Join Date: Dec 1969
Ok, I did it. Not too bad, but it was tiring pounding away at the pickle fork, and I had two major problems (bent threads in the hole where the bushing carrier attaches, and an improperly drilled hole in the control arm where the xenon auto-leveler attaches).
Originally Posted by Chris3Duke
Guys, we're really close to having a full DIY writeup on the CA replacement, with the pictures that were posted. Tim, I know you said one was coming. Any chance someone that has done it will go ahead and turn it into a formal writeup, with the tools, tips, steps, and photos? I'm getting ready to do this, and the project is difficult enough as it is, but having all of the stuff written in one place would make it so much easier for people like me that have done brakes and stuff, but never suspension work.
Also, I'll be doing tie rods as well. Anyone have a DIY for that?
I did a write up, E46Fanatic style, but did not take pictures. I'd like to get this posted: Anyone who wants to make edits, feel free to do so. Maybe we can add the pictures that were already posted, then get Tim to put it in the tech section?
Control Arm and Bushing Replacement
Written by: Chris3Duke (http://www.e46fanatics.com)
June 5th, 2006
Torque Wrench (up to 100 ft/lbs)
Tools included in your trunk
16mm long socket (optional)
18, 21, and 22mm open wrenches, as short as possible (you'll be working in confined spaces)
A pickle fork (rent this from Autozone as a universal ball joint separator)
A large hammer, I used both a 3.5 lb deadblow hammer, and a 10 lb sledge
5mm allen key socket
Two 18mm nuts and two 21mm nuts (one each per side) from your dealer to secure the control arm bolts (Mine did not come with the nuts, yours may. This is not optional, as the nuts have nylon inserts and are one-time use only.)
Twelve 16mm bolts (Part # 31-10-1-095-140) to reattach the frame support brace and bushing carriers. (Optional, up to you whether or not you want to reuse the old bolts.)
Philips head screwdriver
Flat head screwdriver (to pry out ABS sensor)
Estimated time: 4 hours
1. The first thing you need to do is get your car up on jack stands. I'm absolutely appalled at how hard this is to do, and how vague the information is out there. As far as I can tell, on my car, a 2002 325CI, there is only one place to do this in the front. That place, the frame rails, is the only place I recommend jacking up the car in the front besides the stock jack pads (which is where the jack stand will go). I tried all sorts of other places from forum posts, and each was not meant to support the weight of the car (all crushed!). In order to get a floor jack under the car, you'll either need to drive up on 2X4s/ramps, or jack the car up first with the stock jack using the jack points.
2. I only jacked up one side at a time, some have warned about the car falling off the jack stands if you try to jack up the front right side while the front left is already on jack stands. There's no need to have both wheels off the ground at once. We'll assume you're starting with the driver's side control arm. The passenger side arm presents an added challenge in that the xenon auto-leveler is attached to it for cars with xenons. This is not the case on the driver's side.
3. Remove the wheel.
4. Get under the car and remove the black plastic shield under the engine bay. It is held on by Philips head screws that are designed to be loosened but still stay in the shield.
5. Continue on to the aluminum frame support brace. This is held on by 16mm bolts in recessed holes in the brace. I recommend a long 16mm socket here, although a regular 16mm socket will reach. Be careful not to drop the socket into the hole in the brace if using a regular sized one. Remove all eight bolts and lower the brace (it's very light).
6. You are now ready to begin removing the control arms. Starting on the driver's side, first remove the ABS sensor adjacent to the outer ball joint, using the 5mm allen socket. After you remove the bolt, use a flat head screwdriver to carefully pry the sensor out of the brake assembly. This is necessary to allow enough room for a socket to fit over the ball-joint nut. You'll need to use a socket in order to properly re-torque the bolt to spec.
7. Get back underneath the car and remove the two 16mm bolts securing the lollypop (bushing) carrier to the frame.
8. Remove the outer ball joint (the one closest to the wheel) nut using an 18mm socket or wrench.
9. Remove the inner ball joint nut using a 22mm wrench (you probably won't be able to get a socket on it). It is tough to find space for the wrench, and this can be painstakingly slow.
10. You are now ready to fry (separate) the ball joints from the car. Turn the steering wheel in order to rotate the brake discs out of your way to give the best access to the joints. Take your pickle fork and insert it between the ball joint and the car (front subframe for the inner ball joint, and the wheel hub assembly for the outer joint). Give it a few whacks with a normal or dead blow hammer to get started, then move on to the sledge. Let the weight do the work, and swing controlled and carefully. It is going to take lots and lots of swings, no matter what. This is not a matter of brute force, but giving the tool time to do its job. Start with the inner ball joint (harder to reach, but comes apart easier) and finish with the outer ball joint. You can use a deadblow hammer in place of the sledge, but it will take longer. It took me between 10 and 20 minutes of hammering for each outer ball joint (inner ones took maybe 10 swings).
11. After frying the joints, the control arm and carrier will drop down. You are now ready to install the new arms and carriers. I'm assuming you have new bushings already in new carriers. If not, you'll have to figure out how to get to that point.
12. Look at the old control arm, and take note of the orientation of the carrier on the arm. Copy that by sliding the new bushing and carrier onto the new arm. Pay special attention to the size of the two bolt holes in the carrier (not the same) and the fact that one side is counter-sunk (the side that attaches to the car's frame). Use a mallet or deadblow hammer to hammer the bushing on to the control arm. If using powerflex bushings, you shouldn't need any lubricant. Ideally, the end of the control arm will be flush with the bushing.
13. Insert the inner ball joint's bolt into the subframe, followed by the outer ball joint. Last, carefully line up the bushing carrier. You can move the strut around a little to get it to line up correctly. The bushing will need to be on the control arm pretty firmly in order to properly line up. When the parts are properly lined up, you should be able to smoothly push the carrier onto the frame, and the bolts should go in easily. Be very careful to install the bolts properly, as if things aren't lined up properly, they may go in crooked and bend the threads in the hole (ask me how I know). Use a floor jack to support the inner ball joint while you line things up. Torque the carrier bolts to 43 ft/lbs.
14. Thread the new ball-joint nuts onto the bolts. The new inner ball joint nut will be 21, not 22mm. The outer ball joint will remain 18mm. Some have reported the need to use a hex key in the bolt, or a floor jack, to stop the ball joint from spinning. Mine never spun, so this was not an issue. Torque the outer ball joint to 44 ft/lbs. I don't see any way of getting a torque wrench on the inner ball joint, so I did it by hand.
15. Reinstall the ABS sensor, then the wheel. Jack the car up again, remove the jack stands, and lower the car to the ground (either back onto a 2X4, or use the stock jack again to get the floor jack out from under the car.)
16. Repeat the process on the passenger's side. The only difference is that before you remove the control arm, you will need to unbolt the xenon auto-leveling sensor from the arm. This is easy to find, as it's the only other lever attached to the arm through a small hole. After installing the new arm, you'll need to reconnect this. The hole drilled in my new control arm was drilled crooked, and the bolt would not fit through. I wound up having to use a dremel with a diamond/carbide tip to straighten the hole and properly reattach the sensor.
17. Reinstall the frame brace, followed by the plastic shield, and you're finished. Take your car to a shop to have an alignment done within a few hundred miles, although the car should still track straight.
Last edited by Chris3Duke; 06-05-2006 at 02:48 PM.