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Old 07-14-2009, 02:22 PM   #1
jaymac77
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Symptoms of a blown front strut?

Hi all,
I'm new to the forum, and have already searched for an answer to my question, but couldn't find the specifics I'm looking for.
My wife has an '02 330xi with 93,xxx miles. She just developed a rattling/knocking from the front end over bumps and rough roads. The steering is straight, smooth and stable at all speeds. I originally thought it could've been the Control Arm, Ball joint, Tie rod end or sway bar end link. All seemed to check out fine and nothing could be budged by hand or prybar, no visibly torn boots. There is no play in the wheel or rotor at the 3 and 9 positions, or the 12 and 6 positions. While trying to troubleshoot it with a mechanic, who ultimately told me it was the TRE, we found if you push down on the pass. fender, you can reproduce the same knock it does while driving. It sounds and "feels" like it's coming from the strut...
Now, after more investigation/troubleshooting, I'm wondering if what I've found indicates a blown strut.
Jacked it up and removed the wheel again. Reinspected the TRE and the Ball Joint for play. Couldn't produce any movement (although I didn't try the Channel lock compression test I've read about). What I did find was that i could lift from the bottom of the rotor and compress the shock and spring up and few millimeters pretty easily over and over again. I drew a line on the strut with a Sharpie to confirm that it was indeed moving a good distance. When I release the rotor, it would reproduce the knock. The same knock I can produce from pushing down on the fender. Even the first tech said it sounded like the strut might be blown, but didn't try to inspect it any further, and just blamed it on the TRE.
As I understand it, I shouldn't be able to pull on a rotor with my hands and compress a healthy strut that easily with a spring still attached. Does this make sense and concur with the other symptoms? Are there any other ways to sure-fire diagnose a blown strut?
Thanks for your help guys!
Jeremy
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Old 07-14-2009, 03:44 PM   #2
GoingNuts
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The side where the shock has blown rides lower.
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Old 07-14-2009, 03:46 PM   #3
j0nblayz
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i had the same symptoms on my old e39 530i. I did have blown struts. Check around your struts, do you see oil leaking out? depending on what springs you have, you might be able to do a bounce test, mine had h&r springs so it was too stiff to test.
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Old 07-14-2009, 03:55 PM   #4
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I "bounced" it, but only really to observe the knock, I wasn't counting bounces. There isn't really any fluid on it, but I've heard that fluid isn't always present, I'm not sure if that's true or not. She does have a blown shock on the back that I can confirm by seeing the grease, but no noise in the back and no grease on the front. Very frustrating...
And more importantly, should I be able to pick up and compress the strut like that, and should it make a knock like that?

Last edited by jaymac77; 07-14-2009 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 07-14-2009, 04:25 PM   #5
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The rear shock is easy to check if you have a breaker bar. Just undo the big bolt at the bottom then compress it by hand. If it doesn't uncompress then it's blown.
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Old 07-14-2009, 04:57 PM   #6
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I'm not too concerned about the rear. I see the grease all over it, but it's not the one making noise, at least for now. I'll get to it, but I want to confirm the status of the front and fix whatever it is.
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Old 07-14-2009, 05:30 PM   #7
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There's no way to diagnose the front without dismantling. Since you can reproduce the noise, you should be able to trace its source. If the source is from inside of the shock, you should replace it if you don't like the noise. These cars are quite happy to run and run in ordinary driving on a blown shock. The detrimental effects are not easily discernible.

Shocks and springs are some of the easier DIYs once you learn how these things hang together. If you cut out the mech, even if you replace a perfectly good shock, it is not expensive given how long it will last on normal roads. If you absolutely want to save money, just buy/rent the tools and start dismantling. Then you will learn a thing or two about BMW suspension systems and would be in a position to decide if purchasing of a new shock will be necessary. A word of warning however: if you reassemble the strut using a slightly different geometry or put on a new shock, the alignment for that wheel maybe changed. So an additional cost of an alignment maybe incurred, unless of course you learn how to do DIY alignment.
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:32 PM   #8
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SWEET VICTORY! I will be re-posting this entry into all the threads I've started in the past few weeks trying to diagnose this knocking which was getting worse and worse and seemed to fit no common denominator or cause. If you've come across this posting in another one of my threads, feel free to go back to the main page, as I know you're probably tired if you read the whole thing the first time

