This article gives detailed instructions on replacing the front struts in a 2004-2010 BMW 5 Series vehicle. Even though we used a 2006 530xi touring wagon to perform this repair, this article can be applied to any 2004-2010 5 Series sedan or wagon with minor modifications to the repair steps.
A BMW E60 strut replacement is probably needed if the front end of your 5 series is bottoming out when you hit a bump in the road.
At the BMW Repair Guide, we are known as strong advocates of diagnosing your vehicle prior to repairing it. One of the easiest repairs to diagnose on your 2004-2010 5 series are worn out front struts. If you hit a bump or pothole in the pavement and experience a bone jarring thump from the front end of your BMW, you are most likely ready for a new set of front struts.
The struts on a BMW are often called the “front shocks”…but this is misleading. Even though the front struts on your 2004-2010 5 series help smooth out road vibration and keep the tires on the pavement like shock absorbers, they are also an integral part of the vehicle’s front suspension and steering system. Unlike shock absorbers, struts are actually a structural component of the front axle. The strut combines with the lower control arms to form a “triangle” of strength and stability that helps reduce body roll and provide excellent handling.
Over time the BMW E60 front struts begin to wear out…usually around 100,000 miles on the 5 series. As mentioned above the symptoms are obvious; jaw rattling vibrations (especially over holes in the pavement), clunking sounds and excessive front body roll. It is important that the front struts are replaced immediately if you experience any of these symtoms especially if you own an all wheel drive (xDrive) series vehicle. Not replacing worn front struts on your BMW xDrive vehicle can cause the front axle shafts to fail creating a very expensive repair.
Replacing the front struts on your 2004-2010 5 series sedan or touring wagon is not a complicated repair and is very “doable” for the home mechanic with average abilities. You will need to purchase a spring compressor for this repair in order to change out the strut. The BMW Repair Guide strongly recommends NOT USING hook style spring compressors…we find them dangerous and they rarely work correctly. Spend the extra money and purchase a plate style compression tool to do this repair. For more information on using the correct spring compressor, please see our article BMW Strut Spring Compression Tool – The Correct Choice for the Home Mechanic. Please also see our parts list below for a link to purchasing the correct spring compressor.
1. Front struts (required) – The front struts for your BMW E60 5 series do not come pre-assembled…in fact we strongly discourage our readers from purchasing them this way. Why? Because preassembled strut assemblies are rarely built with OEM quality parts. If you want to get the most mileage and best ride out of your new struts, only use high quality parts from a reputable manufacturer. The following struts are superior quality and will return your 2004-2010 5 series to its original factory ride and handling.
2. Strut mounts (required) – We cannot stress enough to ALWAYS replace your strut mounts when installing new front struts. The strut mounts are an integral part of the strut assembly and will fail if not replaced causing steering and front suspension issues. Not replacing your strut mounts with the struts is like changing your vehicle’s engine oil but not the dirty filter…you are only completing half the job.
3. Bump stops and gaskets (required) – Like the strut mounts, the foam bump stops are an integral part of the strut assembly and should always be replaced. You should also always install a new gasket that seals the strut to the body of the vehicle.
2. Spring compressor (optional) – You will need to compress the springs on your 5 series struts in order to remove the strut mount and strut assembly. The BMW Repair Guide only recommends using “plate style” spring compressors. We have found the cheaper “hook style” compressors both dangerous and ineffective.
Removing the front struts from your 2004-2010 5 series is actually a relatively simple procedure. The only issue that you may encounter is removing the strut from the steering knuckle. The steering knuckle on the BMW E60 5 series fits tight to the end of the strut, and often needs to be slightly spread open so the strut can be pulled loose. We cover all of this below.
- Raise the front end of the vehicle and remove the front wheels.
- Turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the side of the vehicle you are working on so the rear of the steering knuckle can be easily accessed.
- Using a 16mm socket wrench, a 16mm open end wrench and a T30 torx bit, remove the nut that secures the sway bar link to the front strut. Swing the sway bar link down and out of the work area.
