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'03 SL Kleemann, 1997 SL320 Pano Top, Tesla Model X
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661 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
We have just added the schematic shown below to our website's FAQ section http://tophydraulicsinc.com/faq.html - thought it might be useful on this forum, too.

Worried about your automatic convertible top system leaking or not functioning properly? No sweat - we can probably solve your problems together on this forum, without you having to spend big bucks. If you don't find the solution in the archived threads, start a new one or post a question in this thread! One or more of the many helpful forum members will try to give you the best answer. For new members, please remember to fill out your profile with your car's model and your general location - it makes it much easier to respond efficiently.

MOST people can remove and re-install cylinders themselves. The removal instructions linked below are very detailed, with lots of photos. If you don't have much experience, just take your time and you will get there! If nothing else, you can still show the instructions to your mechanic as a way to negotiate a lower, fixed price for cylinder removal... :)

Here are the links to the detailed removal instructions for the cylinders, and below is a low resolution copy of our diagram showing where the cylinders are located:

Front Lock Cylinders: http://tophydraulicsinc.com/R129 Front Locking Cylinder Removal.pdf
Rear (Bow Window) Latch Cylinders: http://tophydraulicsinc.com/R129 Rear Locking Cylinder Removal.pdf
Tonneau (Case) Cover Lift Cylinders: http://tophydraulicsinc.com/R129 Tonneau Cover Lift Cylinders.pdf
Case (Tonneau) Cover Lock Cylinder(s): http://tophydraulicsinc.com/R129 Tonneau Cover Lock Cylinders.pdf
Bow Extension (Window Flip) Cylinders: http://tophydraulicsinc.com/R129 Bow Extension Cylinder Removal.pdf
Main Lift Cylinders: http://tophydraulicsinc.com/R129 Main Lift Cylinder Removal.pdf

Hope this helps,

-Klaus

[email protected]

(Click on the picture below, and you will get slightly better resolution. Go to our website for a crisp image...)
 

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Registered
1997 SL500
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398 Posts
Great info! :D
 

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2002 SL500 Silver on Black
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60 Posts
:notworthy: My top is working fine, but I have already bookmarked your site for future reference, when something does break.
 

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2012 ML350 BT, 2011 E5504M, 1997 SL320
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258 Posts
I believe my Left Tonneau Cover Lift Cylinder and the Left Rear Lock cylinder are leaking. I haven't taken it to a mechanic yet, but there looks to be oil all over these parts from what I can see with a flashlight when peeling back the velvet in the trunk, which is why I am suspecting these two parts. Also the carpet in my trunk is also a bit soaked in what smells like hydraulic oil.

2 Questions:
1) Will my hardtop still be locked in place safely? I am just worried that if the cylinders aren't working, the locking mechanism won't keep it in place

2) If not the tonneau cover lift cylinder or the rear lock cylinder, are any of the other cylinders critical to locking the hardtop in place

Many thanks for your advice. I am just worried (or perhaps just paranoid) that I now hear creaks that I think the hardtop is coming loose or something.
 

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'03 SL Kleemann, 1997 SL320 Pano Top, Tesla Model X
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661 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Will the hardtop stay in place when cylinders are leaking?

I believe my Left Tonneau Cover Lift Cylinder and the Left Rear Lock cylinder are leaking. (...)

2 Questions:
1) Will my hardtop still be locked in place safely? I am just worried that if the cylinders aren't working, the locking mechanism won't keep it in place

2) If not the tonneau cover lift cylinder or the rear lock cylinder, are any of the other cylinders critical to locking the hardtop in place

Many thanks for your advice. I am just worried (or perhaps just paranoid) that I now hear creaks that I think the hardtop is coming loose or something.
dskippy888,

let me start with the good news: if your front locks are still latching all the way, then you won't be loosing the hardtop.

The hardtop is latched down by the two front locks and the two rear locks. The front locks can easily be latched manually with the soft top tool or a 6-mm Allen wrench through access holes behind the sun visors, in case you want to make absolutely sure. That procedure is covered in your owner's manual.

Here is a summary of how all the latches can be locked manually even without cylinders in place (which kind of equals leaking cylinders): http://tophydraulicsinc.com/maunuallockhardtop.pdf

Your profile does not yet show which model year you have. There is a difference in difficulty when locking down the rear, depending on model year. It's covered in detail in the guide referenced above. In a nutshell: For model years '90-'94, you can manually latch the rear locks through access holes in the trunk by using the soft top tool. For model years '95-'02, you have to move the corners of the trunk's front panel and find the emergency latch releases, or you might get lucky and be able to lock the hardtop down by pressing fairly hard on the rear corners.

Since you are now hearing something in the rear, chances are that the rear locks are not fully latched. Is the hardtop not level in the rear, or do you think there is a gap in the rear that would let rain water in? In that case, you would have one or both latches not working properly. That's because the cylinder leaks decrease the locking force of the cylinders - they cannot get the latches over the "dead spot" any more.

