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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I bought an ‘02 E320 4matic wagon recently that needed engine mounts. Thought I was getting a deal... So much for that
Car has 150k, drove nicely but shakes violently at idle. Vibrations diminish progressively as it warms up. in Reverse it shakes the worst. with steering input while backing up it begins clanking and rattling, this has been identified as the passenger side axle (see picture)

got it up on stands recently and she’s a dud.
Turns out PO bought the car needing engine mounts. 20,000 miles later both front axles have play by hand (maybe a 1/16th inch with wheels in the air) and the right side inner cv blew up, grease everywhere (photo).
the rear main seal leaks
the transmission output shaft seal leaks profusely, I can’t tell if it’s just that or from other areas

so in my estimation it the car needs at least:
engine mounts
trans mount
Both front axles
rear main seal
trans output shaft seal
i would assume if the rear output shaft leaks the seals to the front diff will too, as will the axle oil seals

car also needs valve covers resealed and seems to need front shocks and springs

I have many questions but let’s start here:

1) what are the odds the driveline vibrations have damaged the front differential, transmission or transfer case?
I really want to avoid replacing or cracking open the major drivetrain components: engine, transmission, transfer case, front diff

the car drives very smoothly at this point but it does make a slight sort of low howling noise on the freeway. This could just be the engine, it doesn’t sound or feel like vibrations

2) how difficult is it to replace all the myriad oil seals in the w210 4matic system? If I have to pull this car apart, I don’t want to leave a bunch of little oil leaks behind OR find leaking oil seals I have to start splitting cases to fix

3) I see a number of cheap axle brands on the web, notably the DSS axles on autobahn for $75 each. What do you guys trust for axles?

is it worth diving into this mess in my garage without a lift? I’m pretty game but as above I don’t want to start splitting cases or sending differentials out for rebuilds..

I wouldn’t ask you to speculate but please do speculate haha
if anyone needs pictures of anything lmk and I’ll take them

Best
Mitch
 

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Outstanding Contributor , SDS Guru
1998 MB E300TD, 1997 MB E36 AMG, 2001 MB E55 AMG
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engine mounts
trans mount
Both front axles
rear main seal
trans output shaft seal
i would assume if the rear output shaft leaks the seals to the front diff will too, as will the axle oil seals
Start with the engine mounts and transmission mounts, then work your way down the list depending on the symptoms of the vehicle after the repairs.

1) what are the odds the driveline vibrations have damaged the front differential, transmission or transfer case?
I really want to avoid replacing or cracking open the major drivetrain components: engine, transmission, transfer case, front diff

the car drives very smoothly at this point but it does make a slight sort of low howling noise on the freeway. This could just be the engine, it doesn’t sound or feel like vibrations
Damaging front diff, trans or transfer case -- you'd know in the form of clunking, grinding or squeaking noise. Front diff and transfer case noise is far more apparent when you stress the system -- and when I say stress, I mean making U turns, or tight right/left turns. Go to an empty parking lot and start doing U turns, both in forward and reverse. Any drivetrain issues will pop up right there, as you're stressing the system by forcing the wheels to turn at different rates....something that no AWD system likes.

Also check for mismatched tires/rims. They can kill an AWD system in a hurry, and the symptom before total death is unusual noise on freeway.

Double check on the transmission output shaft seal leak -- this is a uncommon leak. What is more common is the pilot bushing or the transmission oil pan gasket leaking and the wind will push it down the transmission and it will wick up, so it looks worse than it is.

2) how difficult is it to replace all the myriad oil seals in the w210 4matic system? If I have to pull this car apart, I don’t want to leave a bunch of little oil leaks behind OR find leaking oil seals I have to start splitting cases to fix
Depends. W210 does have a bunch of common oil leaks, and I will order them from easy to hard.

