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· Registered
266 Posts
I just did the job last weekend, I've been meaning to post a write up on it. I'll try and get to it today. FYI-If you've done other suspension jobs, plan on **much** more time. I had to do it in two days. 1 day for rear, 1 for front.

· Registered
266 Posts
OK... let's see if the forum server doesn't melt when I try this. It's turning out to be quite long so I will have to do this in several parts. I will try to update with some diagrams and or photos later when I have more time.

E39 Shock and Strut Installation (Very Long)

My Car: 97 528i
Shocks: Bilstein Sports
Springs: Eibach Pro
Other hardware replaced at the same time: F/R Sway Bar Links, Front lower Control Arms, Front Upper Support Arms Bushings [Inner], Tie Rods.

If you are familiar with rear shock replacement on earlier cars Im afraid the e39 is nothing like it. It took me and 2 other people 1 day just to do the rear end. The front end took another day with 1 friend assisting. On both days, we started around 11:00 am and finished up around 7:00pm. Both of us have done numerous suspension jobs over the years and are no dummies. So give yourself plenty of time. [Granted we did a few other things while we were at it; so your time may vary.]

I recommend starting with the rear since it is the most difficult and if you have to drive the car for a few days with just one half done [Like I did] you should be OK.


First of all, *yes* you do have to remove the rear deck behind the seat to get to the tops of the shock mounts. The mounts are located under the speakers.


Step 1) Remove rear seat bench. Lift up at the front of the seat. [Dont be afraid to pull hard] Then pull forward.

Step 2) Remove the seat back: Remove the bolts on either side, at the base of the seat back. Theyre located between the edge of the seat and the weather stripping on the door. Once the bolt is removed, lift UP and pull OUT the top of the seat back. [Do the same for both sides]

NOTE: My car has the 60/40 split rear seat so I dont know exactly what the difference is for cars without. If you have a split rear seat you can simply lower the seats and only remove the side bolsters. On the body where the bench seat snaps in are two protruding metal tabs; you may want to place a folded heavy towel over them to prevent ripping or marring the leather seat back when its folded down.

Step 3) Remove the top plastic trim piece that runs along the leading edge of the rear deck where the seat back attaches to the body.

NOTE: This and many other pieces are fastened using plastic snap rivets. You will need to reuse them so be careful when removing not to damage them. Simply use a small screwdriver to pry up the center pin and pull it out, the rest of the rivet should come out easily. [Store the two pieces together in pairs while working on the car so you dont loose them.]

Step 4) Remove headrests: The headrests simply pull up and out.

Step 5) Unbolt shoulder/seat belts: Remove the bolt at the bottom of the seat belts.

NOTE: The center belt has a miniature buckle on it. You can save yourself and extra step by simply unbuckling it.

Step 6) Remove plastic trim pieces around the seat belts on the Rear deck: The trim pieces are split underneath the seat belt. Simply lift the seat belt up and pry the trim piece up then forward out from the rear deck panel.

NOTE: They will not come completely off. You will leave them dangling around the seat belts for now.

Step 7) Remove side panel Reading Lights: The side panels *do* need to be removed, however they are easy to get to. Simply use a small flat edge screwdriver to gently pry out the top of the Reading Lights; then lift up and pull out. Unplug the back of the reading light.

Step 8) Remove side panel: Again, using a flat edge screwdriver, gently pry the top of the side panel around the middle of the panel and unsnap the fastener. Then slide the screwdriver forward behind the panel and unsnap the other one. Lift the panel up and pull out to remove.

Step 9) Remove the rear deck panel: At this point, you should be able to simply lift up on the front edge and pull out. The edges may stick a little; dont be afraid to just pull firmly on it and it should come right out. At this point, you will see why you had to remove the seat belt trim. Simply slip the belts through the holes.

NOTE: Cars with retractable rear window shades may have to do a bit more work to remove the rear deck. [My car does not have this option so I cannot comment on it.]

Step 10) Remove the rear speakers: This part is easy; just remove the two screws holding the speaker box. Simply lift up the complete assembly; unplug and set aside.

Step 11) Finally, the upper shock mount! At this point you might freak out a little [like I did] and ask yourself, where the hell is the sock mount? No need to fret, Its located underneath the rubber insulation mat at the front outer edges; directly below where the speaker boxes were located. Simply flip the edge of the mat back and you should see the shock mounts.

NOTE!: The e39 rear shock mount is different that the traditional mount found on earlier cars. It looks much like a front strut mount with three small nuts holding it in. DO NOT REMOVE THE CENTER BOLT! The shock spring is under considerable pressure and may cause harm to anyone under the car if removed. At the very least, it will make your job more difficult because you will have a harder time getting the shock out. [You will see what I mean once you get to the point where you actually try to remove the shock assembly.]


