Steering and Wheel Alignment

This section contains information on special steering and wheel alignment conditions and diagnosis.

All information contained in this FAQ is provided by BMW enthusiasts who are not typically fully trained in the art of BMW maintenance. As such, all information in this FAQ is provided "as-is". Any use of this information is strictly the responsibility of the using party. The supplier of the information and the Webmeister assume no liability for incorrect information or use of this information.


6 Series Steering Adjustment

Tire Aspect Ratios

Steering Box Mounting Bolt Replacement Number

Wheel Refinishing

Power Steering Filter

Wheel Offsets

Steering Alignment Toe-in - Checking and Setting

Steering Box Bracket Breakage

Steering Fluid Leak Troubleshooting

Power Steering Pump Seal Replacement

SRS System Fault Correction

6 Series Steering Adjustment

I have replaced one box and simply adjusted another on 85 735i. The replacement was not necessary.

Adjusting is fairly easy:

* raise front of car on jack stands, so steering is unloaded

* Turn steering wheel about 1 full turn CCW (front wheels point left).

* Look down at steering box under hood (bonnet?) beside engine:

- adjustment is a large screwdriver slot, with lock nut around it.

* loosen the lock nut (CCW)

* tighten slot (CW)

* turn steering wheel 2 full turns CW (front wheels point to right).

- you should notice slight increase in resistance as steering goes thru straight-ahead.

- if no resistance increase is noted, then tighten slot (CW) a little more and rotate steering wheel back through straight-ahead to test resistance.

- if too much resistance, loosen slot (CCW).

* tighten lock nut (CW), while ensuring slot does not move.

* If the steering feels too numb when driving after this adjustment, then it is too tight.

* I think the official adjustment procedure disconnects the steering linkage, using a special gauge to measure the steering resistance.

This adjustment was enough to cure sloppy steering for an 85 735i with 225,000 miles (about 360,000 km).

I have done the same with success also for an E21 and E24 steering box. Some steering boxes also have adjustment for "end play" of the worm gear. This "end play" adjustment is on the end of the box, opposite from the steering column.

Replacing the steering box is best accomplished with the engine removed. At least, the motor mount and stabilizer need to be disconnected so the engine can be raised for clearance.

Before removing the old steering box(es), be sure to mark exactly what spines match to the arm and column joint, so that the straight-ahead position can be restored. The Pittman arm may be difficult to remove without a Pittman arm puller.

The steering boxes for 5 and 6 series of similar vintage have matching splines for the input and output shafts, and have a faster ratio for more responsive steering. However, these boxes are smaller (perhaps not strong enough?) and completely different mounting than the E23 steering box that would require cutting away the old mount and welding new ones, which could be dangerous if not expertly engineered and fabricated.

The replacement steering box will probably need adjustment, particularly if it is obtained from another old car.

Contributor's name lost.....

Tire Aspect Ratios - Norm Grills <>

The following is a table of tire size comparisons to the original stock TRX tires supplied on my car. This chart was very useful in determining what wheels and tires I wanted to use and maintain close to the original circumference so that the odometer and speedometer would remain close to the original.

 Tire Apect Ratios vs Stock TRX Wheels

Tire Width (mm)

Aspect Ratio

Side Wall

Wheel Size

Overall Diameter

Circum (inches)

Percent Of Original

Wheel Rev's Per Mile

RPM @ 60 MPH









SAE Equivalence



































































































Steering Box Mounting Bolt Replacement Number -

There is a new bolt to replace the defective one. Symptoms of failure include loss or steering, sometimes preceded by a thumping sound when turning at low speed or one "pop" as you straighten the wheel.

The replacement part number is: 32 13 1 136 051

The cost should be around $8.00

Wheel Refinishing....Don Eilenberger and Don McMahon

This is a summary of the information supplied by Don Eilenberger and Don McMahon (3a, 6a and 9a are his).

Since the wheels are off the car - it's even easier, and easier YET if there aren't tires on'em.

