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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, 11:24 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, 12:11 PM   #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, 01:24 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, 01:51 PM   #4
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^Ahhh, thanx Tim.
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Old 02-07-2006, 04:55 PM   #5
kbsilver
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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, 06:03 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

Tim
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Old 02-07-2006, 08:20 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 02-08-2006, 02:11 AM   #8
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how do you know when the balljoints are bad?? do you just do the lateral wheel shake test to see if there are any play?? can you tell if the balljoints are bad by looking at them?? if so, what are the visual signs??
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Old 02-08-2006, 02:14 AM   #9
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btw, tim, do you know of any DIY write up for the RTAB??
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Old 02-08-2006, 02:20 AM   #10
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also, when you reinstall the support brace, you torque them to 43 ft-lb, and then turn them another 90 degrees, followed by another 30 degrees, right?? i was trying to tighten those bolts tonight (cuz 1 of them was extremely loose), and after torqueing them to 43 ft-lb, i find that it took a lot of force to turn them another 90 degrees, and even more for the 30 degrees after that. i actually just turned them another 75 degrees or so and just quit, cuz i was afraid of stripping and/or breaking the bolts. so just to be sure, the 43 ft-lb/90 degrees/30 degrees is the right torque spec, right?? and so i don't have to worry about potentially breaking those bolts??
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Old 02-08-2006, 07:41 AM   #11
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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 07:48 AM.
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Old 02-08-2006, 08:24 PM   #12
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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, 08:06 AM   #13
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44 ft-lbs
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Old 02-09-2006, 09:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EDawg
how do you know when the balljoints are bad?? do you just do the lateral wheel shake test to see if there are any play?? can you tell if the balljoints are bad by looking at them?? if so, what are the visual signs??
The outer BJ was done on my car - the symptom was a clunk/crack/shutter noise when turning the wheels (the sound of the dried-up BJ reluctantly turning). It was actually starting to loosen up in the seat as well due to the additional stresses.

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Old 02-09-2006, 10:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EDawg
btw, tim, do you know of any DIY write up for the RTAB??
Don't know of any, but I will be doing mine at some point here.

Tim
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Old 02-10-2006, 03:13 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canuck328i
The outer BJ was done on my car - the symptom was a clunk/crack/shutter noise when turning the wheels (the sound of the dried-up BJ reluctantly turning). It was actually starting to loosen up in the seat as well due to the additional stresses.

Mark
mine is starting to make a faint thud when i begin to turn the steering wheel to the left when the car is at a standstill. doesn't happen when i turn the wheel to the right though. you think the outer BJ can be the culprit here??
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:33 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by EDawg
mine is starting to make a faint thud when i begin to turn the steering wheel to the left when the car is at a standstill. doesn't happen when i turn the wheel to the right though. you think the outer BJ can be the culprit here??
That's a pretty good description of the problem I had. You should be able to hear it from one wheel or the other - in my case it was passenger side.

Do this to confirm - start the car and get someone to turn the steering wheel from side to side just enough to make the noise, then while he/she is doing that get your arm under the offending front wheel enough that you can touch the underside of the outer ball joint unit where it is exposed on the bottom side of the control arm. You should feel the BJ shift/rotate/shutter slightly when the clunk happens.

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Old 02-10-2006, 10:15 AM   #18
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I think I'm due for CA replacement soon..be doing this in next few mths also.. have to checkout the front b\joints, as front end is getting sloppy\clunky with 75k miles on it..

Is a tie-rod puller an easier way to loosen the outer ball joint??
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Old 02-10-2006, 11:23 AM   #19
kbsilver
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Just have a few tools available

I have a regular ball joint tool that worked fine on other cars. But on the E46 it only seemed to dig into the CA as I hammered away. You need to turn the wheel to get the correct access without wacking the body of the car.

I suspect if I got one in a different size (smaller?) such as a tie-rod separator instead of a ball joint tool it may have worked. I have a tool that uses a screw & fulcrum to press the top of the ball joint stud that popped it out. This tool allows you to separate the ball joint without destorying it in the process.

Just be prepare with a few different options.
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Old 02-10-2006, 11:30 AM   #20
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I work at a dealership.. so I'm sure they'll have something that will work.. maybe some torch heat to bj area also... MB front end's are similar from what I've seen..

I believe my CA's have been done prev, since it's the updated web-design.. but front feels clunky, and have repl swaybar links\CA bushings a yr ago.. I think it's "that" time at current mileage anyways to tighten up front end and maybe do shocks while I'm at it..


Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsilver
I have a regular ball joint tool that worked fine on other cars. But on the E46 it only seemed to dig into the CA as I hammered away. You need to turn the wheel to get the correct access without wacking the body of the car.

I suspect if I got one in a different size (smaller?) such as a tie-rod separator instead of a ball joint tool it may have worked. I have a tool that uses a screw & fulcrum to press the top of the ball joint stud that popped it out. This tool allows you to separate the ball joint without destorying it in the process.

Just be prepare with a few different options.

Last edited by Surk; 02-10-2006 at 11:33 AM.
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