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BMW OEM Strut Tower Reinforcement Plates Install
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Why add a strut tower reinforcement plates?
The strut towers are where the top of the front suspension rests. Whenever you hit a hard pothole, these towers take the brunt of the force. Over time, the steel can deform and lead to "mushrooming". There are a couple ways to prevent them, one is an expensive strut tower bar (which I also recommend), but there are reinforcement plates. These are designed from BMW as a part of the rough road package and I feel that everyone should put a pair of these on, since they are so cheap and the install is so simple. You can see a picture of the strut tower reinforcement plate below.
This is not really a difficult job and merely involves loosening and tightening a few bolts while using a floor jack. If you can work a wrench you can do this one as long as you have a partner to help.
BMW OEM Strut Tower Reinforcement Plates (BMW P# 51-71-7-036-781) $14
Micro Torque Wrench (It needs to be able to do 18 ft-lbs accurately)
Various sockets and wrenches
Safely lift the front of the car and remove the wheels
1. Using a lift or a floor jack with jack stands lift the car. Instructions for jacking up your car can be found here. This can be a very dangerous step, so make sure that the car is properly secured before ever getting under it. Never get under a car that is just supported by a jack!
2. Using a 17mm deep socket with an impact wrench or hand ratchet, remove the lug nuts and set your wheels aside. If your alloys are seized onto your brake rotors, sit down on your but and give the sidewalls of the tires a good kick until it has become unloosened. If they have seized on, make yourself a note to add some antisieze lubricant to the brake rotors before installing the wheels.
Xenon Leveling Sensor
Unattach the passenger side xenon leveling sensor
3. Using a 10mm wrench and 10mm socket, remove the vertical arm sticking up from the control arm. If you don't remove this, you will end up breaking it later when you drop the strut, which will be a pain.
Remove the sway bar end link
Move it aside
Remove the sway bar end links
4. Using a 17mm wrench and a socket, loosen the sway bar end link attached to the strut.
5. Bend it out of the way so that it won't get tangled with the strut.
Support the front strut and control
Remove the strut tower nuts
Support and drop the strut
6. Position a floor jack underneath the front control arm. Raise it so that it is supporting the weight of the strut. (Note: the strut is very heavy because it's holding up the control arm and brake assembly, don't try this without a floor jack!)
7. Slowly loosen the 3 13mm strut mount nuts holding the strut in. Since the floor jack is supporting the weight, the strut will not drop yet.
The reinforcement plates
Install the support plate
Install the reinforcement plate (You will need a partner for this unless you're very skilled)
8. Have your partner slowly lower the floor jack until the bolts for the upper strut mount have dropped a little ways underneath the strut tower. Carefully hold the strut in place so that it doesn't fall and keep it vertical. It will make sense when it starts to drop.
9. Grab the reinforcement plate and put it over the upper strut mount. You will need to maneuver it under the wheel well to get it on there. It will only fit one way with the alignment pin there.
10. Slowly jack up the floor jack until the 3 bolts start to come out again. You will now want to finger tighten the nuts so that the strut is now supported by the car again. (Note: You don't have to worry about messing up your alignment since that's what the alignment pin is for.
Tighten everything back up
11. Tighten the strut tower nuts to 18 ft-lbs.
12. Reattach the sway bar end links and tighten the 17mm nut to 48 ft-lbs.
13. Reattach the 10mm xenon leveling sensor and make sure that it is hand tight.
14. Reinstall your wheels and tighten your lug nuts in a star pattern to 88 ft-lbs.
Review and Conclusions
You won't be able to notice any difference in the drivability of your car, but you can rest assured that your strut towers are safe and if you accidentally hit a monster pot hole, that no serious strut tower damage will occur. Think if it as a $14 insurance policy. I made sure that I did it, and so should you!