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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 02-10-2015, 09:04 PM   #1
yjsaabman
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Location: Elizabethtown, PA
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My Ride: '01 325i Touring
DIY rear suspension refresh

I've been posting about my progress on this in the "what did you do to your e46 today" thread and had a person or two ask for me to start a post here, so here it is. I want the preface this by stating that while I am a professional auto technician I will be performing this refresh with basic tools that should be readily available through any local auto parts store that has a tool rental/loaner program.

With that in mind, I will be performing this refresh on a complete rear subframe assembly removed from the vehicle and set up on a set of saw horses in a minimal amount of space in my home garage. I am working with a rear suspension assembly from a 2000 323i Touring with about 135,000 miles on it.

The first step was to build some stand offs to allow the subframe to sit evenly on the saw horses. Some measurements and some scrap 2x4 and 4x4 around the house did the trick. They are screwed into the saw hourses. The 2x4 pieces at the front keep the diff flange off the saw horse. Be sure space them far enough apart for the rear points to clear the swaybar and brackets, my first set wasn't.

(I apologize ahead of time for any pics BimmerApp rotates stupidly)
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:11 PM   #2
yjsaabman
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Once I had everything setup properly on the saw horses my first step was disassembly. The first night I removed the swaybar, the rear trailing arm and axle assemblies, the upper and lower control arms, and the differential. The swaybar should be first, followed by the differential, which will leave room for the inner bolts for the control arms, most notably the left upper inner.

Once I had the basics disassembled I started checking over everything. Keep in mind this is a 15 year old, 135k mi old vehicle. The subframe and diff bushings showed the most wear.
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:18 PM   #3
yjsaabman
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I will be replacing all rubber components in the rear suspension with factory, or better, components. Meyer HD upper ball joints and RTABS, oe quality (Febi/Meyle/Lemforder) on the rest of the bushings. Lower control arms are being replaced with J-power ebay adjustable control arms, as my car is lowered. Planning on urathane subframe bushings and a subframe mount reinforcement kit, as well as RTAB limiters. They will be ordered in the next 2 weeks.
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:25 PM   #4
yjsaabman
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Tonight I replaced the inner bushings on the upper control arms. Honestly these were the least worn of all the bushings, showing no real play or wear. I brought home my master ball joint kit from work. The only issue I had was finding a good adapter to press the new bushing in with. Fortunately I've been hoarding random sockets for my press, over the years, and I found one of those that fit the bushing nicely. You want to be sure to press on the outside edge of the bushing so as not to prematurely stress the rubber. Once I got my adapters sorted, the second bushing took me about 5 min out and back in.
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Old 02-11-2015, 04:36 AM   #5
Snipez4664
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nice work. I did the full rear ball joint, bushing, mount refresh (17 or so total with M3 rear) as well as reinforcing the subframe. It's definitely worthwhile but very time consuming and surprisingly expensive.
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Old 02-11-2015, 08:03 AM   #6
yjsaabman
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I'm probably going to be around $700-800 into the rear, all in in bushings and reinforcement. I figure around $2500 total into the suspension for a full refresh, including an H&R cup kit.
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Old 02-11-2015, 06:20 PM   #7
YBimmer
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Looking good! I will definitely be watching your progress.
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Old 02-15-2015, 03:59 PM   #8
yjsaabman
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Got to spend some time on this again, today. Started by taking a bunch of close-up pictures of all the bushings and the way they press into the subframe so I can get it all back together correctly. Plan is to remove all the bushings, then clean up and paint the subframe before reassembly.

Again I was using a master ball joint kit to press the bushings out. The first front diff bushing came right out. The second one pushed the center out, due to the deterioration of the rubber. Simple enough, I just pulled out the old hacksaw and removed the blade, inserted it through the bushing center, and re-attached it to the handle and cut a slot in the bushings outer shell. This relives the tension on the press fit and the shell knocks right out.

