How To Remove and Install Car Bushings and Bearings
This eliminates having to use a professional shop press for many applications.
Bushings and bearings are crucial automotive components. They're critical parts of a car's suspension and chassis and many of them are installed via press fit, which isn't a journalist's workout regimen. We don't work out unless we're running to the nearest shrimp table or from a warlord. Because they're not bolted in, special tools are required to extract and install them.
While you could bring it to a shop with a professional press, or use a hammer, a big socket, and a healthy dose of courage, a universal press and pull kit for bushings and bearings makes life a lot easier for many applications. It's especially useful for the DIY wrencher who'd like to save some time and money while either restoring their car's ride quality and/or steering to factory fresh or improving it with stiffer aftermarket bushings and bearings.
Kit prices can be pretty steep, but using them is very easy and straightforward. Plus they're a buy-once-use-for-years-to-come type of tool. Here's how to do so effectively.
Refreshingly, removing and installing bushings and bearings isn't as potentially hazardous as using a spring compressor. But there are still some precautions to take. If you're installing a bushing while its component is still on the car, ensure it's properly secured on jack stands before crawling underneath.
For my application, I removed the factory thrust arm bushing from an E82 BMW 128i's thrust arm while it was still attached to the wheel hub assembly. Thus, I jacked up the front end, placed it on jack stands, engaged the e-brake, and chocked the rear wheels.
My new aftermarket monoball bearings that replaced the factory bushings did not require the use of the kit for installation.
Please note: this method might not work for all automotive bushings and bearings. Please factor in the size of the tool before attempting something in tighter quarters, such as removing and installing rear subframe and differential bushings.
Since this is an easy job, only a few basic hand tools are needed. In fact, one could get away with just using two adjustable wrenches plus the press kit. However, here's a smattering of tools to make the experience smoother.
We've sized up the right cup for pushing the bushing through and mocked it up, now it's time to figure out the best cup for the bushing to drop into.
1. Select the right cup sizes
Find two cup sizes for your application. If removing a bushing or bearing, use one that will be big enough for it to fall into. This means you won't press the bushing or bearing into the cup, but rather be able to just dump it out. For pushing the bushing or bearing through the component (in our case, the thrust arm), select a cup that will slide through with it.
If the bushing gets stuck in the big cup because it's just a tad too small, safely removing it will require using the kit, which seems a bit too Inception for our minds.
2. Position the cups, threaded rod, and nuts
Run the rod through the bushing or bearings center, using the largest diameter possible, as this will help ensure the bushing presses in or out straight. Then, put each cup on either side and tighten down the nuts finger tight.
3. Ensure one nut is easy to hold in place
By keeping one nut in place at the end of the shaft, this will ensure you can put either a wrench, socket, or vise on it without issue.
4. Begin tightening
In our case, I used an adjustable wrench to tighten the nut against the larger cup while holding the other in place with a socket and breaker bar, braced against the ground. However, you could also use two ratcheting wrenches to counter each other, two open-end wrenches, or simply put the bracing nut in a vise and tighten the large cup's nut with any form of wrench.
5. You'll start to see the bushing or bearing moving
Keep a close eye on the cups while tightening as you want to ensure everything goes through as straight as possible. This will prevent any damage from being done, getting one of the nuts stuck in the bushing, and more.
6. Watch your progress and keep the shaft greased
This kit and many others have notches cut into the cups so that you can see your progress. Once it's pressed out, tension will be relieved and the bushing or bearing will fall into the large cup. Then just disassemble everything and get ready to reinstall a new one if that's in the cards.
For installing bushings or bearings, do the opposite of the steps above. Make sure everything is lined up with the smaller cup against the bushing, which itself is lined up dead-straight against its new home in the component. The large cup will sit on the other side all by itself. Well, also with a nut holding it against the component.
Then, slowly tighten the smaller cup's nut so that it pushes the bushing into the component.
This requires an even-more-watchful eye, as you want to make sure it goes in straight and doesn't get damaged in the process. If you're installing a bearing and want to completely avoid marring its surface, you can flip the smaller cup around so the flat part is pressed against it, brace its nut with a long socket and breaker bar, and tighten the large cup's nut. Some kits come with different-sized washers for this purpose.
Think of this second method as pressing the component onto the bushing, rather than the bushing into the component.
Some bushings have a slight lip that sticks out from the component on either or both sides—pay extra special attention that the bushing is pressed in evenly/correctly. Again, the cups' notches clearly show how everything looks.
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