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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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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I know the Steering Coupler can cause sloppy steering - i.e. steers like an old Buick :)

A few years ago I replaced the Steering Coupler in my 380SL with a non-OEM part.
My 380SL recently seemed to have loose steering and a slight pulling to the right.
I thought "oh man, I should have used a genuine Mercedes Coupler".
BUT, I got under the 380SL and noted that the right side Tie Rod was the reason.
Thankfully I did not have to redo the Steering Coupler - a bitch of a task.
If you are not familiar with how to check Tie Rods, grab hold of rod and twist it with you hands.
If it moves, you need to replace them.
I used a Harbor Freight Ball Joint Puller to get mine loose.
They were original Mercedes using a Castle Nut and Cotter Pin - 36 years old, only 46K miles on the car.
Replaced with Myle Tie Rods - these new ones do not use Cotter Pins and instead have self locking nuts.
I adjusted the new Tie Rods to the old ones by placing on a piece of cardboard to carefully match for same length.
(I remember at a GTG watching how @nobby and @roncallo adjusted Tie Rods by matching new with the old)
BIG DIFFERENCE in steering after replacement and have not had the Front End aligned even.
Steers straight and tight, may not even need an alignment.

Next I'm going to use @PanzerPuff guide (below) to Torquing all the bolts associated with the Steering:

2608150
 

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1988 560SL (California Model)
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5,059 Posts
Did you replace both or just the one? I subscribe to the school of thought that some items should be replaced in pairs...ie suspension, brakes parts and especially bulbs...
 

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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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6,643 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Did you replace both or just the one? I subscribe to the school of thought that some items should be replaced in pairs...ie suspension, brakes parts and especially bulbs...
Your ideology is correct. Several months ago I replaced just the Left side Tie Rod and all was well.
The other side seemed OK.
Then a couple weeks ago I got sloppy steering and found the Right Side Tie Rod was loose.
So I should have originally replaced those Tie Rods as a pair.
 

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Did you replace both or just the one? I subscribe to the school of thought that some items should be replaced in pairs...ie suspension, brakes parts and especially bulbs...
Steering stuff is sometimes like that. But in certain areas the theory about equality is correct - like tyres, control arms tierods / balljoints etc. That's pretty much a given - and it's not always for the sake of doing it 'once' but rather because it can actually cause more problems than it solves - in more ways than just mechanical wear...

Had a guy once who only wanted to replace one front LCA bush in one of the arms, because the others were 'fine' - wouldn't take no for an answer. So it was done as per request, despite advice to the contrary.
8 weeks later he came back, with his wife... steering is funny under brakes...
examination - well we already knew, but did it anyway...
both LCA's were found to be rusty at the balljoint. removing one of the balljoints it broke at the waist. So we installed 4 LCA bushes, 2 balljoints and obviously the labour.

Sent them home with the busted balljoint as a trophy piece... and a few comments on the dangers of failing neglected components... His wife was unimpressed with his attitude. We learned that she was driving the car...

Still to this day we have jokes and theorize whether or not he was trying to get out of an unhappy marriage or if there was a divorce coming after that bill was paid. :D
 

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I agree, I recently changed my coupler and I still have a bit of play in the steering. I thought it might be from the steering box, but now I will check the tie rods.
 

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1987 560SL
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2,292 Posts
@PanzerPuff thanks for doing up the view with all the torques - deadly!!!
YW. I just redid all those torques after rebuilding my steering box. I followed the concise step by step procedure by David Petryk. His nice write up might be harder to find since the forum update debacle, so I attach that document here. IMHO it is much easier to get the friction in the steering gear just right with the box out. Also I can't get the 36mm socket and 132 foot pounds force on the pittman arm as the exhaust is in the way, another reason to drop the box.

As mentioned earlier the box pops out after removing three screws, removing one coupler screw and unfastening two hydraulics. Take care to counterwrench as it is easy to twist the rigid hydraulic tubes.

I replaced all four tie rod ends and the center link just for grins. I measured the exact length of each arm, center to center, before removing each side (it was something like 30.5 and 35.0 cm). On reinstallation I matched those measurements. It seems to have worked as the toe-in is just about right, no tire squeal. I may go get an alignment to see how well this worked.
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'79 450SL, '04 CLK200 convertible; former A124, W210, A209.
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This so cool, thanks a million @PanzerPuff - the steering box in my yoke was rebuilt a few years ago, and right now I've no issues, yet the guides you provided will come in handy when the time comes to redo the box again. THANKS!!!

As a side note, I recall reading somewhere that MB allowed up to 1" play in the steering wheel before it's considered "excessive" play - not sure if that was true or correct but made sens to me given the size of the R107 steering wheel.
 

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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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6,643 Posts
Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I tightened the Steering Box adjustment Screw a little over 45 degrees counter clockwise to take a little more slop out of the gear box.
I done this a little over 5 years ago.
See photos of adjustment screw and tools required.

Here is the thread:
2608471
2608472
 

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1987 560SL
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2,292 Posts
Carl's method is easier than dropping the box. The key points he makes are worth repeating; box play is the last thing on the list after all other steering components check out. Small counterclockwise turns (backing out not in) of the adjusting screw tighten the steering.
 

