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Old 01-27-2012, 01:03 AM   #1
Quadrant5
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Post Front Suspension Issues - Please Help ASAP!

Greetings to all,

This is my first post, but I have already read all the threads I could find on the subjects. I have not got satisfactory answers, only more questions. The comments of those more experienced would be appreciated.

I recently bought a 2000 323i with a manual transmission. The steering wheel has started to shake at low RPM / engine loads. I took it to a local shop to check the tire balance, which they said was okay. They told me the control arm bushings were shot. I want to use this opportunity to do right by my front suspension. It is my daily driver, but I would love to use it on the occasional track day. Of course, I donít have unlimited funds, so I have to consider cost to benefit ratios. Here are my questions as they stand right now:

1. Do M3 parts fit on non M3 cars? What I have read offers conflicting opinions.

2. Powerflex bushings seem a good idea, but is it worth the extra money to get solid, 1-piece, delrin control arm brackets? If so, how well would such brackets be on the street? Are they worth it?

3. Do I also need to replace the control arms? I have read that there was a recall, or at least a service bulletin on them. How can I tell if they are bad? How do I know if the previous owner already replaced them? What aftermarket replacements might be considered?

4. Do I need to replace the front anti roll bar mounts while I am in the area?

5. How important is it to replace the tie rod assemblies and swaybar links? How can I tell if they need replacing?
This is all I can think of right now. No doubt a discussion will bring to light more questions. Thank you for your time and response. It will help me have a good E46 experience.

Happy motoring,

Quadrant5
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:00 PM   #2
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well i will try and answer your first question.

1.http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=426625
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Old 01-29-2012, 01:48 AM   #3
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well i will try and answer your first question.

1.http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=426625
Thanks jlaroc1990 for the link. I am going to try and see what I can do with it after I fix my more pressing problems.

It is probably an issue for another thread, but I was wondering if anyone has fitted a multifunction wheel to replace a regular four spoke, basic wheel. Got a link for that per chance?
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:26 PM   #4
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If you are on a budget, for the most part you should stick with stock parts.

1. The simple answer is no, M3 parts do not fit on an non-M. Some parts do, some parts fit in some circumstances, and some never do, so it's a case by case situation.

2. Anything that is "solid" or "track use only" you should avoid. Most stock parts hold up fine for track use and autocross, but many solid track items will not hold up to the different loads in street use. Many of the "solid" items only benefit race/track cars that are being pushed to the limit, and need to prevent their alignment from changing fractions of degrees. Until you are on race tires and are doing custom alignment settings, you should save your money on these.

3. BMW front control arms are frequently replaced when the bushings wear out, as they are press-fit. If your control arms are "bad" you could have a variety of problems related to the steering and front suspension. A search will give you lots of details about this.

4. If your are talking about the sway bar mounts, don't bother unless they are damaged, and if you are talking about the rubber bushings, only replace them if they have damage or excessive wear and slop.

5. Anything with a ball joint should be replaced if it has excessive play, does not articulate smoothly, or shows any visible damage such as tears in dust boots, leaking grease, bends, etc...
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Old 01-29-2012, 02:22 AM   #5
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If you are on a budget, for the most part you should stick with stock parts.

1. The simple answer is no, M3 parts do not fit on an non-M. Some parts do, some parts fit in some circumstances, and some never do, so it's a case by case situation.

2. Anything that is "solid" or "track use only" you should avoid. Most stock parts hold up fine for track use and autocross, but many solid track items will not hold up to the different loads in street use. Many of the "solid" items only benefit race/track cars that are being pushed to the limit, and need to prevent their alignment from changing fractions of degrees. Until you are on race tires and are doing custom alignment settings, you should save your money on these.

3. BMW front control arms are frequently replaced when the bushings wear out, as they are press-fit. If your control arms are "bad" you could have a variety of problems related to the steering and front suspension. A search will give you lots of details about this.

4. If your are talking about the sway bar mounts, don't bother unless they are damaged, and if you are talking about the rubber bushings, only replace them if they have damage or excessive wear and slop.