-Klaus

[email protected]
 

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'03 SL Kleemann, 1997 SL320 Pano Top, Tesla Model X
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661 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Inspecting cylinders and identifying the leaking ones...

I believe my Left Tonneau Cover Lift Cylinder and the Left Rear Lock cylinder are leaking. I haven't taken it to a mechanic yet, but there looks to be oil all over these parts from what I can see with a flashlight when peeling back the velvet in the trunk, which is why I am suspecting these two parts. Also the carpet in my trunk is also a bit soaked in what smells like hydraulic oil.
dskippy888,

you can inspect all cylinders yourself, if you want to save some money. Furthermore, most of them are quite easy to remove and re-install as a DIY, if you decide to do so.

The individual removal guides referenced in the first post always show where to look for the cylinder leaks. Most cylinders are mounted upright, and you only have to look for oil pooling on top of the cylinders to identify the ones that have serious leaks. For positive identification, you would have to remove the hardtop and open the tonneau cover.

However, based on our (extensive) experience, things are not looking good. On the flip side, we can take care of all cylinders in your system fairly cheaply, and make them better than new. If you have massive leaks in the trunk, then those are most likely coming from the tonneau lift and/or rear lock cylinders. Only those drain into the trunk.

Here is why I'm saying things are not looking good: Once any of the rear cylinders are leaking, this normally means that all cylinders in the rear are in poor condition, unless they have been exchanged with new ones or upgraded already. Front lock cylinders (and even rear cylinders) may already be leaking for the second time, if they were OEM replacements or rebuilt by our friendly competition. Here are the statistics: when people who have only one or two leaks in the rear send us all their cylinders, we find that on average over 85% of all seals are bad. That includes front lock cylinders, which typically fail first and may have been exchanged once already...

Hope this helps,

-Klaus

[email protected]
 

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2012 ML350 BT, 2011 E5504M, 1997 SL320
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258 Posts
dskippy888,

you can inspect all cylinders yourself, if you want to save some money. Furthermore, most of them are quite easy to remove and re-install as a DIY, if you decide to do so.

The individual removal guides referenced in the first post always show where to look for the cylinder leaks. Most cylinders are mounted upright, and you only have to look for oil pooling on top of the cylinders to identify the ones that have serious leaks. For positive identification, you would have to remove the hardtop and open the tonneau cover.

However, based on our (extensive) experience, things are not looking good. On the flip side, we can take care of all cylinders in your system fairly cheaply, and make them better than new. If you have massive leaks in the trunk, then those are most likely coming from the tonneau lift and/or rear lock cylinders. Only those drain into the trunk.

Here is why I'm saying things are not looking good: Once any of the rear cylinders are leaking, this normally means that all cylinders in the rear are in poor condition, unless they have been exchanged with new ones or upgraded already. Front lock cylinders (and even rear cylinders) may already be leaking for the second time, if they were OEM replacements or rebuilt by our friendly competition. Here are the statistics: when people who have only one or two leaks in the rear send us all their cylinders, we find that on average over 85% of all seals are bad. That includes front lock cylinders, which typically fail first and may have been exchanged once already...

Hope this helps,

-Klaus

[email protected]
Thank you both for the good advice. I would love to use your service, but I am based in Hong Kong. I wonder whether the postage of my cylinders to you guys would cost a lot of money? Are they fairly heavy?
 

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'03 SL Kleemann, 1997 SL320 Pano Top, Tesla Model X
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661 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
International shipments

Thank you both for the good advice. I would love to use your service, but I am based in Hong Kong. I wonder whether the postage of my cylinders to you guys would cost a lot of money? Are they fairly heavy?
dskippy888,

thanks for asking. We ship to Hong Kong a lot. I don't know how much it costs to ship from Hong Kong to the US, but I will tell you below how much it costs us to ship the cylinders back to you.

Your '97 has 11 hydraulic top cylinders: five cylinders in latches, and six cylinders without latches. The cylinders alone weigh less than 4 kg, and the cylinders with latches weigh some 7 kg. Based on the quality of work that we see done by many mechanics in Hong Kong, I would recommend to spend the extra few bucks on shipping, and send the five locking cylinders with their latches (rear locks, tonneau cover lock, and front locks). That way, you avoid the danger of a cheap mechanic damaging the cylinder shafts upon removal from the latches. (They usually cannot read our instructions, so they may not know what to look out for...)

We ship at our cost, and we would be happy to use your UPS or FedEx shipping account number for shipments to you. Please email or call us for more information.

In our experience, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers some of the best rates for International shipping from the US, when using their Flat Rate shipping options.
Delivery times vary by country, and the biggest variable is usually the customs office in your country.
Generally, International Priority Mail will arrive in approximately 2 weeks (usually one week to Canada and Japan, and 10 days to many European countries), and International Express Mail will arrive in one week or less (typically three days to Canada, three to five days to Europe). For current rates, please check out Postage Price Calculator.

