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From bmw-digest.v4.n438 Mon Apr 15 12:03:46 1996
From: "Rick Kjeldsen" <>
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 1996 10:12:41 -0400
Subject: Re:E30 strut replacement

>has anyone ever removed the front struts

I've probably done this job for my and friends cars almost a dozen times to change spring and shock setups. If you are handy, you can do the whole job yourself, but having a shop do just the cartridge replacement is a good trade-off, farming out the part of the job with the most potential problems, but saving most of the cost.

>Are there any special tools required, like
>for removing the control arm ball joint connection or the steering

You can get the tie rods ends disconnected from the strut (steering knuckle) with conventional tools (gear pullers, etc), as well as the old bang-it-till-it-pops technique, just be careful not to hurt the boot or put any stress on the steering rack. The special tool makes it simple. I found it very worth while, but then I do this alot.

The control arm ball joint is a bit tougher because it's hard to get access to. The tie-rod special tool can be made to work (that's what I do), the bang-it technique works quite well, but other pullers can't really get in there.
Beyond that, getting the strut out is very straight forward.

>I removed the struts, and they did the rest, the price was quoted
>as "around $100" :-).

$100 to just replace the cartridges sounds very expensive for 20 minutes work - I'd shop around if you don't want to do it yourself. I do it with an inexpensive spring compresser. Just be careful to take your time and use the saftey retainers, and they are reasonably safe.

Potential problem areas:
To get the top nut off you can easily rig up standard sockets to replace the special tool. Use a 1/2" drive socket on the nut, 13/16" or somthing close to that. A reasonably thin wall is needed, but most 12 pt sockets fit. Then get a deep, 1/4 drive socket to fit the strut bolt. It should slip right through the square drive hole in the larger socket. Put the larger socket on the nut, and grab it with a vice-grip. Slip the smaller socket through the bigger to engage the bolt and put a 1/4 drive on it. Loosen away. I've never had any trouble except once when I turned it the wrong way and broke the small socket.
The real trouble spot is getting the retainer ring off that holds the cartrage in. They sell a special tool, but it isn't worth it (big $'s). I use a very large channel lock and when I need it, heating the strut housing helps alot. Be sure to replace the retainer nuts with new ones. (You should get a new set even if you have a shop do this part - they could easily destroy the old ones)

While you are in there, you should consider replacing the control arm bushings. They definitly wear and degrade handling. If they have never been replaced in an '87 they are over-due. To replace them you will want to pull the control arm - the bushings are replacable on the car but it's a much tougher job. The rear of the arm is simple to get off - just undo the two bolts that hold the bushing housing. The center ball joint (where it attaches to the subframe) can be much tougher to get at. With an 'iX and M3 you can get at the top nut on the ball joint from above with a long extension and a universal joint (remove the airbox on one side). I don't recall if that works with an 'e motor, but it should. You can also undo the nut from below with an open-end wrench and some patience, but popping the ball joint out can be a problem unless you come down from above to strike it.

Then take the arms to the same shop and have them use a press to replace the bushings on the arms. It's simple, but make sure they use lube (silicone or the like) on the bushings to avoid tearing them, and make sure they align the bushings and bushing bracket the same way it was when it came off (WRT the control arm). If that costs more than $20, go somewhere else! $10 is more like it.

Another thing to look at is the bushing/bearing at the top of the strut. The bushing wears well, but the bearing often gets rusty and starts to bind, affecting steering feel and eventually causing slop. While the strut's apart be sure to free up the bearing and check it for wear. Clean and lube it before you reinstall. If you want to do a very good job (read "be somewhat anal about it"), replace them.

If you have any other concerns, feel free to drop me a note. rick
'87 325es
'90 325iX
'88 M3

From bmw-digest.v4.n438 Mon Apr 15 12:03:46 1996
From: "Rick Kjeldsen" <>
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 1996 10:28:55 -0400
Subject: Re:E30 strut replacement

> a picklefork-type balljoint separator can be used,
>but this will probably destroy the boot on the tie-rod end.

It also puts a lot of stress on the ball joint itself. I much prefer a puller.

>>Is this tool [Tie Rod Puller] used to remove the control arm
>>joint as well as the tie rod end joint?
>I doubt the puller would work on the control arm joint.

It works quite well. It's a bit awkward as it's not designed for it. You have to turn the wheel to full lock in one direction, and most of the stress hits the puller on one of it's tongs, but it is well enough built to take it - I've used mine for that numerious times. The best way is to use the puller to put tension on the ball joint - tighten it up till you start to feel uncomfortable that it may slip or bend, then wack it with a hammer and the joint pops right apart.


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