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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E36 3 Series Trailing Arm Bushing Replacement
Jared Fenton
Wayne R. Dempsey

Difficulty Level: 4
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     In this tech article I will go over the steps involved with replacing rear trailing arm bushings on the BMW E36 3 Series. This article is written with all of the BMW E36 models in mind with the exception of the 318ti, which has a different trailing arm design than the other models.

     Why replace the bushings? Over time, trailing arm bushings can wear out, causing a variety of handling as well as alignment problems. Replacement does involve a fair amount of work and special tools, however the end result will be a car that handles as it did coming off the factory line.

     Before we begin, with the wheels on the ground, loosen the lug bolts, but do not remove them. Now, chock the front wheels and jack up the rear of the car. Be sure you use a good mounting spot and use caution while doing this. For those you not familiar with the procedure, I recommend reading Wayne’s article on jacking up the E36


     With the car in the air, remove the lug bolts and pull the wheels off. Next, we will need to remove the drive axles. This is done by first removing the six bolts holding the CV joints to the differential. You will want to use some wire and support the CV joints once disconnected. This will keep the CV joints from crashing down. In order to remove the CV joints from the trailing arms, you will need a helper to apply the brakes. This will hold the axle in place. We need to hold it place to remove the mounting bolt on the in the center of the rotor. Keep in mind that this bolt is held on very tight. You will probably need to use an impact wrench to remove the nut.

     Next, look at the back of the caliper, and you will see two plastic plugs inside of two rubber grommets. Pry the plugs out using a screwdriver. Directly under the plugs you will see two 7mm Allen head bolts. Remove these bolts and pull the caliper off the mounting bracket. Use some zip-ties and suspend the rotor to prevent damage to the brake line. Now, disconnect the brake pad wear indicator on the passenger side of the car. Once you have the calipers off, look at the back of the rotor and remove the two bolts holding the caliper-mounting bracket to the rotor/trailing arm. Now look at the front of the rotor. You will see a single hex head screw. Go inside the car and release the handbrake. This will allow the parking brake shoes on the inside of the caliper to retract. Now, remove the hex head screw and pull the rotor off.

     Now place a jack stand under the trailing arm to prevent it from crashing down and remove the lower shock absorber mounting bolt. Once you have the bolt out, lower the trailing arm slowly. This will give you enough clearance to remove the drive axle from the car. Most likely, you will need to install a puller or similar tool on the hub to push the drive axle out of the hub. Now, while the trailing arm is down, remove the coil spring. You may need a helper to push down on the arm while you take the spring out.

     You will now have to disconnect the parking brake cable from the parking brake shoe adjuster. Now remove the cable bracket on the trailing arm. Two bolts hold the bracket to the trailing arm. Once removed, position the cable out of the way. Now disconnect the ABS wheel speed indicators.

     Now unbolt the upper and lower control arm links from the trailing arm. They are held on by two through-bolts on the top and bottom of the trailing arm. Now remove the three bolts holding the trailing arm front bracket to the body. Once removed, the trailing arm will be free of the car. Now remove the trailing arm from the trailing arm bracket. You will see the trailing arm bushing inside the trialing arm.

     With the trailing arms now removed, we can begin the installation of the new bushings. Make a not of the general position of the old bushing. We will need to install the new bushing in the same position. The first step in removing the bushing is to press the old bushing out. It may be necessary to use a press to remove them. Once, out, coat the new bushing in suspension grease and using the press, draw the new bushing into the control arm until it protrudes the same amount as the old bushing.

     Now re-install the trailing arm back into the trailing arm bracket. Torque the mounting bolt to 81 ft/lbs. next, reattach the trailing arm bracket to the body and torque the mounting bolts to 57 ft/lbs. Re-attach the upper and lower control arms to the trailing arm and torque the bolts to 81 ft/lbs. Now rotate the whole assembly downward and re-install the coil spring. Before rotating the arm upward, re-install the drive axle into the hub. Now apply a light coat of oil to the threads on the drive axle and install the nut loosely.

     Re-attach the other end of the drive axle to the differential and thread in the bolts loosely. Next, rotate the trailing arm up ward using a jack and re-install the lower shock absorber mounting bolt to 57 ft/lbs. Bolt the parking cable bracket back onto the trailing arm and re-connect the cable to the parking brake adjuster.

     Reconnect the ABS wheel speed sensors and place them back into the retaining bracket. Once in place, now re-install the brake rotor and tighten the Allen head set screw to 12 ft/lbs. Place the brake caliper-mounting bracket over the rotor and re-install the mounting bolts. Torque these bolts to 50 ft/lbs. Place the brake pads back in the caliper and install the caliper on the mounting bracket. Re-install the two 7mm bolts and tighten them. Now install the two plastic plugs back into the rubber grommets. Reconnect the brake wear indicator on the passenger side.

     Now, torque the drive axle bolts to the differential to 74 ft/lbs. Take the center caps out of the road wheels and re-install the tires. Now lower the car and tighten the lug bolts. The last step is to torque the drive axle retaining nut to 184 ft/lbs (221 ft/lbs on M3 models) Have a helper step on the brakes while you tighten the nut. You may find it necessary to use an impact wrench to tighten this nut. Once torqued, pop the center caps back into the wheels and have the car professionally re-aligned at a good shop on a rack.     

     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:
Rob BMW Comments: Hi all here is the easy way 1 jack up high & safe 2 mark trail arm brackets 3 undo 10ml brake lines 4 undo bracket trail arm 5 drill hole to realese bush close to arm insert 6 beat outwards the bushes are tapered ! 7 make up bolt & bracket tool grease up wind in if gos offcentre beat straight with rubber mallet ! easy job be confidfent to win :
September 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thx - Nick at Pelican Parts  
scooter Comments: This is a lot more work than necessary. You can do this with the trailing arm still attached to the car, there are a bunch of DIY if you look else where. Granted I'm sure it's easier to change the bushing with it out of the car but this seems like too much extra work to make it worth while.
May 9, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Brett Comments: Do bad RTABs lead to INSIDE tread wear on tires? Also decreased tread life? Had these tires for not even 15k miles.
December 27, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, depending on how the alignment is changed. I would check the front end for looseness. A ball joint could cause this or the bushing. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
cdmbmw Comments: How do we verify that proper pre-load is applied when installing the bracket??
November 3, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Which bracket are you talking about?
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Andy Comments: How do you know if the bracket is in the correct position when you torque the bolt that holds it to the bush?

Also, FYI brake pad wear sensor is always installed on the RIGHT side of the car, regardless of driver/passenger position.
March 12, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You want to mark the old bushing before removing and install the same place.

In the US market, BMW places brake pad wear sensor on the front left and rear right.- Nick 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.
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