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'03 SL500
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Discussion Starter #1
Over the last couple of years there have been countless threads outlining ABC failure either at a strut level or complete system meltdown. Opinions get thrown around, engineers get flamed and the topic of converting the ABC system to a standard coilover suspension gets mentioned, acclaimed but never fully explored. Everyone always talks about someone who knows someone who has done the conversion but no questions are ever answered.

My car is a '03 SL500. I have been running coilovers for 5000 miles now so I'll answer any questions once and for all and let's see if we can make a sticky out this thread for future reference.

First of all, let's start with the ABC system.
Yes, it will fail. There are no "if's" but rather "when". The design isn't particularly brilliant and the pressure generated by the hydraulic fluid far exceeds what the seals on the struts and the pump are designed to handle. Hence once it fails, if fails massively. Furthermore, replacing all 4 struts, pump, block and lines will not only exceed the cost of a used SL in today's market, but it will inevitably also fail.

Where do you get the conversion kit?
StrutMasters SL500 Kits
There are two kits available.
The first is the Coilover system for $1595.
For an extra $200 you get a light fix module. The module is a series of resistors that will block the warning from the ABC sensors to the Comand system. That way rather than a flashing red warning that you cannot disable, you simply get a "Warning: ABC Display Malfunction" message that you can click through. Considering Mercedes charges over $2000 for each hydraulic strut, do yourself the favor and get the light fix module.

Do I need to modify anything?
No. The kit is a direct bolt on. They include the hardware to cap off the ABC lines at the struts. Other than that the coilovers mount at the same points your original suspension does.

Is there a kit available for my 55/600/63/65?
Unfortunately there aren't any kits available out there for the different R230 versions.

Is there a sway bar available?
If anyone has it, I have yet to find it. Would the car ride better with one? Absolutely. Does it ride well enough for me not to care? Absolutely.

How does it ride?
Let's start off the bat and say it: coilovers will never ride as smooth as a hydraulic suspension.
Once the ABC is off, you begin to realize just how heavy the chassis is.
The ride is tight but comfortable. The rebound on the coilovers is noticeable but not unlike an E500. All in all, it makes for a comfortable ride that is predictable under hard driving.
I have driven the car from New York City to Arizona with no trouble whatsoever and have logged on over 5K miles as of today.

Do i have a need to keep the ABC/Power Steering Pump?
The R230 has a tandem pump that operates both the ABC and the Power Steering system. A new pump is $1360 from Genuine Mercedes and even a used specimen will fetch upwards of $700 at a junkyard.
Luckily for you, once the conversion is completed there is no need for a tandem pump anymore.
I sourced a power steering pump from a 2001 S500 without ABC for less than $100 (any year W220 without ABC should do it).
Two out of the three mounting bolts line up perfectly and the stock lines from your R230 can be rerouted with minimal work.
Extra bonus: You get to use regular power steering fluid from Autozone or Walmart rather than having to track down CHF 11S at $30 a liter.

So there it is.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask away and I will do my best to answer.
 

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2004 SL500, 2014 C350 Sport
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236 Posts
How about an update. I just got the Strutmasters' kit and have yet to install it. VVK-USA apparently has a kit with sway bars. Writing them, they will sell the sway bars separately for about $1000.
 

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2002 SL500
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19 Posts
The link from first post is dead. Where can I buy the set?
I have a friend who installed a few years ago to his SL500 R230 coilovers set of mixed w211, r230 (SL350) and bilstein suspension parts. Runs great with sway bars for budget about USD1200.
 

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99 E320 4matic Wagon, 2003 c320 4matic wagon, 2004 CLK 55 AMG Convertible
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38 Posts
Seyath-
You have me sold. Price is way down to $1500 including the error fixer. If still true that Arnot buys cores, this is a no brainer is except - are you still running on them and still happy?????
 

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Current: '07 SL550, '06 ML350 - Past: '99 ML320 (Sold), '98 SLK230 (Wrecked), 05 SL500 (Wrecked)
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381 Posts
Seyath-
You have me sold. Price is way down to $1500 including the error fixer. If still true that Arnot buys cores, this is a no brainer is except - are you still running on them and still happy?????
Seyath, the original poster hasn't been around for the last 6 years. He only posted twice on this forum, then disappeared.

FWIW, IF you're dead set on doing the conversion, do yourselves a favor and do it right, with sway bars.

Without them your car may well work fine in a straight line, but not in a turn at any speeds above 10 mph. It will dip into the turn to the point of nearly scraping your side. Plus I'm not sure how safe it will be in a panic stop, with the nose dipping under the other car.
 

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99 E320 4matic Wagon, 2003 c320 4matic wagon, 2004 CLK 55 AMG Convertible
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38 Posts
Thank you Dudeman. Appreciate the sound advice. One of my rear lines blew rather explosively and getting the line out after 15 hours of hard labor was truly impossible without a lift. I see the conversion my only alternative. I can sell the struts for $1200 and the tandem pump for $700, netting $200. The pump was required because the line blew and the conversion kit requires good lines to use their end caps. Strut masters is dead set against sway bars for some reason and states they
 

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2004 SL500, 2014 C350 Sport
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236 Posts
VVK-USA offers a complete delete kit, including a new power steering pump, sway bars, and adjustable coil-overs for about $3900. Send Arnott your old struts for $300 ea (that's $1200 for those without a calculator), so your net cost is $2700 (plus labor).
 
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