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2005 c230 Sport Sedan
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I just finished strut-shock replacement on my 2005 C230 using the Bilstein TC (Touring) struts. Thought I'd share a few notes my experience for those who are contemplating suspension repairs with non-stock components.

What did I replace?
* Bilstein TC front struts
* Corteco front strut mounts
* Lemfoerder upper control arms (torque struts)
* Lemfoerder sway bar links
* Bilstein TC rear shocks

Installation Notes:

Rear shocks
* The hardest part was removing the trunk liner. Many pieces, take your time.
* When tightening the top bolt, I suggest tighten until the top washer hits the internal sleeve (you will feel it), then give it another 1/4 turn to lock it tight. You can use a torque wrench on the top bolt but not really necessary.

Front suspension
* My old strut mounts were cracked -- you could see the separation from the engine bay when the car is jacked up, so those had to be replaced.
* I also replaced the upper control arms at this time because the ball joint connection is trapped by the bottom of the strut, requiring the strut to be unbolted in order to get the upper control arm out. So better to do those both together.
* I replaced the sway bar links also because the sway bar essentially has to be removed from the car when replacing the struts (sway bar links unbolted) and upper control arms (sway bar brackets are in the way)

Bilstein TC struts:
* The Bilstein TC is a longer strut at full extension than the Sachs Boge. Evidently it can be used on both sport and non-sport suspensions. This makes mounting the top strut mount a bit easier while it's on the spring compressor (you have to compress the spring less) but a bit tighter when fitting the mounting brackets back to the steering knuckle. However this is no worse than fitting a strut assembly into the non-sport suspension, other than a small additional angle of stretching needed on the control arm bushings.
* The hole for the sway bar links is sized for the non-sport suspension so it needs to be drilled out. I used a 15/32" drill bit, but I think 12mm would be the ideal size. With a fresh drill bit this takes only a few seconds to do.

Corteco strut mounts:
* The strut mount assembly is actually three pieces:
- the spring seat, which looks like the brim of a hat
- the rubber mount, which looks like a small bundt cake
- a strut bearing which sits in between the two, shaped like a thick flat ring about 3-4" in diameter and about 1/2" thick. This bearing fits into the underside of the mount and takes the full load of the front suspension while allowing the wheel/strut assemble to turn for steering.
* The strut mounts I purchased did not include the bearing. I cannot find the bearing for sale anywhere. It is not even shown or listed as a separate part in EPC-net. I assume that when you buy the "strut bearing" assembly from the dealership you will get all three pieces. When buying aftermarket it's much cheaper but you don't get the bearing. I don't know if these ever go out ... if mine were bad (which they weren't) this would have caused me a bit of grief as I couldn't reassemble the strut without a good bearing.
* The corteco rubber mounts had a slightly different shape than the stock ones. The two prominent positioning ribs are identical to stock, but the ribs in between are in different places from stock. I thought this might cause a problem with the seating of the mount, but it appears to have settled nicely into the body pockets after a short break-in drive.
* The corteco rubber mounts were also a very tight fit onto the strut post. The small retaining ring used to hold the mount to the post while it is not on the car, was not really strong enough to pull the mount down on the post. So I used the top strut nut to do this, pulling the mount down the post a few turns at a time, alternately screwing the retaining ring down the post as I took up the slack. If I ever have to replace these struts again I'm not sure how I am going to get the strut mount off the post -- it was a really tight fit. Maybe it loosens up over time?
* That retaining ring is really small ... I am a bit amazed that it can hold the full force of the spring. I definitely recommend buying the $15 special tightening tool ... makes it a lot easier to screw and unscrew this retaining ring.

Lemfoerder upper control arms (torque struts):
* I used a scissor-type ball joint removal tool to pop the ball joints ... made a large bang (like gunshot) when they broke the seal.
* Otherwise the installation was quick and easy. Two bolts -- bushing and ball joint.
* When installing the bushing bolt after removal, keep the washers up against the mounting bracket as you feed the bolt back into the hole. If they washer is at the head of the bolt it will jam up on the chassis above it ... clearance is pretty tight.
* The bolts that were in my car were fluted. I don't think these control arms have ever been replaced, so I am surprised that my car had fluted bolts in it. Even more concerning is that the control arms were mounted in the center position. I don't think the fluted bolts should be used for the center position -- it allows you to introduce slack in the positioning of the bushing (if the flutes happen to line up with a set of tabs) and end up with the bushing slightly off center (which I think mine were). Fortunately my replacement control arms have the non-adjustable bushings, so I was able to install the control arms with no guesswork on bushing placement. Granted I won't be able to adjust caster/camber without replacing the bushing now, but my suspension doesn't seem to need it.