Here are some of the most frequently used International "Flat Rate" options:
Express Mail Envelops ~$30 (we typically put your cylinder inside a box which fits into a taped-up envelope -- fits most single cylinders, except Porsche; also fits a combination of small cylinders)
Priority Mail Envelope ~$15 (we typically put your cylinder inside a box which fits into a taped-up envelope -- fits most single cylinders, except Porsche; also fits a combination of small cylinders)
Priority Mail Medium Box ~$45 (fits most complete sets of cylinders, except Porsche 911, or full set of R129 cylinders without locks)
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box ~$60 (fits multiple sets of cylinders incl. Porsche 911, or one set of R129 cylinders with all locks)
Prices include insurance of $20/cylinder; it is complicated to insure higher amounts.

Hope this helps,

-Klaus

[email protected]
 

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1997 SL500
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538 Posts
Does anyone know if the rear lock latches are the same for left and right? Not the cylinders...Mine were missing when I bought the car...Seems on ebay they are all for the right side! 1997 model SL
 

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97 SL500, 98 E320 Wagon, 2002 ML500 - former W108/W112/W114/W123/W124/W126/W140/W220
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6,244 Posts
Does anyone know if the rear lock latches are the same for left and right? Not the cylinders...Mine were missing when I bought the car...Seems on ebay they are all for the right side! 1997 model SL
Email Klaus - he can tell you and probably even sell you a set.

Rebuilt, of course!

Dan
 

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2012 E350 Cabriolet, 1997 SL600 Sport, Pano
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107 Posts
Wow, this has to be some kind of record. Klaus started this thread about 13 hours ago and just shy of 25,000 views already!
A testament to the knowledge that Klaus goes out of his way to share with forum members.

I recently had Top Hydraulics rebuild all of my cylinders and the service and support was phenomenal.
 

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1996 SL500, 2000 E430
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3,628 Posts
Wow, this has to be some kind of record. Klaus started this thread about 13 hours ago and just shy of 25,000 views already!
A testament to the knowledge that Klaus goes out of his way to share with forum members.

I recently had Top Hydraulics rebuild all of my cylinders and the service and support was phenomenal.
Having been burned by answering relatively old threads before I have learned to check the date on the OP and it is from 2011.

But I have bookmarked this I replaced my front lock cylinders, courtesy of Herr Witte and expect to have to replace the others sooner or later. I was told that the front lock cylinders are usually the first to go as they are up top and heated by the sun. Klaus' willingness to offer his expertise is invaluable in keeping our R129s running the way they were intended. The older these get the fewer professional shops will know them.
 

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97 SL500, 98 E320 Wagon, 2002 ML500 - former W108/W112/W114/W123/W124/W126/W140/W220
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6,244 Posts
Wow, this has to be some kind of record. Klaus started this thread about 13 hours ago and just shy of 25,000 views already!
A testament to the knowledge that Klaus goes out of his way to share with forum members.

I recently had Top Hydraulics rebuild all of my cylinders and the service and support was phenomenal.
Yeeaaaaah, you might want to look a little closer. The thread was started almost five years ago...:eek

Dan
 

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Hi all, great post! May I jump in with a quick question? When operating the soft top on my r129 1997, the front latches seem to unlock fine but when the hooks get detached the make a very loud and scary bang. Both of them make that noise and somtimes half a second appart. Thus, since one detatches first the top headbord of the top seems to bend. I have tried to align the locks with the latches by unscrewing the two t30 torks on them and placing the hook in the latch and them fastem them. They improved slightly by doing that but still that noise frightens me.

I am searching for vids on youtube and most of the tops make that noise. I just wanted to know if I should be concerned.

Klaus, I will very much appreciate your words of wisdom on this one.

Thank you very very much,
Roy
 

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97 SL500, 98 E320 Wagon, 2002 ML500 - former W108/W112/W114/W123/W124/W126/W140/W220
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6,244 Posts
It's normal.

Mine make the same sounds (they're rebuilt from Klaus) and have done it since they were installed. The top latches have a detent they have to move past, and when doing so will make the loud "popping" sound. The is amplified somewhat due to the roof acting as a giant sounding board, too.

While it is loud and sometimes startling if you're not paying attention, I don't believe it's an issue.

Dan
 

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Premium Member
97 E-420 (180K miles), 97 SL500, (93K miles) 2015 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD CC/SB/4x4 Duramax(55K)
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4,194 Posts
It's normal.

Mine make the same sounds (they're rebuilt from Klaus) and have done it since they were installed. The top latches have a detent they have to move past, and when doing so will make the loud "popping" sound. The is amplified somewhat due to the roof acting as a giant sounding board, too.

While it is loud and sometimes startling if you're not paying attention, I don't believe it's an issue.

Dan
I agree with Dan, however, mine release almost simultaneously. but yup, the noise at first can be a little scary. BTW, the hardtop makes a similar noise when it releases as well.
 
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