BMW E46 Control Arm Bushing Replacement – 3 Hours
A BMW E46 control arm bushing replacement is an easy repair that will restore the “new car” feel to your front suspension.
While recently test driving our 2003 325ci we noticed a horrendous “thump” coming from the front end while accelerating and braking the vehicle. To make matters worse, the thumping sound turned into a bone jarring “clank” when ever we hit a pot hole or rough patch in the road.
After a quick visual inspection of the front end suspension, the culprit of these “thumps” and “clanks” was immediately clear; one of the control arm bushings had completely separated from its inner core (and the other was not far behind). In fact, there was very little bushing left to keep the front wheels from wobbling while driving down the road. An extremely dangerous condition.
In simple terms, the control arms help keep the front wheels of your car on the road. They connect the frame of the vehicle to the wheels, and “control” their movement as the car hits bumps and imperfections in the road. The control arm bushings are the flexible connections to the frame; without them the control arms could not swing, creating a bone jarring ride down the highway.
Worn control arm bushings are extremely hazardous and should be changed out immediately. They can cause loss of control of the vehicle and serious injury.
Doing a BMW E46 control arm bushing replacement is actually a rather simple job. You will need to raise the front of the vehicle, so make sure to follow proper jacking techniques. Please read our article on jacking and supporting your BMW for more information.
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- Loosen (DO NOT remove) the lug nuts on the front wheels using a 17mm socket and breaker bar.
- Jack and support the front of your vehicle using the Jack Stand Method as shown in our article BMW Jacking and Supporting for Repairs and Maintenance.
- Finish removing the two front wheels from the vehicle.
Removing old bushings
- Remove the (8) 16mm bolts attaching the skid plate to the frame of the car.
- Remove the skid plate exposing the two control arm bushings.
- Remove the 2 control arm bushing anchor bolts using 16mm socket socket wrench. You will probably need a breaker bar or piece of pipe to loosen bolts first.
- Use a 4” three jaw puller to remove the control arm bushing bracket off of the control arm. The bracket will pull away leaving the inner core of the bushing left on the control arm.
- Remove the inner metal core of the bushing from the control arm using a large pair of Vise Grips. Turn the bushing while pulling and it will slowly come off of the control arm. If the inner core is stuck and won’t turn off, score it with a Dremel tool and a steel cutting wheel to release its grip on the control arm. You only have to cut a 1-2” groove in it to release its grip…it will pull right off with the Vice Grips after that.
- Use a rag to thoroughly clean off any bushing residue left on the control arm.
Installing new bushing
- Use liquid dish detergent (like Dawn) to lubricate the control arm and inside of new E46 control arm bushing. You will need to lubricate these parts for installation. Avoid using any type of petroleum based lubricant (WD40, grease, engine oil, etc). These will not dry after installation and will cause the bushing to slip under driving conditions.
- Place the new bushing on the end of the control arm. ***Check the alignment of the bracket bolt holes to make sure you have the correct side! Use a rubber mallet to gently pound the new control arm bushing onto the control arm until it is stops.
- Re-install bushing bracket using new bolts. Torque bolts to 59 Nm (44 ft-lb).
- Reinstall front wheels. Torque lug nuts to 122 Nm (90 ft-lb).
BMW E46 Control Arm Bushing 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.