Sway Bar Links:
* The tightening of these bolts was a bit cumbersome because I had to hold the shaft using a torx bit while I tightening the nut. This took several minutes because I could turn the nut only 1/6 turn at a time. Not sure if it would be a good idea to turn the shaft instead, which I could have done, but I didn't want to harm the ball joint.

The Ride:
* It took ten minutes or so of driving for the strut mounts to fully seat. During this time there was an occasional squeaking every time I turned or hit a bump. All gone after a short while.
* The Bilstein Touring Class is noticably firmer than the Sachs-Boge stock. It seems that both compression and rebound are damped more (as opposed to the Konis I installed on my son' Honda which seem to have little compression damping), which gives it a really sporty feel without being rough. The car is very smooth on smooth roads -- no "wavering" as I had with a prior experience with HD shocks on my BMW 540.
* If the Bilstein TC is this much firmer than stock, I am wondering how stiff HD would feel. I read on another thread that the TCs will soften up over time, so am I feeling HD stiffness right now when the shocks are new?
* I had a knocking sound coming from the front suspension when braking ... that is gone now.
* The suspension seems more solid overall now. I'm thinking each component I replaced had a little to do with the looseness in the suspension -- so I am glad that I replaced them all.

Sorry I have no pictures. This being my first time though and doing it myself, I had no idea now long it would take, and at some points it got pretty stressful, especially working with the spring compressor. So taking photos or videos was the last thing on my mind.

Time investment? As usually, doing the first of anything takes time as you have to learn how things are put together and figure out the best way to do a task. I would estimate the following time spent on this.

* Rear:
- trunk liner remove/replace - 2 hrs
- first shock - 2 hrs
- second shock - 1 hr

* Front:
- first strut/control arm/sway link - 5 hrs
- second strut/control arm/sway link - 2 hrs

Next steps:
* I did not replace the sway bar bushings as these are 22mm sway bars and I can't find them online. I may have to pick this up from the dealership.

* Lower control arms -- these can be replaced without unbolting strut or sway bar, so I deferred them until later.

* Alignment -- I am doing this myself. Without the need to adjust caster/camber, only toe-in adjustment is needed. It's very easy to tape measure distance between tires at points in front and back of tires from underneath the car, and a simple trig calculation says the rear measurement should be 1/16 to 1/8" more than the front. Make sure you adjust the correct tie rods to keep the steering wheel centered, and make sure the car drives well afterwards. Sometimes I have to adjust two or three times to get it feeling just right.

-- John
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Would you mind posting / linking to pics? Pics of the install would be best, but at the very least B&A pics....
Sorry -- I had intended to take pics and videos, especially of the disassembly of the strut assembly, but my son wasn't home with me that day so nobody around to help document the event. And unfortunately B&A pics look the same other than the cleanliness of the new parts.

If anyone is planning to do this and has specific questions, I can provide very specific information on any aspect of this job or the parts and tools involved.

Fyi, the strut compressor I used was this type:



-- John
 

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2002 C230 Coupe Strut Replacement

Thanks for the very informative and detailed posting; well-timed, too! The right front strut in my Coupe has been rattling for sometime now. The dealer indicated it is merely noisy and safety is not compromised. If you don't mind me asking, what did the parts cost you? Here's the parts list I was given:
Strut, 203 320 67 30 (x2)
Hardware kit, 203 320 00 56 (x2)
Strut bearing (mount), 203 320 02 73 (x2)

The dealer is quoting me a 4.7 hour job for both strut replacements only. I was told also that alignment would be between $85-300, depending if the camber kits need to be replaced.