5. Anything with a ball joint should be replaced if it has excessive play, does not articulate smoothly, or shows any visible damage such as tears in dust boots, leaking grease, bends, etc...
Thank you, mkodama, for your reply. I appreciate any input, and the time it took you to write. However, I would like to exchange some ideas with you. First, if I am on a budget (which I am), it makes sense to upgrade to better than stock if it lasts longer. In the long run, that will save me time and money.

As to point number one, I guess your answer should be obvious to anyone, even a new guy. Thanks for helping me see the obvious.

On the second point, I am confused. To my ameture thinking, anything that will hold up to the rigor of racing should work well on the street, even if it does compromise comfort of ride. In other words, I feel "if it's good enough for the track it is good enough for me". Please correct me if I am wrong.

As to the third point, perhaps some more searching would serve me well.

Fourth, point taken. Thank you.

Fifth, I was asking because I was told OEM ball joints in these areas are not near the quality of the aftermarket offerings. Since I will be working in the area anyway, I thought it might be a good time to firm up the whole front end, so I don't have to worry about it anytime soon.

Please do not misunderstand my reply. I often play devil's advocate just so I can understand a subject better. Thank you for your informative reply.

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Old 01-28-2012, 12:29 AM   #6
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id go with meyle HD control arm bushings theye solid rubber, and not fluid filled like the OE part, so they last longer and arent retarded stiff to drive around town with.

sway links are prolly shot by now, they get noisy in the cold when theyre bad.

i would do the entire control arm that way you can get the ball joints too.
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Old 01-29-2012, 02:33 AM   #7
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id go with meyle HD control arm bushings theye solid rubber, and not fluid filled like the OE part, so they last longer and arent retarded stiff to drive around town with.

sway links are prolly shot by now, they get noisy in the cold when theyre bad.

i would do the entire control arm that way you can get the ball joints too.
Thanks snikwad, for your input on this matter. However, I am under the impression that poly bushings are far superiour to rubber, even Meyle HDs. As to the sway links, control arm, etc., what I really need to find out is how to diagnose these systems so I know what needs to be replaced. If I can keep some of my stock parts, it might open up my budget to get higher quality parts that I do have to replace. Thank you though, for your input.
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Old 01-29-2012, 03:11 AM   #8
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Ok, Quadrant5, first off, lets not mix terms for the same parts, i.e. anti-foll bar, sway bar, they are one and the same, pick a name and stick with it (most commonly known as sway bar).

No service records with the car?

If on a limited budget, pick and choose your upgrades wisely, however, if your front and rear suspension is worn and/or damaged (never told us the mileage on the car), to do the job 100% correctly will cost you close to $1500.00 or more in parts itself, labor being extra.

The Outer Lower Control Arm Ball Joint is not replaceable (unless you have a Meyle Aluminum Control Arm which allows for replacing just the ball joint (about $190.00 a piece). The inner ball joint is replaceable at any time (cost is about $90.00 each). The Lower Control Arm Bushings, PowerFlex Urethane Bushings cost the same as stock bushings (about $70.00 per pair without the brackets) and are much better than the stock or solid rubber bushings PLUS they can be re-used and are much easier to install. Sway Bar End Links wear and should be replaced at same time as the other front suspension items. Tie Rod Ends also have ball joints in them and need replacing when they have excessive play or a vague steering feel. Just all those items alone, puts the parts price tag up over $700.00 and we haven't even talked about the Front Struts and their related parts.

And if the Front Suspension needs attention due to wear/damage or updating, the Rear Suspension is also in need of attention, which will add more money to the project.

The very best way to look at fixing/updating suspension: Do it all, the entire suspension wears!

How to tell if things need replacing? First off, buy yourself the correct Bentley Service Manual, you will be doing yourself a big favor. Do you have the tools (full set of metric sockets, combination wrenches, jack, jack stands) and a place to do the work, or will you have to have the work done by a shop?
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Old 01-29-2012, 03:19 PM   #9
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Ok, Quadrant5, first off, lets not mix terms for the same parts, i.e. anti-foll bar, sway bar, they are one and the same, pick a name and stick with it (most commonly known as sway bar).

