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Andrew Rolland View Drop Down
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    Posted: 12-March-2015 at 21:18
E60 (545i) Rear Strut Removal and Spring Replacement.

I had the car pass its MOT at the beginning of the week where I had a replacement rear tyre fitted and the rear wheel alignment adjusted as the tyre that was taken off had badly worn on its inner edge (standard point of wear on wide rear tyres on BMW, mine are 275s on 9” rims) but by the end of the week I was hearing a clonk from the rear end.

Clonking got a bit worse so I jacked it up and without even taking the wheel off, I could see the rear offside spring had broken just at the bottom and had dropped down on to the lower spring seat. I managed to get the bottom broken bit of spring out as I was worried in case it got to the tyre. Clonking then stopped but the car felt very unsettled driving it.

The rear suspension is of double wishbone. There is lower single swing arm and two upper arms, a control arm and a traction arm. The rear strut fixes to the rear of the hub carrier. The top of the rear strut fixes with three nuts in the inner rear wing which is accessed via the boot. The anti roll bar drop link fixes to the swing arm.

The strut is a MacPherson strut. A tapered coil spring sits around the shock absorber and between an upper bearing seat and a lower bearing pad. There is a rubber damping cylinder that sits under the top mount with a thick metal plate between it and the upper bearing seat.

Tools you will need

Trolley jack
Small flat blade screwdriver
6mm Allen key for counter holding the shock absorber rod
T40 Torx bit for counter holding the anti roll bar link
8mm socket for wheel arch liner bolts
10mm socket for wheel arch liner bolts
13mm socket or spanner for strut to inner wing top mount nuts
17mm socket for wheel bolts
18mm socket for strut lower bolt, shock absorber rod top nut and anti roll bar link nut
18mm combination spanner for as 18mm socket
½” Drive Breaker bar (flexible handle) as long as possible!
Spring Compressors
Torque wrench capable of measuring up to 165Nm

…and my dad to help again

The problem, on the initial discovery after hearing a clonk from the rear end, I was able to remove the broken bit of the spring as I was worried about it puncturing the tyre. After removing this bit of spring the clonk went away!

Jack up and support the car.

Remove the relevant rear wheel.

Counter hold the anti roll bar link with a T40 Torx bit and undo and discard the anti roll bar link lower nut with 18mm combination spanner. You can slacken the nut initially with your breaker bar then you will need to counter hold the anti roll bar link.

The photo above shows the anti roll bar link (left of the brake hose) and the strut lower bolt (right of the brake hose)

Once the anti roll bar link nut it removed you should be able to lift the link up and out of the swing arm. Rotate the link thru 90 deg rearwards so that it is in line with the roll bar. You need the space where the anti roll bar link was in order to drop the strut and manoeuvre it out from under the car.

Slacken the struts 18mm bolt at its base.

Working in the boot, remove the rear side trim from behind the relevant rear light cluster.

You also need to remove the other forward internal trim panel. Prise up the load tie down loop plastic cover and remove the Torx T40 bolt. There are two black plastic expanding rivets holding the trim panel in place (one is at the top in picture, the other is hidden behind the light cluster trim panel, remove the rivets and swing the trim panel into the middle of the boot.

This reveals the foam piece above the strut top mounting. Remove the foam to reveal the three top strut nuts.

Slacken these off with a 13mm spanner or ¼”drive socket. There isn’t much vertical clearance above the top strut mounts and the underside of the parcel shelf so you need small tools.

I then removed and discarded the strut lower bolt. Once the bolt was out, you have to gently lever (towards the diff) the bottom of the strut out from the hub carrier. There is a small spigot around the bolt hole in the strut that fits into a recess in the hub carrier.

Once the strut was removed from the hub carrier, two things happened. #1 The strut extends to its natural full length as it is no longer restrained by the suspension and it is a gas pressurised shock absorber and #2 The whole suspension wishbone assembly moved upwards, not downwards due to gravity but yes upwards. This will be due to the fact that when the car was built the suspension will have been loaded up on a jig before the bolts were fully tightened so the bushes in the arms are stress free in the normal position of the suspension. This greatly reduces wear in the bushes. This is why the Haynes manual tells you not to torque the suspension bolts until the car is on its wheels and thus the suspension is in its normal at rest position!

This leaves the strut suspended from the top mounts. With the help of my dad to support the strut I removed and discarded the three top strut mount nuts.

You now have two options to get the strut out from under the wheel arch.

