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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 05-23-2010, 01:19 PM
jimmelo jimmelo is offline
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Confessions of a Newbie -- Control arms replaced

Well what seemed like it might only take 3-4 hours ended up taking me about 6-8 hours over the course of the last two days. I bought my 2002 330 ci convertible about 3 years ago with 45K miles on it. Back then I had the car looked over and was told the right front control arm bushing probably needed to be replaced soon. There was also other issues at the time so I took care of those first. Plus I wanted to save up enough money to replace the entire control arms along with the bushings. I bought the myle HD's and powerflex bushings from bimmerworld and cleared my saturday so I could dig in. Bought the pickle forks and appropriate wrenches.

Raised the car and lo and behold the jack stands I have are too tall! Not even in the lowest setting could I get them under the car. Looking around I remembered I had 2 3 ft sections of railroad ties lying around. I stacked those and slid them under the center frame of the car and lowered the car onto the railroad ties. Very sturdy. Next I realized that the center jacking point under my car was part of a "brace plate" that goes under the front part of the car. There wasn't the engine/chassis brace that appears in the DIY pictures, just this plate. I have the sport version so best I can guess is this part of the more rigid framing of the sport package on the convertible

This turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. That plate was also where the central jacking point was located as well as what was resting on the railroad ties so no way I was going to be able to take it off. I had no other way of keeping the care in the air safely.

I jumped in and I was able to get the right control arm off in about 10-15 minutes. Whacked the pickle fork and it popped right off. I was very ecstatic and thinking this wouldn't be so bad. I should have known then.

I got the first control arm on but I was having a bear of a time with the control arm bushing housing. After scratching my head and looking at it for 30 minutes I finally realized the housing has recessed slots on one side so it could slip over the bolt sleeves protruding from the body of the vehicle. I of course had put it on backwards and the slots were facing out. DOH! So I had to take the control arm off completely because of the brace plate and start all over.

I also realized because I couldn't take the brace plate off the bottom bolt of the 2 control arm housings had to go on with the housing as I slid it under the plate otherwise I wouldn't be able to slide the bolt in later. Talk about a juggling act. Somehow I was able to finally slide everything in without that bolt falling off. That took about 30-45 minutes working out. Would definitely been better if I had a friend helping under there. After about 4 hours I finally had the right control arm in. I didn't think the inner ball joint was terribly bad, just annoying, but after reading all the DIY's I felt like I had been properly warned so I was prepared for that.

After that experience I figured the left control arm and bushing wouldn't be that bad as I thought I had all ready gone through everything. Boy was I wrong. Again got it off in about 10-15 minutes with no major issues. Again I had to go through the bushing housing issue but not a big deal. Got the control arm up and ready to tighten down.

This time that inner ball joint drove me insane. First of all I just really couldn't get my 22 mm wrench in there. It was too long and taking forever. I took off some body trim (the piece where the ambient temperature sensor goes) and a bar, that looks like it holds a tie rod or something (I really didn't know what it was, except it was in my way). I still really couldn't get at it. So I moved to the top. I took the air filter off and the MAF assembly to give me some room. Not a big deal as its an easy 2 minute operation. I finally was able to get at from the top side. Went at it with some extensions and a ratchet. I turned and turned and the damn thing wouldn't tighten. I guess I got really lucky previously because all of my other ball joints hadn't spun and I never had to do the allen wrench thing. Sure enough I put an allen wrench in and it was spinning like a top when I tightened it. Great. The freakin' hardest ball joint to get to and the damn thing was spinning. At that point I had to walk away and start the next day. I'd all ready spent 4-5 hours on the thing.

Next day I wake up and sit there and stare at it and try to figure out what the hell I'm going to do. I feel the top of the nut and I also realize that it's not quite seated properly. Great. Well, finally I realize I have an adjustable wrench that is half as long as my 22 mm wrench. Finally something that works. Takes me a minute or two to pop off the nut, set it right, and start over again. Put in the allen wrench, turn the nut, let the allen wrench get set and then start tightening. After about 15-20 minutes of turning I am finally done. Whew, that was about another 1-2 this morning. Put everything back together and hit the road.

WOW!!! I can't believe the difference. It really is like driving a completely different car. First couple of turns and I was over steering. I was driving like I had my old front end and compensating for the bad bushings and ball joints. Not a good idea. Steering is so crisp and precise. I had no idea my car was supposed to drive like this. Man. Now I can't wait to do my front brakes, rotors, spark plugs, new front tires, and get an alignment.

Basically, this DIY was a huge pain in the ass, mostly because of the brace plate on my car. If I had some jack stands that where shorter this would have been a lot easier. Also being a noob I screwed up a couple of simple things. Definitely would still recommend doing this as a DIY as it's not terribly complicated. It can just be very annoying. Give yourself some time. Granted I could probably do this in 2 hours the next time, maybe less with the right jack stand and that brace plate off. Still worth it.

Enjoy,
Jim
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  #2  
Old 05-23-2010, 04:36 PM
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goosefoot33 goosefoot33 is offline
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Good post Jim, I'm looking to do my control arms and bushings soon. It is nice to see posts that point out the hassles of a procedure, as opposed to just a straightforward DIY. Thanks for giving me a brief preview of what I'm up against (it'll be my first time doing control arms as well)!!
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Old 05-23-2010, 04:43 PM
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smolck smolck is online now
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I have also tried to put the cab on the wrong side and realize after the fact that it has recesses. I haven't made that mistake since!
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Old 09-23-2012, 12:44 PM
jsaklas jsaklas is offline
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How did you get the drivers side LCA off?

I understand how you had a problem tightening the inner LCA nut when you installed the new one, but I can't even get the existing nut off.

