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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 02-07-2006, 10:24 AM   #1
kbsilver
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Control Arm Replacement Experience

At 67K miles the ball joints were shot, clunking over bumps. They were probably bad the last 5K miles. Control arm bushings were still fine, no cracks or tears. Quite contrary to what I have read. Of course you have to change the bushings anyway as they are destroyed if pulled off the arms. Besides the clunking, car was wandering a bit on the road.

All in all not a real hard job, I'd give it about a 2.5 out of 5 on difficulty. Changing the entire arm with the bushings makes it much easier. Essentially 2 bolts (bushing housing) and 2 nuts (top of ball joints) is all that is undone to remove the entire arm. Some notes for those so inclined to tackle themselves

Control Arm bushing bolts and the 4 bolts that hold the frame support brace that must be removed are all one time use. Get the 8 replacements before you start the job (they are all the same).

I pulled out the ABS sensors to give better access to the top of the ball joint.

I had difficulty getting the (outer) ball joint separated. The pickle fork and 8 lb sledge just did not work (worked fine for the inner joint). Had to use another special ball joint tool I happen to have.

The inner ball joint nut is a bit difficult to access. It's not 14mm as others indicated, it's at least 19mm. Don't have metric that large, used 7/8". Right side only from bottom 1/16 turn at a time. Left side once loosened can be had from the top. IMPOSSIBLE to get a torque wrench on these, all by feel.

I went with regular HD rubber bushings. Put the bushing on the arm BEFORE installing. A little soap, a few wacks with a rubber mallet, it's done.

You will want to get the bushing end bolted in place first, then move on to the ball joints.

If you have Xenons, don't forget to disconnect the height sensor before you start or you will break it (right side only).


Took me about 3.5 hours, by myself but was a bit under the weather. If I had to do it again would be under 2 hours. Used the Bimmerworld control arms special. One issue is that the left and right sides do not look exactly the same. Car DEFINATELY needed an alightment after, the steering wheel centering shifted slightly. Interstingly enough except for the toe, most of the aligment change was on the rear to match what had changed in the front.
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Old 02-07-2006, 11:11 AM   #2
Alex
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Good tips, thanks. How much did the CA cost from Bimmerworld?
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Old 02-07-2006, 12:24 PM   #3
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Nice write-up, sounds like how my install went. Those inner nuts are the worst! My drivers side bolt was all rusty so I had to back the nyt off over the rust, not a fun time.

I had no problems with a tie rod seperator and a hatchet (all I had around).

I have pictures and will be writing up a full DIY shortly.

Control arms and bushings are on sale from bimmerworld for $299 and use the code 'E46FAN_arms' for free shipping

http://www.nexternal.com/bimmerworl/Product736
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Old 02-07-2006, 12:51 PM   #4
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^Ahhh, thanx Tim.
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Old 02-07-2006, 03:55 PM   #5
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Oh Yes, one more tip

I did not have any problem getting the inner ball joint nuts off, other than the tight access. I did have a problem getting them back on. After 5 minutes of move the open end wrench an inch, turn it over, move another inch, turn it over...... I realized it was not getting any tighter. The ball joint shaft was spinning. This was easily remedied by placing a jack under the joint, pressing the shaft into the tapered bore. At this point the friction stopped the spinning.
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Old 02-07-2006, 05:03 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsilver
I did not have any problem getting the inner ball joint nuts off, other than the tight access. I did have a problem getting them back on. After 5 minutes of move the open end wrench an inch, turn it over, move another inch, turn it over...... I realized it was not getting any tighter. The ball joint shaft was spinning. This was easily remedied by placing a jack under the joint, pressing the shaft into the tapered bore. At this point the friction stopped the spinning.
Lucky for you!

I had the exact same problem when installing the new arms and solved the problem in the same way

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Old 02-07-2006, 07:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsilver
I did not have any problem getting the inner ball joint nuts off, other than the tight access. I did have a problem getting them back on. After 5 minutes of move the open end wrench an inch, turn it over, move another inch, turn it over...... I realized it was not getting any tighter. The ball joint shaft was spinning. This was easily remedied by placing a jack under the joint, pressing the shaft into the tapered bore. At this point the friction stopped the spinning.
Damn! Never thought of that! Instead I put an allen wrench in the top of the BJ - it stopped against the frame and held the BJ in place while the nut was slowly wrenched on. And yeah, that was probably the most tedious part of the whole job.

