2001 BMW 325i
Just got a call from 'alternate' BMW Service (Strictly BMW - Bellevue,
WA). I went in for replacing rear brakes, but he ALSO has found that
front control arm is wobbly(?) and needs to be replaced (additional
I have no clue, so came here for advice. How critical is it, and is the
price right? ($775)
Should I take it to the real BMW dealer for a second opionion?
He is asking me to sign a waiver that he told me about it, and i chose
not to act on it. - SCARY!
I have two problems here, 1.) is that you need bushings already. This is
possible, but my gut feeling is that the bushings are not worn out already.
I have a '94 E36 that I put 120k miles on in 4 years, and I had no trouble
with the control arm pushings. These bushings doo need to be replaced, but I
have to wonder if they need to be replaced at 43k miles, and 2.) $775 is
very steep. You can buy the bushings for about $25, give or take, and lots
of people put them in at home. One does need a press to make the job easy,
but lots of guys take the lower control arm off and carry it down to a
repair shop and pay the guys there $10 to press the old one off and the new
one on. Some of us use a large hammer and a punch to extract the old part
and set the new one. I don't think this job is 1.) necessary, and 2.) worth
Having said that, I would recommend staying at an independent BMW shop.
Maybe you need an different shop ...
Well, Ron and his crew are pretty responsible and do good work.
Given that, I'm also surprised that an '01 with relatively low miles in
the mild Seattle climate would need replacing.
It's certainly not a problem you should be worried about if you
continue driving it.
He gave a pretty grave warning and that scared me...
"I wouldnt let anyone drive out with it, if u do, you need to sign this
waiver - but this can cause a nasty accident"
anyway - i called bellevue BMW, and set up an appointment in 4 days -
they quoted almost the same price ($780), so i figured they better take
a look at it again.
Hmmm. Doesn't sound like Derek or Ron or the office manager...
The price is probably *about* right, but can be done much more cheaply
by buying the parts and doing them yourself or having a cheaper shop
do the work.
I've shifted to Eastside Bavarian in Issaquah (because they're much closer -
they opened a couple of years ago.) A couple of former Strictly BMW techs
own/run the place, so I don't know if that's a good recommendation in
this case. Auburn Foreign also has a good rep, but they're just as
expensive (as my brother found out with his '94 325is.)
I don't know anything about the place behind the Factoria Mall. I've
actually heard better things about BMW Seattle's service dept than
Bellevue, YMMV. Although all my warranty work was done at Bellevue
and I never had problems.
It's probably a good idea to shop around. I agree with Jeff that there's no
way that these part can be worn out at 43k unless you commute to work every
day on a logging road. I drove a 318i to 340k miles and only replaced the
control arms once at 160,000. The parts numbers are different on your car
but they still have the same configuration. As far as the danger goes, I
would think that your car would start to show some symptoms like a shimmy or
vibration long before these parts came close to actually failing. If there
is any significant wear in these joints the first symptom your car should
develop is the tendancy to wander around in the lane whenever you encounter
those "skiers ruts" on the freeway caused by the studded snow tires. Just
my 2 cents.
And that is all your opinion is worth... 2 cents.
It is extremely easy to determine if balljoints are worn or not. There
is no subjectivity. If they are, and it is an E46 then the control arms
need to be replaced. End of story.
The outer joints started to go on my wife's car at about 50K miles. The
dealer (who knew he wouldn't do the work) tells me they typically last
for somewhere between 40K and 80K miles on the E46.
I'd add that the control arms and bushings are over USD $500 alone (at
10% off list), and also that the job is a pain in the neck because the
location of the inner ball joint shafts makes it difficult to get the
required hex wrench where it needs to go. (Try a socket wrench with a
*long* extension and universal joint on the left side.) It's definitely
doable but allow more time than you think it should take to get it
done. Say, double what you'd think it should take...and then a bit
more. Take some ibuprofen first. ;-) Replacing the rear bushings, by
contrast, is dead easy.
IIRC, someone (perhaps it's Bavarian Autosport) offers control arms at
about half their cost from BMW. I don't know whether they are new or
reconditioned, but for the cost difference I probably won't care when it
comes time to do them again.
Generally, I would have agreed with you. But I have had some bad
experience with Bavarian Auto and balljoints in particular. I brought
my new to me (then) '95 325i to my indy for the once over and he found a
few niggling things, but the one biggie was that someone had installed
the outer balljoints wrong last go-around in the control arms. Since
the car had ~85k miles I figured that the inners were probably going to
need renewal sooner or later too, and rather than have new outers
pressed into the original arms, I opted to buy new (remanufactured) arms
from Bav Auto and put them in my self.
Fast forward 2 years and 15 k miles... (I don't drive this car all that
much...) The handling was crappy and I had replaced the tie rods and
put some different wheels and tires on, so I brought the car in for a
full alignment. Before attempting that the shop found that the outer
balljoints were completely shot again. I believe them because there was
a suspicious clunking over bumps that felt like balljoints, but I was
discounting because the control arms were only 15k miles old.
Well, this time I had the new BJs pressed in and after the full
alignment the car is now handling better than ever since I've owned it.
But the question remains, what kind of crappy balljoints would wear out
in 15 k miles? I'll be thinking twice about the parts I buy from BAS
and sticking only to the new brand name stuff...
I guess there's an arguing point there that if the ball joints are worn to
the point of being dangerous at 43k that they must have been worn to the
point of needing replacement at 36k. It may help your case with the dealer
if you have the guy at Strictly BMW sign a statement confirming his opinion
that the joints are worn to the point of rendering the car unsafe to drive.
The point that you missed is that they said the car needs control arms
and bushings. Not just bushings. I'm guessing that is because the ball
joints are shot. E46 cars cannot have the balljoints pressed in like
(the much maligned) E36s. If I were springing for new control arms I
would also replace the bushings. Just makes good sense.
Now as to being premature... I have seen balljoints last 100k miles.
And I have seen them worn out in 15k miles. Especially if the car was
operated with mis balanced or out of round wheels.
So, is it possible they are shot in 40k miles? Sure.
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