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Old 01-11-2003, 07:27 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 8
Question 560SEL won't steer straight - help please

My 1986 560SEL has 160,000 miles. Is in great shape but have a frustrating problem. It follows the crown of the road too easily and I am always fighting with the steering wheel to stay on the road. It will pull in either direction. On a flat road it does seem to run pretty stright. A real PIA.

It has brand new Michelins - V rated XGVA4+ - stock size. Have had the wheel alignment done twice. The steering otherwise feels tight and responsive, not sloppy.

About a year ago the MB dealer said it needed a front end re-build before they could do an alignment. Anyone I asked said MB was nuts - everything looked good. Now I am thinking MB was right!

Thanks in advance for any insight!

PS - the new Michelins are a huge improvement from the Pirelli P3000s. Like a new car.

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Old 01-12-2003, 08:22 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 766
At that mileage, and given your description of the behavior, I'd wonder about one or both ball joints and/or the steering box. Locally, one ball joint on my 560sl was quoted about $225 (parts & labor), and the steering box about $1200 or so. The ball joints are no-maintenance but not everlasting.
Craig Bethune

'97 SL500, 40th anniversary edition

'04 Olds Bravada (SWMBO's)
'06 Lexus ES330
'89 560SL (sold)

SL--Anything else is just a Mercedes.
(Kudos to whoever said it first)
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Old 01-12-2003, 10:22 AM
Posts: n/a
Although it could be many things, the first thing that came to mind was idler arm bushings.

Good luck,
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Old 01-12-2003, 11:34 AM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
A very common overlooked cause of your symptom is an overtightened gearbox or a frozen ball joint. It has to be quite out of alignment to get such a symptom otherwise. Really wore out cars can be made to track well if aligned and nothing is binding.

The problem with the overtightened gear box is that the tech is looking for something different altogether. At the wheel its hard to feel an overtightened box. The ability to overtighten is the reason MB says the adjustment has to be made on the bench (and is the reason I never take out the last bit of play while correcting on the car. The way they drive overtightened is the worse driving experience the front end can deliver.
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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Old 01-13-2003, 08:20 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 8
Thanks very much to all of you for the input.
Much appreciated. Will see how it works out.
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Old 01-13-2003, 08:45 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: oregon
Posts: 2,013
rebuilt both my SE and SD front ends this summer parts are small cost and as did work myself was well worth the effort. There are some good independent front end shops in nearly every city. would ask around , rubber parts on 17 year old car are not what they used to be . Larry is right about idler arm bushings.when I did front end on SE did not do them but found out that it was not quiet right on test drive,did them and took care of the minor nuance.I belive that it is wise to always do the simplest possible first.......
William Rogers......
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Old 01-20-2003, 12:54 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 8
Dear Steve and all,
Thanks again for all your help on this posting.
With the help on my tech, we did some work on the front end Friday in an effort to get it to stay on the road.
He first replaced the very badly worn steering damper, which did not have any effect. We then replaced the steering fluid and filter. The fluid was a little low and old, and the filter was definitely past due for changing. When my tech said this would help - I was skeptical to say the least. To my surprise it made a significant difference to the overall feel and has reduced the overall tendancy for the car to float all over the road. It did not fix it perfectly but I would say it is 60-70% better.
One of the ball joints did have a cracked boot so I assume we will tackle this and the idler arm bushings one day soon it I keep the car for a while longer. (always on the lookout for the right W140 S500!)
Thanks again,

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