Breather hose
Valve cover gaskets
Oil filter housing gasket (assuming yours is with the oil cooler fitted)
Oil level sensor (can leak from the O ring or the harness, but can also be mistaken by the oil leak from the VC above)
Lower oil pan gasket (this one is uncommon, but does happen if there was a previous job that required removing oil pan...most shops usually do not use the loctite 5970 and use some generic RTV sealant, so those become brittle and leak)
Rear main seal

With the rear main seal requiring transmission removal. This is a big job, and yours is more complicated due to 4matic.

3) I see a number of cheap axle brands on the web, notably the DSS axles on autobahn for $75 each. What do you guys trust for axles?
Cheap axles usually do not last. If you value your time very cheaply, then you could just budget couple hours every year or every other year and just swap out axles.

Unfortunately OE axle for W210 are $1000 item at either dealer or aftermarket, so it's a very hard sell on a car worth that much.

If the axle itself is in good condition and it is not grinding, clunking, or otherwise....your best bet would be to remove the boot cover, clean off the old grease and replace the boot covers and regrease. Boot kit is like $20-40, including grease, and you won't have to deal with the headache of yearly axle replacement.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Damaging front diff, trans or transfer case -- you'd know in the form of clunking, grinding or squeaking noise. Front diff and transfer case noise is far more apparent when you stress the system -- and when I say stress, I mean making U turns, or tight right/left turns. Go to an empty parking lot and start doing U turns, both in forward and reverse. Any drivetrain issues will pop up right there, as you're stressing the system by forcing the wheels to turn at different rates....something that no AWD system likes.

Also check for mismatched tires/rims. They can kill an AWD system in a hurry, and the symptom before total death is unusual noise on freeway.
This is great info, thank you. However, your comment about noise on the freeway being a symptom of total AWD system death is very unnerving.
The first thought I had when I discovered the engine mounts hadn't been replaced in over 20,000 miles was "what would that do to the output shaft bearings in the front diff/transfer case," which is why I made this thread in the first place..
The low-pitched howling (sounded sort of like the howling noise of a big diesel engine in a bus or a tank) was quiet. but I noticed it nonetheless and it irked me enough that I included it in the original post. The tires that came with the car are all the correct 215/55/r16 and the wheels are stock

Does anyone know if there is a way to distinguish this "freeway noise" (I assume its output shaft bearings) that kills AWD systems from, say, a bad wheel bearing? I understand mercedes wheel bearings tend to howl on the freeway when they go bad.

If there isn't it seems like I would have to replace:
the axles (at least the one with a ruptured CV boot),
the engine/trans mounts and
the (front?) wheel bearings and see if my freeway noise persisted to know the source of the howling

I don't feel like driving the car on these busted axles and engine mounts again, even just to listen to it howl for a bit.

Thanks again, regardless!
Mitch
 

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1998 MB E300TD, 1997 MB E36 AMG, 2001 MB E55 AMG
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However, your comment about noise on the freeway being a symptom of total AWD system death is very unnerving.
Maybe that's my fault, but I should've clarified that the symptoms of a total AWD death is too many to list, among which is...vehicle not moving. This car has open diff on all diff and transfer case, so if the AWD breaks, it fucking breaks, you really, REALLY cannot miss it. There is absolutely no mistaking it for a bad wheel bearing -- the difference between the two is that drastic.

Suffice to say that if all you're having is a weird howling noise, but no vibrations severe enough to rattle your tooth filling loose, no steering wheel shaking, or vehicle pulling side to side....chances are it's just a bad wheel bearing and not AWD dying.

