DIY: Front Control Arms, Bushings, and Tie Rods

This section holds all DIY's directly related to the e36 chassis. Everything from changing the oil on the m3 to swapping an s54 into your 325i.

DIY: Front Control Arms, Bushings, and Tie Rods

Postby kaiv » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:39 am

Hey fellas, here's a DIY for the replacement of control arms, control arm bushings, full (inner and outer) tie rods and sway bar links, pretty much everything you need to get back that tight front end feel.

I'm just gonna post that it here, mods/admin feel free to resize/host/link to the DIY section or whatever!
BTW english is not my native language so please correct me if needed!

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What you need:

Full tie rods, control arms and control arms bushings. While you're there I'd just replace the sway bar links as well. You need a bunch of tools too ah !

When I originally did this DIY, I ordered new non-M CABs already pressed in the lollipop bracket from Pelicanparts (great vendor) but those died prematurely so I replaced them with UUC CABs and couldn't be happier.

If you are replacing the full tie rods, you'll also need (very important) part number 4 on the diagram below. It's a safety locking plate that basically will assure that your tie rod will not randomly start unscrewing itself. I had to reuse my old ones because I didn't know that I needed those beforehand but I STRONGLY recommand that you get news ones right away to do the job.

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1) raise car or only the front end on jackstand.

2) unscrew, unscrew, and unscrew some more! I noted the size socket you need for each nut.
IIRC you might not have enough room to undo the one that requires a 19mm socket but you can take care of it at the next step.
The 22mm one is the hardest of them to reach. I went from above the sway bar.

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3) Even though the nuts are removed nothing is moving. Grab that (free to rent) autozone fork tool to separe the tie rods.
I was a noob at the time and thought you use those as a lever but NO you don't! You just tap it straight toward the balljoint with a hammer and the thing will separate and drop just like magic. Very easy !

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Repeat that procedure on all balljoints (total 3 per side) to have the control arm drop too.

4)Remove the metal rings that hold the dust covers over the tie rods.

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5)Remove/pull the covers. It's easier done one side at a time the steering turn toward the side you are working on.

Circled (actually squared) in red below is that safety locking plate I was talking earlier. You can see how a tab is bent down on a side of the tie rod to avoid impromptu unscrewing.

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6) With a flat head screwdriver and a hammer I tapped on it to bend it the other way to allow removal of the tie rod.
When you do that the locking plate is going to be pretty beat up and weakened hence why new ones are recommended.

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7) With that locking plate out of the way, grab a 32mm wrench to completely undo the tie rod.
That wrench is easily found in bicycle stores. It's the same one you'd use to remove your mechanical fan clutch.

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8- Now you want to adjust your new tie rods so that they have the same lenght as the old ones. That way your wheels won't be all jacked up and the car should drive straight but a good alignment is still recommended after replacing all that stuff.
Tighten them well when you have them at the proper size.

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Now's also a good time to replace the sway bar links.

9) Installation of the new tie rods: just like the old ones were. (easier with the wheels turned on the side you are working on)

Put the new locking plates first on the steering rack (there's an indentation on the end of the rack and the plate so you can't put it the wrong way) The new plates will be flat. Make sure they stay put correctly as you tighten the new tie rods.

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When you get the tie rods in tight use a hammer to bend down the bottom of the locking plate on a side of tie rod just like it was originally.

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This is a picture of an old locking plate that I had reused vs a brand new one

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10) Installation of the new control arms: if you are using a stock replacement bushing, the Bentley manual states that you use a specific kerosen lubricant on the bushing to slie it on the tip of the arm. I found my special bmw lubriant in my kitchen.

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If that's what you are doing you want to hurry to bolt everything back after you slide the bushing onto the arm. You don't want the stuff to dry and risk trashing your bushing when you drop the car back on the ground.
It has to be still wet/ lubricated when you drop the car on the ground so that everything positions itself correctly.

I'd also recommend you buy them with the brackets, already pressed in.

(note: If you are just replacing those bushings without pulling the control arms, autozone's 3 jaw puller does a great job!)

If you go aftermarket I highly recommend UUCs bushings. They are miles away from stock non-M bushings. Even more if you old stuff is beat.

The UUC bushings:

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By the way the UUC bushings use a bearing so you don't lube those.

Oh and at that time, being a noob, I kept the old control arms next to me on the ground to make sure I was putting everything on the correctly and on the right side.

Also notice the lollipop bracket has recessed holes on the side that goes against the car.

