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BMW E46 Control Arm and Control Arm Bushing Replacement 325xi 330xi

Replacing control arms or control arm bushings is probably the most common project on any BMW.  Replacing control arm bushings on a BMW E46 is almost part of the maintenence, it is something that needs to be done every few years.  Usually when the bushings fail you will notice a steering wheel vibration at highway speeds and clunking when applying or releasing the brakes.  Control arm ball joints fail as well and when the ball joints fails the whole control arm should be replaced.  Unfortunately there are no replacement outer ball joints available for 325xi or 330xi.  In this article I will show you how to replace the control arms and the control arm bushings on a 2001-2005 BMW 325xi or 330xi.

1.  Start out by removing the front and center underpanels and removing the wheels.  

2.  Unbolt the control arm bushing bracket from the subframe.

BMW E46 Unbolting Control Arm Bushing

3.  Unbolt the inner ball joint from the front subframe.

BMW E46 Unbolting Inner Ball Joint

4.  Separate the outer ball joint from the steering knuckle.  If your control arm ball joint is in bad shape and you are replacing the control arm you can use a pickle fork to separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle.  If you are reusing the control arm and only replacing the bushing use a tool similar to HAZET 17791 to pop the ball joint out of the spindle without damaging the ball joint rubber boot.

BMW E46 Separating Inner Ball Joint from Steering Knuckle

5.  The inner ball joint should be removed from the control arm using a gear puller if you are replacing just the control arm.  Inner ball joints rarely fail.

BMW E46 Separating Inner Ball Joint from Control Arm

6.  BMW has a special tool to separate control arm bushings from the control arms.  I don't own the special tool so what I do is drill a small dimple into the control arm and use a gear puller to pull off the bushing.

BMW E46 Control Arm Bushing

BMW E46 Removing Control Arm Bushing from Control Arm

7.  Control arm bushing needs to be pressed out of the bracket.  There is no good way to do it without a hydraulic press.  I used to not own a press so I would take my bushings to a local machine shop to be pressed out.  New bushings need to be properly aligned with the bracket when they are being pressed in.  See the picture of the old bushing.  There is an arrow on the rubber part that needs to be aligned with a notch on the metal bracket.  If you are having a machine shop do it for you be sure to show them how everything should be aligned.

BMW E46 Control Arm Bushing Allignment

BMW E46 Pressing in new control arm bushing

8.  Now you should be ready to reinstall everything.  Do not press the bushing with bracket on to the control arm yet.  Bolt the control arm to the subframe and to the steering knuckle.  Lubricate the bushing and the control arm with dish soap and press the bushing onto the control arm.  There is a special tool for pressing the busing onto the control arm but using both hands to force it on usually works just fine.  

9.  Bolt the control arm bushing bracket to the subframe, reinstall the wheels and drop the car on the ground.  It is very important to move quickly.  The goal here is to set the car on the ground before the dish soap dries out so the bushing is not preloaded.  Preloaded control arm bushing will fail prematurely.  Let the car sit at least overnight so the soap dries out completely.

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