Here’s a quick project that will noticeably perk up the handling on an E46, one of the most popular platforms in NASA racing and NASA HPDE. The front sway bar end links have ball joints on each end, and they wear out. On my car, you could feel a slight clunk when you initiated turn in. A closer inspection revealed that the ball joints were sloppy and loose.

Because I use this car 99 percent of the time as a daily driver, I decided to go with end links that are just a little bit more rigid than stock and stock rubber frame-mounting bushings with new brackets.

These end links and frame bushings and brackets are available as kits from the BMW specialist you’re more comfortable with, and they’re not terribly expensive, either. These kits came from ECS Tuning, but they’re also available from Turner and Bimmerworld.

You can do this project in your driveway in probably an hour, and that includes putting the car up on jack stands. In terms of difficulty, I rate this one wrench on a scale of five, and I found it was best to replace the links first, then the frame-mount bushings and brackets. Here’s how it goes together.

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Unlike a lot of things on the E46, the front sway bar end links are easy to get to. The 15 mm nuts hold the top end to the strut and the bottom to the end of the sway bar.
Because removing the nut often spins the stud and ball inside the socket, you need to hold it from behind. I was going to toss the end link, anyway, so I used a rather crude tool to hold it from behind. The right size is a 16 mm open-end wrench.
You can’t access the end that attaches to the end of the sway bar with an impact, so a 15 mm GearWrench gets the job done, and the link pops right out. Be careful not to damage the ride-height sensor mechanism on the right side.
The new end links come with new nuts that are pinged to keep them from backing off.
When you reinstall the links on the bar, use the GearWrench and a box wrench to tighten it up.
I had some grease left over from a previous sway bar project on a racecar, so I figured it would be good to use it on the rubber frame-mount bushings.
Just pop off the frame-mount bushings with a 13 mm socket and a little juice from an impact wrench.
Slip the bushing over the front sway bar and spin it 360 degrees to distribute the grease. Then slip the frame bracket over bushing.
The frame mount bushings have a specific torque: 16 foot-pounds, or 192 inch pounds. Don’t just pop it with an impact wrench. You could snap off the studs, which are part of the chassis.
Image courtesy of Eric Green

2 COMMENTS

  1. The E46 and E82 front suspension are similar, but still a bit different, but the E82 uses end links that attach to struts. The parts will be different and the torque values might also differ, but the job itself should be largely the same, and no more difficult.

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