Bilstein PSS9 Coilover Installation
Warning: If you are not competent or do not feel comfortable
doing any of these modifications or procedures, then please do not do
so. I will not be held responsible for any damages caused by a result
of your actions. Now on to the fun stuff!
Hubcentric Wheel Spacers x2 (may not be required with 17" wheels)
Ball Joints (BMW
part # 31-12-6-758-510) x2 (generally not required if you have the BMW
Nylock Nuts (hub
to control arm ball joint and tie rod to steering arm) (BMW part #'s 32-21-1-095-267
and 31-32-1-090-633) x2 each
4 Nuts to hold
rear shock mount to car (Part Number 31-33-1-092-887)
Top Right: Bilstein Kit
Top Left and Middle: Hubcentric wheel spacer
Bottom: Longer wheel bolts
96+ M3 Strut
Hats (BMW part #'s 31-33-2-227-897 and 31-33-2-227-898) (camber adjustment)
96+ M3 Reinforcement
Plates (BMW part #'s 31-31-2-489-795) x2 (extra insurance)
96+ M3 Control
Arm Bushings (BMW part #31-12-9-069-035) comes with 2 (better control
Top Left: Strut Hat
Top Right: Reinforcement Plates
Bottom: Control Arm Bushings
and Wrenches (some very large sizes required)
M8 and M10 Torx
Hammer (the bigger
Air tools always help ease removal and installation
The method described below removes the control arm and the strut.
It may not be necessary to remove the control arm on all installations.
e36 M3's will be slightly different (non replaceable ball joint and sway
bar mounts to the strut)
1) Raise vehicle, properly support vehicle, and remove wheels
2) Remove two brake caliper bolts (allen heads) and remove the brake hose
from strut. Secure caliper with stiff wire somewhere out of the way. Remove
3) Remove caliper bracket
4) Remove small allen screw holding rotor on and remove rotor (may require
rubber mallet to release rotor from hub)
5) Unbolt dust shield and remove the ABS sensor
6) Remove two lower bolts and one upper bolt/nut connecting the strut
to the steering arm/hub . Tie the arm out of the way.
7) support the strut from the bottom and remove the three nuts on top
of the strut tower and lower the strut out from the car.
Top Left: Caliper removed
Top Right: Caliper secured out of the way
Bottom Left: Tie rod secured
Bottom Right: Dust Shield ready to be removed
8) So now you should have left on the car the control arm and the steering
If you want to work on the controls arms at all (replace ball joints,
bushings, or the entire arm) follow the rest of the instructions below.
If not, skip to the next section
Control Arm Removal
1) Remove the bolt holding the sway bar linkage to the control arm
2) Loosen nut holding the control arm to the steering arm/hub assembly.
Seperate the ball joint with the pickle fork (note: this will require
replacing the ball joint. If you don't want to do this, I suggest buying
or borrowing the BMW ball joint removal tool. Mine were worn out so I
3) Remove the ball joint securing the control arm to the subframe just
like above. (This one is a ROYAL pain to get out)
4) Remove the two bolts holding the control arm bushing carrier and the
control arm on.
5) Now drag that control arm to a machine shop and have them press in
the new ball joints if you destroyed them removing them and new control
arm bushings if you're replacing those.
6) If you plan on replacing the bushings be sure to mark their position
on the contorl arm.
Prepping the Bilstein parts for installation
1) If you plan on reusing the strut hats that are on the strut you just
took off, you will need to get a set of spring compressors and remove
the hat after compressing the spring.
2) Take one of the new coilover struts and thread the two black locators
down the coilover. Follow that with the smaller tender spring, the spring
seperator, the larger spring, the dust boot, and then the silver upper
spring mount. Now put the strut hat you will be using (I purchased newer
m3 hats to reduce or add camber as I saw fit). Place the large nylock
nut on the strut and tighten it down. You'll need to use some sort of
socket configuration with an allen wrench. I used a spark plug socket,
a wrench attached to that, and then an allen wrench down the center of
3) Now you've got the assembly all ready to drop in.
Left: Assembled and ready to go in car
Right: Strut Hat ready to be tightened
1) If you removed the control arm bushings you are going to want to put
them back on now. Lube up the bushing with some dish soap and push it
on to the mark you made in part 6. Be sure that the carrier is mounted
correctly on the control arm to that it will bolt back up to the car.