As you said, the 22 mm wrench doesn't fit (It's too long.). Did you use the adjustable wrench? My nuts are so rusted in, I'm afraid that I won't get the leverage necessary to crack it free. If fact, I had to use a 2 ft cheater pipe on the passenger side inner nut.

Help.

js
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  #5  
Old 09-23-2012, 05:39 PM
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smolck smolck is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsaklas View Post
I understand how you had a problem tightening the inner LCA nut when you installed the new one, but I can't even get the existing nut off.

As you said, the 22 mm wrench doesn't fit (It's too long.). Did you use the adjustable wrench? My nuts are so rusted in, I'm afraid that I won't get the leverage necessary to crack it free. If fact, I had to use a 2 ft cheater pipe on the passenger side inner nut.

Help.

js
Did you drop your sway bar? If not, do that, then the wrench fits in there no problem. Just remove the two 13mm nuts on each side that hold the rubber bushing (leave the endlinks attached) and it will rotate down and out of the way.
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now, go burn your Man Card, and buy yourself a Camry....
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  #6  
Old 09-23-2012, 07:59 PM
lgr122 lgr122 is online now
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I was able to get it off without removing swaybar, but i had air filter and undercarriage cover removed, and i did spray tons of rust oil, and it took long while.
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Old 09-23-2012, 08:19 PM
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smolck smolck is online now
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Originally Posted by lgr122 View Post
I was able to get it off without removing swaybar, but i had air filter and undercarriage cover removed, and i did spray tons of rust oil, and it took long while.
Next time drop the sway bar, you did it the HARD way.
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  #8  
Old 09-23-2012, 10:47 PM
jsaklas jsaklas is offline
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Smolk,

Thanks - I will drop the sway bar and try. If that doesn't work, I'll try from the top (once I buy a 24" extension for my ratchet).

More questions: The car is a 2000 323i with 105,000 miles. Assuming I'm able to get the drivers side LCA off, what else do you recommend I go ahead and change? I already am replacing the calipers, rotors and pads and plan to do the sway bar end links. What about tie rods, or sway bar bushings, or anything else that a novice might be able to do? Also, if you think any of these might still be in good shape, how to I check them to confirm they are OK?

Thanks

js
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  #9  
Old 09-24-2012, 01:34 PM
lgr122 lgr122 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smolck View Post
Next time drop the sway bar, you did it the HARD way.
Probably right. Why didn't i think...
Could have just taken sway bar off.
I had those links off at that point anyway, because of replacing them also.
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  #10  
Old 09-24-2012, 01:46 PM
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smolck smolck is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsaklas View Post
Smolk,

Thanks - I will drop the sway bar and try. If that doesn't work, I'll try from the top (once I buy a 24" extension for my ratchet).

More questions: The car is a 2000 323i with 105,000 miles. Assuming I'm able to get the drivers side LCA off, what else do you recommend I go ahead and change? I already am replacing the calipers, rotors and pads and plan to do the sway bar end links. What about tie rods, or sway bar bushings, or anything else that a novice might be able to do? Also, if you think any of these might still be in good shape, how to I check them to confirm they are OK?

Thanks

js
Been my experience tie rods last a LONG time before you will ever notice ride degradation. I had some with 230k miles on them, replaced with new, and couldn't tell a difference at all, not in tire wear, road feel, or handling. So I'd skip those at 105k miles. Not really a lot else to replace, links, arms, and bushings and you are good to go.
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now, go burn your Man Card, and buy yourself a Camry....
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  #11  
Old 10-15-2012, 10:01 PM
jsaklas jsaklas is offline
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Installing the new LCAs

After taking time to replace all the P/S hoses, I'm now installing the new LCAs. I finished the sway bar end links yesterday and started installing the new LCAs.

After some struggle I got the passenger side in. I tightened up the two bolts holding the bushing, and finger tightened the center and inner ball joint nuts. This raises some questions.

Is there any way of tightening these nuts without using the Allen wrench to hold the bolts? There is so little room, I don't see how I could possibly tighten these anywhere near the ft-lbs of torque recommended (I had to use a 30 inch cheater pipe onto my wrench to crack the seal when I removed them.) with one hand while holding the Allen wrench with the other hand. Also I'm not even sure there is room for the Allen wrench?

js
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  #12  
Old 10-15-2012, 10:18 PM
lgr122 lgr122 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsaklas View Post
After taking time to replace all the P/S hoses, I'm now installing the new LCAs. I finished the sway bar end links yesterday and started installing the new LCAs.

After some struggle I got the passenger side in. I tightened up the two bolts holding the bushing, and finger tightened the center and inner ball joint nuts. This raises some questions.

Is there any way of tightening these nuts without using the Allen wrench to hold the bolts? There is so little room, I don't see how I could possibly tighten these anywhere near the ft-lbs of torque recommended (I had to use a 30 inch cheater pipe onto my wrench to crack the seal when I removed them.) with one hand while holding the Allen wrench with the other hand. Also I'm not even sure there is room for the Allen wrench?

js
First just use Allen wrench + another wrench for putting them as tight as you can.
If you're lucky they get stuck enough so that you don't need that Allen wrench to hold them when doing final tightening.
Or could set that Allen wrench leaning on body part for freeing hand to tightening nut bit more.
I don't know what kind torque i got on those i just put them as tight as i possibly could and then re-checked day later after driving some.

Anyway as i remember how stuck those old ones were... these probably won't fall off on their own.
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  #13  
Old 10-16-2012, 04:20 AM
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jonathan2263 jonathan2263 is offline
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My jack stands are slightly too high to get under the jack pads. My solution is to put a piece of 2x4 on my floor jack. It gives me the extra height I need to get the car high enough that I can get the stands under it. Also, it adds a bit of protection to the soft aluminum stiffener plate.
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