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The factory strut replacement instructions say 'don't air up struts while tires can touch ground or bellows will be destroyed'. So I put new struts on and turn on the car- the compressor doesn't run at all. I press stiffer suspension setting and raise car button- still nothing. The new struts came with some air in them, so I go to see how low they are and if they don't need more air. As I lower car it is sinking to the floor again and the compressor comes on. I immediately stop the compressor, remembering the warning, and raise the car up again. So if I can't lower the car to air it up, and the compressor won't come on unless I lower the car, what am I supposed to do?
 

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2000 S430 156k (11/12)
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You need to be a little more clear on your description.
You say "So I put new struts on and turn on the car- the compressor doesn't run at all. I press stiffer suspension setting and raise car button- still nothing. The new struts came with some air in them, so I go to see how low they are and if they don't need more air. As I lower car it is sinking to the floor again and the compressor comes on."

The car should be off at this point.
Assuming you're lowering the car with a jack, should lower it to the level the car was before the replacement, around 14.5 to 15" from center cap to the bottom of the fender lip on top. Then (the compressor fuse should have been pulled prior to the replacement) put the fuse back on and start the car. You may not see a difference in the suspension height and not hear the compressor pumping. Then take the jack out and the pressure should hold.
Turn the car off at this point and wait a few minutes and start again and test higher level by pushing the raise button inside. If there is no other problem other than the struts you replaced, your car should function correctly.
If you loosened the lower spring arm from the chassis, do not fully tighten it until the full weight of the car is on the tires.
 

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Current 2017 GLE350, 2007 S550, 2002 S430, 1998 ML320 Deceased 74 240D, 92 400E, 97 E420, 13 GLK350
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Somewhere in the forum is a Blisten U-tube for airstrut replacement. The steps I have used from that U-tube are:

AIRMATIC ADJUSTMENT
1) Ensure there are no kinks or folds in the bellows of the lower struts.
2) Ensure that the bellow is extended and sits on the lower seal.
3) I raised the car with the hydraulic jack in order to remove the jack stands. Then lowered the car until the tires were firmly touching the garage floor, but not so much that the Airmatic struts were bottomed out. (The wooden block between the floor jack and the rubber jacking point helps to prevent bottoming out.) The normal ride height for my car is 15 inches vertical distance between the center wheel hub star and the bottom of the wheel well fender. I stopped lowering the car at about 13 inches.
4) With the garage door opened and well ventilated, I started the engine without getting in the car.
5) After two minutes I repressed the Ride height button to the Raise position. After a moment, the Airmatic compressor kicked in, and the car self leveled – BARELY off of the hydraulic jack.

Good Luck!
 
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