Steps to take:

1. Get the correct paint, which is Wurth Silver Wheel paint andWurth Clear Wheel Lacquer - Eurasian has it at about $13/can. Order

2 cans of silver, one of clear (you'll have some of each left).

2. Remove wheels from car

3. Clean 'em - they do not have to be stripped! I use some agressive wheel cleaners, followed by a scotchbrite pad and Simple Green. Sand down using 320-400 grit sandpaper any brake dust that didn't come off with the above technique. Use the paper wet.. (simple green also works as a good lubricant). You should try to avoid sanding through the primer on the wheels (it will appear whitish in color).

3a. I'm pretty finicky with respect to unprimed anodized wheels and used an acid bath - I have used the product: Alumi-Prep. Yup - in this case I was assuming stock wheels (which were what was mentioned) which are painted and primed.. Alumi-Prep will remove

any corrosion on anodized or unanodized wheels (it's popular with the Beemer crowd for cleaning up BMW's rough aluminum castings..).

4. Clean'em again and rinse very carefully!

5. Let'em dry.

6. If tires are mounted - mask them off. I use the easy-stripping blue masking tape available at paint stores and boat-supply houses. This tapewill come off after long periods of exposure - even hot sun - without leaving any residue behind. Use the lip of the rim as your template andmask well using tape/newspaper.

6a. Place the wheel to be painted on a rotating support device that holds the wheel at a high enough level to allow good visibility of the areas to be painted - illuminate if indoors. This really helps with wheels with a lot of spokes (e.g. E3 wheels) and tiny areas to paint. Good advice if you have such a beast. I've had good success circling the wheel, and rotating it on the garage floor between coats.

7. Lay'em down on a surface you don't care about (ie - I kinda like the patterns on my garage floor.. but you may want to use newspaper. Make CERTAIN the surface is dust-free!)

8. Shake-shake-shake that can'o'silver! Give it about 5 minutes the first time - or until your arm feels like it's gonna fall off.

9. Practice your spray technique if you are unfamiliar with this. Your goal is light, evenly covered layers of paint. You are not gonna do the finish job with the first coat.

9a. Get a painter's mask and put it on nice and snug. Even with the mask, avoid the fumes. It only costs a few bucks and will save bronchial tubes and alveoli. Very good advice! And we don't mean a dust-mask (white paper) here.. we mean an organic vapors mask - available at Sears and other fine home do-it-yourself stores! Bronchitis is no fun

10. Start spraying. Light, even strokes, end the stroke OFF the area being painted - and start it OFF the area being painted. If you see any blobs - you are either too close, or it is too cold or too humid.A warm dry day is best!

11. Figure on 2-3 coats of the silver. When done you want it even looking

without drools or blobs. Follow directions on can for dry times and recoat time.

12. When completely dry - do a coat of the clear on top. You do not need a HEAVY coat of clear - you do want even coverage.

13. When completely dry - after a few days - put a coat of wax on'em.. it will help keep the brake-dust from eating up your new paintjob. You can remove any masking tape/paper you used, or have your tires mounted!

Congratulate yourself - they look just like new don't they?!


Power Steering Filter - Pierce Stewart <>

I just replaced that filter. Mine had started to come apart. You can'tbelieve the noise the PS pump makes when it can't suck properly. Whenthey first start to go, the pump starts to make just a little noise. Hard to isolate the cause, but chances are, it is the filter. Call "All BMW Discount Parts" 800.590.7770, try part # 32 41 1 128 167 (ZF) or 32 41 1 128 919 (Benteler). They have a free small catalogue with part #s and related drawings for our 6's.