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Carl's method is easier than dropping the box. The key points he makes are worth repeating; box play is the last thing on the list after all other steering components check out. Small counterclockwise turns (backing out not in) of the adjusting screw tighten the steering.
Agreed it is absolutely easier - but...

If there are any signs of fluid egress, box out. also the correct tension on the spline shaft for movement is far easier to measure and correct while a box is being rebuilt on the bench.

The kicker is simple. If you have to take the box out, then either it should have been done with the steering rods, track rod, damper and idler arm bushes - OR all of it needs doing.

This is one of the going in circles diagnostic issues that can be pervasive.
steering column coupling, wheel bearings, balljoints, control arm bushes, subframe bushes. ensure these are within service spec before moving ahead.
steering arms/balljoints, idler arm bushes, track rod and steering damper
steering box.

Fwiw, in 12 years I have rebuilt the steering box and replaced the coupling, steering rods, idler arm bushes strack rod and damper once, about 1 year into ownership. "preventative maintenance".

4 sets of front subframe bushes in the 560, 2 in the SLC.
2 sets of front wheel bearings
complete replacement of the lower control arm bushes and balljoints, now due for the second set in the 560. one set of upper control arm bushes, the balljoint has been relubricated and new boots once.

All in all, that is not bad for 12 years, but if I told you that it's hardly driven compared to all the other cars, then the "expensive" light trips on in your brain, and suddenly you're thinking... gee whiz, these vehicles aren't really that cheap to maintain.

Horses for courses.

I still think the most cost effective tool any mercedes owner can buy is a 2 post hoist and a factory service manual. pays for itself on the first big job.
 

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'79 450SL, '04 CLK200 convertible; former A124, W210, A209.
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I still think the most cost effective tool any mercedes owner can buy is a 2 post hoist and a factory service manual. pays for itself on the first big job.
Amen to that Joe! The alternative I went for (since I don't have enough room for a lift) is get the service manual, know it inside out for each big job, and keep your buddy mechanic happy for easy access to hoist :) In our case beer works wonders 🍻🍻🍻
 

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1987 560SL
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2,292 Posts
Agreed it is absolutely easier - but...

If there are any signs of fluid egress, box out. also the correct tension on the spline shaft for movement is far easier to measure and correct while a box is being rebuilt on the bench.

The kicker is simple. If you have to take the box out, then either it should have been done with the steering rods, track rod, damper and idler arm bushes - OR all of it needs doing.

This is one of the going in circles diagnostic issues that can be pervasive.
steering column coupling, wheel bearings, balljoints, control arm bushes, subframe bushes. ensure these are within service spec before moving ahead.
steering arms/balljoints, idler arm bushes, track rod and steering damper
steering box.

Fwiw, in 12 years I have rebuilt the steering box and replaced the coupling, steering rods, idler arm bushes strack rod and damper once, about 1 year into ownership. "preventative maintenance".

4 sets of front subframe bushes in the 560, 2 in the SLC.
2 sets of front wheel bearings
complete replacement of the lower control arm bushes and balljoints, now due for the second set in the 560. one set of upper control arm bushes, the balljoint has been relubricated and new boots once.

All in all, that is not bad for 12 years, but if I told you that it's hardly driven compared to all the other cars, then the "expensive" light trips on in your brain, and suddenly you're thinking... gee whiz, these vehicles aren't really that cheap to maintain.

Horses for courses.

I still think the most cost effective tool any mercedes owner can buy is a 2 post hoist and a factory service manual. pays for itself on the first big job.
Ditto on what JoeB says, I did the same "preventive maintenance" except I just repacked the front wheel bearings with synthetic grease and had the excuse to buy a bearing packer
No need to ignite a 2 post versus 4 postology war here, but I do everything on my four post lift. Good advice on the factory service manual and I highly recommend Steve Nervig's download:
 

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1987 560SL
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I replaced all four tie rod ends and the center link just for grins. I measured the exact length of each arm, center to center, before removing each side (it was something like 30.5 and 35.0 cm). On re-installation I matched those measurements. It seems to have worked as the toe-in is just about right, no tire squeal. I may go get an alignment to see how well this worked.
So I said earlier in this thread that measuring each arm was a way to get the toe-in just about right. I finally got around to measuring my toe-in and I was wrong, it was 13mm toe-out! The Mercedes spec for toe-in is one to two millimeters. So I took a WAG and adjusted each tie rod sleeve one full turn. Believe it or not I nailed it, 1-2mm on first try. It is also strange how toe-in measurement devices costing hundreds of dollars are sold online. Who buys this stuff? The right tool should cost under $5 if you don't already have it. So I recorded my toe-in attempt on my phone and posted it.
 

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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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6,643 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Ken, very nice explanation.
I think I'll give it a go but might not get same results as I don't have a lift.
 

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1987 560SL
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2,292 Posts
Carl, thanks again. This can be done on any flat surface. Obviously it is a lot easier with a lift. If I do this again I would use spray paint or some kind of durable mark of each tire's center-line. Anything that does not wear off with a test drive would enable check and re-check without the need to lift the car.
 
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