Mercedes-Benz sets 10 mm play in the steering box at the factory. 25 mm is allowed maximum. If your box was adjusted to less than 10 mm play, then all I have ever heard says it will wear very rapidly, getting uncorrectable loose, at which time you get to buy a new steering box.
I used a replaced steering box from my parts car. It has much smoother motion (the other one was 'gritty' by comparison). When measuring the play, what happens at the far left or far right is not important. Set play at center and check at 20 deg left or right. I suspect mine has more play at 20 deg too, but I haven't recently checked it.
The steering box won't cause your excessive tire wear & changing it does not require an alignment or alignment check according to the service manual. Front toe-in is the very likely cause of outside tire wear.
If you get under your car and look up under the drivers side near the steering linkage you will see a large black box bolted to the frame. This is the steering box. This is near where the drives side footwell is. There is an arm, called a pitman arm that secured the drag link and left tie rod to the steering box. On the other side of the car, there will be the idler arm where the drag link and right tie rod meet at an arm that bolts to your frame. This will be near the exhaust flex pipe or cat.
If you have doubts, I would sugget having the dealer check alignment & steering box play. In my experience they seem to be the best for alignment and can also offer input into problems with the steering box. I have not yet been to an indy that can properly set front toe-in. My main problem was wind sensitivity and this was from front toe-in because of a hidden problem with the right tie rod. Steering boxes are expensive so if that's the problem probably a good idea to find a good used one.
Let us know how it turns out.
Last edited by md21722; 02-08-2003 at 07:37 AM.