Wheel Offsets- Phil Marx, via Gene M - <>


E21 = 18mm


E24 6x14" = 22mm

6.5x14" = 22mm

7x14" = 18mm

7x15" = 20mm

165TR390 = 22mm

195TR415 = 19mm

E28 M5 7.5x16" = 20mm

E28 6x14" = 22mm

6.5x14" = 22mm

165TR390 = 22mm

E30 M3 7x15" = 30mm

7.5x16" = 27mm

E30 6x14" = 35mm

6.5x14" = 30mm

7x15" = 24mm

E30iX 6x14" = 47mm

6.5x14" = 45mm

7x15" = 41mm

65x150TD = 47mm

E32 7x15" = 20mm

E34 7x15" = 20mm

7x16" = 20mm

8x17" = 20mm

E36 M3 7.5x17" = 41mm

8.5x17" = 41mm


E36 7x15" = 47mm

7x16" = 46mm


Steering Alignment Toe-in - Checking and Setting

There is a fairly quick and simple way to check and set the toe setting on your E24. This method may not be precise enough for many of you, but it can be used after changing outer tie-rods or ther front suspension and steering work to get a fairly close setting until you can get to the shop to have it professionally set. It can also be used to check toe settings in between professional alignments or to help diagnose a car that is pulling to either side or unusual tire wear.

Materials needed are simply some braided nylon string like kite string and a screw (or nail) with a head in a size that can be pressed in between your tire tread, metal ruler, and if you are going to adjust the outer tie-rods--a couple of 13mm wrenches.


-Park the car on level ground.

-Center the steering wheel. You can check the alignment marks on the steering gearbox housing if you are not certain whether your steering wheel was put on the splines in the correct position. If the alignment marks do not line up, pull the steering wheel and set it in the correct position on the splines.

-Tie the end of the string around the screw and press it in between the tire treads on the back of a rear wheel at hub level. Now wrap the string around all 4 tires so that it crosses each tire at hub level. In the front of the car you will need to run the string under the tow eyes and the string will be down under the oil sump. When you get back to the point of beginning, take the screw out of the tire tread, pull the string fairly taunt and wrap the string several times around the screw so that it will not come loose. Check to make sure the string is at hub level on all wheels and not caught on other parts of the car. It is o.k. if it is hitting the oil sump. If your tires have raised letters, you may need to rotate the tires so that the string will not be sitting on the lettering.

-Now grab the string at the front of one of the front wheels and slowly pull it forward and out toward the side (away from the front tire shoulder) until the string is barely touching the back of the front tire shoulder. Take a metal ruler and measure the distance of the string to the front tire shoulder. Repeat this procedure on the other front tire. The distance should be equal on both sides with a slight toe-in.

-If you adjust the toe setting using the outer tie-rods, make sure you continue to check the center position of the steering wheel before you recheck the distance from the string to the front shoulder since the steering wheel may turn when you rotate the tie-rod. I do not know if there is a "proper" distance between the string and the front tire shoulder and I suspect that tire diameters and widths will probably affect the number. I have set a couple of my cars initially with a 3/16th inch distance on each side and so far I like the feel of the steering in normal driving conditions. If your car is stock on ground clearance, you should be able to reach in from the side behind the front tires and do your tie-rod adjustments without having to jack up the car. Since your face will be right at the back of the tire looking up, it is easy to see the string and get a good idea of how much even rotating the tie-rod a few degrees is moving the back of the tire.

By using this method, I was able to check and adjust the toe setting in about 15 minutes. I have previously tried using tape measurers, carpenter squares, markings on the ground, string measurements between the front tires and parallel pieces of wood but could not get even a good ball park toe setting with those methods even after messing with it for over an hour. A big advantage of this string method is that you can quickly rotate the tie-rod and immediately check the change in distance without having to keep going around to the other side of the car like you would using a tape measurer of other such method (also you really cannot measure the distance between the 2 front wheels at hub level because the oil sump will be in the way). I do not claim credit for inventing this method and don't know who thought it up. After reading an internet post from a non-BMW list, I tried it on my E24's and E28's and my cars are now tracking straight, steering wheels centered and with good steering feel in just 15 minutes per car with no special tools.

Gene M.



Steering Box Bracket Breakage - "Don S." <>

Here is an old problem that I have read about and finally I had to correct on my '89 635.

As reported by many, the steering gear box support bracket likes to break off the subframe, causing erratic steering and clunking noises in the front end.

