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E46 BMW M3 H&R RSS Coilover Install

Equipping a third-gen. BMW performance coupe with updated handling ability

Ceso Bagay
Feb 21, 2019

It generally begins as an itch to lower your car's ride height, and often transitions into a full-blown coilover installation. We should all be familiar with the thought process—because let's face it, wheel gap is just unattractive. So after the initial revelation that you indeed want to embrace "the drop," a lot of enthusiasts at this point would settle for just lowering springs. But for many others that's not enough, because while springs will bring your car earthward and at least take care of the cosmetic side of lowering, they don't have the tuning flexibility of a legit coilover system.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install factory heigh Photo 2/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Factory Heigh

Which is to say specifically lowering springs have a fixed ride height and typcally non-adjustable damping, whereas coilovers allow you to adjust ride height, and often damper settings for compession and/or rebound. Before you even think about pulling the trigger on a full-blown coilover kit, though, it's probably a good idea to make sure you do your due diligence. There are a variety of coilover kits out there. You have to make sure you find the one that suits your driving style, and it probably wouldn't hurt to go with one that comes highly reviewed. If you do decide to get a kit, the differences between stock and upgraded suspension can be like night and day.

Simply looking to improve the handling on the track and still be able to get groceries the next day? H&R Springs can take of that!

Thus was the path to lowering this BMW E46 M3, and to accomplish this we picked up an RSS Coilover Kit from H&R Springs. It took myself and a buddy of mine a whole day to install the system working on a driveway (which is to say we did not have the benefit of a lift); granted, we were filming and dawdling around at points, so realistically it shouldn't take someone more than four-ish hours to complete such a job.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install front factory height Photo 6/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Front Factory Height
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear factory height Photo 7/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Factory Height

The current setup on the E46 M3 is a staggered setup, and I genuinely believe that most staggered setups look better when they are raked. By "raked" I mean when the front sits lower than the rear. With that in mind, I planned on lowering the car 1.5 inches in the front and 1 inch at the rear. I didn't want the car slammed, but just enough to get rid of that dreaded wheel gap.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install RSS club sport coilover kit Photo 8/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install RSS Club Sport Coilover Kit

In addition to the H&R RSS Kit, we also wanted to install shorter anti-sway bar end links. Step 1 of the process is getting the car off the ground; when you do this, there's going to be a little rubber pad next to the oil pan. That is where the floor jack should go when raising this car and putting it on jack stands.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install jack Photo 9/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Jack
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install jack Photo 10/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Jack

Step 2: Remove all the wheels

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install wheel Photo 11/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Wheel

Note: At this point I started working on the front of the car since it was a bit more difficult.

Step 3: Remove the sway bar end links. I used a 17mm wrench to hold the back of the nut and 16mm socket to remove the front.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install sway bar removal Photo 12/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Sway Bar Removal
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install sway bar removal Photo 13/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Sway Bar Removal

Tip: It will make your life a whole lot easier if you turn the wheel opposite to the side you are working on. For example, if you're working on the front-right side of the car, turn the steering wheel to the left.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install headlight sensor removal Photo 14/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Headlight Sensor Removal

Step 4: Remove the headlight leveling sensor in the wheel well that is held onto the chassis by two Allen bolts. You want to remove this because if you don't, you risk breaking off the hinge assembly or bending the metal rod that goes to the control arm.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install pinch bolt removal Photo 15/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Pinch Bolt Removal
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install pinch bolt removal Photo 16/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Pinch Bolt Removal

Step 5: There's going to be an 18mm pinch bolt you will have to remove so you can bring the knuckle assembly down. There's a special knuckle spreading tool for this particular part that will make your life easier, so I opted to use that. You essentially place this tool where you apply the anti-seize and spread the knuckle enough so you can push it down.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install strut nut removal Photo 17/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Strut Nut Removal

Step 6: Go to the hood of the car, locate the 13mm nuts that hold the strut tower brace, and remove the three nuts on both sides. Just make sure that when you're on your last bolt that you hold the strut because it will fall down.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install strut removal Photo 18/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Strut Removal
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install OEM vs HR strut comparison Photo 19/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install OEM Vs HR Strut Comparison

Step 7: Remove the strut! Take note of the orientation of the top hat. There will be a marker that states which side it belongs to on the car.