No service records with the car?

If on a limited budget, pick and choose your upgrades wisely, however, if your front and rear suspension is worn and/or damaged (never told us the mileage on the car), to do the job 100% correctly will cost you close to $1500.00 or more in parts itself, labor being extra.

The Outer Lower Control Arm Ball Joint is not replaceable (unless you have a Meyle Aluminum Control Arm which allows for replacing just the ball joint (about $190.00 a piece). The inner ball joint is replaceable at any time (cost is about $90.00 each). The Lower Control Arm Bushings, PowerFlex Urethane Bushings cost the same as stock bushings (about $70.00 per pair without the brackets) and are much better than the stock or solid rubber bushings PLUS they can be re-used and are much easier to install. Sway Bar End Links wear and should be replaced at same time as the other front suspension items. Tie Rod Ends also have ball joints in them and need replacing when they have excessive play or a vague steering feel. Just all those items alone, puts the parts price tag up over $700.00 and we haven't even talked about the Front Struts and their related parts.

And if the Front Suspension needs attention due to wear/damage or updating, the Rear Suspension is also in need of attention, which will add more money to the project.

The very best way to look at fixing/updating suspension: Do it all, the entire suspension wears!

How to tell if things need replacing? First off, buy yourself the correct Bentley Service Manual, you will be doing yourself a big favor. Do you have the tools (full set of metric sockets, combination wrenches, jack, jack stands) and a place to do the work, or will you have to have the work done by a shop?
Thank you tomoyer, your reasoning seems sound. I do not currently have service records for the car. After I get the registration from the state, the shop who has done most of the work on the car is willing to release all service records to me. That will be nice. Mileage on the car is in vecinity of 133,000.

As to the rest, it seems the logical next step to get a good manual (I ordered a manual on CD-ROM; I hope that it will serve me well) and some more metric tools. As far as doing the whole suspension, I can't afford to do it all right now. Hopefully with service records and some research I will be able to prioritize my repairs. Thank you for your input.
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Old 01-29-2012, 05:06 AM   #10
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Quadrant...first, what part of the usa are you in...or if you chose to remain mysterious, what quadrant?

Miles is a genius...far too good for us all here! I can rarely understand him, but when I do, it almost always makes sense! lol

Can we go back a bit. You have a vibration, got the tire balanced, and now you're replacing the entire front end.

First, you could just move your front wheels to the back. Balancing guys, nothing personal, aren't always the sharpest pencil in the box.

Also, you can have a bent/flatspotted wheel/tire, that would balance, but which you'd still feel. One clue is a lot of weight on the wheel...but also, spin the wheel slowly and look for a hop in the rim, especially the inside rim. If you notice anything, move the wheel to the back.

If the tires have been in that corner a long time, technically you should keep the tire in that corner, but as tires also sometimes just go bad (internal damage/belt slipping/etc) for the test, move the wheel/tire together...

If they've been in that corner for a while, move both wheels back to the rear, especially if you notice a flat spot on the rim.

Start there. Wheel/tire issues seem to often have a speed range in which the vibration is worst...you drive into that range and then out of it. Also, if this was an 'all of a sudden' vibration you picked up...think wheel/tire even more.

CABs (ca bushings) are fluid filled if OE. This fluid tastes horrible, but it's a great cushion for not only you, but your car. They do fail far before CAs most of the time...but many here think CAs are disposable items like oil and replace them at the first sign of anything.

I don't know when mine were replaced last, but I've had them on for at least 87K miles...they're just getting on my radar list.

Without beating you up on this...there won't be a huge cost savings to do front and rear suspension at the same time...some, depending on the shop, but not much. There are a 1,000 items leading to shaking...well, many of them!

Ok, so sorry, I just reread your post and I think that maybe it is CABs, but checking the wheels yourself is easy and free anyway!

You can diy endlinks and many do CABs too...just saying. Tons of savings!

