E36 BMW's are notoriously hard on their suspension components, particularly the non M3 cars, and those cars built after 6/92. Early E36 models have different suspension geometry that is closer to the M3 design than it is to post-6/92 manufacture date design. Since most 3 series cars have trashed shocks/struts by 100k, you might as well replace these components while you are at it. BMW replacement control arms include the inner ball joint pre-installed. They are not replaceable. If and when your inner/upper ball joints wear out, you must replace the entire control arm. The lower or outer ball joint is easily replaceable. Instructions for Ball Joint Replacement:
1. Loosen lug bolts. Jack the car up and put on jackstands. Put some chocks in front of the rear wheels.
2. Remove wheel. (Instruction are for doing one side at a time).
3. Remove sway bar end link connector nut from the bottom of the control arm. Watch out- it will pop up under a bit of tension once removed.
4. Loosen the control arm bushing 'lollipop' bolts. Two of them.
5. Remove the outer bal joint nut. It's 16mm. A lot of E36 BMW bolts/nuts tend to be 16mm. This one is easy to get at. The ball joint might try to spin on its shaft. A pair of vice grips will stop that.
6. Now for the fun part. Grab your 19mm open and box end wrench. Get under the car or work from the side. Reach up over the swaybar and tie rod. See the nut on top? That's the inner ball joint nut. You can't get a socket on it because your E36 has a motor mount behind it. You are limited to less than a 1/4 turn! Keep at it- the nut WILL come off.
7. Once both ball joint nuts have been removed, use a pickle fork aka ball joint sepaator to carefully - taking care not to damage the dust boots or seating surfaces- pop the ball joints out of position. In my experience, the inner one take a bit more work.
8. Remove control arm bushing bracket/eyelet/lollipop bolts and remove control arm assembly from the vehicle. Order up a new ball joint (I prefer Lemforder brand, same as oem BMW), and make sure the inner ball joint has no play in it. If it does, you need a new control arm! Don't worry, the new control arm includes the inner ball joint already mounted. I actually bought some from an Ebay store that came with both pre-installed!
9. Have a local automotive machine shop or a BMW dealership press the old outer ball joint out and the new one in.
10. Installation is the reverse of these instructions. Install the lower ball joint nut first, then the lollipop bolts (loosely for now), then jack the inner ball joint into position. Have fun tightening that nut! Get the ball joint nuts nice and tight, the tapered shaft pulls them into position.
11. Snug down lollipop bolts.
12. Put wheel back on and take it for a test drive!
This repair is for all E36 BMW car including 1992 BMW 325i, 1992 325is, 1992 318i, 1992 318is, 1993 BMW 325i, 1993 325is, 1993 318i, 1993 318is, 1994 BMW 325i, 1994 325is, 1994 318i, 1994 318is, 1995 BMW 325i, 1995 325is, 1995 318i, 1995 318is, 1995 318ti, 1996 328i, 1996 328is, 1996 318i, 1996 318is, 1996 318ti, 1997 328i, 1997 328is, 1997 318ti, 1998 323i, 1998 323is, 1998 328i, 1998 328is, 1998 318ti, 1994 M3, 1995 M3, 1996 M3, 1997 M3, 1998 M3, 1999 M3 and other BMW E36-based models not sold in North America.
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