#1 The Haynes Manual says to remove the control arm from the hub carrier, photo below. Now this has its pitfalls, depending on the age of the car, this joint will either be conical seat or a ball seat joint. Given my experience trying to undo the front suspension ball joints (hacksawed to get them out which was o.k. as they were being replaced anyway) this was not my preferred option as I figured it was likely to be damaged on removal and you then need to get the rear wheel alignment checked when you touch the control arm to subframe bolt. I’m not convinced that there is a clear cut off point when your car may have a conical seat or a ball seat joint so potentially you would need to have the two different arms to be ready to fit!

#2 Remove the wheel arch liner

Which is what I did, but do this before you release the strut from its top mountings, not after! This is held on with a number of 8mm hex head screws, two 10mm nuts and one expanding rivet. There are three screws under the cill immediately behind the jacking point. Pull the liner out from the front of the car and gently ease it out from behind the wheel arch and it should drop out once it clears the two studs that you have removed the nuts from.

Strut removal

An added complication on the offside is the fuel line, so take care not to damage it! Manoeuvre the lower end of the strut between the control arm and the drive shaft into the gap left by having moved the anti roll bar link out the way. By pushing the lower end of the strut towards the differential, pull the top of the strut out from under the wheel arch.

Strut dismantling

In my case, by the time I had got the strut out from under the car the spring had managed to pass itself over the lower spring seat. This was due to the fact that the spring is narrower at its base so with the broken off lower end it was now large enough to pass over the lower spring seat.

This meant taking it apart was easy as I didn’t need to compress the spring to dismantle it as the pressure was completely off the spring.   The shock absorber is gas pressurised so will always want to return to its maximum length. Normally you will need to decompress the spring before attempting to dismantle the strut.

Counter hold the shock absorber spindle with a 6mm Allen key whilst unscrewing the spindle nut with an 18mm spanner. Discard the nut. Remove the top washer and upper spring seat. Next to remove is a top cup, this forms a stop to the additional damper which is the yellow/cream and black piece you can see over the spindle of the shock absorber. I was replacing the additional damper. The spring now can be removed. As my spring had broken the broken lower end was now pressurising the lower spring seat in a way it was not designed, so I replaced it. The one I took off was compressed where the broken end of the spring had pressed into it.

I cleaned up all the components and inspected them for damage. I had bought a new top washer and the top cup but the old ones were fine to re-use so the new ones are kept for the other side if required.

Strut re-assembly.

It is very important to maintain the alignment of the three bolts on the top mounts to the bottom mount. Start with the lower spring seat. As this seat is stepped, make sure the step is in the same position as the old one, this will help with the alignment. Thread on the spring with the narrow end at the bottom and push on the additional damper, before compressing the spring with a set of spring compressors. Depending on your spring compressors you will need to install the additional damper first as you may not get it past your spring compressors. Make sure you maintain the original alignment of the top spring seat to the bottom strut mount before releasing the compression in the spring. One of the studs on the top mount must roughly line up with the line of the bolt in the lower strut mount.

Compress the spring until you can get the top cup and upper spring seat installed on the spindle of the shock absorber. The spindle is stepped to support the components so it easy to tell how far you need to compress the spring. Use a new nut on the shock absorber spindle, the Haynes manual rather helpfully neglects to give a torque for this nut; you will need to counter hold the spindle again.

Strut ready to back into the car. Manoeuvre the strut at an angle between the control arm and the driveshaft, using the space above the swing arm where the anti roll bar link fits. Loosely install the three new nuts on the struts top mount so that the weight of the strut is supported. As my suspension arms lifted when the strut was unbolted from the hub carrier you need to press down on the hub carrier to help get the strut back into position under the wheel arch and inline with its lower mount so you can get the new lower bolt in.

To do this we levered the hub down with a bit of wood. This was positioned under the rear subframe mount and pressed down onto the brake calliper cradle, not the calliper itself but the cradle. We needed to lever the hub downwards about 50 – 75 mm. My dad levered the hub down whilst I put the lower bolt in and repositioned the anti roll bar link back into the swing arm. Torqueing up the bolt was a challenge as there was little room to get a decent swing and purchase on my torque wrench whilst going to 165Nm! If I only had a lifting table rather than a trolley jack!

New spring on, new lower spring pad, compare this to the first photo and you can see the difference in the position of the new spring.

Spring was £90 inc VAT from BMW, lower bolt ~£8, new additional damper ~£18 and a couple of quid for the other nuts etc. The spring is unique to E60s with sports settings suspension as too is the additional damper. Its not standard suspension and it’s not MSports Suspension. Hence why I went to BMW for the parts. As a comparison for main dealer prices… Vauxhall wanted £250 +VAT for two rear springs on a Senator 13 years ago!

I wonder how much a garage would have charged? If it was more than £30 for the cost of the spring compressors, I've made a saving.

Edited by Andrew Rolland - 26-March-2015 at 14:29
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