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1974 450SL (US), 2005 SLK200 (UK)
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Discussion Starter #1
When I am driving my car the feel and performance of the steering just doesn't seem right to me. It's hard to put my finger on it. The car will go where I want it to go but it seems when driving down a straight road the car wanders to the left or right. This isn't the feel of road camber, it's different to all other cars I have driven. It's not pronounced enough for me to clearly say "something is wrong", but it does feel a little disconcerting.

I have never driven another R107 or another 1970s car so I have nothing to compare it to.

What tests could I perform to determine if I have a problem and what that problem might be vs perhaps my incorrect expectations of how 1970s steering should perform?

Thanks, Andy
 

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Premium Member
1983 380SL, 2000 S430, 1991 420SEL (retired) - RHD
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5,523 Posts
My 1983 steering does not feel nearly as precise as my newer cars (Honda, W220). I do have a new coupler ( it started to click) but the box is fine- only about 95000 miles.
Section 46 of the manual has tests to check steering. If you don't have a manual there is one you can download in the EGV section.
 

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1983 380SL, ivory/dk brown, 46k miles, dual roller timing chain. 1986 560SL, red/white, 190K mile.
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6,841 Posts
Yeah, Recirculating Ball Steering (on our R107s) is not as precise as Rack and Pinion Steering on more modern vehicles.
I will say my 1983 380 had that wavering feel. I got it working much better with a new Steering Coupler, tightening the Steering Box, and replacing both Tie Rods and the Steering Damper.

I also have a 1986 560SL that has even better handling - though it has a little rougher ride. My 560SL steering feels very precise and around curves has almost unnoticeable body lean - very noticeable on my 380SL. On the 560SL, the previous owner cut the front springs, HD Bilstein shocks, and oversized 225/50R15 Kumho tires which the tire shop I use tells me is the reason for the rougher ride.
 

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'88 560SL, '19 AMG E53 Cpe, '15.5 Volvo XC60, '53 MG TD, '35 Ford Cpe and a few more
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220 Posts
I tightened the steering box by only a half turn on the adjuster the other day and it made a world of difference.
 

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85 500SL
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8 Posts
When I am driving my car the feel and performance of the steering just doesn't seem right to me. It's hard to put my finger on it. The car will go where I want it to go but it seems when driving down a straight road the car wanders to the left or right. This isn't the feel of road camber, it's different to all other cars I have driven. It's not pronounced enough for me to clearly say "something is wrong", but it does feel a little disconcerting.

I have never driven another R107 or another 1970s car so I have nothing to compare it to.

What tests could I perform to determine if I have a problem and what that problem might be vs perhaps my incorrect expectations of how 1970s steering should perform?

Thanks, Andy
This is a known issue, its slop in the steering box, there is a set screw (allen) to take up some amount of "end" play. check the mercedes source video on it
 

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1974 450SL (US), 2005 SLK200 (UK)
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422 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the replies. Based on them I decided it needed further investigation. I had my wife turn the steering wheel while I watched the coupler. To me the coupler looks fine, everything looks solid. However I did hear a clicking noise from the steering box. Is that normal or is the box knackered or is that evidence of slop that I might be able to adjust with the set screw?

Thanks, Andy
 

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1983 380SL, ivory/dk brown, 46k miles, dual roller timing chain. 1986 560SL, red/white, 190K mile.
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6,841 Posts
Pull the Heat Shield off (2 bolts) and you can get to it from above.
2625806


Use these tools:
2625807


Then you can see the Steering Adjust Nut:
2625808


Before you start, mark the current position with white paint:
2625811



After the paint dries, spray some penetrating oil on the 19mm locking nut.
I had to use a breaker bar to loosen the locking nut.
2625813


Rotate the center nut CCW to tighten.
Don't overdo this as you might bind the steering gears.
After adjusting, test by turning steering wheel fully left and right and check for binding.
You really ought not go beyond say 90 degrees CCW.
Start with 45 degrees, test for binding, take for test drive before more adjusting.
 

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1983 380SL, ivory/dk brown, 46k miles, dual roller timing chain. 1986 560SL, red/white, 190K mile.
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6,841 Posts
ALSO, check your Tie Rods for the clicking noise. Mine did and I replace them.
Jack up car and wiggle Tie Rods - if easy to wiggle they are bad.
 

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1974 450SL (US), 2005 SLK200 (UK)
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422 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Thanks Carl - fantastic detailed post with pictures to help someone like me find things! :D Andy
 

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'88 560SL, '19 AMG E53 Cpe, '15.5 Volvo XC60, '53 MG TD, '35 Ford Cpe and a few more
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220 Posts
Cou
I tightened the steering box by only a half turn on the adjuster the other day and it made a world of difference.
Two more points;
-I didn't need to remove the exhaust header heat shield. Didn't want to arse around with the EGR line.

-Jacked the front end up off of the ground so that I could feel the slight on-center increased drag.
 

