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95maxrider Reader
1/2/19 4:34 p.m.

I need to replace the bearings for the rear shock bolt holes, but none of my tools can get the circlip out.  These are on my E36 M3 and are some off-road Bilsteins that a guy custom made for my car, but I can no longer contact him to ask questions.  I tried flathead screw drivers, but none are small enough AND strong enough.  I broke one of my HF picks trying to get it out too.  I own a circlip removal kit, but that only works on larger ones that have the holes.  This circlip has almost nothing to grab onto, and I'm now at a loss as to how I get it out.  There's one on each side of the shock.  Can anyone point me in the direction of a tool or technique that will get these out?

Here's what I'm dealing with:


Any help would be greatly appreciated!  And hey, if you have any good ideas about how I can keep dirt out of these things, let me know!

iceracer UltimaDork
1/2/19 4:47 p.m.

there are circlip pliers, however a small screwdriver to ply one end out then follow around.   QED

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
1/2/19 5:13 p.m.

See if you can get it to rotate with a punch and hammer.  Once its not wedged in with rust or dirt, you should be able to pry it from the pointed end enough to get another screwdriver behind it, then pry it out and work around.

Those snap rings can be the devil.

Ranger50 UltimaDork
1/2/19 5:17 p.m.

Rotate the clip around to break it free from rust and gunk. Small screwdriver behind the one end and pull it out to expose a small opening behind the clip. Another screwdriver in that gap and work around...

rslifkin UltraDork
1/2/19 5:26 p.m.

I did this on a pair of Bilstein 7100s a couple months ago.  Wear safety glasses.  I used an awl and a flathead screwdriver and was able to get them out.  Broke one IIRC and was able to peel the others out.  Only sent one flying, I think. 

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
1/2/19 5:46 p.m.

Start with some PB Blaster.

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
1/2/19 5:50 p.m.

After spending 2 hours scouring the shop floor, check the insulation in the ceiling. That’s where it is.

RevRico UberDork
1/2/19 5:52 p.m.

Hydraulic press is pretty good at getting them out

dean1484 MegaDork
1/2/19 6:05 p.m.

I have a set of picks. Kind of like automotive dental tools. I actually don’t free them up first as I don’t want them sliding around as I try to get the pick behind it.  Also with them stuck a bit they tend not to go flying as far.  You will need three hands or a vice.  Eye protection is also a very good thing. 

grover HalfDork
1/2/19 7:26 p.m.

Wouldn’t a snap ring tool work? 

Brotus7 HalfDork
1/2/19 7:55 p.m.

Agree with the above - first step is to break it free so it can spin.  Once you can spin it, then picks are your friend.  If you can't spin it with a couple light taps of a hammer and punch, you need to keep working at it.  You might consider a couple of whacks pushing it back, into the bearing to help break it free.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
1/2/19 8:17 p.m.

In reply to grover :

No, there's nothing to grab on to with a snap ring tool.  You have to get behind that angled part of one of the ends.  I use a little screwdriver and a hammer to get it started, then another little screwdriver to get between the ring and the groove and work my way around it.  

TurnerX19 New Reader
1/2/19 11:39 p.m.

Be prepared to sacrifice good quality screw drivers for this. Harbor Fright picks are no where near strong enough. I have used modified Snap on screw drivers and had to re-shape the tips repeatedly. Be persistent. 

joeg1982 New Reader
1/3/19 4:45 a.m.

Definitely Kroil it up first.

95maxrider Reader
1/3/19 7:18 a.m.

Sorry for my delayed response, I'm not getting email notifications for this thread!  Shouldn't I automatically get an email for a topic I'm subscribed to?

So yeah, I should have mentioned that the first thing I did was clean the area up with a wire brush, and then doused it in Kroil a few times.  I was unable to rotate the circlip with a hammer and chisel/punch tool, so maybe I need to do more cleaning and more Kroil before proceeding.  I do have a HF 20 ton press, but I don't want to ruin the shock body by trying to press the circlip out, that just seems like a bad idea.

I don't own any awls, so I just threw some in my Amazon cart, along with a stronger looking set of picks.  And I'll be sure to wear some eye protection when I get back to the project!  I feel better knowing that these things are a known PITA.  Nothing like an excuse to have to buy new tools!

stafford1500 HalfDork
1/3/19 8:58 a.m.

When you get it out, look into replacing the circlips with Spiralocks. Way easier to fit/remove, but just as durable.

ChasH New Reader
1/3/19 8:58 a.m.

If your new tools don't get the ring out, take the shocks to a machine shop and have a small "window" cut into the retaining lip so you can get a tool behind the ring. Look at an engine piston for an example.

95maxrider Reader
1/3/19 10:04 a.m.
stafford1500 said:

When you get it out, look into replacing the circlips with Spiralocks. Way easier to fit/remove, but just as durable.

When I Google that, I get a bunch of results for things for dreadlocks.  Got a link?

Brotus7 HalfDork
1/3/19 10:08 a.m.

Look under internal spiral retaining ring.


Brotus7 HalfDork
1/3/19 10:09 a.m.
95maxrider Reader
1/3/19 11:08 a.m.
Brotus7 said:

Better link: https://www.mcmaster.com/92602a150

Great, thank you!  What makes them easier to remove than a normal circlip?

EvanB MegaDork
1/3/19 11:25 a.m.

They are thinner material but coiled around more times so they are easier to compress. 

93gsxturbo SuperDork
1/3/19 1:33 p.m.

I have blown spiralocks out in an application that requires decent thrust loading (HPOP in 7.3 Diesel), don't buy the line that they are comparable to conventional single piece lock rings.  

But yeah the gist of it is good picks (Snap-On), patience, maybe a small screwdriver.  

I had one that was really messing with me and I used a tiny bit to drill a hole behind it so I could press it out with a really small pin punch.  

stafford1500 HalfDork
1/3/19 2:22 p.m.
95maxrider said:
Brotus7 said:

Better link: https://www.mcmaster.com/92602a150

Great, thank you!  What makes them easier to remove than a normal circlip?

Glad to see someone else gave you a link. Here is a link to the original supplier for details

noddaz SuperDork
1/3/19 8:22 p.m.

A bunch of great ideas here.  Also try to slightly press the bearing in one direction.  Just enough to unload the pressure between the bearing and the snap ring on one side.

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