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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 11-10-2005, 07:35 PM   #1
teamdfl
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Ball Joint Replacement Tech

After replacing a half dozen sets of control arms on various E46s, I'm finally going to give the $20 Meyle ball joints a try. I have criticized them in the past for the low quality thread-to-shank transition but I'm tired of throwing money away (mine and my friends') on new control arms every 24 months. I picked up a pair of outer ball joints and plan on pressing them in within the next couple weeks. To make life easier on the 50 ton press, I also picked up a set of outer ball joint press tools. I have minor concerns about pressing ball joints into aluminum control arms so I will have some green Loctite (press fit assist) on hand in case I feel the new ball joints go in too easy.

Details will follow.

Ball joint source:
http://www.performancepartsstore.com/

Meyle ball joints


Closer view
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Old 11-10-2005, 07:51 PM   #2
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Ball joint and press tools
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Old 11-10-2005, 09:51 PM   #3
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Every 24 months? That's what you get for driving on New Jersey roads, Ed.
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Old 11-10-2005, 10:27 PM   #4
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Thanks for giving this a shot man - please keep us updated.

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Old 11-10-2005, 11:28 PM   #5
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Click on "my garage" for teamdfl. Wow that is a lot of bmw.

What are you planning to fix with the ball joint swap?

I think the McPherson strut design allows more wheel movement, perceptible in the steering wheel, than other suspension designs. McPherson is a 3 point design, with 2 pickup points on the bottom A-arm and 1 on the top. The ball joint wobbles, as in situation normal.

Would an aftermarket strut bearing/bushing at the top of the strut tower help eliminate some of the wobble?
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Old 11-11-2005, 11:35 AM   #6
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In my case the CA had to be replaced because the outer BJ was "locking up" - when the wheel was turned back and forth there was a clunking sound as the BJ would turn a bit at a time instead of smoothly. You could put your finger on the bottom of the BJ from underneath the CA and feel it shifting in its seat.

This car is a 1999, with the CAs replaced in 2001 and then again now. And it is not driven hard at all.

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Old 11-11-2005, 04:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Busby
What are you planning to fix with the ball joint swap?
The front ball joints in a friend's 325i are exhibiting an axcessive amount of movement. He is still on the original control arms after 90k miles.
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Old 11-18-2005, 01:55 PM   #8
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I pressed one of the outer ball joints in today and I got to relive all the stuff I forgot about the first time I did the job. The tools I bought are marginally useful. Actually, they are very useful but the two pieces shown above are not enough to finish the job. It looks like I'm going to have to make some tools to ease the process. Also, as of right now, this job requires putting the control arm in a press (10 tons required according to the gauge on the 50 ton press I used). Ideally, I want to be able to replace outer ball joints on the car which will save the inner ball joint from potential damage from a pickle fork.

I didn't take any pictures during the process, only after, but they should be sufficient to help explain what is going on.

Look at the three pieces in the piddle of this photo. The stock ball joint is on the left. The piece in the middle is a steel sleeve that is a press fit into the control arm. The ball joint is bonded to the sleeve with rubber. This rubber is what usually fails first in an E46. The piece on the right is just a dust cap on the underside of the ball joint body. The dust cap is held captive by a thin aluminum lip of matierial on the underside of the control arm.





Ball joint:

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Last edited by teamdfl; 11-18-2005 at 02:15 PM.
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Old 11-18-2005, 02:02 PM   #9
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The larger of the two tools (black piece on the right in the photo below) is a cup. I placed the bottom of the ball joint on top of this cup with the contol arm pointing out into space.




I pressed directly on top of the ball joint stud to push the ball joint out of the arm. This cause a few moments of terror as the stud contastantly tried to slide out from under the ram of the press. I eventually pushed the joint enough to bottom it out in the cup tool. The dust cap also ended up in the bottom of the cup tool. Unfortunately, the cup was not deep enough to press the joint completely out of the arm but some creative hammer and press work eventually worked.

