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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 07-18-2010, 04:03 PM   #1
mcopenha
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Xi Front control arms and bushings

I recently did the front control arms and bushings on my 2001 325xi. Found a lot of non-xi DIY's on the forum that were quite helpful, but there are a number of complications when doing the same job on an Xi. Hope the information here is helpful. Shout-out to nachos for helping me before I started with a few very useful pics.

I installed OEM bushings. I know a lot of guys rave about Powerflex, and I'll probably catch a lot of flack for not using them, but hey, the original bushings in my car lasted over 100K. Yes, they were pretty shot, but not so totally gone that I would consider them inferior.

A note about tools. Air tools won't come in handy at all on this one. There simply isn't an opportunity to squeeze an air gun into position for just about anything other than removing the inner ball joints. You need to rely on hand tools. You'll need a good set of hand wrenches: 16mm, 18mm, and 23mm (for the inner ball joint, I think). It would be very nice to have a ratcheting 16mm since we'll use this size to remove the bushing brackets in a tight space. For the bushings, it would really, really help to have a press. I used a stand-press in this DIY and it was indispensable. Alternatively, places like Turner can install the bushings in new brackets for you, but that will run you about an extra $150. Finally, if you plan on reusing the old control arms, you'll need some type of puller to remove the bushing and bracket from the end of the control arm. Although I'll show how to remove the old bushing from the control arm end, I ended up purchasing new control arms and ball joints from Turner.

We start with the car jacked up in the front and on jackstands. One thing you'll notice early on about the Xi's is that the bracket for the control arm bushings is attached to the front subframe, and not the body of the car as you'll find on non-Xi's. This complicates the removal of the brackets. On the passenger side do yourself a favor and remove the heat shield. There are only 2 screws holding it and you have to pull it out from the back by the transmission. It takes some wrestling, but it's totally worth it. Otherwise you'll have to bend the shield and it's just not worth the hassle.

Remove the brackets using a 16mm hand wrench. Only way to do this is from the bottom of the car. The bolts are not on particuarly tightly. Remove the outer screw first to gain access to the inner one. Here's where a ratcheting 16mm would be very handy.

Next we tackle the outer ball joint. Losen the nut at the top of the ball joint using an 18mm wrench. Don't take it off completely.

Removing the ball joint is a pain without the right puller. I tried using the tie rod puller shown in the photo but it wasn't quite large enough to reach around to the bottom of the control arm. I ended up using a pickle bar which destroyed the boot on the control arm (typical for this tool), but knew I was going to replace the arms anyway. Best to find a decent puller for this job if you plan on reusing the control arms.

Last thing to tackle to remove the control arms is the inner ball joint. This one's easy: there are two 18mm bolts to remove. One of them may get in the way of the bolt attached to the inner ball joint, so you may have to remove that nut first.
At this point you should be able to remove the 18mm nut on the outer ball joint and remove the control arm. Mine were not in terrible shape, but the inner ball joints were very loose.

So, repeat the same steps to remove the other side as well. Driver's side is easier than the passenger because of there's no heat shield on the driver's side.

Here's close up of the old carrier bushing and bracket from the LEFT side. You'll notice a couple things. First, with the new bushings, the hole is offset from the center. In the old bushing it's almost impossible to tell -- probably a surefire sign that they're shot. You'll also notice how the mark on the left side of this bushing lines up with the mark on the bracket. We use these markings to install the new bushings.
If you plan on reusing the old control arms you'll need to pull off the old bushings and brackets. In the picture here, the old bushing sheared off the control arm when I tried pulling on it by hand. The puller is used to remove the remaining rubber.
Time to press out those old bushings from the brackets. Before you do anything take note of the distance the bushing protrudes from each side of the bracket. It's not supposed to be equal on each side of the bracket, unlike the trailing arm bushings. On my front bushings I measured the shorter protruding end (towards the rear of the car) to be exactly 0.5". the other end (pointing towards the front of the car) measured 11/16", or about 3/4".

For removing the bushings from the bracket I used a stand press. Had to find something that was the right size to push out the bushing. It has to be fairly precise because you won't get anywhere pushing on the rubber; you need to find something that will push on the metal casing. I found a socket that worked well. If you don't plan on reusing the control arms you can just skip to this step, push out the bushing and leave it attached to the control arm.

Close-up of the socket used to press the bushing out. I've also found old bearings and bearing races to be very useful tools for pressing things out.
OK, here are the brackets with the old bushings pressed out. The new bushings are standing by. The picture also shows the orientation you want for the new bushings; the hole in the bushing should be closer to the bolt holes. Also make sure you line up the markings as shown in the previous picture. There really isn't a front or back to the bushing so far as I can tell, but I did notice that the old one had the manufacturer markings pointing towards the rear of the car, so I just replicated that.
Pressing in the new bushing. You press a little, measure, press some more. I found it helpful to use a little dish soap on the bracket to ease installation; obviously, do not use grease. You want something that will dry up pretty quickly. /td>
New control arms and inner ball joints from Turner Motor Sports. Cost was hefty (almost $700!), but still cheaper than purchasing parts separately. <

As for pressing the new bracket/front bushing on to the control arm end, that can be done by hand. Apply a little dish soap to the control arm end and wrestle the bushing and bracket on. Double check to make sure you have the right bushing in hand before proceeding. Once the bushing is pressed on the Bentley manual specifies that it should measure 170mm +/- 1mm from the end of the bushing to the start of the first circular hole in the control arm.