- Using an 18mm socket wrench and open end wrench, remove the M12 bolt that secures the steering knuckle to the strut. We recommend completely removing the bolt from the steering knuckle…this will keep the steering knuckle from binding up when being removed from the strut.
- Before removing the strut from the steering knuckle, the BMW Repair Guide strongly recommends removing the strut mount from the body of the vehicle and lowering the entire assembly down. We feel this is the best method for replacing your BMW E60 struts for two reasons: it makes the strut easier to extract from the steering knuckle (especially if it is seized) and it makes installation go much more smoothly.
- Begin by supporting the bottom of the steering knuckle so it does not drop abruptly when the strut mount nuts are removed in the next step.
- ***It is very important that if your vehicle has a headlight vertical aim sensor on the right control arm that it is disconnected now. Not disconnecting the plastic control sensor arm will cause it to break when the right strut is lowered from the body of the vehicle.
- Using a 15mm socket wrench, remove the three strut mount nuts anchoring the strut to the body of the vehicle.
- Slowly lower the steering knuckle assembly out of the body of the vehicle.
- The strut can now be safely removed from the steering knuckle.
- If your strut is seized in the steering knuckle and wont pull free, liberally spray the connection with a penetrating lubricant like Blaster PB and tap with a rubber mallet.
- If the strut is completely frozen inside of the steering knuckle (like ours was), the best course of action is to pry the steering knuckle open. The easiest way to do this is to drive a punch into the knuckle…this will separate it just enough so the strut can be pulled free. Using a rubber hammer as shown below, drive the punch into the steering knuckle so it spreads open. You should now be able to rock the strut back and forth until it pulls free.
In order to replace the front strut on your BMW E60 5 series, the spring must be compressed and the strut mount removed. This is not a complicated process assuming you use the correct tool. The BMW Repair Guide only recommends using a plate style spring compressor to remove the strut. It has been our experience that cheaper “hook style” spring compressors are not only dangerous, but simply do not work. For more information on this subject, please see our article BMW Strut Spring Compression Tool – The Correct Choice for the Home Mechanic. Always install a new strut mount when performing a strut replacement on your vehicle.
- Lay the strut on a work table so it can be disassembled.
- Remove the protective dust cap off of the strut mount.
- Using a plate style spring compressor, compress the spring as far as the tool will allow.
- The strut is held in place with a self locking hex nut. If you are planning on using a ratchet to remove it, you will need a special 21mm strut socket. A strut socket has the side wall removed so a torx wrench can be used to keep the strut shaft from spinning during removal. Due to the affordability of battery powered tools, most home mechanics have an impact wrench in their tool chest these days, so using a strut socket has become a bit “old school”. We strongly recommend using an impact wrench to remove and install the strut shaft nut…it is much easier and faster and will be the only method covered in this article.
- Using and impact wrench remove the strut shaft self locking nut.
- Remove the strut mount, the upper spring pocket, washer, springs pads, protection tube and bump stop from the old strut. Note the order that all of these parts are installed on the old strut.
- Assemble the new strut and install it back into the spring.
- Install a new strut mount and lock nut.
- Use your impact wrench to tighten the strut shaft nut.
- Check to make sure the strut mount rotates freely as shown below. If it doesn’t…then you put the washer in backwards! You will have to remove the strut mount and flip the washer into the correct position.
- Install a new gasket on the top of the strut mount.
- The strut can now be installed back into the vehicle.
Vehicle reassembly is fairly straightforward…just follow the steps in Section 1 in reverse. We have supplied a handy checklist below for your convenience.
BMW E60 Front Strut Replacement/Reassembly Checklist
- Install the new strut back into the steering knuckle.
- Install the steering knuckle bolt and hand tighten (it will be torqued below after the sway bar link is installed). ***Make sure the bracket that supports the brake lines are installed correctly on the bolt.
- Guide the strut mount back back into the body of the vehicle. Install the three mounting nuts and torque to 25 Nm (18 ft-lb).
- Install the sway bar link and torque its mounting nut to 50 Nm (37 ft-lb).
- With the steering knuckle supported, torque its mounting bolt to 88 Nm (66 ft-lb).