Does anyone know if there is a way to distinguish this "freeway noise" (I assume its output shaft bearings) that kills AWD systems from, say, a bad wheel bearing? I understand mercedes wheel bearings tend to howl on the freeway when they go bad.
Well, the standard wheel bearing check still applies. This is a MB, but it's no exotic car, it still uses the same plain jane wheel bearings with races and grease that you see in american cars. So jack up the car and rock the wheel back and forth, and spin it. It should spin smoothly, but come to a stop in about 1 revolution, and have no side to side and top to down play. If it spins and keeps spinning for more than a revolution, or makes noise while spinning, or has play, then yes, the bearing is on the way out.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Maybe that's my fault, but I should've clarified that the symptoms of a total AWD death is too many to list, among which is...vehicle not moving. This car has open diff on all diff and transfer case, so if the AWD breaks, it fucking breaks, you really, REALLY cannot miss it. There is absolutely no mistaking it for a bad wheel bearing -- the difference between the two is that drastic.
I see. Good clarification. I'll do that check on the wheel bearings next time Im with the car. Ive actually never had a wheel bearing fail on me before, thanks for sharing that.
 

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I bought an ‘02 E320 4matic wagon recently that needed engine mounts. Thought I was getting a deal... So much for that
Car has 150k, drove nicely but shakes violently at idle. Vibrations diminish progressively as it warms up. in Reverse it shakes the worst. with steering input while backing up it begins clanking and rattling, this has been identified as the passenger side axle (see picture)

got it up on stands recently and she’s a dud.
Turns out PO bought the car needing engine mounts. 20,000 miles later both front axles have play by hand (maybe a 1/16th inch with wheels in the air) and the right side inner cv blew up, grease everywhere (photo).
the rear main seal leaks
the transmission output shaft seal leaks profusely, I can’t tell if it’s just that or from other areas

so in my estimation it the car needs at least:
engine mounts
trans mount
Both front axles
rear main seal
trans output shaft seal
i would assume if the rear output shaft leaks the seals to the front diff will too, as will the axle oil seals

car also needs valve covers resealed and seems to need front shocks and springs

I have many questions but let’s start here:

1) what are the odds the driveline vibrations have damaged the front differential, transmission or transfer case?
I really want to avoid replacing or cracking open the major drivetrain components: engine, transmission, transfer case, front diff

the car drives very smoothly at this point but it does make a slight sort of low howling noise on the freeway. This could just be the engine, it doesn’t sound or feel like vibrations

2) how difficult is it to replace all the myriad oil seals in the w210 4matic system? If I have to pull this car apart, I don’t want to leave a bunch of little oil leaks behind OR find leaking oil seals I have to start splitting cases to fix

3) I see a number of cheap axle brands on the web, notably the DSS axles on autobahn for $75 each. What do you guys trust for axles?

is it worth diving into this mess in my garage without a lift? I’m pretty game but as above I don’t want to start splitting cases or sending differentials out for rebuilds..

I wouldn’t ask you to speculate but please do speculate haha
if anyone needs pictures of anything lmk and I’ll take them

Best
Mitch
I spoke to DSS customer service recently. Was told their axles are made in China on OE machine tools. Said they've sold 'boatloads' of W210 front axles, have never had a return. They offer 3 yr, 36k mile warranty. I would not be afraid to use them. Anyone in the forum have experience with DSS?
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I had my first day of wrenching on the E320 today. Good times.

first thing I did when I got to the house was perform Deplore's wheel bearing inspection. None of the wheels rotated more than a turn, there was no play when wiggling the wheels in any direction. They all felt solid.

Here is what I had to do to the passenger tie rod to get it out of the knuckle. It was worn out anyway so I opted to beat it out rather than going and getting a larger puller.
IMG_2723 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr
Here's what it did to the puller I had:
IMG_2724 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr
and heres the puller I had to go get to pull the ball joint. I had to remove the caliper, disc and shield to gain access to the ball joint with the three prong puller.
IMG_2726 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr
In both cases instead of sliding out like pressed parts the shafts held and held and held and then bang'ed out of the knuckle like they were shot from a gun. Loud noise to go with it. I dont understand why these shafts are seized up like this. Is it normal? same issue on the driver's side. I see that there's an oiler on the back of the knuckle at the bottom, are these shafts seized because they haven't been oiled regularly? Car only has 150k on it.