Go OE...do not get poly bushings...just don't...as Miles said. You can read here and watch vids all over to help you confirm diagnosis of stuff. Have someone stop the car while you watch from the outside. Do you see the wheel rock back at all? CABs

There are wiggling tests too...try them. Use channel locks (big ones) on each ball joint. Inspect the rubber boots...if ripped, grease came out, ball joint would wear out.

You'll have enough things coming up that you'll need to spend money and time on, so I'd just encourage you to move cautiously and conservatively. As far as 'picking low hanging fruit' chose wisely...it's a BMW and lots of the parts...most of them...are probably fine. There are 'weak spots' no doubt, but they vary greatly based on the owners and how they maintain and drive the car.

Great advice you've gotten here...expect for those who said something I disagree with!
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Old 01-29-2012, 03:26 PM   #11
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Quadrant...first, what part of the usa are you in...or if you chose to remain mysterious, what quadrant?

Miles is a genius...far too good for us all here! I can rarely understand him, but when I do, it almost always makes sense! lol

Can we go back a bit. You have a vibration, got the tire balanced, and now you're replacing the entire front end.

First, you could just move your front wheels to the back. Balancing guys, nothing personal, aren't always the sharpest pencil in the box.

Also, you can have a bent/flatspotted wheel/tire, that would balance, but which you'd still feel. One clue is a lot of weight on the wheel...but also, spin the wheel slowly and look for a hop in the rim, especially the inside rim. If you notice anything, move the wheel to the back.

If the tires have been in that corner a long time, technically you should keep the tire in that corner, but as tires also sometimes just go bad (internal damage/belt slipping/etc) for the test, move the wheel/tire together...

If they've been in that corner for a while, move both wheels back to the rear, especially if you notice a flat spot on the rim.

Start there. Wheel/tire issues seem to often have a speed range in which the vibration is worst...you drive into that range and then out of it. Also, if this was an 'all of a sudden' vibration you picked up...think wheel/tire even more.

CABs (ca bushings) are fluid filled if OE. This fluid tastes horrible, but it's a great cushion for not only you, but your car. They do fail far before CAs most of the time...but many here think CAs are disposable items like oil and replace them at the first sign of anything.

I don't know when mine were replaced last, but I've had them on for at least 87K miles...they're just getting on my radar list.

Without beating you up on this...there won't be a huge cost savings to do front and rear suspension at the same time...some, depending on the shop, but not much. There are a 1,000 items leading to shaking...well, many of them!

Ok, so sorry, I just reread your post and I think that maybe it is CABs, but checking the wheels yourself is easy and free anyway!

You can diy endlinks and many do CABs too...just saying. Tons of savings!

Go OE...do not get poly bushings...just don't...as Miles said. You can read here and watch vids all over to help you confirm diagnosis of stuff. Have someone stop the car while you watch from the outside. Do you see the wheel rock back at all? CABs

There are wiggling tests too...try them. Use channel locks (big ones) on each ball joint. Inspect the rubber boots...if ripped, grease came out, ball joint would wear out.

You'll have enough things coming up that you'll need to spend money and time on, so I'd just encourage you to move cautiously and conservatively. As far as 'picking low hanging fruit' chose wisely...it's a BMW and lots of the parts...most of them...are probably fine. There are 'weak spots' no doubt, but they vary greatly based on the owners and how they maintain and drive the car.

Great advice you've gotten here...expect for those who said something I disagree with!
dmax, I am in Eugene, Oregon. I am confused by your post. Who is Miles? I do not see any reference to him in any of the posts on this thread. I appreciate your suggestions, and will try to incorporate them as I work through this project. Thanks.
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Old 01-29-2012, 03:41 PM   #12
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Sorry...Miles is mkodama...perhaps one of the greatest automotive geniuses we have on Fanatics. He's everything I wish I could be, though he can't understand hardly anything I write either! Since I'm writing about him though, I think he'll figure this one out.

He's part of a weird kleenex loving consortium in California, but despite that, you should defer to his wisdom most of the time. I tried arguing with him once and I couldn't sleep for 3 weeks after!

