W124 front suspension is DANGEROUS - Mercedes-Benz Forum
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#1 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 04:35 PM
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W124 front suspension is DANGEROUS

I just had a lower ball joint pop loose while driving. Lucky me I was in the right lane.
Regulars here probably know about this problem..but I am still a bit shaken from the experience.

The car started to steer a bit stiff yesterday and I was going to take a look this weekend.
This type of design should be a recall since it is potentially very dangerous. Mercedes should demand that states report to them any older cars in service and have a warning sent to owners.

The front fender is damaged where the wheel hit it.
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#2 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 04:53 PM
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Refresh my memory regarding Michigan's annual safety inspection program.

You know, the one where they put the car on a lift and check things like tie rod ends, balljoints, wheel bearings, shocks, brakes, etc.

Oh wait, Michigan has no annual safety inspection at all! Well then it's up to you, the operator, to make sure that the vehicle is in safe operating condition.

That kind of problem is well known in the 124 circles (and probably other chassis circles as well). It's why MBZ calls for a lower ball joint to be replaced immediately any time the vehicle is hoisted and a torn balljoint boot is found. The only time a torn boot doesn't condemn a balljoint is when the boot is torn while the vehicle is being serviced. Then you can buy the boot separately and go your merry way.

I worked in Michigan for years and was aghast at the vehicles I saw on the road. One winter day I was traveling on I94 to the airport and saw a Ford Maverick ahead of me and the driver was wearing a ski mask and snowmobile gloves. I wondereed what was going on and cautiously passed him.

I could see his legs and feet operating the pedals through gaping rustout areas in the driver's door! No joke.

My other favorite was the Monte Carlo I saw on Telegraph Road -- the car had no hood. Okay, well, alrighty then... Welcome to Michigan. Love the Party Stores!
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#3 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 05:01 PM
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Mercedes Benz should know better than to design something that can fail this way. The engineers that designed my 240D had more common sense.
There probably isn't any excuse not to crawl under your car now and then and inspect everything and buy all new parts every few years but that is not something I have ever had to do.

There is also no excuse for designing a car suspension this way. They must have failed logical mechanical engineering 101.
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#4 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 05:09 PM
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You should see the cars on the road here in Chicago, its all about revenue and forget about safety. The safety precautions on MB are second to none well maybe someone. The winters get pretty rough in Michigan and perhaps after years of sloshing around on salt ladened roads takes toll. Sometimes your personal safety in in your own hands.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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#5 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 05:22 PM
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Mercedes Benz should know better than to design something that can fail this way....There is also no excuse for designing a car suspension this way. They must have failed logical mechanical engineering 101.
Hey, if it's that bad I'll give you $500 for the car and it won't trouble you anymore.

Had to replace my right ball joint, but the boot was torn and ball squeaking for months before I replaced it. If yours has been replaced before, it may not have been pressed in properly. Don't do it with a bench vise and socket... take it to a shop and have it pressed in with one of those 20ton thingys to make sure it seats properly.
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#6 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 05:28 PM
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If I had looked under the car and checked things this failure would not have shown unless prior knowledge of what to look for was used. As long as the spring in tensioning the ball you can't tell. Also from what I can see the boot was not torn. I suspect this car would have passed an inspection if done by someone that was not aware of problems with this model car.
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#7 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tasma View Post
Mercedes Benz should know better than to design something that can fail this way. The engineers that designed my 240D had more common sense.
There probably isn't any excuse not to crawl under your car now and then and inspect everything and buy all new parts every few years but that is not something I have ever had to do.

There is also no excuse for designing a car suspension this way. They must have failed logical mechanical engineering 101.
My 124 had 290,000 miles on the original ball joints when I replaced them last summer. One of them was making a horrible groaning noise. I think 290,000 miles (190,000 of which I put on the car driving as if it was a Maserati), is an indication of how well they did designing the suspension.

As for your 240D, they are great cars (I had a 300TDT) but not as easy to live with as a 300e. The vacuum lock diaphrams were problematic, steering boxes were prone to wear, windshield gaskets leaked water into the car and soaked the carpets, transmissions were bad - even after a rebuild (damn soft valve bodies!), and the 15 hole "Bundt" wheels were torture to keep clean. Not exactly an engineering masterpiece but a great car nonetheless.

'88 300E (330k and soon to be put down)
'89 300E
'90 300CE (the new puppy)
'91 300TE 4matic
'93 400E
'93 500E
'77 308GTB
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#8 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 06:01 PM
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Don't do it with a bench vise and socket... take it to a shop and have it pressed in with one of those 20ton thingys to make sure it seats properly.
Or buy your own:

20 Ton Shop Press - Hydraulic Shop Presses on Sale

and for the people too lazy to pump a pump lever:

Air / Hydraulic Shop Press w/ Oil Filter Crusher - 20 Ton

1988 Mercedes-Benz 300E (W124 M103 California Emissions/Controller)

: Laptop
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#9 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 06:36 PM
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Tasma,

Glad to hear you came out of it alive and thanks for the heads up on the BJs. I'll put it on the top of my list.

1990 300E. Bone stock, 165xxx miles.
3.0L/chassis 103.983/ engine 124.030/ DOB 11/1989
1996 FZJ80
1997 FZJ80
1992 SVX
1967 MGB
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#10 (permalink) Old 03-07-2012, 06:46 PM
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My 124 is 25 years old, 230,000,miles. Still on original front suspension members, well actually I'm changing them out right now. It didn't take a warning letter from MBUSA or NHTSA or the State of Georgia to tell me that the suspension parts were tired, it took common sense. If my car was a rust belt car, I would be suspicious of any undercarriage parts over 100,000mi because of the effects of road salt and potholes. My car has spent it's entire life in Georgia and Alabama so the undercar weathering is limited to a light coating of road grime that washes off with water. but after 25 years, it's a safe bet that parts are worn. It'll cost around $600 to do the front end, and will probably replace some parts that are still OK, but I'll know it should be good for another 200,000mi.
Do we wait until our Oil Level light comes on or our Oil Pressure Gauge to stop registering before we do an oil change? No we check the level weekly and change it at 3000-5000mi. or every 6 months. If we adopt the "drive it till it break"s mentality, our cars wouldn't last very long.
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