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w108 & w107
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144 Posts
Pull the Heat Shield off (2 bolts) and you can get to it from above.
View attachment 2625806

Use these tools:
View attachment 2625807

Then you can see the Steering Adjust Nut:
View attachment 2625808

Before you start, mark the current position with white paint:
View attachment 2625811


After the paint dries, spray some penetrating oil on the 19mm locking nut.
I had to use a breaker bar to loosen the locking nut.
View attachment 2625813

Rotate the center nut CCW to tighten.
Don't overdo this as you might bind the steering gears.
After adjusting, test by turning steering wheel fully left and right and check for binding.
You really ought not go beyond say 90 degrees CCW.
Start with 45 degrees, test for binding, take for test drive before more adjusting.
Great write up. Definitely the 19mm crows foot and the 6mm ball-end hex / allen key are the key tools. Actually probably the breaker bar too ;) . Single biggest improvement to my steering.
In terms of diagnosis, I'm not sure about the clicking noise though. I just had someone turn the steering wheel and look for movement at both ends of the steering box, and it was clearly sloppy, but no clicking.
 

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Premium Member
2007 ML320CDI, 1959 220SE, 1971 280SL, 1982 380SL
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653 Posts
These cars steer very nicely and securely when new and tight. Check for loosness everywhere and correct, Yes, the u-joint at the bottom of the column can become loose. Ball joints must be checked, tie rod ends, suspension arm bushings can flatten. Also check the hydraulic damper under the steering linkage. They most always leak and this greatly increases steering slop. They are not expensive and are easy to replace. Also check the front sub-frame rubber mounts, these also affect steering precision.

Good information on the steering box tightning. (remember- Counter clockwise to tighten!). If this corrects the steering box loosness, wonderful. These boxes do have a problem of developing loosness which cannot be adusted out. The Mercedes book says 1" of steering box loosness measured at the steering wheel outside diameter is ok. 1" is NOT ok. They only say this becuase they did not want to warranty a lot of loose steering boxes. You want 1/2" or less of steering box loosness. If the adjustment does not reduce its free play enough, then a rebuilt steering box is what is needed. C and M Hydraulics of Nevada has the good reputation on these boxes. Many "rebuilt" boxes sold from other sources (Ebay and such) often have new paint and look pretty, but are still loose.
 

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Premium Member
2007 ML320CDI, 1959 220SE, 1971 280SL, 1982 380SL
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653 Posts
A suggestion in car operation. There are many that pull hard on the steering wheel and maintain that pressure continually after the steering has reached the full left or right turn stop. This is a wishful effort to get the car to turn at a greater angle than it is designed to do and will do. This continual full stop steering wheel pressure applied during a turn causes increased wear on many steering components and especially inside the steering box internals. Remember, it is not just your torque applied at the steering wheel, but it is mutiplied many times over by the hydraulic power pump. When the maximum turning angle is reached, back off pressure just a bit from holding the wheel at full turn. This does make a sginificant difference in which cars end up with looseness in the steering and which do not.
 

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1974 450SL (US), 2005 SLK200 (UK)
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422 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for all of the replies. I don't know anything about the various steering components so now is the time for me to start researching and learning! Andy
 

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1983 380SL, ivory/dk brown, 46k miles, dual roller timing chain. 1986 560SL, red/white, 190K mile.
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6,841 Posts
Do check those Tie Rods.
After reading this thread, I got my wife and I to get out of the house and go for a drive
in my 1983 380SL. Less than 200 miles ago I replaced the Tie Rods and got a Front End Alignment.
Before replacement, turning the Steering Wheel was very loose.
Now I sense a tightness as I turn the Steering Wheel and she steers very nicely.
So do inspect your Steering components - especially the Tie Rods, Steeing
Damper, and Ball Joints.

Also check the torque on the bolts of all your Steering components per @PanzerPuff 's torque guide:

2625948
 

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560SL '88 Suzuki GS1000E '78
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211 Posts
Hi Andy,

worn gears in the steering box are a main issue. If adjusting that, be aware about the problem, that the wear takes place mainly in the center-position. So if you adjust the box perfectly for driving straight ahead you will be surprised when you make your first turn. The system may lock by turning the steering wheel. So you need to balance your adjustment between all positions of the system!

But: Steering behavior like riding a wet sponge is determined by the fail of other components as well.

First: Check you steering clutch! Normally it's worn out too and it's important to fix that first before trying to adjust clearance in the steering box. You can't adjust the box with a worn clutch in front!

The second issue almost every car has, are worn out front axle mounts (and engine mounts as well). If yours looking like that, you may start with replacing them first. If you want to do that only once in your life and would like to have much improved steering performance, add some polyurethane reinforcements.

Regards Martin
 

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1974 450SL (US), 2005 SLK200 (UK)
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422 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Hi Martin,

Thanks for the hint. I think I have two problems - lots of slop (more than 25mm) and the lower control arm bushings are completely shot.

Can you please give me more details about PU reinforcements for the lower control arm bushings? Where to buy? Any pictures? etc. Thanks!

Andy
 
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