I make my posts intentionally hard to understand because I don't want to be responsible for an idiot trying to do something I've said. If someone can't find the sense hiding in my posts, then they shouldn't be working on cars! It's a little trick that's worked for me!
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:20 PM   #13
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Sorry...Miles is mkodama...perhaps one of the greatest automotive geniuses we have on Fanatics. He's everything I wish I could be, though he can't understand hardly anything I write either! Since I'm writing about him though, I think he'll figure this one out.

He's part of a weird kleenex loving consortium in California, but despite that, you should defer to his wisdom most of the time. I tried arguing with him once and I couldn't sleep for 3 weeks after!

I make my posts intentionally hard to understand because I don't want to be responsible for an idiot trying to do something I've said. If someone can't find the sense hiding in my posts, then they shouldn't be working on cars! It's a little trick that's worked for me!
Noted. However, if I am an idiot trying to do something a complete stranger says, perhaps I have it coming?
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:45 PM   #14
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You should try ecs tunings suspension rebuild kit level3 for about 1k keeps you busy for some time
http://www.ecstuning.com/BMW-E46-323...All/ES2219706/
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Old 02-03-2012, 06:50 PM   #15
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You should try ecs tunings suspension rebuild kit level3 for about 1k keeps you busy for some time
http://www.ecstuning.com/BMW-E46-323...All/ES2219706/
Good idea, but a bit pricey for me. Also, I don't think a complete overhaul is necessary at this point (see below). Thanks for the tip though.
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Old 01-31-2012, 12:21 PM   #16
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There's been a lot of good info on this thread, here's my take on how you should approch your specific issues:

1. Your main complaint is steering wheel shaking "at low RPM / engine loads". This is a little difficult to interpret, but most wheel shaking gets worse at high speed or occurs under braking. If I read you correctly, I agree with dmax and would concentrate on your wheels/tires. If the shaking happens under braking, then your FCABs may be the cause. I have never heard of steering wheel shaking under engine load.

2. If your FCAB's are indeed shot (regardless of whether they are a cause of your issue), it is an easy DIY and relatively cheap ($100). Swaybar end links are also easy and cheap, but the main symptom they cause is noise when going over bumps.

3. Only replace control arms if the ball joints are bad or if they are bent. An alignment shop can tell you that.

4. Only replace shocks/struts if they are leaking or otherwise bad. Or if you want to upgrade your suspension.

In summary, get a proper diagnosis of your issue. Don't just throw parts at it.
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Old 02-03-2012, 07:02 PM   #17
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There's been a lot of good info on this thread, here's my take on how you should approach your specific issues:

1. Your main complaint is steering wheel shaking "at low RPM / engine loads". This is a little difficult to interpret, but most wheel shaking gets worse at high speed or occurs under braking. If I read you correctly, I agree with dmax and would concentrate on your wheels/tires. If the shaking happens under braking, then your FCABs may be the cause. I have never heard of steering wheel shaking under engine load.

2. If your FCAB's are indeed shot (regardless of whether they are a cause of your issue), it is an easy DIY and relatively cheap ($100). Swaybar end links are also easy and cheap, but the main symptom they cause is noise when going over bumps.

3. Only replace control arms if the ball joints are bad or if they are bent. An alignment shop can tell you that.

4. Only replace shocks/struts if they are leaking or otherwise bad. Or if you want to upgrade your suspension.

In summary, get a proper diagnosis of your issue. Don't just throw parts at it.
Thank you havnfun328, I quite agree with what you said. In fact, I have just had my car in the shop today for a look over. As it turns out, my CABs are shot and in need of replacement. I also found out that I need a wheel alignment. I therefore intend to proceed as follows:

1. Replace the CABs with Treehouse Racing "Eyeball" Control Arm Brackets from Bimmerworld. I know that this doesn't agree with some viewpoints, but I also have testimonials from others that say they work well in street applications.

