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Old04-08-2007, 08:58 PM

k-huevo k-huevo is offline

6th Gear

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Join Date: Aug 2004

Location: Pipe Creek, Texas

Posts: 1,621


Bilstein SP Front Strut Install from Hell

Hereís my most recent suspension change; Bilstein SPs with JCW springs.

íll save the evaluation for later, right now is the installation story. The only thing I had known about these struts previously was their reputation for stiffness (and they are), after my first attempt installing the front struts, I learned about their steering knuckle insertion obstinacy. This couldnít happen at a worst time with a storm approaching and a strut stuck in the knuckle I had to go Neanderthal on them. After the Bilstein was extracted I took measurements (Bilstein 52.4mm diameter, Stock 52mm), paint had to be removed from the base to get it started and more paint removed from certain areas.

Once again it became lodged and wouldn
ít budge with help from chisel or pry bar. By now the storm had arrived and time had run out. I discovered neither a spring compressor nor assistant is needed to remove and install JCW springs; even without an adrenalin overload.

I began to plan for the next attack on the install and found this was not an isolated occurrence. Unfortunately it was the first MINI specific sale by the distributor I purchased through so it was a learning curve for both of us. After receiving a few tips and a vague tool suggestion by Bilstein (couldn
ít get the Facom tool in the U.S. from a conventional source), I found an alternative tool and thought I was prepared to try again. More paint came off and I tried a BMW suspension spreader (socket with nub, insert and turn 90 degrees), but no luck, so it was time to get aggressive with a drum sander.

I polished the surface with various grades of emery paper and put the spreader back in.

In the mean time I made more observations, notice the welds under the spring perch on the troublesome right front strut (on the left), it had a silver sticker too; I wonder if it
ís a rebuild with two coats of paint. The driverís side strut also had a smaller diameter of 52.1mm so I thought I would get a break on installing that strut.

With the hole in the steering knuckle reamed out, the spreader in place, and both surfaces smeared with anti-seize, in goes the strut. An inch down the BMW spreader falls out because the strut has widened it further. Bilstein had suggested a ľ inch drive (insert and turn 45 degrees) to spread the gap but before it wouldn
ít fit, now it did and that helped inch it in. I donít know how the strut will ever come out again because there also was a jack lifting from below (completely lifting the vehicle) and I was applying force to the chassis from above (ProMiniís suggestion).

ís a close-up of the two suspension spreaders, the ďshade treeĒ version on the left and BMW's on the right.

The driver
ís side only required a polishing with a fine grit drum sander & emery paper, plus a little edge dressing with a file to prep, more anti-seize, the BMW spreader, the jack from below, and me bouncing on the chassis.

Here are some fun facts. Bilstein designs in some fluid seepage to keep the swipe moist. I think the leakage is excessive on one of the fronts (no photo) but it was suggested to install any way to see if it will moderate later.

See how large the shaft is on the front strut.

ís because the piston is in the shaft and itís really an upside down design, with the bump stop incorporated within the lower body. The rear shafts are larger also. The rear spring perch is 5mm lower than stock and the frontís are 7mm lower; now that the fronts are on, the forward rake Iím so fond of has returned.

Last edited by k-huevo : 04-08-2007 at 09:01 PM.

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