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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 09-27-2011, 09:53 AM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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Strut replacement question

Is there a quick and easy way to replace the struts?
The Bentley isn't very detailed in my opinion.
Do I have to remove the three top nuts or can I just remove the strut center nut?

I have Bilstein sports (to replace the Bilstein HD's that are currently on there) and HR sport springs/sways.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 09-27-2011, 10:02 AM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is online now
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Removing the struts is pretty simple, and doing it the "right way" is also pretty "quick and easy". You'll want to remove the three nuts on the strut towers. It will make putting everything back together a lot easier if you have the upper strut mount out of the car when it comes time to compress the spring, etc.

Anyhow, I have the Bilstein Sport/H&R Sport setup in my car and I like it.
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  #3  
Old 09-27-2011, 10:32 AM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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The car came with the HR sport springs, but the front struts are the HD's. So I'm replacing them with the sports.
Wondering how I will compress the spring to assemble the strut without a spring compressor once the strut is out of the car?!?
Oh, and how far should I tighten the single top nut on the strut?

Thanks!
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  #4  
Old 09-27-2011, 12:07 PM
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B_Rad_M3 B_Rad_M3 is offline
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Do this while the spring is compressed, Grab a heavy duty chain and lock and lock it in place...

Remove the spring from the strut and switch it to the new strut...

But if you don't have the chain and lock in hand just but the spring compressor they're only like 25 bucks and safer too...


Disclaimer: stated above is only to be read for entertainment purposes. Please DO NOT try that at home or at anywhere else.
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  #5  
Old 09-27-2011, 08:25 PM
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dc_wright dc_wright is online now
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If there's an Autozone near you they will loan you a spring compressor. You give them a deposit but you get a 100% refund when you return it.

The Bentley manual is actually quite clear on doing this job. You need to read it through a couple of times very carefully. Example: you are asking if you have to remove the three nuts or the center nut. Step 7 in the Bentley specifically states "Support strut assembly from below. From above, remove three strut mounting nuts on the strut tower".

This is not a tremendously difficult job, BUT you can get seriously hurt if you do it wrong.

Not hating here just giving friendly advice
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  #6  
Old 09-27-2011, 09:41 PM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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I appreciate the advice!
I was just looking for a 'shortcut' around taking the whole assembly out and having to track down a spring compressor.
The closest part store that would have anything like that is a good 30 mins away.

I'm fairly competent with mechanical stuff once I understand how it works.

I have both strut assemblies off the car. I ground down a socket that I can use a wrench on while inserting and allen key in the center to hold the strut. However, the nut is on there so tight its rounding out the end of the strut/allen bolt. Do you have any tricks for removing this nut?

Thanks again for all the advice!
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  #7  
Old 09-27-2011, 09:58 PM
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cj.surr cj.surr is offline
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Well, you definitely shouldn't be loosening that nut if the spring isn't compressed. It's gonna come flying off. You need a spring compressor first.

And I used vice grips on the shock cylinder while I loosened the nut, it was much easier.
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  #8  
Old 09-27-2011, 10:05 PM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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The shock is a bilstein "HD", and the springs are HR sports. So the spring doesn't have any preload on it as it sits on the old strut.

Then new struts going on are 'sports'. There is no risk of it exploding off the shaft. But thanks for the concern regarldess!
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  #9  
Old 09-27-2011, 10:10 PM
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I could be wrong, but I think it is bad to use normal length struts with lowering springs. Or maybe it's the other way around, but I still don't think they should be mismatched like that.

edit: nevermind, I read the post wrong. You will be using the lowered springs with sport shocks.
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Last edited by cj.surr; 09-27-2011 at 10:12 PM.
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  #10  
Old 09-28-2011, 04:45 AM
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I used large vise grips on the shaft of the old strut. You're replacing it so you don't care if you score it up with the vise grips.

Unless you can phyiscally rattle the spring and it's visibily loose you still have preload.
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  #11  
Old 09-28-2011, 07:18 AM
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fun2drive fun2drive is offline
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To remove the strut springs assuming you have an air gun just lay it on the ground with your foot on the spring and use the air wrench to spin it right off. The preload is not a big deal and the old strut might go 3 ft when it releases.
The trick is installing the new spring on to the strut. I would suggest that if you choose to not borrow a spring compressor at the auto parts store to take it to a place like Midas or other company that does replace struts and let them compress and install the nut for you.