All the manuals I have looked at on this subject state that you MUST install
this and get the car on the ground within 30 minutes. Then leave the car
on the ground for at least 30 minutes to allow the bushings to set. I
just barely made it.
2) Bolt the carrier back to the car and put the nut back on the ball joint
connecting the control arm to the subframe. Remount the steering arm to
the control arm. Be sure to use new nylock nuts here. Leave everything
a little loose so that you can snug it all down when you've got it all
3) Now the control arm is all set in place and we can put the strut back
Top Left: Right side control arm
Top Right: Left side control arm
Bottom: Close up of left side control arm
(note: handedness is determined from the seated position)
4) Bolt the strut hat back in to the shock tower (don't forget the reinforcer
if you purchased it)
5) Reconnect the two bolts holding the strut to the steering arm. Be sure
to use some locktite on these. Reconnect the bolt and nut holding the
top of the strut to the steering arm.
6) Reconnect the steering arm to the tie rod and the sway bar to the control
7) Everything should be connected to the control arm now. Go ahead and
torque down the bolts and ball joints.
8) Bolt dust shield, abs sensor, and caliper bracket back onto car.
9) Reconnect rotor and secure with allen head bolt
10) Reconnect caliper with pads and replace sensor.
Control arm carrier 34 ft-lb
Control arm ball joint to subfram 62 ft-lb
Control arm ball join to steering arm 48 ft-lb
Sway bar link to control arm 31 ft-lb
Strut to shock tower 16 ft-lb
Strut to steering arm 78 ft-lb
Wheels to hub 74+/-7ft-lb
Here it is installed
1) If you haven't already done so or only have two jack stands raise the
vehicle, properly support it, and remove the wheels.
2) You're going to have to take out the RSM so, remove the rear speakers
3) Remove the side liner clips and liner. Then take out the liner around
the shock mounts.
4) Jack up the rear trailing arm to hold the suspension on one side while
removing the shock.
5) Remove the two nuts on the shock mount (Rear Shock Upper Mounting Nuts)
and the top one (Shock Mounting Nut) (see picture below). You might have
to put a little wrench on the shaft of the shock absorber.
6) Now that you've got the RSM out, remove the bolt at the trailing arm
to release the shock.
7) Lower the trailing arm a little so that you can get in there and remove
the drive axles bolts. These should be torx bolts. When removed be sure
to suspend the axle with some wire again.
8) Slowly lower the trailing arm until the spring is just about unloaded.
9) Now take the pry bars and yank that spring out of there. Try and be
1) Now we can put the spring perch in the upper control arm. The large
threaded part fits around the lip at the bottom and then the collar fits
up into the hole from the bottom and the huge nylock nut fits onto the
exposed bolt. Have fun tightening that.
2) Once you've got the two black spring locators on put the plastic cap
on the perch and then the blue ring on top of the black locators.
3) Replace the upper spring pad and drop the spring in. The lower spring
pad will not be used. If it's not going in very easily you may want to
lower the black locators a bit and then put them back up once you've got
it all in there.
4) Now the shock is ready to be put in. The order of installation is shock,
spacer, cupped washer, RSM, and gasket. Then fit the nut and washer to
the top of the shock. Then refit it to the car and install the two nuts
to the RSM.
5) Raise the suspension some and bolt the bottom of the
shock back in.
6) The driver axle may now be replaced. Don't forget the reinforcers.
7) Replace the wheels and drop it down. Keep in mind that this thing might
be REALLY low now, so you may need to space it with some 2x4's under the
wheels or something.
Shock nut 10 ft-lb
RSM to body 17 ft-lb
Shock to trailing arm 57 ft-lb
Drive axle 47 ft-lb
Wheels to hub 74+/-7ft-lb
Here are a few pictures of the RSM
Holy loss of droop travel Batman!
Now that you've got it all installed you can adjust the
Front adjustment is pretty easy. Just raise the front of the car and use
the wrenches to move the black locators up to raise the ride height or
down to lower it.
The rear is a bit more of a pain. You'll have to remove the wheel, support
the trailing arm (you really should unhook the drive axles but I didn't)
and then remove the shock bolt to the trailing arm. Now you can remove
the spring and adjust the black locators. If you're going to go very far
down, I wouldn't crank down on the locators too hard when tightening them
or else you'll never get them to move again.
