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Old 02-02-2003, 03:06 PM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 1,472
Checking tie rods, etc. (124)

Can anyone offer up a procedure for checking the tie rods, drag link, etc.? I've received two different assessments of the condition of the steering gear (the shop I was going to have do the work said they were okay), and I would like to be able to monitor the situation, if possible.

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Old 02-02-2003, 04:32 PM
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There's no MB majic here. It is no different than checking steering components on any other car.

Get it up in the air and use the three P's, Push, Pull and Pry. Just move everything around and look for components that have slack.

Good luck,
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Old 02-02-2003, 06:22 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Posts: 1,006
Ditto what Larry said.

When you push and pull on the wheels at 3 & 9 o'clock feel for looseness. If there is, look for loose joints at the tie rods and drag link. When its bad you'll see them "hop" up and down because the ball joint is loose in its socket. If the boots are busted on any of the ends I'd replaced the entire assembly (some will suggest replacing only the boot or only the end under some circumstances).

In extreme cases, the linkage may tight but one or more of the ball joint studs may be bent if the vehicle has had any sort of accident, etc. In this case, the ball joint stud may act as an eccentric cam and the toe setting may change after an alignment.

If you have doubts, you can replace everything. The tie rods are about $38/ea, the drag link $48-64, &idler arm repair kit is about $28-50. Changing those parts requires alignment.

What makes you think the steering gear needs replacement? Generally they last the lift of the car unless it was overtightened to have < 10 mm play at one point. If its too loose, there is an adjustment. Some shops change one part at a time to keep you coming back.
Brian Toscano
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Old 02-02-2003, 09:38 PM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 1,472
Larry and Brian,

Thanks for the replies. The history on this is that I brought the car into a "new" shop (regular shop was backlogged) to fix a check engine light and resolve a compaint about unusual tire wear. The tire wear turned out to be a belt separation, but the tech came back and said that the whole steering setup was shot. He estimated between 2 and 3mm of play at the joints. Since the car would have to be out of service for longer than I could leave it, I took it back and had my regular mechanic look at it a couple weeks later. He didn't notice any significant play in the front end.

Will try to get the front end up in the air tonight. A quick visual inspection showed that at least one boot has split around the circumference of the joint and lost most of its grease. It sounds like this pretty much condemns the joint?

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Old 02-03-2003, 11:41 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Mass
Posts: 1,127
A torn boot condemns the joint. Even if you could replace the boot, it would be impossible to get it really clean, and for the labor involved, why bother.

One caution on checking the [suspension] balljoints:
If the car is in the air with no weight on the wheels, play in the balljoints will be masked because the springs will have them under load.
The fully appreciate play in the balljoints, support car with jackstands under the control arms, then grasp and rock wheels at 12 and 6 o'clock.

For checking for play in steering components, I find it helpful to lift just one wheel at a time, then grasp and rock the lifted wheel at 3 and 6 o'clock.
{observe caution and common sense- steering with one wheel on ground could potentially tip car off of stand or jack}
1986 300E 5-Speed 240k mi.
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Old 02-03-2003, 02:12 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 3,097
On an old 240D that we had, it was very obvious that left front ball joint was bad. Going over rutted and bumpy roads it seemed like the front end was going to fall apart. But then, not knowing how to test, I would shake the wheel while on the ground and it didn't seem to have a problem.

The boot was almost completely gone. I replace the upper with a new one from MBZ. The change was wonderful. Smooth, no slack!

I still have the old one. It is mounted in the upper control arm. I used a buffer wheel and cleaned back to its shiny aluminum original state. It is fun to look at, mess with and show what a ball joint is.

What is really remarkable to me is, yes it is loose in its "socket" but not that loose. I can move it around and find the slack, but it is less than 1/16" max movement. It seems any play will definitely be detected in the right test situation such as csnow above pointed out.

'03 E320 Wagon-Sold
'95 E320 Wagon-Went to Ex
'93 190E 2.6-Wrecked
'91 300E-Went to Ex
'65 911 Coupe (#302580)
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Old 02-03-2003, 03:02 PM
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 210
I don't think suspension parts last the life of the car.

The W202 are plaged with ball joint problems. I had to have them changed at every service interval.
1997 Silver AMG C36
OEM Advantegarde Grille
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W210 Blinking mirrors
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Old 02-12-2003, 01:17 AM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 1,472
Thanks everyone for the replies. Took the car in yesterday to have it all done, tie rods, center link, and idler arm. Steering was noticeably more precise driving home, and hopefully this will make the car loads easier to deal with in the wind.

I'll be bookmarking this one for the next car.

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