Time for reassembly. It's worth cleaning up the hardware used to attach the brackets to the front subframe.
I used a wire wheel for this.
Works like a charm.
Getting the bushings in can be a bit of a chore. I recommend first installing the inner ball joints. Next, attach the control arm to the inner ball joint and hand-tighten the nut. Do the same with the outer ball joint. Work on positioning the rear bracket. Notice that the rear bracket has two depressions where the bolt holes go; those should seat nicely in the front subframe's two raised holes. Hand tighten the bracket bolts as much as possible. This requires some experimenting and there was more than one time I removed everything to start over. You do not want to cross any threads here so take your time.
Lastly, tighten up the outer ball joint nyloc nut. Also tighten the inner ball joint. Proceed with the other side.

When you let the car down, make sure to let it settle for at least 30min (don't drive it around just yet!).

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Old 07-18-2010, 07:48 PM   #2
pcdsl
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thanks amazing!

I hate how the XI Control Arms are so expensive, and also the Tie-Rods! it's like 3x the price almost.
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Old 07-18-2010, 07:56 PM   #3
Itzed
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Great write-up. My 2004 325xi has 78K on it and I know this is definitely in my future.
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Old 07-18-2010, 08:01 PM   #4
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+1 To you my friend !
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Old 07-20-2010, 02:53 AM   #5
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Nice. It's always refreshing to see other XI owners doing their own work.

I did my fcabs last fall and it was a pain. You say you got the carrier bolts off easily. I put a jack under my engine and dropped the front subframe just to get to those infernal bolts.
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Old 07-20-2010, 10:20 AM   #6
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I did my fcabs last fall and it was a pain. You say you got the carrier bolts off easily. I put a jack under my engine and dropped the front subframe just to get to those infernal bolts.
Seriously? I'm pretty confident that with the car in the air and the wheel off, I could get the whole arm out in 15 minutes with just ratcheting wrenches, a pry bar, and a BFH.

Just bend the heat shield an inch or two! No need to drop the subframe.
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:21 PM   #7
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just did this over the weekend, thanks for the DIY. the only thing I would add is that a ratcheting 16mm wrench is a MUST for the bolts that hold the control arm bushing bracket. Couldn't have done it without it. Also, I recommend saving a lot of time by having your new bushings pressed in by a shop. I had mine done for $25 each and it was well worth it because without a press, I couldn't have done it.
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:55 PM   #8
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Good writeup! Did mine this Spring. The heat shield on the right side is a giant pain and a really poor design. My biggest complaint is that we (XIers) are stuck with heavy iron control arms, no lightweight aluminum arms are available.
Any vendors listening???
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Old 07-27-2010, 07:58 PM   #9
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Good writeup! Did mine this Spring. The heat shield on the right side is a giant pain and a really poor design. My biggest complaint is that we (XIers) are stuck with heavy iron control arms, no lightweight aluminum arms are available.
Any vendors listening???
i hear ya but unfortunately our cars are too old for any vendors to make aluminum CAs for our cars. Then again, with all that heavy AWD equipment, kinda glad its iron.
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Old 07-31-2010, 11:41 PM   #10
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just curious, Is it even possible to remove the heat shield....
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Old 08-04-2010, 02:29 PM   #11
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yes, it definitely is possible, but it's not pretty. You'll have to remove the plastic shield covering the transmission first. Remove the two screws holding the heat shield and just start wrestling it out starting from the end nearer to the transmission. Putting it back involves a similar amount of butchery.
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Old 08-04-2010, 03:56 PM   #12
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yes, it definitely is possible, but it's not pretty. You'll have to remove the plastic shield covering the transmission first. Remove the two screws holding the heat shield and just start wrestling it out starting from the end nearer to the transmission. Putting it back involves a similar amount of butchery.
Just curious. Have you done it?
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Old 08-04-2010, 05:48 PM   #13
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Just curious. Have you done it?
I took mine all the way off. It is a pain but you can get it out without bending it up. You do need to drop the rearmost plastic shield to get it out. I started with it halfway out but it really pissed me off so i started yanking on it and it finally popped out.

I don't have a 16mm wrench so I used a 5/8" and it worked fine (they are nearly the same -saves a trip to the hardware store).

Getting the bearing out was real easy using a combination of the bend-in method and the grind method on the other side - great tips!.

Last edited by wildcat293; 08-04-2010 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 09-25-2010, 07:17 AM   #14
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Nice writeup, but i have no idea how you got so lucky taking yours apart!

