BMW E46 Rear Shock Replacement – 1998-2006 3 Series – All Models

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BMW E46 Rear Shock Replacement – 3 Hours

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The BMW Repair Guide used this 2003 325ci for the following article. To see other repairs on our site using this actual car, please click on the image below!

A BMW E46 rear shock replacement is a fairly easy repair that will help stop your 3 series from bouncing down rough roads and nose diving at stop signs.

The BMW E46 3 series is iconic, in both ride and design. But as our E46s start to approach senior status (some of them are 20 years old now), their good looks can no longer anesthetize our feelings of being hog tied to a rodeo bull as we travel down a bumpy highway.

Suspension repairs have always been the bane of home mechanics because of the need to jack and support their vehicle. Let’s face it…anytime we have to partially lie under a two ton piece of steel and take it’s framework apart can make even the seasoned mechanic a bit queasy. The good news is a BMW E46 rear shock replacement does not require you to get under the vehicle. It is a fairly easy repair that will also save you a bunch of money by “doing it yourself”.

Convertible versus coupe/sedan
Even though a BMW E46 shock replacement is quite straightforward, there is a slight variance in the removal process between the E46 convertible and coupe/sedan. With the E46 convertible, the upper shock mount is accessed from under the convertible top lid for removal; the upper shock mount is accessed from the trunk in coupes and sedans. This may sound confusing at first, but is actually quite simple; just remember with the 3 series convertible, you simply remove the two shock mount nuts from under the convertible top lid and the shock absorber can be pulled out of the wheel well. With the coupe/sedan, you will need to remove part of the side trunk lining to access the shock mount nuts. This article has instructions for both convertibles and hard top vehicles.

Parts, Tools and Supplies

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Parts

PartQuantityPart #Description
Shock – Rear A315KT1BNE-A315KTBilstein – Kit includes 2 shocks – use for both standard and sport suspension
Shock mount – rear 35929233504035929OEM Lemfoerder – 2 mounts needed
Shock mount gasket – 72864233526772864OEM Elring – 2 gaskets needed
Bumpstop – rear 36395233531136395OEM Febi – 2 bump stops needed
Protection boot – rear 36283233521136283OEM Febi – 2 boots needed

 

Tools and Supplies
13mm socket wrench
17mm socket wrench
18mm socket wrench
16mm crows foot socket (preferred) or 16mm open end wrench
Adjustable wrench
Torque wrench
Breaker bar
Floor jack
Jack stands

Procedure
  1. Using a 17mm socket and breaker bar, slightly loosen the lug nuts on rear wheels. DO NOT REMOVE LUG NUTS! You cannot loosen rear wheel lug nuts with a socket wrench or breaker bar when car is in the air.
  2. Jack and support the rear of your vehicle using the Jack Stand Method as shown in our article BMW Jacking and Supporting for Repairs and Maintenance.
  3. Finish removing lug nuts and remove rear wheels from vehicle.
  4. Starting on the left side of the car, identify the rear shock absorber in the rear wheel well.BMW E46 rear shock left side
  5. Position a floor jack underneath lower wishbone and raise until pressure is taken off of the shock absorber.BMW E46 rear shock - remove pressure with floor jack

 

Step 1 – Convertible models: removing shock mount nuts

  1. Raise the convertible top until you can gain access to its storage compartment. The shock mounting nuts are located under the two plastic plugs in the floor of the compartment. Remove the plastic plugs with your fingers.BMW E46 rear shock BMW E46 rear shock BMW E46 rear shock
  2. Use a 13mm socket wrench to remove the two shock mount nuts.Remove shock absorber mount nuts

 

Step 1 – Coupes and Sedans: removing shock mount nuts

  1. In coupes and sedans, the shock mounts are located in the trunk compartment behind the floor liner. Start by removing the spare tire cover from the floor of the trunk.rear shock mount locations sedan remove spare tire cover
  2. Remove the plastic rivets anchoring the left side trim. Usually there are only two, but this may differ depending on your model vehicle. Firmly grasp the side trim and pull loose. Tuck it neatly out of the way near the back of the trunk.remove plastic side trim rivets remove side trim
  3. Locate the left shock absorber mount. It is hidden behind the sound insulation.BMW E46 rear shock - left shock absorber mount
  4. Pull the sound insulation from the top of the left wheel housing exposing the left shock absorber mount. The sound insulation will most likely be old and brittle, and may break apart during removal (like ours did – see photo below). If you wish to order new sound insulation, click here to order left panel, click here to order right panel.BMW E46 rear shock
  5. Remove the two shock mount nuts using a 13mm socket wrench.BMW E46 rear shock - remove shock absorber mount nuts

 

Step 2 – All models: removing and disassembling shock absorber

  1. Using an 18mm socket wrench, remove the hex bolt anchoring the shock absorber to rear trailing arm. The bolt is torqued tight…use a breaker bar or piece of galvanized pipe to break it loose. rear shock removal
  2. Lower the floor jack. Remove the shock absorber from the vehicle.  rear shock removal
  3. Remove the old shock mount gasket. It is most likely stuck to the top of the wheel well.remove shock mount gasket
  4. Use a 16mm crows foot socket (or open end wrench) and an adjustable wrench (to keep shaft from spinning) to remove the self locking hex nut from the top of the shock absorber shaft. Option – if you don’t have a 16mm crows foot socket, you can use a 16mm open end wrench. You just won’t be able to torque the nut to spec at the end of the article.remove shock mount lock nut
  5. Remove the plate and washer gasket from the shaft.bmw e46 rear shock - remove plate and washer gasket from shockremove washer gasket
  6. Remove the shock mount and second plate from the shaft.bmw e46 rear shock remove second plate from shock
  7. Remove the small washer, and what is left of the old bump stop and dust cover.remove small washer remove bump stop and dust cover
  8. Remove the bottom stop. This is often overlooked and thrown out with the old shock. It is needed to keep the dust boot from sliding off of the shock absorber.dont forget to remove the bottom stop
  9. Reassembly is the exact opposite of the above steps. The following is a helpful schematic diagram to make sure you have all of the parts installed correctly during reassembly.bmw e46 rear shock schematic diagram
  10. If you are using a 16mm crows foot, use a torque wrench to torque the self locking nut at top of the shock absorber shaft to 14Nm (10 ft-lb). torque lock nut
  11. Don’t forget the new shock mount gasket that was stuck to wheel well. It should be installed now on shock mount.shock mount gasket
  12. Attach the shock to the rear trailing arm and torque mounting bolt to 100Nm (74 ft-lb).torque mounting bolt to trailing arm
  13. Raise the floor jack. Reinstall the two shock mount nuts and torque to 28Nm (21 ft-lb).
    torque shock mount nuts
    Reinstalling and torquing shock mount nuts in convertible models.
    torque shock mount nuts sedan and coupe
    Reinstalling and torquing shock mount nuts in sedan/coupe models.
  14. Reassemble the rest of the vehicle following above steps in reverse.

 

BMW E46 Rear Shock Replacement Finished
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. And congratulations for Doing It Yourself!

The Repair Difficulty Level displays graphically how challenging the repair is, from easy to advanced. Easy repairs usually require very few tools, have short repair times and do not require jacking and supporting the vehicle. As the difficulty level rises, expect the repair to demand more time, specialized tools, and better understanding of mechanics to complete the job.
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