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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 08-01-2014, 09:01 AM   #1
moiz21
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Silver Spring, MD
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My Ride: 1999 323i 5-SPD
DIY: Lower U-Joint Assembly Replacement LHD

Hi Guys,

So I had an alignment performed recently, and my indy mechanic informed me that my lower u-joint assembly had some play. So I started to do research and eventually just went ahead with the replacement. After looking around, the only walkthroughs I could find were for European cars, no US models. With the Euro cars, according to the video available, it was a matter of using extensions from the top of the engine.

Here is a good explanation for Euro Cars: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=1010536

Although helpful, I couldn't find one for LHD. Now after doing tons of reading, I came across this guy's post: http://www.e46fanatics.com/forum/sho...06&postcount=7

So I decided to give it a shot. Although it seemed like I couldn't get a picture DIY, I was able to do the coupler last year, so figured it couldn't be much more difficult. My indy quoted me an hour of labor to replace it. Taking my time, it shouldn't take me more than a couple of hours.

So after everything is said and done, I'm not sure how WDE46 did the job from the engine bay at all. But after taking off the cabin air filter, airbox, MAF and upper intake boot, I realized that I couldn't see the top joint of the assembly. I got under the car and realized I could do everything underneath. So not to discredit him, but I ended up wasting about half an hour by taking all the stuff off and looking around for the best method of attack.

I'm sorry for no pictures, but I wasn't thinking about making this DIY while working on the car.

So here is the basic steps and tools.

-Lower Steering U-Joint Assembly (part# 32301094700)
-2 x Torx Bolts (part# 32306778609)
-E10 Torx socket
-16mm socket
-12" and 6" extensions
-Ratchet and Breaker Bar
-Phillips Screwdriver
-Jack and jack stands

1. Jack up the car and put it on jackstands.

2. Remove the splash shield. You'll need the screwdriver for this.

3. Remove the front subframe reinforcement brace. Use the breaker bar and the 16mm socket to loosen the 4 bolts holding the brace up. (Note that I reused these bolts. Some people say to replace. But to each their own.) Also, this is on a '99 323i. I know that other models have a full metal piece instead of the triangular brace. So adjust this step for your specific car model.

4. Now go ahead and put the keys in the ignition and turn it to position 2.

5. From under the car you can now move the wheels by hand. Move the wheels until the lower torx bolt on the assembly (the top bolt on the actual coupler) is facing downwards toward you. With the 12" extension, use the E10 socket to remove the bolt. You should be able to push the assembly up towards the firewall and you should be able to work it out of the coupler.

6. Now with the lower part of the assembly free, pull the assembly downwards toward you. The steering column is telescopic, the lower assembly is not. So when you pull it down, again push the wheels by hand until the torx bolt is visible from underneath. Using the 12" and 6" extensions, you should be able to easily reach the bolt and undo it. At this point (I had driven the car recently so the oil pan was hot so I had to be careful) you can reach up and grab hold of the lower assembly and just wriggle it free.

Note: When compared to the new piece, you could feel it was obviously worn. The new one was much stiffer.

7. Now putting on the new assembly was a pain. The assembly and steering column have a notch built in, so there's only one way to fit them together. (If you've ever replaced the deflection pulley, it's kind of like that. Just up the entire splined portion of the column.) So the only way you can mess it up, is if you twist the steering column a full 360 degrees without realizing it somehow. You will need someone to help you with this part. What I did was get in the car and remove the panel under the steering column. Once removed you can see the lower part of the steering column going through the firewall. WDE46 said he used vice grips to hold the column, since it is telescopic. I had a friend hold the steering column from inside the car while I tried to work the assembly onto it from underneath. This worked out fine. Since I couldn't see the splined portion it was a bit of trial and error trying to get them to line up. But it got done on the 5th or 6th try. Just be patient with it.

8. Everything at this point is reverse order. Make sure to tighten up the bolts well. The replacement torx bolts come with thread locker on them. I couldn't get a torque wrench in there, so I just made sure they were snug. Bolt everything back together and you are good to go.


Notes: Overall this job wasn't that difficult. It was only time consuming in the sense that I didn't know how to best attack it. So I spent some time looking at everything from both on top and underneath the car. I wasted time disassembling the top of the engine bay. If I had to do it all again, knowing what needs to be done, it would take no more than an hour, 2 at most if I am taking my time. And this will not mess with your alignment.

Keep in mind that my car is a 5-speed. So I'm not sure how visibility of the lower assembly compares to that of an automatic car. But there was plenty of space to get my arm in there.

Although I didn't take pictures. You can get the general idea based on the first link provided. And if you've ever replaced the lower steering coupler, that should also give you an idea of what you'll be doing.

Any questions or additions to the DIY, please feel free to add to it.
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Last edited by moiz21; 08-01-2014 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 08-02-2014, 10:07 AM   #2
glhx
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Lower steering u joint-
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Old 08-02-2014, 05:14 PM   #3
Sansho
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Quote:
… 3. Remove the front subframe reinforcement brace. Use the breaker bar and the 16mm socket to loosen the 4 bolts holding the brace up. (Note that I reused these bolts. Some people say to replace. But to each their own.) Also, this is on a '99 323i. I know that other models have a full metal piece instead of the triangular brace. So adjust this step for your specific car model.
"…to each their own"? BMW says to replace the bolts on both the tubular reinforcement support, like on a 99 323i, or the aluminum reinforcement plate on later models. The replacement bolts cost $2 each from a discounting BMW dealer. In another current post, the OP points out that you can buy them for less from other sources. Torque 59nm + 90º + 30º.
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Old 08-02-2014, 05:20 PM   #4
moiz21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sansho View Post
"…to each their own"? BMW says to replace the bolts on both the tubular reinforcement support, like on a 99 323i, or the aluminum reinforcement plate on later models. The replacement bolts cost $2 each from a discounting BMW dealer. In another current post, the OP points out that you can buy them for less from other sources. Torque 59nm + 90º + 30º.

I've reused them on 2 different occasions. I've had no issues. I'm not telling anyone not to get new bolts. Just pointing out that I did not. Which is why I added that comment. Not sure why you're taking offense.


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Old 08-02-2014, 06:02 PM   #5
Sansho
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I've been working on German cars (Porsche and BMW) for many years. When the manufacturer says what the torque should be on a bolt, it merits attention. You were certainly above board in describing what you did, however, just pointing out that the factory says something different.
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