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  #1  
Old 08-17-2016, 10:05 PM
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Install Bilstein Struts/Shocks, All New Lemforder Suspension, Rear Air Bags Delete

I pretty much decided to keep my X5 for indefinite amount of time and I've been buying these parts in the span of few months. Suspension is pretty much stock and original with relatively low 106k miles and some parts were worn more than others but I decided to everything all at once, perform the alignment and be done pretty much for the rest of my ownership.

The suspension wear found: Front tension arms bushings, front tie rods rubber cracking around ball joints, front control arms bushing starting to crack, front sway bar links starting to leak grease past rubber seal, rear control arms ball joint rubber split.

I'm well aware that I could've put many trouble free miles on the current suspension but I do believe in " while in there" especially when it comes to my time. If I ever decide to sell it, I may not get my money back but X5 maintained as this one will find a buyer easier. Also after founding big crack on front left strut mount, I realize I'm not paranoid as I simply felt that front dumping has lately become more harsh which I believe is due to partialy worn strut.

I'm not suspension expert but math is simple: Bad roads + heavy SUV + wide tires equals accelerated suspension wear.

Another reason for this huge project is the rear air suspension. While I'm relatively new to X5 scene, I've read enough about it to conclude it'll eventually become an issue. I believe in simplicity and good quality conventional setup will outlast and outperform air option.

Also, my front left CV joint outer boot decided to split while on vacation in Florida and spit the grease all over. Since I had to put 700 miles on open CV joint to get back home and the fact that PO had dealer install complete new CV joint assembly on the right side, I decided the install complete GKN OEM shaft and OEM front differential seal for very reasonable total of $220.

And finally, while it's a lot of money, it's hard to put the price on pride and satisfaction that job will be done right. This very X5 was only maintained at dealer prior to me and I don't even want to start on crap I found that these "Highly skilled factory technicians" have done. I don't care where you go, most shops will simply try to do as little as possible in the shortest amount of time and then charge you inflated hourly rate and inflated parts prices.

Also, I keep reading about how Bilstein is harsh. I agree that Sport version with matching lowered springs is to harsh, but I'm using Perfromance (also known as HD) with stock springs. I have the same setup on both E39's and even my wife and daughter are happy with the ride. To me, nothing matches the feel Bilsteins which I always sum up like this: Controlled and firm but not harsh.

I believe there are 2 main reasons for Bilstein controversy: Different people have different preferences and more importantly I believe that some people simply match struts / shocks with non compatible springs and then they blame Bilstein for their errors.

Back to main subject:

Basically, for around $1850 I got the following (main expense was for Bilstein struts and shocks coming at just over $500 not including any hardware):

Front:

2 x Bilstein HD strut (reusing OEM springs) 35-107422 left, 35-107439 right

6 x BMW strut mount nut 31316769731

2 x Lemforder strut mount 31306779604

2 x BMW strut mount bearing 31331090612

2 x BMW upper spring pad

2 x BMW lower spring pad 31331096299

2 x Lemforder tension arm

2 x Lemforder lower control arm

2 x Lemforder inner and outer tie rod set

2 x Lemforder tie rod boot

2 x Lemforder sway bar link

Rear:

2 x Bilstein HD shock 24-107440

2 x Suplex coil spring S06204 (made in Germany, OEM identical) Originally went with BMW springs from ECS Tuning but they sent wrong springs.

2 x Vaico shock mount V200672

6 x BMW shock mount nut 33306760587

2 x BMW upper spring pad

2 x BMW upper spring pad bushing (holds pad in place)

2 x BMW lower spring pad

2 x Febi shock bump stop F21105

2 x Lemforder guiding link

2 x Lemforder wishbone

2 x Lemforder sway bar link

And finally P.A Soft scan tool which is proven way to get rid of suspension error message.



To start with some parts porn:

screen capture tool



Big nut loosened fairly easy with air impact wrench:

free image uploader



While I tried everything over the years with my E39's, there is simply nothing better than factory BMW tool. It wasn't cheap but if I add all the frustration hours by uisng using inferior tools, it's worth every penny. It was almost like a child's play removing 13 year old original ball joints:

gif hosting

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Another special tool

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PO had dealer install new bushings in 07 but they're already shot. I suspect that dealer technician could care less about tightening them with suspension loaded and simply just tightened them immediately after install and accelerate the wear:

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Getting there:

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Since I was changing pretty much everything I decided to completely remove the hub which also helped me install new tension arm ball joint. I almost stripped E12 bolt and and it's worth mentioning that Lemforder replacement came with new T bolts:

free picture upload



Rented OEM slide hammer from Autozone and it pulled the inner CV joint with ease. I've had more trouble with separating hub from outer CV joint and I had to use modified hub puller:

free picture upload



Seal removed and in 2nd picture "special seal installer" which is matched $2 pvc pipe from Ace. Put wood on top of it and gently tap it in. Worked like a charm:

free picture upload

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As mentioned earlier almost stripped one E12 bolt:

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Disassembling stock strut. Original strut mount on the left had big crack and I'm glad that I decided not to reuse anything. Also, while stock strut wasn't leaking, it was definitely tired:

free picture upload



Bilstein in with reused and cleaned OEM spring. All new hardware:

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Reinstalling:

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Everything in with expection of new sway bar link. Genius packer at RmEuropean warehuose sent me 2 right links instead left and right. To their credit, they promised to ship out replacement quickly:

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Tomorrow I'm starting on the right front which will go much faster since I'm not touching the CV axle and rear suspension after that.

To be continued...

