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Old 01-03-2011, 09:54 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 4
300TD - Steering wheel is too big for my legs

Hello all:

My first post here, so hope we have someone can make some sense out of this.

We are shopping for a 300TD wagon W123 body. I grew up driving a 240D that I loved. So, I'm totally into the idea of a 300 as we start our family.

I test drove on 3 days ago and I couldn't fit my legs in under the steering wheel very comfortably. I get hung up getting in. I have to contort a bit to get seated. While driving I cant really get my leg on the brake without hitting my thigh on the steering wheel.

I can't remember this being an issue on the 240, but maybe I had an adjustable column, unlike the W123?

I've only read a few entries about changing the steering wheel to a smaller diameter. I'm surprised this isn't a rampant issue though! I'm only 5'11" and am thin. Were these cars designed for little german soccer moms???

This is really the ONLY issue I have with this car and I want to figure out what the consensus is for getting over this hurdle. Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:03 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: McAllen, TX
Posts: 369
did you pull the side lever on the seat to move the seat all the way down?
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:04 PM
Posts: n/a
You do know that the seat height is adjustable?
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:06 PM
sd300td's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: San Diego
Posts: 1,115
Funny, my legs are closer to the steering wheel of my 240D than they are with my 300TD. Leather seats vs. mb tex might be a small factor. My 240D has a standard transmission as well so I likely sit differently due to the clutch. You probably just need to lower the seat bottom a little bit. I'm 6'1".
1982 240 D, 308,000 - 321,127 miles (sold)
1982 300 TD,166,500 - 226,000 miles
1998 E 320, 120,000 - 144,000 miles
2005 C 230 K, 26,000 - 77,000 miles (sold)
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Old 01-04-2011, 12:48 AM
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Welcome to the forum Adam !!
As you can see we like to be very open & practical in our suggestions. It is clear that the seat height & tilt may need adjusting for you. Its all explained in the owners book.
But if you are like me, that is saved for when all else fails!!
Make sure you check out the for sale part of the forum. Members tend to have cars for sale from time to time.

Good Luck choosing a car!!!
Grumpy Old Diesel Owners Club group

I no longer question authority, I annoy authority. More effect, less effort....

1967 230-6 auto parts car. rust bucket.
1980 300D now parts car 800k miles
1984 300D 500k miles
1987 250td 160k miles English import
2001 jeep turbo diesel 130k miles
1998 jeep tdi ~ followed me home. Needs a turbo.
1968 Ford F750 truck. 6-354 diesel conversion.
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:04 AM
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Location: central Texas
Posts: 17,277
Sometimes the up / down function has not been used in 25 years.. might need to hit it underneath with a spray of PB Blaster and let it sit a while... and check to see if any lateral cable needed to work properly is connected and tight. Also good to move the seat all the way forward and clean the channel it runs in...
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Old 01-04-2011, 03:51 AM
Stretch's Avatar
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I don't have the part numbers (yet) but you can find different (original) diameter steering wheels that look the same. I think some W124 ones were smaller in diameter - as were some of the later W126 ones. I've gleaned my information from asking a slightly different question here:-

Was there ever a leather steering wheel option for a W123?

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1992 W201 190E 1.8 171,000 km - Daily driver
1981 W123 300D ~ 100,000 miles / 160,000 km - project car stripped to the bone
1965 Land Rover Series 2a Station Wagon CIS recovery therapy!

Don't leave that there - I'll take it to bits!
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:03 AM
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Getting there...

Great input all. I DID adjust the height of the seat using the left side pull-up handle. It was not really a "smooth" adjustment but we did get the seat to move forward (up) and back (down). I'm pretty certain we got it all the way down, but still needed some room. It's *possible* that there was another inch or so it could have travelled backwards along the channel, but I don't think that would give us the 1-2" clearance (down) our knees were looking for.

I guess I was looking for a "yeah, the clearance for your legs on W123's was teeny." The gentleman selling the wagon doesn't have this issue driving the car, but he's a few inches shorter than I am. I guess I'm still surprised and am stuck on the idea that there may be something wrong with the adjustment.