This is to be measured from center of fender lip to the center of the
wheel. That way it does not matter what diameter wheel you are using.
Front ~12 1/2"
Rear ~ 11 1/2"
Note: The car feels very good with no toe up front, but the camber
in the front is hardly desireable. I am working on increasing and evening
Toe: 0 degrees/side
Camber: -0.8 degrees L, -0.2 degrees R
Toe: 0.1 degrees/side (in)
Camber -1.9 degrees/side
Update [05.24.03]: I removed the 96+ strut hats and
replaced them with the standard mounts to increase camber a few months
ago. This morning I installed two shims on the right side to even up the
camber. Right now I should be at about -2 degrees up front. Turn in feels
pretty quick, but the suspension has to wait for the tires to catch up.
Everything feels good though. Tire pressure are currently set in the 34-36
psi region hot up front and in the rear, with a little more rear pressure
Update [09.21.03]: I attended an autocross yesterday
Rose Motorsports with Indianapolis
SCCA. I setup the car with the dampers on full stiff up front and
two to three clicks off full soft at the rear. I ran the front at 38-40
psi and 36 psi hot in the rear. The car handled very nicely, with a slight
push if I overcooked the corner or overbraked and then tired to make up
with it with more throttle. I have a little trouble putting down power
in one section with in uphill slight offcamber changing to on camber corner
on the exit. Then the hill peaked and went back to an off camber corner.
Very fun, but the rear wanted to come out. Fun stuff on the last run of
the day, but not the fast way around. Thanks to Nick Snyder for the tips
on the rear end adjustments to help lay down the power. Although, it's
nothing an LSD wouldn't take care of. The slaloms felt great. Everything
must have been on as I managed to win STS class with a field of 9 cars!
Not too bad for only a handfull of autocrosses.
Update [12.16.03]: Around the end of November I had
the car up on the lift and checked the rear bumpstops to see if they
were still intact. Harris Yong had a probelm with tearing them. Lo and
behold, they were torn. So, off they came and I sent them back to Bilstein.
The stock shocks went back on the car until I could get them back. I paid
shipping to and from and the lifetime warranty took care of the rest.
They just came back today. I'm thrilled with the service. It wsa a little
snow, but they included nut nylock nuts for the top of the shock and washers
for the lower bolt (hmmmm why the HELL didn't they come like that from
I think the bumpstops just aren't large enough to hande
the loads they see from bottoming (though I've never noticed the car to
As far as how the car drives with the stock shocks, it's
fun. There not a whole lot of damping in the rear, so a quick transition
leads to some fun tail out driving. Given a smooth input, the car still
turns nicely, but powering out of a corner gets a little squirrely.
Update [04.23.04]: After installing the subframe
reinforcements, the ride height was raised. After trying to use the wrenches
to adjust the rear perches I decided to call Bilstein as they seemed frozen.
I thought about heating them up a bit and having at them with a hammer
and punch, but decided to hold off. What did Bilstein tell me? Get out
the torch and hammer! SO I did and it worked. They would have taken them
back if they truely were frozen, not bad! Anyways, I think I've got a
leaking rear right shock. Warranty instructed me to clean it off and drive
it for 2 weeks. If it's covered in oil again, then send it back. I think
it'll be getting sent back in 2 weeks! What tipped me off? Wheelhop. I've
never gotten it before and I have recently.
Thanks to Zygmunt (Bimmerparts.com) where I purchased the PSS9's. They're
sending me another copy of the receipt because I've lost mine and Bilstein
wants a copy for the warranty of the shock.
Update [05.04.04]: I haven't gotten any more wheel
hop recently. I wonder if it was just a freak occurance. I've reset the
ride heights to 12 1/4" up front and 11 3/4" out back. I also
have removed the tender springs. No more need for spacers up front and
plenty of room for larger tires. With these ride heights, the spring is
not compressed at full droop, but that only happens when the car is up
in the air.
Update [05.12.04]: I've had enough of low ground
clearance and worrying about if my car will be able to pass over objects
in the road. Besides, it's time to make room for bigger rubber.
Ride Height Specs:
Front: 12 1/2" (I may go up to 13" in a few days)
Rear: 11 3/4"
Update [05.14.04]: I finally settled on some ride
Front: 12 1/2"
Rear: 11 3/8"
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