Step 8: Swap top hats. When swapping the top hats, be aware there is a left and a right for the struts. It will display which side it belongs too on the part itself. When doing this, make sure you get yourself a good pair of spring compressors and keep the spring pointed away from your body. If you don't know how to use spring compressors, Google it!

Tip: The kit itself does not come with new top hats so in this case I just used my original top hats as a temporary setup until I get some adjustable camber plates.

Step 9: Once you assemble your strut, apply the anti-seizing lube onto the knuckle spreading area where the strut sits. It just makes your life easier if you want to take it out or if you want to adjust something.

Step 10: Use the knuckle spreading tool to spread the knuckle so that you can drop the strut in place. When you're fishing in the top 13mm nuts, I recommend finger-tightening one so that you can hold the strut in place. More than likely you will need to use a floor jack to raise the knuckle back up so that you can get the strut back onto the knuckle.

If you're planning on lowering your E46, get yourself a pair of shorter sway bar end links. You do not want to use the stock ones because they will bind.

Step 11: Use the 18mm knuckle bolt and thread it onto the strut

Step 12: Install the shorter anti-sway bar end link and reinstall the disconnected pieces (strut nuts and leveling sensors).

This completes the front suspension installation. Now it's time to go to the rear!

Step 13: Go to the trunk of the car and remove the interior panels and sound deadening to gain access to the rear strut nuts.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install strut bolt removal Photo 32/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Strut Bolt Removal

Step 14: Remove the 18mm bolt at the bottom of the strut. Make sure you place a floor jack underneath the knuckle for support because once you remove the top strut nuts, it will drop.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear strut nut removal Photo 33/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Strut Nut Removal

Step 15: Remove the two nuts at the top and be prepared to catch the shock.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear spring removal Photo 34/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Spring Removal

Step 15: Remove the rear spring. I used a pry bar to remove the spring. Try wiggling it up and down. Also, to make your life a little easier, make sure that your hand brake is disengaged otherwise you're going to be fighting the car.

Step 16: Transfer the top hat to the H&R coilovers. It's just a 17mm nut at the top. You will not be using the old nut. The H&R shock comes with a new nut and its own bump stop inside of the dust boot, so you will not need to transfer the OEM pieces.

Step 17: Once assembled, install the new H&R shock.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear adjuster Photo 38/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Adjuster
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear adjuster Photo 39/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Adjuster

Step 18: Install the rear spring adjuster. This part comes pre-assembled already, but you're going to need a special ring plier tool that can spread the ring apart and disassemble the adjuster.

Step 19: Once the adjuster is disassembled, you have to reassemble it onto the axle by using the floor jack to raise the entire assembly up.

Step 20: Tighten the small allen adjuster to lock it in place.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear spring Photo 40/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Spring
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install rear spring Photo 41/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install Rear Spring

Step 21: Reinstall the spring and make sure it is seated right, then you're good to go.

Tip: Pre-load everything before you tighten it otherwise the bolts may back out.

Step 22: Adjust your ride height to your preference and put on your wheels. Be sure to torque to spec!

Step 23: GET AN ALIGNMENT. I cannot stress how important it is to get an alignment once you install coilovers.

E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install Photo 45/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install
E46 BMW M3 HR springs coilover install Photo 46/46   |   E46 BMW M3 HR Springs Coilover Install

The car is sitting at 25.5 inches at the top of the rear fender arches and 25 inches at the front. Once I had the H&R coilover suspension dialed in, I went for a little fun drive. Needless to say, the performance was just as expected. The suspension kit serves its purpose, transforming the M3 into a grocery getting, track-ready car. The cornering speeds I was able to take with the upgraded suspension were well beyond expectation. It was just mind-blowing to see how much more handling was increased by a simple install. The build quality of the components is impressive, too. In my opinion, this kit strikes the perfect balance between track and street use. I couldn't be more satisfied with the setup.

I will say coilovers are not for everyone. They cater to those who want a little bit more, and have a more sophisticated peroformance vision than just a drop. Don't get us wrong; there are sacrifices that come with coilovers, primarily ride comfort and practicality, but it all boils down to what type of car enthusiast you see yourself as and how far you're willing to go to dial in that perfect ride.

Sources

Falken Tire
800-723-2553
http://www.falkentire.com
H&R
Bellingham, WA 98226
888-827-8881
http://www.hrsprings.com
Konig Wheels
Plainview, NY 11803
516-822-5700
http://www.konigwheels.com
By Ceso Bagay
4 Articles

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