The steel sleeve stayed int he arm, just like the last time. After picking up a few dozen pieces of scrap round stock int he shop, I finally found a piece of steel that was large enough to push on the thin leading edge of the steel sleeve yet small enough to pass through the arm as I pressed the sleeve. Another round with the press and my scrap "tool" resulted in control arm free of the sleeve.
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Old 11-18-2005, 02:09 PM   #10
teamdfl
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Now that the control amr was free of old ball joint parts, I was ready to press the new joint in. The smaller of the two tools is a perfect match tot he back of the new ball joint body. Unfortunately, the ball joint stud protruding out the top meant I had to find something to support the control arm above the bed of the press that had a hole in the middle to clear the stud. A two minute search around the shop netted me a suitable piece of thick wall tubing. I applied a thin coating of Loctite to the OD of the new joint and assembled everything on the bed of the press.

What little amount of that thin aluminum lip that covered the edge of the stock ball joint dust cap that was left was no match for the tool and the hydraulic press. Unfortunately it got the last laugh as I cut the tip of my index finger on the thin sliver of aluminum.

10 tons of force later, I had a new outer ball joint in my control arm.



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Old 11-18-2005, 02:14 PM   #11
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As of right now, I would suggest you have new inner ball joints on hand because you will probably damage one or both inner ball joint boots as you separate the control arm from the car with a pickle fork. In addition to the tools I have to make for the outer joint, I'll have to duplicate the whole set in smaller diameters suitable for the inner joints.

Inner ball joints are listed at $17 at http://www.performancepartsstore.com

I'm going to try to make a set of tools capable of changing the outer joint on the car to make the job easier. Generating 10 tons of force with something other than a hydraulic press will be the tough part.

Special thanks to my friend's father who let me use the shop press during lunch. Look closely on the bed of the press and you can see the round chunks of steel I used as makeshift tools.





I'll update as soon as I have a chance to make more tools.
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Last edited by teamdfl; 11-18-2005 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 12-22-2005, 12:10 AM   #12
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any update? how are the ball joints doing?
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Old 12-22-2005, 03:33 AM   #13
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Ya, the control arms cannot go bad, they are steel. It is the ball joints that do go bad correct? So you are using the meyles all metal ball joints then? Is it possible to purchase stock ball joints and press them in? Im just about at 85k miles and my control arms need to be replaced.

Im very interested!!
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Old 12-22-2005, 08:35 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jEEliX
Ya, the control arms cannot go bad, they are steel. It is the ball joints that do go bad correct? So you are using the meyles all metal ball joints then? Is it possible to purchase stock ball joints and press them in? Im just about at 85k miles and my control arms need to be replaced.

Im very interested!!
The control arms are aluminum not steel, and it is because of this that it is difficult to simply replace the BJs.

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Old 12-22-2005, 09:36 AM   #15
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Yes, the outer ball joints are the "all metal" "heavy duty" ball joints sold by a variety of vendors. I am well aware of Meyle's less than stellar reputation in terms of quality but thes eare going into a car that does not see any track time. If they hold up for a year or two, I will try them in my own E46.


I ordered a pair of inner ball joints and plan on pressing everything in next week and instyalling everything the first week in January.
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Old 01-01-2006, 08:10 PM   #16
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I received the inner ball joints and plan on pressing them in this week. Stay tuned.
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Old 01-02-2006, 02:20 AM   #17
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Sweet cant wait bro! ive been considering useing these control arms but have heard conflicting reviews!
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Old 01-08-2006, 09:02 PM   #18
teamdfl
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I didn't get around to pressing in the inner ball joints. Other maintenance took precedence. For now all I have are pictures.

Meyle inner ball joints
http://www.performancepartsstore.com/
$17 each

Click for larger pics




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Old 01-17-2006, 08:32 PM   #19
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Let us know how it goes. I just changed my swaybar links and noticed the aftermarket ball joint from Germany I just changed 6 months ago (NEVER EVER USE AFTERMARKET PARTS IF YOU CAN HELP IT!) has some play in it cause my nocking sound. I'm so p'd off!!! So there's a shop here that will change the ball joints with parts for about $120 Canadian. I got to experiment the cheap way.

I want to know how the steel ball feels over the OEM one surrounded in rubber.
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Old 01-17-2006, 10:26 PM   #20
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No update yet. I had to deal with some E34 control arms this weekend.
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