BMW E34 5-Series 525i or 535i Drive Shaft Removal and Re-Installation

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On the 1989 and 1990 model year 525i or the two 535i cars that I was analyzing, before I could remove the drive shaft, I needed to get the exhaust and the main heat shield out of the way.

The drive shaft ends at what I might describe as a rubber donut about 4 inches in diameter.  Through the rear end flange of the drive shaft, six bolts go through the donut and through the front flange of the rear carrier.  The rear end of the bolts have 13 mm nuts.  To access these nuts, there is a space large enough to get a wrench into.  A Craftsman ratcheting ring wrench worked well for me.  The lower three nuts were easy to access.  They were viable to remove only because the handbrake was on and / or the transmission was in “park.”  Otherwise, the drive shaft would have turned as I tried to remove the bolts.

A really, really bad idea (that a professional mechanic did on one of my cars) is to instead immobilize the drive shaft by gripping it with a vice or a massive Vice Grip type of thing.  This makes the part go out of round, which greatly reduces its strength.

After you have removed the lower three nuts, you have the opportunity to get up and go take the car out of park and /or release the handbrake.  This is also an opportunity for you to hit your head on the rear door that you shouldn’t have left open in the first place.

With the drive shaft free to rotate, duck back underneath the car, rotate it so that the remaining nuts are accessible, and then come back up to put the car in park and/or engage the handbrake.

Then, down you go and you can remove the remaining three nuts.

Next, you scoot towards the center bearing, and you use a 13 mm socket to remove the carrier. At this point the drive shaft can be persuaded to bend into a V shape, enough to make the six bolts pull loose from the rear carrier.

Removing the front flange is a bit more tricky, with the transmission mount generally being in the way. Removing it isn’t guaranteed to make the transmission fall on your head, because the transmission is attached to the engine and that is supposedly held in place by engine mounts, but even so you can probably imagine what you’re doing as to the center of gravity of the assembly, when you remove the transmission mount.

I have yet to flat-tow an E34 automatic car for long distances, but whenever I end up doing this, I plan to remove the drive shaft so that the transmission doesn’t turn.  As tasks go, it’s fairly simple.  The more-challenging aspect involves first removing the exhaust.  This tends to involve rusted fasteners, and after the exhaust has been removed, there is the question of where to put it.  Putting it right back on hangers isn’t a terrible idea, though.

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