I am in process of putting in some powerflex bushings and changing out my sway bar links. Got the plastic under shields off, threw a normal 16mm socket on the first bolt on the driver side and proceeded to wrench away. After a few normal strength cranks the bolt head popped right off. The other bolt came off no problem, but now im stuck in a major issue of saftey with only 1 bolt or probably a gigantic nightmare of somehow trying to drill it out to put in a new one.

I know this is probably a stupid question, but the XI setup of these carriers seems to be that the bolts merely hold the carrier down. The nubs on the subframe take the brunt of the forces. Would one bolt be string enough to hold the carrier in? The busted bolt just happenes to be the one with some of it accessible, but it's not going to be an easy task to drill out the bolt.
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Old 09-26-2010, 07:32 AM   #15
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wow, that does sound like a nightmare. I can totally see it happening though; my bolts were pretty rusty. If you're working on the other side make sure to see something like PB Blaster to loosen them up.

Unfortunately it sounds like you'll have to drop the subframe to be able to drill out that broken bolt. Search for a DIY on here about replacing XI motor mounts. I think Kubica did that one.

Otherwise, I think you can get away with a single bolt holding a carrier in.
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Old 09-26-2010, 09:01 AM   #16
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Nice writeup, but i have no idea how you got so lucky taking yours apart!

I am in process of putting in some powerflex bushings and changing out my sway bar links. Got the plastic under shields off, threw a normal 16mm socket on the first bolt on the driver side and proceeded to wrench away. After a few normal strength cranks the bolt head popped right off. The other bolt came off no problem, but now im stuck in a major issue of saftey with only 1 bolt or probably a gigantic nightmare of somehow trying to drill it out to put in a new one.

I know this is probably a stupid question, but the XI setup of these carriers seems to be that the bolts merely hold the carrier down. The nubs on the subframe take the brunt of the forces. Would one bolt be string enough to hold the carrier in? The busted bolt just happenes to be the one with some of it accessible, but it's not going to be an easy task to drill out the bolt.
Living in the northeast you're gonna see that a lot! No, one bolt isn't gonna cut it. You need to get a spiral screw extractor and get the old one out, then get some replacement hardware (class 10.9 if you can find it, 8.8 is fine just don't get a non-rated bolt).
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Old 09-26-2010, 09:26 AM   #17
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wow, that does sound like a nightmare. I can totally see it happening though; my bolts were pretty rusty. If you're working on the other side make sure to see something like PB Blaster to loosen them up.

Unfortunately it sounds like you'll have to drop the subframe to be able to drill out that broken bolt. Search for a DIY on here about replacing XI motor mounts. I think Kubica did that one.

Otherwise, I think you can get away with a single bolt holding a carrier in.
He may be able to get a small bolt extractor in there. I don't think it's a good idea to live with just one bolt on the carrier- i'm not a mechanic or engineer though. You may want to have a shop help you with this one- the right tools could make it a 20 minute fix, while I could see wasting a whole day under the car without the right tools.

I think it would be fine to drive a few miles to the shop with just one bolt.

On a side note, I recommend replacing the 4 big bolts that hold up the subframe if they are taken out. One of mine snapped during a starter replacement- it was the 4th time the subframe was dropped on my car. Just throwing that one out there.
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Old 10-31-2010, 11:03 AM   #18
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2004 330XI Bushings

This is an excellent write up. I got the tool from Autozone and the pipe cap from Home Depot. I spent about 20 minutes meticulously grinding the pipe cap down to shove the bushing out. Given the size of the top and bottom plates on the tool, it wouldn't all fit, so first used one of the plates to shove the bushing flush with the carrier bracket, then used the pipe cap to shove all the way through.

Starting this, I tried standing on the tool, getting my wife to stand on it, etc., and the torque required to turn the screw was way more than I anticipated. In the end, I drove over the C part of the tool with my 5,000 lb. Yukon XL, and that held it down. A real slow go and ALOT OF TORQUE so use a very long handled ratchet.......

Lastly especially on the side where the ^%$#&^ heat shield gets somewhat in the way even if you loosen, be VERY CAREFUL THREADING THE M10 x 1.50 bolts back in the lollipop. I stripped the inner one which several other people have done as well. The receiver nuts do NOT come out of the subframe so you'll have to jump thorough hoops to fix it if this happens. Very bad........
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Old 11-25-2010, 03:26 PM   #19
JS8736
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I did this along with Bilstein struts, and tie rods on my 330XI.

I got a ball joint press, (looks like a big C clamp), at Autozone. I then bought a pipe cap at Home Depot, ground it down to the precise diameter of the bushing sleeve with a grinder, so, would press the sleeve eventually going inside the carrier and force the bushing out.

I had to drive my Yukon XL which weights 5,000 lbs. or so over the tool, then literally stand on a 1.5' ratchet handle, to get the handle to turn.

Took about 20 minutes of standing, turning, etc. VERY close to not being doable but I saved a little money maybe, not sure.......

Anyway, an alternative, but next time, if there is a next time will pay someone to do this part......
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:32 PM   #20
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great write-up!
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