After getting a quote for $500 to fix it -- remove subframe, reinforce and weld a new bracket on to the subframe, reinstall, etc. -- I decided to give it a go.

I followed more or less what I had remembered reading about 2 years ago.
This is how I fixed it:

1. Purchased a new bolt about 1.5" longer then the one used and a lock nut. Be sure it is of the rating (8.8)
2. Purchased 13 washers (~0.1" think) of the correct center hole size for the bolt - about 1" in diam. .
3. Procured 2 washers about 2" in diameter and about 0.15" thick with also the correct center hole size.
4. Removed the bolt, 2 washers, nut and broken bracket from subframe -- work done under car -- with car on ramps.
5. Installed new bolt with old 1" washer thru hole in subframe --- AND installed one of the 2" washer inside the subframe, between subframe and washer/head of new bolt. One has to slip and align the large washer thru a slot in the subframe -- easy to do with needle nose pliers.
6. Installed second 2" washer above the subframe and on the bolt.
7. Installed 12 of the 1" washers on the bolt -- this a little tricky -- but by rotating steering gear upward one can get sufficient clearance.
8. Push bolt thru steering gear hole -- install top washer and self
locking nut. Torque adequately.

Note the I had to use a broom stick to pound the steering gear box back down to allow the bolt to slip into the hole in the steering box. Also note that the 13 washers equal the height of the bracket that broke off -- this insured that the steering box was aligned as per original design.

Everything seems to work fine, the car tracks great, no more clunks, etc. and the steering wheel stays centered. Also the steering wheel slop I had is gone.

If anyone has information suggesting that this fix is wrong, let me know.

Steering Fluid Leak Troubleshooting <>

I just went through this process on an E23, it can be a real PITA. Assuming you don't have the ZF pump, the following should apply.

First I went to a carwash and squirted off as best I could the accumulated goo in the engine compartment, paying particular attention to the firewall, drivers side fender, the pump and steering box, so I could see where it was coming from.

If you see fluid pooling on top of the pump, suspect the low pressure return hose that comes out of the top of the pump itself.

If there is fluid dripping from the pump but no pooling on top, check the high pressure hose or crush washers on the banjo bolt there

If there is fluid on the steering box, most likely it is the low pressure return hose, if it is coming from beneat the steering box, most likely the high pressure hose or the crush washers there.

If it is a very slow leak, and fluid shows up high on the inside fender,take a close look at the two sensors mounted in the regulator, they will always leak eventually and are relatively cheap (~$15 ea).

If fluid shows up beneath the reservoir itself, check the hoses and clamps on the reservoir itself. Sometimes you can just tighten/replace a clamp and stem the flow, I have seen the reservoirs themselves leak, although rarely.

Power Steering Pump Seal Replacement - "Gene M." <>

Power steering pump squeal, growl and ATF leaks from the pump area can be from a few things. First check your belt tension, the condition of the low pressure side clamps and hoses if they have a sooty coating on them (I would replace them with OEM hoses even though they are more expensive), and clean or change the filter in the reservoir. Also make sure all air has been bled out of the system by pumping the brakes and turning the steering wheel from lock to lock many times while the engine is running. Some people have reported that they were able to solve pump noise by simply tightening the the bolts holding the two halves together or by switching to synthetic ATF. A thorough search of the BCG archives will help you narrow down the possibilities.

If you believe the power steering pump is bad, you should consider replacing the seals instead of buying a new or rebuilt pump. The job is not that difficult and there really is not any other parts in the pump to go bad. If you decide to replace the seals, these suggestions may help.

The BMW part # for the seal kit is 32 41 1 135 880. It contains the front shaft seal, a large rubber "o" ring, an irregular shaped rubber seal with a plastic "holder", and a "c" clip.

First, pump your brakes to release the pressure in the brake bomb. Then put a drain pan under the pump and remove the low pressure hose to allow the ATF to drain out.