Good info on the steering wheels! I'll pursue that path as well.
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:11 AM
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I guess I'll ask the impolite question, How does the size of your legs today compare to what they were when you were driving the 240d?
1977 300d 70k--sold 08
1985 300TD 185k+
1984 307d 126k--sold 8/03
1985 409d 65k--sold 06
1984 300SD 315k--daughter's car
1979 300SD 122k--sold 2/11
1999 Fuso FG Expedition Camper
1993 GMC Sierra 6.5 TD 4x4
1982 Bluebird Wanderlodge CAT 3208--Sold 2/13
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:22 AM
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Location: Mount Holly, NC
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some seats rise up in the front, and some have a good rounded area that drop down. perhaps you were in a different style seat in the 240?
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1987 190D 2.5Turbo
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1987 300TD
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Old 01-04-2011, 11:24 AM
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Being 6ft 4ins and a very large guy, legroom is an ongoing issue for me in everything except an S-class.

One or both of the adjustments on the seat isn't moving to the lowest/rearmost possible setting for you. I had the exact same experience with the first two w123s I test drove, many years ago--and thus ended up buying a w116.

Actually, even a third of an inch of seat travel means more than you might think to how you feel behind the wheel. At your height you should have plenty of leg room in a w123.

If the family that had the car never used the full range of the seat adjustment, it's likely either crudded up or has an obstruction such as a small coin jammed at the back of the rail.

What year is this car, and what year was the 240d? W123 seats did change over the model run. I find that I FEEL like I have less room in my '85, than in the '80. But it isn't a problematic difference....

Regardless, keep working it. You will fit

2002 e320 4matic estate│1985 300d│1980 300td
Previous: 1979 & 1982 & 1983 300sd │ 1982 240d

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Old 01-04-2011, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by kerry View Post
I guess I'll ask the impolite question, How does the size of your legs today compare to what they were when you were driving the 240d?
Fair question. I've been 5'11" for some time now, and I haven't put on any thigh weight

I may go back over and see if the channel is, in fact, crudded up with a coin or a happy meal toy.

The Wagon is a 1985. My 240D was a '81. One difference MAY also be that the gentleman installed some sort of column or pipes around the springs at the front of the seat which are supposed to keep the front of the seat firm. Apparently the springs would tend to get soft over time. Perhaps my 240D had this issue and even gave me a bit more room?
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Old 01-04-2011, 02:50 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,179
The difference in wheel clearance in my '84 and '85 is noticeable. Then again, the '84 had broken springs and the '85 has the foam inserts in the front corners of the lower spring.

i think I may take those foam inserts out and see how well the seat fits me. I am 5'10", 210lbs. My thighs aren't small, but I'm not thundering around. I also can't see my blinkers.

i think my seat is all the way down, the rear looks to be into the carpet. I need to spend a hour or so checking into it. I know the slide rails are dirty, but both the up/down and back/forward motions work well.
'85 300TD "Puff The Magic Wagon" - On the road again!
'95 E300d - 110K Looking for a new home
'15 Volvo XC70 T6 - Wife's sled
'84 300TD "Brown Betty" - Miss this one
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:00 PM
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85 300D 4spd+tow+h4
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FWIW the w124 only had adjustable column in the 87. My 91 does not. I am 6-2 and never had a problem with leg clearance. With the seat all the way down and all the way back I had to stretch to push the pedals down all the way,
1987 300D Sturmmachine
1991 300D Nearly Perfect
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1995 E320 Touring
2001 Eurovan FOR SALE
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Old 01-05-2011, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by winmutt View Post
With the seat all the way down and all the way back I had to stretch to push the pedals down all the way,
Yeah, I found that I could kick the seat WAAAYYY back and have no problem with the steering wheel, but I wasn't able to reach the pedals easily. Not safe.

I'm hoping there was a simple obstruction on the rail. If not, I'm guessing the seat may be jacked up a bit from the mod.
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