FINALLY, after trying to poke and prod and troubleshoot on my own for the last 2 weeks, including two trips to two separate indies (one of which was stumped at first, and ultimately declared it was a bad TRE because he could "swivel it by hand", even though there was no play in the joint or the 9 and 3 movement whatsoever - WTF?? The second, upon seeing me be able to budge the rotor, strut and spring ever so slightly upwards, declared it was the strut, even though with the car on the ground, it had no bounce and stabilized just like a healthy strut should...) I, with the help pf my lovely assistant (my wife), was able to get to the root of the problem. One common denominator was that I could push down on the fender and replicate the knock, but with me pushing on the fender, there was no way I could pinpoint the knock from above. So now I had my wife pushing on the fender from above while I reached my arm underneath and held onto every bushing and joint to see if I could feel the knock. I started with the rear LCA bushing for several pushes. I moved on to the front LCA ball joint. Nothing. The main Ball Joint. Nothing. The bottom of the strut. Nothing. The bottom of the sway bar end-link. Hmm. Something.... Switched positions. The top of the sway bar end-link....... TA DA!!!!!!!!!! Jack the car up, take the wheel off, and sure enough, there's a little bare metal gouged out of the bracket where the nut had been striking up and down in the bracket. I wiggled it by hand. Nothing. Tried to tighten it by wrench. Already tight. Somethin's gotta give, so I look at the angle of the joint going into the bracket. It's at a downward angle, and doesn't look quite flush, so I try turning the wheel to each extreme and tightening again. Nothing. So my little (metaphorical) light bulb goes off and I decide I should loosen it, jack the CA up until it's at normal ride height and see if I can flush it up more.

So I loosen it several turns and wiggle by hand. No play. Then, I begin to jack up the CA, little by little, centimeter at a time, until the end link completely frees itself up, and I knew I had it I retightened it, now with everything perfectly aligned, and made damn sure it was as snug and straight as possible. Mounted the wheel, dropped the car and re-tightened, and saddled up for the moment of truth down the patchwork-pavement, railroad track, pothole minefield that is my street.......PERFECT! I FIXED IT!!! (In case you can't tell, I'm a little excited right now). After 2 mis-diagnostics by "real mechanics", and several near-purchases of TRE's, new struts, new LCA and Front ball joint (xi model), New strut mount, etc., etc., it was FREE!!!
It was weighing very heavily on my mind as no one could diagnose it and I didn't want my wife to be driving around in a ticking time-bomb, not knowing if her wheel was going to fall off on the highway... Then I just found out on Sunday I have a torn CV boot on my A6, so all of that put together was really stressing me out!!
I still might never know if it was my fault that the end-link was improperly re-installed or not. I did take it off about a month ago to attempt to replace my wife's axle (bad CV joint due to an un-noticed torn boot) (twice), and ultimately I took it to the mechanic to have them do it. However, it never made that noise between the week that I attempted the swap and the time I brought it to them the following week to do it for me. Incidentally, it was the SAME mechanic who later missed the loose end-link and wanted to charge me $180 for a TRE! HA!! So, if they disconnected the end-link during their work replacing the strut, then the blamed falls on them! VICTORY AND VINDICATION!!!

So if anyone has actually bothered to read through this WHOLE thing, Thanks! And a big "THANK YOU" to everyone who offered their assistance and ideas to my attempts at diagnosing several possible culprits!! It's been fun!!

~Jeremy
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Old 07-20-2009, 09:34 PM   #9
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What happened?
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Old 07-21-2009, 06:59 AM   #10
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What happened?
originally or ultimately? The original problem is in the first post, and the ultimate solution is in my last post
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Old 07-21-2009, 09:28 AM   #11
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Nice work, Sherlock. Although we know who the real MVP was for this DIY...
....your assistant!
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Old 07-21-2009, 10:02 AM   #12
jaymac77
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....your assistant!
Couldn't have done it without her!!
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Old 07-21-2009, 10:52 AM   #13
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cool I am glad you got it, I have the same problem, but my back hurts and I dont want to bend over to work on this...
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Old 07-21-2009, 10:56 AM   #14
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cool I am glad you got it, I have the same problem, but my back hurts and I dont want to bend over to work on this...
Then bend over at the dealer and apply extra lube.
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Old 07-21-2009, 11:02 AM   #15
jaymac77
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Then bend over at the dealer and apply extra lube.
Tell me about it!!!
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Old 07-21-2009, 03:02 PM   #16
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Then bend over at the dealer and apply extra lube.
nope, I will wait a few days when my back is new again...not this weekend, got 2 mods coming in!
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Old 07-21-2009, 03:52 PM   #17
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congrats! It's always a great feeling to figure out those gremlins!

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Old 07-23-2009, 08:38 PM   #18
mstaytru247
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What are your recommendations for a DD for struts, on at 03 325i sedan for front as well as rear? The Bilstiens are nice but I am not sure they are practical for this vehicle.
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:22 AM   #19
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originally or ultimately? The original problem is in the first post, and the ultimate solution is in my last post
I'm not sure.
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Old 07-26-2009, 02:09 AM   #20
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HR cup kits are ok if you want some improvement in handling, but retain a near stock ride. I like them and they do give you a decent drop.
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