2. Get a four wheel alignment. The shop I use should be able to help me identify any other suspension related issues.

After doing these two things, I will at least have solved my CAB problem, and may very well have solved the steering wheel issue. If not, no harm done, and I should have more funds available to track down that issue. Keep posted and I will let you guys know how things work out.

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Old 02-03-2012, 07:28 PM   #18
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Racing eyeballs? Are those the ones that come in blue?

I have testimony from on one since you're the first here to have mentioned them that I recall. Who testified on their behalf?

Here, it's either OE or Meyle HDs for CABs...and then those who like things hard on themselves and the cars and go Poly bushings...and I've read enough about poly to want to never consider it.

If you use track parts in a street car, expect the car not to manage the street as well as you'd like. Racing components are made for racing...flat tracks, high speed...so all race parts, though they may well work on a street car, that won't make the car any faster and it might lead to the cars earlier demise.

Don't start setting up your car for 1 day of racing and 364 of street. A BMW comes from the factory ready to ride on the Autobahn very fast.

Is your car not tracking true right now? If it isn't, get the alignment...from a qualified shop. But if it is, you shouldn't need an alignment for just CABs in all cases. If you were racing, that's one thing, but you're really not changing much when doing bushings. The lolipop has very little play in it.

Anyway, you started by saying you've read all the relevant posts you could find. I don't think you've come close to that. You'll know you've read enough when you realize that OE is almost always the best choice. Almost always, but admittedly not all the time.

Briggs and Stratton happens to make some parts that go great in our cars...still OE...just not BMW!
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:26 PM   #19
Quadrant5
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My Ride: 2000 323i
Quote:
Originally Posted by dmax View Post
Racing eyeballs? Are those the ones that come in blue?

I have testimony from on one since you're the first here to have mentioned them that I recall. Who testified on their behalf?

Here, it's either OE or Meyle HDs for CABs...and then those who like things hard on themselves and the cars and go Poly bushings...and I've read enough about poly to want to never consider it.

If you use track parts in a street car, expect the car not to manage the street as well as you'd like. Racing components are made for racing...flat tracks, high speed...so all race parts, though they may well work on a street car, that won't make the car any faster and it might lead to the cars earlier demise.

Don't start setting up your car for 1 day of racing and 364 of street. A BMW comes from the factory ready to ride on the Autobahn very fast.

Is your car not tracking true right now? If it isn't, get the alignment...from a qualified shop. But if it is, you shouldn't need an alignment for just CABs in all cases. If you were racing, that's one thing, but you're really not changing much when doing bushings. The lolipop has very little play in it.

Anyway, you started by saying you've read all the relevant posts you could find. I don't think you've come close to that. You'll know you've read enough when you realize that OE is almost always the best choice. Almost always, but admittedly not all the time.

Briggs and Stratton happens to make some parts that go great in our cars...still OE...just not BMW!
dmax,

These come in green, at least that is what color they are in the picture on the bimmerworld website. I emailed the place and the guy that emailed back (after several back and forths with my endless questions) told me that he used these on his E36 for years with good results. I know opinions on this will vary greatly, but I suppose that everyone has a right to their own opinions. My main reason in considering something outside OEM stuff is that if the OEM fails so quickly, I want something that will last a very long time. Now, that can't be a bad reason.

Also, this website is a wonderland of helpful information. I was just telling my wife last night how I appreciate that complete strangers offer advice with no return expected. However helpful all this information may be, only so much time can reasonably be spent reading all of this. At some point you have to stop, fix your car and enjoy driving it. I will admit that always in the back of my mind I wonder if I have read enough. I just try to be balanced in my approach.

I do appreciate all the advice. Just because I may not agree with you in all areas does not mean I do not value your input. From what I hear on the web, you are a person to be listened to. Please keep posting for all of us still trying to figure it out. And anyway, if I later regret how I handled this, I will gladly repent and acknowledge your rightness.

Quadrant5

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Old 02-04-2012, 06:48 PM   #20
Sweeney921
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This isn't a useful post, but just wanted to say that this is the most valuable thread I've seen in a long time. Courtesy goes a long way
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