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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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?!

Observations:

- 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.

Some pics:
 

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I need to change rear ball joints as well. Which press did you get and how much?

Thanks,
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I got it off ebay - El Paso Tool

It was $180. I probably could have found a used one or shopped around, but wanted to get it asap to do the work. My wife's 530 has never had this done either so I'll tackle that once my legs are up to it. This is totally doable with just jack stands, but a lift would certainly save some wear & tear on your legs/knees.

I've only driven the car 3-4 miles (need an alignment), but certainly makes a difference in how it feels. Very easy to see how the links could fail early if the suspension wasn't pre-loaded when you torque them down. Also just seems like any type of rubber bushing is eventually going to fail even if the car isn't abused. Makes me wonder when I should do the subframe bushings as well.... sigh.
 

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They have rubber inserts and they are pretty inexpensive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The swaybar links

.. have what looks like a mini ball joint - they can rotate as well as move up/down. The control arms and integral links have solid rubber bushings surrounding a metal section the bolt passes through. This isolates vibration, but also limits their range of motion, hence the importance of pre-loading the suspension. IF you torque the suspension links without pre-loading, you risk significantly shortening the life of the rubber bushing (most notably on the subframe side of the link).

Hope that makes sense.
 

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What was the reverse spreader for? I don't follow. Was it just to wiggle the lower swing arm to align the control arm ball joint?
 

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What was the reverse spreader for? I don't follow. Was it just to wiggle the lower swing arm to align the control arm ball joint?
I think he used it in place of a length of 2x4 to keep the lower control arm from springing up. This helps when doing the re-assembly of the lower balljoint and integral link.
 

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Quick $.02 from recently doing this job.

Is caliper removal required for this job?
No, but removing the caliper is trivial and it will make the ball joint part of this job significantly easier. It is almost impossible to get the cups to fit with the caliper in the way due to the metal shield.

Also, I strongly recommend lowering the swing arm by removing the inside rear bolt and slightly loosening the screw holding the inside front part. Many guides say to use a lot of force to hold the outer swing arm down while doing the ball joints, but this looks like a good way to lose a finger. The swing arm is designed to swing, not bend. Admittedly, that bolt is no fun to deal with and you will probably need an alignment.

Last suggestion - get the official BMW E39 ball joint kit (cups and a big bolt) - or one of the $100 kits on eBay. Definitely do not waste your time with one of those overgrown C-clamps!

I ended up getting two ball joint kits from Harbor Freight, and after suffering for a couple hours with the C-clamp, I just went to Home Depot and got some 1/2" bolts and washers and this worked well. I should have just started with the right kit from the beginning.

This job is definitely worth doing, though -- it is hard to describe how much better a 150,000+ mile BMW feels after replacing the ball joints and all 8 control arms.
 

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Quick $.02 from recently doing this job.



No, but removing the caliper is trivial and it will make the ball joint part of this job significantly easier. It is almost impossible to get the cups to fit with the caliper in the way due to the metal shield.

Also, I strongly recommend lowering the swing arm by removing the inside rear bolt and slightly loosening the screw holding the inside front part. Many guides say to use a lot of force to hold the outer swing arm down while doing the ball joints, but this looks like a good way to lose a finger. The swing arm is designed to swing, not bend. Admittedly, that bolt is no fun to deal with and you will probably need an alignment.

Last suggestion - get the official BMW E39 ball joint kit (cups and a big bolt) - or one of the $100 kits on eBay. Definitely do not waste your time with one of those overgrown C-clamps!

I ended up getting two ball joint kits from Harbor Freight, and after suffering for a couple hours with the C-clamp, I just went to Home Depot and got some 1/2" bolts and washers and this worked well. I should have just started with the right kit from the beginning.

This job is definitely worth doing, though -- it is hard to describe how much better a 150,000+ mile BMW feels after replacing the ball joints and all 8 control arms.
Can someone please the complete list of part numbers involved? BMW and Lemforder.

Also for the subframe bushings job?
 

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I did this job 2 weeks ago. The worst part was pressing in and out the ball joints with the rented C-clamp. I had to go out and buy the same Harbor Freight you did to get it to work. I would have purchased the knock-off ball joint tool if I knew it existed. The FCP Euro video on YouTube made it look so easy!!! The fact that I floor whored the job didn't make it any easier.
 

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Can someone please the complete list of part numbers involved? BMW and Lemforder.

Also for the subframe bushings job?
Pelican Parts has the whole suspension refresh kit as one part, and they are kind enough to list all of the parts included. I'm not sure if they have the same thing for the subframe, but maybe you only need the 4 bushings.

May as well do diff bushings too while you're at it.
 

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May as well do diff bushings too while you're at it.
I did the rear diff bushings already, and the new bushings bug has bitten me :grin

I will search for this Pelican, hope to find the list I am looking for...still I don't believe they deliver across the pond, do they?
 
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