Mark
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Old 02-10-2006, 01:51 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by tim330i
I have pictures and will be writing up a full DIY shortly.
Please do it soon Tim. I just ordered mine from bw.
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Old 02-08-2006, 06:41 AM   #9
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Yes you have the correct tightening procedure on the brace bolts. That's what I did and it seemed to work fine. While it took a good amount of force, it did not feel like they were going to break. Suspect your problem was trying to retighten used bolts which were already 'streached'. Suspect this is the reason they say they must be replaced if ever removed. They are only good for one tightening cycle.

As far as telling if the ball joints are bad there are several signs:
Over 50K miles
Clunking over bumps
On a lift, compress from top to bottom with very large channel locks. If it moves at all they are bad (over 1/8" in my case).
If you do not have the channel locks test by placing a jack under the ball joint and applying presssure
On a lift you can do the wiggle test (may not detect marginal joints_

Last edited by kbsilver; 02-08-2006 at 06:48 AM.
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Old 02-08-2006, 07:24 PM   #10
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Question

Need to replace my control arms soon. By the way, what is the torque applied to the bushing bolts?
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Old 02-09-2006, 07:06 AM   #11
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Old 04-08-2006, 10:17 PM   #12
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Pickle fork in the inner ball joint. Again, wheel turned to give better access.



Staszek with the 10-pound maul. You don't have to swing very hard. We put a heavy towel over the fender, and closed the hood on it, just in case the maul ran away from us. Some ball joints surrendered after just one or two shots, but some required a few minutes of pounding.



Finally, the control arm on the ground. I should add that the rear bushing carrier bolts should be removed last of all. Keeps the control arm from flying into your radiator or something after that last whack.



Re-attaching the outer ball joint. Notice the allen key in the top of the shaft. The stupid shaft spins while you try to tighten the nut, so the allen key keeps it from spinning. Unfortunately, this means you can't use a socket here.



Same process on the inner ball joint. Again, note the allen key up top. Really not possible to use a torque wrench, so just tighten the heck out of it. When you're done, the allen key will kinda be jammed in there. We popped them out by putting the open end wrench on it, then striking upwards with a mallet from below.



OK, hope this makes it clearer for the next guy. Good luck and have fun!
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Old 04-09-2006, 09:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by r0x

OK, hope this makes it clearer for the next guy. Good luck and have fun!

Thanks for the help!!!
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Old 04-10-2006, 08:34 PM   #14
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Thanks for the write-up. I'm going to order new control arms from BW right now! I'll let you know how the DIY goes. The local independent shop quoted $250 for labor. Worthwhile? Or do I attempt it myself?....

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Old 04-10-2006, 08:48 PM   #15
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Old 04-11-2006, 08:13 AM   #16
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Just to add to this DIY.. I just did mine a few days ago.. I found removing the inner b\joints 1st. allows for you to pivot the arm down and easier access to dislodge the outer one during removal..
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Old 04-09-2006, 07:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsilver
All in all not a real hard job, I'd give it about a 2.5 out of 5 on difficulty. Changing the entire arm with the bushings makes it much easier. Essentially 2 bolts (bushing housing) and 2 nuts (top of ball joints) is all that is undone to remove the entire arm. Some notes for those so inclined to tackle themselves

Control Arm bushing bolts and the 4 bolts that hold the frame support brace that must be removed are all one time use. Get the 8 replacements before you start the job (they are all the same)..
Hmmm, I didn't have to remove the frame support. BTW, the bolts on the frame support were a whole lot bigger than 16mm - probably 25mm or larger.
The outer ball joints use an 18mm nut; the inner ball joints use a 22mm nut.
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Old 04-11-2006, 10:33 PM   #18
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I haven't done BMW control arms (yet) but last time I did a ball joint replacement on my old Saab 9000 I found the easiest thing to do to get them to pop was to hit the steering knuckle where it surrounds the ball joint shaft with a short 5lb sledge. A couple good, hard clean whacks and they popped free without having to deal with pickle forks and ball joint tools. This is also a useful technique when you've hammered the heck out of the pickle fork and the ball joint still won't come free.

Scott
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Old 04-20-2006, 08:57 AM   #19
Chris3Duke
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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?
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Old 04-21-2006, 01:34 AM   #20
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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... 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.
Yes please, I am currently using many differnt threads to create my own documentation. Those most recent photos in this post with the CA removal and install are a great help. Thanks guys!
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