Bimmerworld PowerFlex Front Control Arm Bushing Upgrade.
Join Date: Dec 1969
As many E46Fanatics members know, the front control arm bushings have never been quite right from the factory. Reports of 30,000 miles or less from the bushings are common place and dealerships charging a fortune for replacement. If that isnít bad enough, factory bushing cannot be reused if the control arm has to be replaced because of bad ball joints, another common E46 chassis maintenance item. In addition to poor durability, the factory bushings are made of soft rubber, designed for ride comfort over performance. This leads to inconsistent suspension geometry under corner and braking loads.
The harder, more ridged properties of urethane bushings hold the front control arm in place without the slop of factory rubber. When the control arm is allowed to move, the suspension geometry changes, giving you less control. Key benefits to upgrade bushings include improved performance under braking load and sharper turn-in characteristics.
As every Fanatic and car nut knows, aftermarket companies are where to turn when the factory blows it. In this case, I turned to James Clay at Bimmerworld for help. Bimmerworld is an enthusiast owned company that prides itself on driving and helping their customers drive BMWs at the limit. James promptly answered my plea for help with information on their soon-to-be released Powerflex two part polyurethane replacement bushings.
The Bimmerworld Powerflex bushings are a direct press in replacement bushing for the factory oil filled rubber and failure prone ones. Bimmerworld was getting the first shipment of bushings in a couple weeks and I secured a set of 60mm bushings for my 01/01 production 330i.
When the bushings arrived I could not wait to install them. The fit and finish on the mold was top notch and the two part construction was slick. I checked with Bimmerworld about the installation process and reviewed the Bentley manual as well. From my past do-it-yourself experiences, I was ready to give this a try. As a warning, the installation of these bushings is not simple with out the correct tools.
The factory rubber bushings are inside a steel sleeve, which is pressed into an aluminum carrier. Most of the installation is simple wrenching, but starts to get tricky when you need to remove the bushings from the control arm and the bushings from the carrier. The rubber bushings tend to get stuck on the control arms; hence, they cannot be reused. After cutting the stock bushings in two pieces, I used a three jaw puller to remove the remaining part from the control arm. I then faced the task of pushing the steel sleeve containing the remaining bushing part out of the carrier. Up until this point, an average do-it-yourselfer should be fine. I would recommend having a proper bushing tool, a shop with a proper press remove them, or buying new carriers for about $100.
After much frustration, swearing, and some help from Bimmerworld I devised a backyard mechanic solution that, while not elegant, worked. With the stock bushings out, the polyurethane bushings pressed in quickly. You can review my entire do-it-yourself project to install the powerflex bushings in the DIY forum here at E46fanatics.com - DIY busing install link. I bolted everything back together and got the car back on itís wheels. Now it was time for a test drive.
Nearby, there is a rather nice right hand sweeping corner that is a blast to drive. However, right in the middle of the corner the road has a series of slight bumps. With the factory bushings I could feel the car slop over these bumps, effectively ruining the corner. I headed straight for this corner to see what the bushings were all about.
What an amazing difference! Hitting these mid-corner bumps with speed the car felt solid and planted throughout the entire turn. It was an amazing change from the unsettling feeling the stock bushings presented. In addition to improvements on bumpy roads, the car feels solidly connected to the wheels and the road. I was also happy that there were virtually no unpleasant vibrations transmitted by the new bushings. This is one aftermarket product that offers upgraded performance with no draw backs!
If you are looking to improve road and handling characteristics and driver feel or are simply tried of constantly replacing poorly made stock bushings, then look no further than Bimmerworldís urethane front control arm bushings!
UPDATE: 1/15/2006 - Bimmerworld is now offering the Powerflex bushings already pressed into new housings making for an easy installation and you no longer need to measure your existing housing size! Bimmerworld uses the newest spec 66mm bushing and housing for the pre-pressed pieces. Typical shop labor to press the old bushings out and the new in will cost as much as these housings.
Purchase your bushings and housings at bimmerworld's online store here.
UPDATE: 2/1/2006 - With over 20 thousand miles put on the bimmerworld Powerflex bushings I am pleased to report that I have had zero issues! No noise, clunking or any other issues that some members have had from other Urethane bushings. As I was recently replacing my front control arms as standard maintenance (read the review here - Control Arm Maintenance) I had a chance to inspect the bushings up close. Besides being dirty they are in exactly the condition I installed them in. As an added benefit of the powerflex bushings I did not have to replace them when I installed my new control arm. OEM bushings cannot be reused so each time the control arms need replacing (roughly every 60 thousand miles on the E46) I would also need new bushings. Instead I can continue to use the same set of Powerflex bushings. In addition to give me better handling and performance the bushings are now saving me money.