Next, remove the pump from the car (remember on the front top mount there is a 13mm bolt head in front of the 19mm one with the teeth--you need to loosen the 13mm bolt head--not the larger one with the teeth, which is only for adjusting belt tension). You may want to wrap a plastic bag around the end of the high pressure hose to keep it clean.

Make sure you thoroughly clean the outside of the pump off before opening it on up. Lot of fine grit all over and as soon as the ATF gets on the sludge, it will get all over the place. You want to make sure that you will not get any debris inside the pump. Everything needs to be CLEAN, including your hands and tools, before opening the pump.

Remove the belt pulley if you want to make sure that the shaft can be thoroughly cleaned (an air wrench makes this easier because otherwise it is hard to hold the pulley without damaging it when removing the pulley bolts). Then remove the 13mm bolts that hold the two halves of the pump together. When the two halves are separated, you will see the large rubber "o" ring in the front half and the irregular shaped rubber seal imbedded on a metal plate on the front half. This plate has two guide pins and is pressed into the front half of the pump.

Before prying this plate out, BEWARE, the impeller blades slide in a hub and the chamber that they are in is an oval. (Looks like it is set up so that when the pump is spinning faster, the blades will extend out further and move more ATF.) Be careful because THESE BLADES WILL FALL OUT and there is a particular way they go in--there's a beveled edge. I put the front of the pump face down and slowly start prying off the metal plate about half way. Then I wrap masking tape around the hub to hold the blades in place before completely removing the plate (some of the blades will still probably slide out but at least some of them should remain in the hub so that you can see how the blades go into the hub). The first pump I did, I had no idea that these blades were going to fall out, luckily a couple of blades stayed in so that I could put the others back in facing the proper way.

Now that the plate is off, there will be a small "c" clip that holds the shaft in place. This "c" clip does not have the holes on the ends and it is not made of flexible metal so the normal outer "c" clip plier does not work. I use a small screwdriver to pry it off (if anyone comes up with an easier way, please let me know). Once the "c" clip is removed, the shaft will slide out and you can now remove and replace the front shaft seal. It comes out easily. Install the new one with a little ATF as a lubricant and reinstall the pump shaft.

Reinstalling the new "c" clip is a problem because it is not a flexible metal and there are no holes on the ends to use a c clip plier. I had to distort the new one to get it over the shaft and then bend it back with a pair of pliers. (again, if anyone comes up with an easier way, please let me know).

Next put back on the metal plate and replace the large rubber "o" ring and the irregular shaped rubber seal with the plastic "holder". I think it works best to put the irregular shaped seal in the "holder" and then press them into the metal plate, rather than putting the "holder" in the plate and then trying to press in the seal.

Make sure all blades are in place correctly and everything is clean before putting the two halves of the pump back together. BEWARE, when you do put the two halves together, there is a little "weep hole" on the inside of both halves that need to be lined up when putting the halves back together. This is very important.

As a precaution to make sure there is no debris in the pump, you may want to put some ATF in the pump and slosh it around, spin the pulley a bit and drain the ATF out before reinstalling the pump in the car.

Hopefully the pump is now good for another 15 years.

Gene M.

SRS System Fault Correction - John Sullivan

My SRS light has been illumnating after start up and stays on while I'm driving the car. My parts guy at BMW Gallery-Norwood MA stated that the "steering wheel horn ring" is probably worn out. Tried to read fault code @ dealer Tech Session...they could not define fault cause/code. I took a chance and let them replace the "Steering Wheel horn ring" actually called a 7-SLIP RING in BMW language. The part looks like a one inch roll of masking tape for lack of a better descriptor. Its diameter across is around 6 inches and is 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. The Tech who did work (took steering wheel off...shut system down probably by disconnecting battery, and disconnected wires inserted inside of ring and replaced new one in its place). You then need to have the SRS tool to reset the SRS system to clear the fault. He did job in 1/2 hour. The part number is 32-34-1-156-975 and it lists for $145.00.

SRS System is no longer producing a fault code and no more SRS light on Check
Control panel.