. However, the weight on the vehicle will load the sway bar, making it difficult to align the ends. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ek Comments: Hey. Same issue as Jeremiah. But I cannot get the new links on. Tried a few ways along with good old force and nothing seems to work. Is there a specific tool to use, as a generic puller pusher was too bulky and slipped
September 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No specific tool. You can try levering the sway bar down, while you install the fastener. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jeremiah Comments: My car E36 1995 318is does not have a nut securing the end link to the sway bar, the sway bar end is inserted through the end link. How would I get this off in this case, with a puller?
January 9, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: - Nick at Pelican Parts
You can remove the retaining bolt from the other end and spray some Spray nine or dish soap on the bushing and twist it and it will come off.
pyite Comments: What is the best way to search the Pelican site for technical articles? I tried to find E36 sway bar link instructions but I could only find it for the E30. Then I searched for E36 sway bar on Google and got this article!

If I click on the technical articles tab and then do a search, it takes me to the parts matches and not the articles.

March 3, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm working on an overhaul of our search engine - it *does* indeed need to be updated somewhat! - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

Got more questions?  Join us in our BMW Technical Forum Message Board, and ask a question to one of our many automotive experts.
About Us
Pelican Parts, LLC
1600 240th Street
Harbor City, CA 90710
Order Online or Call:
Sign Up for Pelican Pit Stop News & Special Offers