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11) Grab an allen wrench as you'll need it to tighten the ball joints and reinstall the control arms opposite of removal.

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IIRC I first slid in the middle ball joint (the one that uses the 22mm socket that's harder to reach) and just tighten it by hand. I then tightened a little bit on the control arm bushing/bracket side to keep that part from moving around. Then the other stuff is easy to reach and line up.

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For the ball joint below I had to undo the bottom of the strut to get clearance and tighten it with the allen wrench. (note: those two bottom strut bolts use a 18mm socket and require red loctite)

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Finally with everything tight I finished with the two bolts of the bushing's bracket (which should be new, with washers and red loctited - optimally every nut and washer should be new)

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12) Double/triple check that everything is tight and well. Refer to the picture below for proper torque settings (from Bentley manual)

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13) Voila ! drop the car back on the ground, push on the fenders to "bounce" the suspension so that everything settles. You are ready for an alignment.

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*credits : leedawg (bimmerforums) and steph45 (bmwfans french forum)*

Hope that helps those of you who need a refresh of their front end! That job was pretty easy and pleasant to do and if I can do it you can do it :mrgreen:
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby ali » Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:46 pm

awesome write up man! I can't tell you how many times I have layed on my back taking off those 22mm nuts haha. Very detailed write up.

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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby Caligula » Tue Mar 04, 2008 5:33 pm

Dude i dont know where to start. Great write up. Great pics. I love how you displayed the torque settings for the tie rods. This is the kind of content we're looking for on The Tech.

That 22mm nut is a royal bitch to get to. I admire your faith in hand tightening, but torque values is something i am very anal about. You will find that though all the mess on the intake side, once you remove the intake and PS reservoir, it is a straight shot down with a socket and extensions. On the exhaust side, you can see the bolt clearly but it is wedged under the engine support. Using a 1/2" drive socker will not give you enough clearance and a u-joint will not always fit either. This is why most people will unbolt their engine mount and lift the engine to do this if they have the means.

I however found a perfect work around. You will find that a 22mm 3/8" socket is hard to find, except in the dirt cheap Harbor Freight socket set. I still keep my 22mm socket from that set even though i only use my good Craftsman sockets now. Using that with a wobble extension should give you enough room to get to the nut with a torque wrench.

Again, very impressed with your write up. I hope to see more of them soon.
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby DEFKON99 » Wed Mar 05, 2008 2:19 pm

wowo very nice writeup!!!! indeed i really need this done as well. shit i think i need everything :(
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby antik » Sat Mar 08, 2008 1:17 pm

Unbelievable write up... :cheers
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby ali » Tue Mar 11, 2008 3:46 pm

this write up is going on the website in the next couple days. Awesome writeup!

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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby kaiv » Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:20 pm

ahah thanks guys, I had a feeling you'd like that write up. I'll post some more when Im not lazy ahah
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby Caligula » Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:45 am

One more tip. While your control arms are painted, the bottoms of the ball joint are not. After one week from installing mine, i could see the beginnings of rust forming on the base of the four total ball joints on the control arms. The solution is simple: use a wire brush to remove and deposits and rust from the ball joint, and give them each a coat of primer then two coats of black engine enamel. Doing this while they are installed is not a problem, just cover up anything you dont want to get black paint on like any nice aftermarket struts or sway bars.
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby Patrón » Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:40 am

Kaiv
Thank you for posting the writeups, they are perfect.
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby m3alpine99 » Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:08 pm

Good Write Up

I remember doing all this when I worked in shops! Now I just have my sponsor take care of these items hehe
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby Volfinator » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:15 pm

Wow... nice write up.
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Re: (E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby st3althbeam328i » Wed Apr 02, 2008 2:44 am

amazing write-up best i've seen so far compared to any other.. gotta <3 the tech!!
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(E36 DIY) control arms/bushings and tie rods

Postby ClayMan » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:52 pm

How do you get a torque wrench on the 19mm (outer ball joint, 65Nm)? The bumps on the spindle get in the way of the socket...
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Re: DIY: Front Control Arms, Bushings, and Tie Rods

Postby Caligula » Wed Nov 24, 2010 4:13 am

They shouldn't be an issue. If the strut is already installed, then you might just have to use a box end wrench linked to another wrench.
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Re: DIY: Front Control Arms, Bushings, and Tie Rods

Postby fordrule » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:31 pm

I just ordered all of these parts to do the swap on my suspension and steering
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