Step 12) Remove lower shock mount bolt: This part is fairly straight forward. Unbolt the bottom of the shock. Its held on with a single long bolt and nut. [Pretty standard stuff.] Now comes the fun part.

NOTE: You will need as much clearance as possible to drop the shock assembly so there are a few more steps before this can be accomplished.

Step 13) Disconnect the Sway bar link: This step is relatively simple. Just unbolt the ball joint on one end of the link. You may need to jam a pry bar or some other tool in between the ball joint and mount to keep it from spinning when trying to remove the nut. [High powered air tools come in very handy here.]

Step 14) Disconnect the lower control arm: This will be the one located at the rear of the assembly with a ball joint on the outer end attached to the hub assembly. Remove the nut from the ball joint and use a hammer and pickle fork get the ball joint from its socket. It should actually come out pretty easily. This will now allow you to lower the hub assembly giving you more clearance to remove the shock assembly.

NOTE: I read you need to remove the fender liner to get the top of the shock out. I did this before I disconnected the lower control arm. It was quite a pain! **Installation of the fender liner was by far one of , if not the most, difficult part of the entire job!** It could be that I was just plain tired at this point however, I would avoid this at all costs if possible. Try to lower the shock assembly out. It will take some effort to get clearance. I would avoid detaching the trailing arm to give more movement as it is shimmed for alignment purposes and could cause issues on reinstallation.

Step 15) Remove the shock assembly: -if you can. Push down on the hub assembly to give yourself clearance. If the shock assembly does not drop out at this point, you may be forced to take the same route I did and remove the fender liner to gain more clearance up top.

Step 16) Remove the Fender liner: There are several fasteners [push rivets] and screws that hold the fender liner in. Make note of what comes from which hole, this will make reassembly much easier and save you the time and frustration of having to go back and remove pieces due to wrong installation. [Believe me, I know]

Now that you have the fender liner removed, you should be able to lower and remove the shock and spring assembly. *Phew!*

Install in the reverse order- [I'm assuming you know how to deal with changing the spring]



· Registered
47 Posts
wow, nice write up VCOUI! Much appreciated. Just wondering, i plan on doin this mod on my 98 528, but I have very little DYI-expirience, and absolutely ZERO suspension DYI-expirience. If I had help from 2 friends ( did suspension job on a jetta), would it be likely that we can accomplish it? Time not being an option....I just dont wanna spend 900 for installation at a garage.

Oh, and what kind of springs and strut did you install? And how are they? My 528 is a non sport and im starting to really notice how loose the suspension is, especially aftere 150k miles. Would you recommend replacing shocks too? Thanks

Cant wait to see Part 2 and the pictures! :thumbup:

· Registered
266 Posts
Hopz, If you're mechanically inclined and have the proper tools, its doable. Id highly recommend investing the BMW ETK and TIS CD set. You can pick them up on ebay for about $15. The TIS is the factory technical guide and has many step-by-step illustrated instructions.

That said, the most significant tool you'll need is a good spring compressor. The most common is also the MOST dangerous and difficult to use. It's merely a pair of long threaded bolts with large double hooks on each end. The problem is, as you tighten them to compress the spring, they have a tendency to slip and can pop off!!! That can be SERIOUSLY dangerous. Not to mention frustrating. Ive tried them in the past and ended up taking the strut assembly to the local shop. A good friend and I have been collecting tools over the years and eventually invested in a cheap floor standing hydraulic spring compressor. If you dont work on cars much, this is a bit overkill. Check with your local tool rental shop. Be sure to ask for the scissor type spring compressor. They are much safer and easier to use. If all they have is the hook and bolt type, keep looking.

I used Bilstein Sport shocks and struts with Eibach springs. To be honest, I feel the Eibach springs lowered the front too much for my taste and the Bilstein Sports are too stiff. The car has a tendency to bounce at lower speeds. I'm seriously considering changing the struts for Konis and possibly add a spacer on the spring perch. I'd do the shocks too but the job was such a pain I'd prefer to avoid it. I did my rears on the Forth of July and drove the car like that until the following weekend. It didn't seem that bad with the stock front struts and springs so I'm willing to try a different set up in the front. Ideally you should have the same thing all the way around. [front and rear] As for other things to replace, Id recommend replacing the same components I mentioned above on my post. It will require additional tools, i.e. a pickle fork, mallet etc

· Plays with a stick
1,760 Posts
After the exhaustive effort with the back, step two involved a drive to the dealer to complete the job :rofl:
I recently did struts and springs all the way around on my sons Mitsu 3000GT and it was time consuming but not too hard (about 8 hours worth). So far, this sounds more involved and difficult than I expected. I plan on doing this myself in about a year on my 528i.
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