The rear bushing has proven to be the hardest. Mainly because I stripped the blade tensioner on my hacksaw, so I couldn't cut the whole way through. After flipping the subframe over for better access, I used a combination of parts from the ball joint kit and the rear diff mounting bolt to begin the process. This knocked the center out. I then got the outer part of the rubber bushing cut through and removed, but am left with outer shell until I bring my other hacksaw home from work. With a slightly longer (3/4" or so) bolt I could have caught the outer shell and probably pressed the bushing out whole. Oh, well, I made progress and got some good info to post up here. I'll finish it up tomorrow evening.
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Old 02-15-2015, 04:13 PM   #9
yjsaabman
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My weekend long regimen of penetrant application has freed one of my axle shafts from the "iron grip" of the hub. Slowly but surely.

Oh, and it was a balmy 35-ish degrees in the garage today and I still managed to work up a pretty good sweat. And while 35 may sound cold, it beats the pants off the outside high temp of 13 with wind chills below zero.
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Old 02-16-2015, 05:45 PM   #10
yjsaabman
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Brought home my other hacksaw, today. Finished the cut in outer housing and it popped right out. I actually installed the blade upside down to cut this one.
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Old 02-17-2015, 05:45 AM   #11
Snipez4664
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the hacksaw method is more civilized for sure. I opted to just set the bushings on fire which seemed to work quite well. Has to be done outside and probably isn't the best for the environment. I would also grab a rattle can of undercoating if you haven't already. It's easy to ding the underside and expose some metal during the project and reinstall. for $10 or so, i thought it was worth it to give the area under the rear suspension a nice protective coat. Gives a nice new fresh look too. Good progress so far
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Old 02-17-2015, 07:14 PM   #12
yjsaabman
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Didn't do much, tonight, but compare a few parts. Most noticeable difference is in the rear diff bushing, which is a Lemforder part. The new bushing is solid rubber, where the original had air pockets.
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Old 02-17-2015, 07:22 PM   #13
YBimmer
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Things are coming along nicely!

I did the same exact thing last year with my E36...then someone slid into it in the snow and totaled the car. That is, just before I got the parts back from the powdercoater and the poly bushings were shipped to me. Good thing I didn't start refreshing the LSD.

I used a massive shop press to knock all the bushings out. But, like Snipez, I ended up torching out the diff carrier bushings. Even with the press and heat it still took me a considerable amount of time to remove all the bushings.

Conveniently, the E46 and E36 rear trailing arm bushings are interchangeable.
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Old 02-21-2015, 04:32 PM   #14
yjsaabman
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Haven't made any progress lately, just haven't had time and the right tools on hand. Found that a ratchet strap and spacer piece of wood between the saw horses helps anchor the subframe better. I also took some measurements and made a rough sketch of a tool piece to use with the rear diff mount bolt to press out the subframe mounts.
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Old 04-05-2015, 10:51 AM   #15
yjsaabman
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And I'm back! Should be ordering my subframe bushings and reinforcement kit in 2 weeks. Until then I finally figured out how to build a subframe bushing tool and scrounged up the materials and made it. I've gotten a little movement, so far, but it certainly still isn't coming willfully.
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Old 04-05-2015, 04:00 PM   #16
yjsaabman
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Heat is your friend! No major heat, just a plumber's propane torch to heat the subframe. I heated until the paint started blister and it pulled right out with the tool I made.
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Old 04-05-2015, 04:32 PM   #17
yjsaabman
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All 4 out in about 45 min total time.
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Old 05-27-2015, 10:20 AM   #18
yjsaabman
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Finally got back on this last night and got the subframe wire wheeled, scrubbed, and painted with VHT Epoxy Chassis paint.
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Old 05-27-2015, 05:34 PM   #19
yjsaabman
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Pressed in the diff bushings, tonight. Stripped the threads on my homemade bushing tool with the large diff bushing almost in place! I ended up cutting the end off to get it apart. I'll have to pick up a heavier bolt to do the RTABs.

I used my trusty ball joint press kit to do the smaller bushings. Some white lithium grease helped them squeeze in quite easily.
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Last edited by yjsaabman; 05-27-2015 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 05-27-2015, 05:38 PM   #20
yjsaabman
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Pics of the small bushings. Make sure you support the outside edges and don't just push on the center. You can push the center right out of a new bushing if you aren't careful.
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