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Old 10-20-2003, 09:18 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 627
I have owned a W123 wagon and still own a W124 wagon. I have also replaced rear air cells on both (the W124 relatively recently). I found that both behaved differently with bad air cells. The W123 gave a very hard ride in the rear (lacking travel) whereas the W124 became floaty and lost all damping (whilst retaining plenty of travel) which can mislead owners to believing the struts (often mistaken for "shocks") are bad. The rear struts don't act as dampers but simply as hydraulic struts or rams. Damping is performed by the movement of hydraulic fluid through small oriffices in the hydraulic connections to the air cells.

When the diaphram in the cells separating the nitrogen from the hydraulic fluid ruptures, the nitrogen escapes into the fluid causing bubbles. The fluid can now be compressed causing the loss of damping. After a longer period of time when all the nitrogen has escaped a hydraulic lock can occur causing the very hard ride I experienced in the W123. This possibly takes longer to occur in the W124 due to the air cells being mounted with the connections at the bottom which tends to prevent all of the nitrogen from eacaping from the cells. With the hydraulic connections removed from the air cells, a carefully inserted thin object will reveal whether the diaphram is intact or not.

It seems that air cells will fail after about 150,000 to 250,000km (100,000 to 150,000 miles). They are not difficult to replace although the hydraulic connections can be stubborn and it is a messy job (expect to end up wearing hydraulic oil) Believe me, with new ones fitted you will think you have a new car, the difference in ride and handling is incredible. I believe the struts on the other hand last well. Generally the only failure they suffer is an external leak.
107.023: 350SLC, 3-speed auto, icon gold, parchment MBtex (sold 2012 after 29 years ownership).
107.026: 500SLC, 4-speed auto, thistle green, green velour.
124.090: 300TE, 4-speed auto, arctic white, cream-beige MBtex.
201.028: 190E 2.3 Sportline, 5-speed manual, arctic white, blue leather.
201.028: 190E 2.3, 4-speed auto, blue-black, grey MBtex.
201.034: 190E 2.3-16, 5-speed manual, blue-black, black leather.
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Old 12-15-2003, 06:09 PM
JasonUberMB's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 22
Originally posted by Michael
One way to see the cells is to get the car on a lift & trace the hydraulic lines - the spheres themselves are inside the car, though, so all you'll do is locate their hydro connection points. Inside the car, you'll need to remove the panel between the folding, rearmost seat back, and the back seat (middle row). With that panel removed, the spheres are right there (I replaced mine about a month ago). Essentially, the cells are inline with the shocks, but more inboard/towards the center of the car.
I'm having trouble finding the panel. There does not appear to be an access section in the carpet between third row pop up seat and back seat. Do I have to pull the carpet up? Maybe I need to fold the rear (middle) seats down, then have access to the panel?
1990 300TE
210k miles
Engine: 103.983
Chassis: 124.090
17/27 mpg
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Old 12-15-2003, 06:37 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Posts: 8,150

The carpet is glued to the sheet metal panel that comes out to expose the spheres. Held down by two screws beside the rear seat bottom and, I think, two screws in the carpet itself. Could be wrong there. May also be a screw in the center of the third seat, too.

The panel will be stuck down pretty good, be carefull removing it not to bend it. Covers the whole area between the second and third seat.

1972 220D ?? miles
1988 300E 200,012
1987 300D Turbo killed 9/25/07, 275,000 miles
1985 Volvo 740 GLE Turobodiesel 218,000
1972 280 SE 4.5 165, 000 - It runs!
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Old 12-15-2003, 07:26 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 167
These parts fail very rairly.

Very rairly.
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