I had been experiencing some of the classic worn ball joint symptoms - disconnected feeling, tramlining, etc. so I decided to go ahead and refresh the rear suspension. I had previously replaced the upper rear control arm since the boots were cracked. This go round I replaced the: ball joints, integral links, sway bar links and front control arm (track arm). I used all Lemforder parts and replaced all the nuts and bolts (maybe overkill, but better safe than sorry). I used the DIY from Beisan systems, with one modification noted below: Beisan Systems - Procedures - Swing Arm Ball Joints Procedure
In addition to the tools listed in the Beisan systems DIY, I would definately invest in the following:
- Ball joint press. I got one from El Passo tools - pricey, but I have two e39s so plan on doing this a couple times.
- 24mm socket - if your set is like mine it probably stops at 21mm and 3/4".
- 1 1/16" DEEP socket for the ball joint press (I brought the bolt with me to ensure it fit).
- Lock ring (not snap ring) pliers. These have grooves in them that the split of the lock ring fits into to help spread apart. I didn't have this tool and probably wasted 45 min trying to get the new ones on.
- 12" reversible clamp that can hold 400 lbs - I got one at Lowes for $18
The Beisan DIY is very complete, but I did change two things:
- I don't like the idea of prying against the axles so I used a reversible clamp (basically becomes a spreader) to help hold/position the swing arm.
- Remove the sway bar links first and that leaves a nice pocket on the swing arm where the clamp can be positioned. The upper side of the clamp can be pressed against the body inside of the spring/shock to hold the swing arm down.
- Position the clamp BEFORE you remove the long bolt that goes thru the ball joint and swing arm. If you don't the swing arm will pop up and you'll have a hard time pushing it down & trying to insert the new bolt.
- Also, the Beisan DIY doesn't cover removing the track arm. It is pretty straight forward, but make sure to mark the eccentric bolt so you can approximate the alignment when you reinstall.
- The single hardest part of the track arm is getting a wrench on the body side bolt - you can probably remove the fender liner for more room, but I just didn't want to mess with it. I basically forced it, but didn't break anything.
- The Bently manual makes it sound like you need to press out the track arm from the wheel carrier. Mine basically fell out after one tap?!
- Other than the driving symptoms, nothing LOOKED wrong. No cracked boots or grease that I could see.
- The push/pull at 12 & 6 and 9 & 3 didn't produce any movement.
- Car onlly has 56k and hasn't been abused (I'm original owner).
- After removal - ball joints & sway bar links were all shot. Cracked boots on the top side of the ball joints & easily moved with just one finger. Sway bar links were just flopping around & had a metal on metal sound.
- Bottom line - a visual inspection may not be sufficient to diagnose.
Overall I got the first side done in about 4 hours and the second side done in 2 hrs (not counting trips to lowes to get sockets, etc). It really isn't all that hard, but tedious (freezing garage floor didn't help). The right tools make all the difference - if I can do this, anybody can.