The car is currently handling quite poorly again. I have a lot of play in the steering and it feels, unfortunately, like the control arm bushes at the front are wearing out again.
Control arms - I think I have now learnt that the cheapest option is not always the best option. I have read people saying that you should use OEM quality parts for the control arms else you will end up changing them much sooner than expected. This seems to be the case as I have fitted the low cost option twice now since the new year (only four months ago!) and am in need of replacements already.
So I am going to change them and use OEM Lemforder parts this time, which cost a bit more but will hopefully sort this problem out.
Steering play - since having it back from the garage with new control arms (related or not I am unsure) the steering has become progressively worse. I now have about +/- 10 degrees of free movement before anything makes contact and starts moving. This is far from ideal, especially on the motorway where the car is free to wander in the limits of the free play, resulting in much correction with becomes tiresome and dangerous.
These cars have a steering box, as opposed to a more usual steering rack, which contains a recirculating ball mechanism. There is an adjustment screw handily provided on top of the box, suggesting adjustment is not unusual at some point in its life.
Thanks to a little guidance from BMW E34 Net I was able to adjust the box tonight, finally.
The job was very straightforward; you just locate the adjustment screw, which is quite obvious on top of the box as a threaded stud with a hex hole in it (for a Hex Key) and a locking nut around it. You undo the locking nut to release the stud, then with a hex key (Allen key) turn the stud to adjust the box.
In my case, I turned it one full turn in (clockwise), against the advice on E34 Net, as mine seemed very loose. Nipped the lock nut back off and drove round the block. The steering was much tighter! Very delightful, but perhaps a bit too tight, as it did not self centre. I had to put it back in the centre by pushing it.
So I just turned the adjustment stud back 1/4 of a turn, tried again, still a bit tight, another 1/4 turn back, stil a little tight, another 1/8 and perfect.
The steering now feels much better. The proper test will be driving on the motorway tomorrow. Hoping it will be like a normal car again, albeit with worn bushes, so I am not expecting it to be perfect.
But if it is a lot better, i.e. no steering play, then with new OEM bushes it should be back to the 'ultimate driving machine'!