Update 8/18/16:

Finished front right side today and got the missing link from RMEuropean. Earlist I can start on rear is Tuesday morning and including alignment, it shoud be done by next weekend. I'll include pictures of rear air bags removal but in reality it's quite simple.
Looking forward to get rid of air suspension crap for good.
__________________
2003 BMW X5 4.6is
Supersprint Magnum Exhaust * 88C thermostat * Spal electric fan (fan clutch delete) * Bilstein HD struts and shocks with rear Suplex coil springs (air suspension delete) * OEM style 177 wheels
2003 BMW M5
1997 BMW 528i/A

Last edited by bmw540san; 12-17-2016 at 12:42 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-18-2016, 09:33 AM
itscoo2pyopants's Avatar
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Good work, can't wait to hear about your impressions of the new setup
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  #3  
Old 08-18-2016, 09:45 AM
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A fresh front end always feels amazing!
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2003 X5 3.0i 5-Speed - Born on 9/18/2003
105k miles -Topaz Blue/Schwarz/Titan Int. Trim/EHCII/Sport
Proud 3-Pedal owner, UUC SS/AFE/4.8iS Exhaust/Sharked
2013 X5 35D (CEO's) - Born on 5/17/2013 -
68k miles - Alpine White/Cinnamon Brown/Premium Pkg, Sport Activity/Premium Pkg and Sound/20" Style 214/Running Boards

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  #4  
Old 08-18-2016, 05:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itscoo2pyopants View Post
Good work, can't wait to hear about your impressions of the new setup
Thanks. I finished the right front side today but I won't start on rear till next week. Including alignment it should be ready by next weekend.
__________________
2003 BMW X5 4.6is
Supersprint Magnum Exhaust * 88C thermostat * Spal electric fan (fan clutch delete) * Bilstein HD struts and shocks with rear Suplex coil springs (air suspension delete) * OEM style 177 wheels
2003 BMW M5
1997 BMW 528i/A
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  #5  
Old 08-18-2016, 05:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricky Bobby View Post
A fresh front end always feels amazing!
Yes. I'm not really impressed with stock struts. According to stickers, they're made in Spain by Delphi and they simply don't feel like a good quality.
Bilstein on other hand, regardless of different opinions is top notch quality.
__________________
2003 BMW X5 4.6is
Supersprint Magnum Exhaust * 88C thermostat * Spal electric fan (fan clutch delete) * Bilstein HD struts and shocks with rear Suplex coil springs (air suspension delete) * OEM style 177 wheels
2003 BMW M5
1997 BMW 528i/A
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  #6  
Old 08-18-2016, 06:31 PM
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did you get your parts from fcp euro? it looks like they put a kit together to swap out the air suspension for e53's. makes it waay easier to swap out with a one click order.

any other special tools needed for suspension work? I plan on doing this in the near future.
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Last edited by itscoo2pyopants; 08-18-2016 at 06:49 PM.
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  #7  
Old 08-18-2016, 07:08 PM
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Thats a great write up, strong work! That's on my to do list, however I'm gonna do it a little at a time. first the front, minus the shocks. I'll wait a little and then will finish the rear along with the shocks.
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  #8  
Old 08-18-2016, 08:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itscoo2pyopants View Post
did you get your parts from fcp euro? it looks like they put a kit together to swap out the air suspension for e53's. makes it waay easier to swap out with a one click order.

any other special tools needed for suspension work? I plan on doing this in the near future.
I considered it but even with loyalty code, the price was about $150 more when compared to RMEuropean. I'm aware of their lifetime warranty but I doubt that I'll have issue with these parts during my ownership.
Also, I buy from them here and there and I wish them luck, but who's to say they won't go out of business soon and there goes you lifetime warranty.

As for special tools, as seen in some of pictures:
I actually laughed today at ease that BMW factory ball join tool is breaking 13 year old ball joints.
It's not pictured, but I strongly recommend Hub puller that looks like a paw, although the one from AutoZone was to small and I had to modify it.
And of course, the bigger variety the better of combination 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22mm in wrenches and sockets.
Also, good quality coil spring compressor. Actually OEM, brand from AutoZone, even though is somewhat generic, it has served me well.
To finish it, big air compressor is must as nothing replaces it in situation when you need that sudden torque.
__________________
2003 BMW X5 4.6is
Supersprint Magnum Exhaust * 88C thermostat * Spal electric fan (fan clutch delete) * Bilstein HD struts and shocks with rear Suplex coil springs (air suspension delete) * OEM style 177 wheels
2003 BMW M5
1997 BMW 528i/A
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  #9  
Old 08-18-2016, 08:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miltr118 View Post
Thats a great write up, strong work! That's on my to do list, however I'm gonna do it a little at a time. first the front, minus the shocks. I'll wait a little and then will finish the rear along with the shocks.
Thanks. The reason I'm doing it in one sweep is that you really need alignment after. Also, since I really want to get rid of air bags, the rear is really not that much work as shocks and coils are separated and there is no compressing involved which I'm always vary of.
But, I can understand doing it in stages as you will.
__________________
2003 BMW X5 4.6is
Supersprint Magnum Exhaust * 88C thermostat * Spal electric fan (fan clutch delete) * Bilstein HD struts and shocks with rear Suplex coil springs (air suspension delete) * OEM style 177 wheels
2003 BMW M5
1997 BMW 528i/A
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  #10  
Old 08-18-2016, 08:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmw540san View Post
Thanks. The reason I'm doing it in one sweep is that you really need alignment after. Also, since I really want to get rid of air bags, the rear is really not that much work as shocks and coils are separated and there is no compressing involved which I'm always vary of.
But, I can understand doing it in stages as you will.
I understand, buddy of mine has a shop so we're doing the front followed by the alignment and when I do rear we'll throw it back onto the rack for another alignment.

I'm hoping once we do the alignment it will take care of the nasty camber on the rear now that I got her 20" wheels & tires...
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