Thanks,
Cliff
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Struts:
* the Sachs-Boge originals cost around $180-200 online, and retail they are around $240. I put Bilstein TCs on my car -- they are about half that price ($95 online)

Mount kit: $25 per kit ... pretty expensive for a bolt and a few washers and nuts. But I figure the original price of the car, and the cost of susequent repairs, justifies the expensive hardware. Plus peace of mind. The kits I received were bagged with a Mercedes label, so I assume the same that the dealership gets.

Strut Mount: I bought mine online and they were labelled Corteco brand, got them for $43 each, but they did not include the bearing. I see the Meyle brand online that looks like it includes the bearing (white ring on the underside of the top piece) for $70-80. I would expect this to cost $80-100 from the dealership, but it should include the bearing.

It took me about 8 hours total, but I took my time as I had never done this before, AND I replaced the upper control arms and sway bar links at the same time (and removing upper control arms requires removing the sway bar brackets). If I were to do this routinely and only replace the strut and strut mount, I could see it taking no more than 1-2 hours per side if I am working carefully. 4.7 hours is probably padded a bit, but a reasonable amount of time for the fronts ... there are a number of small steps that need to be done a bit slowly and carefully.

Assuming you are mechanically competent, It's all about the level of time and tool cost you are willing to invest. If you are willing to buy the tools -- including a decent strut compressor -- and take the time to work your way through it, then you will end up saving some money and owning some good tools in the process.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Fyi, I replaced the lower control arms (cross struts) this past weekend. I would like to note two things:

1) The bushings on the lowers look very different from those on the uppers. (see pics) These appear to be solid rubber, not oil filled, are shaped like two crescents with a bit of space in between them at top and bottom, and are very stiff. I guess this correlates to the fact that the lower arms are made of steel vs aluminum for the uppers -- they must have to sustain a lot more force, e.g. cornering.

2) The rubber in these used control arms (7 yrs old, 100k miles) is still very stiff. Using the handle of my 1/2" ratchet stuck halfway through the bolt hole as a lever I could barely budge the inner core of the bushing, less than a millimeter. But after installation of the new control arms, there was a pulsing sensation I felt whenever braking to a stop that disappeared. So while these bushings feel very stiff to the touch that may not be an indicator as to whether or not they are still good.



 

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FLUTED OR THE PLAIN ROUND BOLTS FOR LCA

I
Installation Notes:

* The bolts that were in my car were fluted. I don't think these control arms have ever been replaced, so I am surprised that my car had fluted bolts in it. Even more concerning is that the control arms were mounted in the center position. I don't think the fluted bolts should be used for the center position -- it allows you to introduce slack in the positioning of the bushing (if the flutes happen to line up with a set of tabs) and end up with the bushing slightly off center (which I think mine were). Fortunately my replacement control arms have the non-adjustable bushings, so I was able to install the control arms with no guesswork on bushing placement. Granted I won't be able to adjust caster/camber without replacing the bushing now, but my suspension doesn't seem to need it.


-- John
Regarding type of UCA/LCA bolts installed, fluted or plain round, I intend on replacing my LCAs and have no idea what type of bolts are installed. Have not experienced any uneven tire wear or alignment issues since purchased in 04, and I assume an alignment was not done or needed by the original owner as the car would have been only two years old. I plan on replacing the bolts (and nuts) and since I don’t know what type are installed, looks like I will need to buy both types of bolts or would it be okay/prudent to buy just the fluted type? Believe I read on this forum that they can be inserted down the middle of the bushing just like a round bolt. Recommendations much appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hi,

I don't know that you need to buy new bolts at all ... the existing ones should still be fine. But if you are going to buy a set, buy the fluted bolts. Although they have the grooves, you can put them in the center position with a little care. And, once you torque down the nut the flutes don't matter anymore as the bushing is held in place by the chassis mounting bracket squeezing the inner collar of the bushing, and it's not going to move.

Btw, 3.5 years later, still loving the TCs :)

-- John
 

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Thanks, John. That makes it easy. Along with the self-locking nut thought the bolts needed to be replaced too. So, only need to buy or ensure two nuts (one for bushing side and other for ball joint) come with the LCA. Will purchase a set of fluted bolts just in case they are needed for alignment. If not needed, should be able to return unopened package.

I hear you regarding Bilstein TCs. I installed Bilstein C's shocks in the rear Mar 2012 and they still feel great.
Thank you
 
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