Be sure you get the assembly in the right order too regarding the washers, etc because if you don't it will most likely bind, also a good time to lube the strut hat bearings since they will most likely have never been touched...
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  #12  
Old 09-28-2011, 08:21 AM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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I'd like to avoid vice-grips as the struts are still good and I can pass them on to someone else that needs the HD's...as long as I don't mar them up.

The spring sits loose in the retainers (see attached photo). So it should be physically impossible for it to explode off the shaft.

I'm going to go buy a cheap spring compressor today from harbor freight. They have one for 10 bucks. And on the way I need to pick up new spring pads and will stop by a shop down in town and see if they'll hit the struts with their air-tools to get this nut off.
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  #13  
Old 09-28-2011, 12:35 PM
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If you can afford it, get this spring compressor from HF instead of the $10 one. MUCH easier and safer to use. And you'll become instantly popular with your friends wanting to borrow it.
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Last edited by hornhospital; 09-28-2011 at 12:36 PM.
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  #14  
Old 09-28-2011, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tidan View Post
I'd like to avoid vice-grips as the struts are still good and I can pass them on to someone else that needs the HD's...as long as I don't mar them up.

The spring sits loose in the retainers (see attached photo). So it should be physically impossible for it to explode off the shaft.

I'm going to go buy a cheap spring compressor today from harbor freight. They have one for 10 bucks. And on the way I need to pick up new spring pads and will stop by a shop down in town and see if they'll hit the struts with their air-tools to get this nut off.
I used the vise grips on a old strut, so it didn't really matter, but I don't remember gouging or scratching it significantly.
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  #15  
Old 09-28-2011, 06:48 PM
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ZeGerman ZeGerman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
If you can afford it, get this spring compressor from HF instead of the $10 one. MUCH easier and safer to use. And you'll become instantly popular with your friends wanting to borrow it.
I became friends with someone who owns that exact spring compressor!
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  #16  
Old 09-29-2011, 08:33 AM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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Got one side done. Hopefully the other side this morning.
The $10 HarborFreight tool may have been revised - its far more burly and capable looking than the photos suggest. Had no problem compressing the springs and assembling the struts.
The only real hiccup is trying to get the recommended torque on the top nut since a 7mm allen key is simply not capable of holding the strut rod at those specs?!?

One other issue I found that I'll address later, the previous owner had cut the front springs presumably to lower the front a bit more.

The car sits nice (and looks decent), but I think my understeer issue might be the result of the springs being cut shorter?!?
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  #17  
Old 09-29-2011, 12:18 PM
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petriej petriej is offline
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I hope you are using jack stands and not relying on the oem jack to keep the car up.

When I replaced my suspension (Bilstein sport, H&R Sport) I didn't use a spring compressor, so either I did it completely wrong or...
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Quote:
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Jared, why don't you just put "It's Giubo" in your sig? Save a lot of typing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by e36 miguel View Post
this jared guy sounds intimidating lol.
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  #18  
Old 09-29-2011, 12:43 PM
Tidan Tidan is offline
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I definatly use jackstands! No way am I climbing under a car that doesn't have backup or solid support! LOL!
The jack is there as backup support for the stands. But thanks for the concern.
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  #19  
Old 09-30-2011, 07:47 PM
jmo69 jmo69 is offline
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I've done my front struts enough times that I could probably do it blindfolded. My impact is the key component. Holding the shaft with a vise grips doesn't do any damage if you hold it near the top where it never contacts the seals. I usually rent the AutoZone compressor so I don't have struts flying around my garage when the top nut comes off. I've got Eibach Pro Kit springs on Bilstien TC struts with no issues yet, 1.25 inch drop.

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  #20  
Old 09-30-2011, 08:27 PM
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Your driveway looks quite serene. I don't remember how I handled the load in the spring when I took off/replaced the suspension...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
Jared, why don't you just put "It's Giubo" in your sig? Save a lot of typing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by e36 miguel View Post
this jared guy sounds intimidating lol.
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-------------------------------------------------------------------
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