Here's the passenger side axle.
IMG_2731 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr
IMG_2732 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

Here's the diff. seems to have leaked fluid all over itself
IMG_2733 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr
Here's the inner race of the output bearing
IMG_2744 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

Here's the race on the axle
IMG_2745 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

Here's a video of me wiggling the inner CV axle in the diff with a screwdriver before I took it out
IMG_2729 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr
ignore the b_ing and moaning at the end
Here's a video of me wiggling the inner cv by hand after I put it back in to show the play
IMG_2753 by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

Hopefully those two videos give a sense of how jiggly the inner cv is even when fully(?) in place.
I CANT turn the inner race of the bearing by hand, even with a frictive glove on, but there isnt any play in it. If it was truly locked up I would expect alot more wear... but who knows.

Any speculators?

I ordered the DSS front axles from autohaus yesterday thinking if I found out the diff was ganked before I installed them I'd just return them.
I should mention: the axle bolt on this car was not the 12pt 27mm but was a light grey 6pt 27mm bolt that had the brand name pairen or peiran or something on it. Is that OEM? I forgot to take pictures of the bolt, sadly. I also did not check the axle for part numbers or branding. Ill be back at the house Tuesday and can gather more info then if anyone wants to know anything.

Mitch
 

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1998 MB E300TD, 1997 MB E36 AMG, 2001 MB E55 AMG
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Did you spin the wheels without the axle in to see if it makes noise? Bad wheel bearing sometimes do that, they may have no play at all but be loud when stressed.

The amount of play I see in the video is... well, okay? Obviously it's not exactly good to have play, but at the same time, the play is so small and you don't report any sort of vibrations or steering wheel shaking -- those are unlikely to be a problem.

Just replace the boot on the axle and see where that goes.

The diff looks normal to me too, the wetness is because of the axle grease being sprayed around, and the diff race bearings are lubricated by the diff fluid. Now is a good time to change it since you're up there -- it's one of the most neglected maintenance item on any car.

Put the axle in (but not the other end into the hub) and spin it. It should turn smoothly with no noise. If you're hearing noise, then problem likely lies elsewhere.

And yes the ball joints are going to be that difficult to break loose. I had to use a 6lb hammer and wack on it very hard just to make it budge. The official MB press tool is forged/hardened steel, that chinesium is good for putting lots of pressure, then you tap the ball joint or the press tool with a hammer to break it loose.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Did you spin the wheels without the axle in to see if it makes noise? Bad wheel bearing sometimes do that, they may have no play at all but be loud when stressed.

The amount of play I see in the video is... well, okay? Obviously it's not exactly good to have play, but at the same time, the play is so small and you don't report any sort of vibrations or steering wheel shaking -- those are unlikely to be a problem.

Just replace the boot on the axle and see where that goes.

The diff looks normal to me too, the wetness is because of the axle grease being sprayed around, and the diff race bearings are lubricated by the diff fluid. Now is a good time to change it since you're up there -- it's one of the most neglected maintenance item on any car.

Put the axle in (but not the other end into the hub) and spin it. It should turn smoothly with no noise. If you're hearing noise, then problem likely lies elsewhere.

And yes the ball joints are going to be that difficult to break loose. I had to use a 6lb hammer and wack on it very hard just to make it budge. The official MB press tool is forged/hardened steel, that chinesium is good for putting lots of pressure, then you tap the ball joint or the press tool with a hammer to break it loose.
This is more good info, thanks Deplore. I'll check the hubs without the axles in them next time im with the car.
Its a surprising amount of play, doesnt show up well in the videos I guess. I havent had a mercedes but Ive worked with subarus and hondas and cv joint play in those cars is nil. the subaru front axles are a male output shaft but still, once its on its like a rock.

reading around it looks like the howling could be a driveshaft flex joint. I also suspect these old tires.

As for just replacing the axle boot, the car was making nasty clank noises, especially in reverse with the wheels turned, so I think I need to eliminate the possibility of that being caused by the axle, which is why I ordered the DSS axles.

I think Ill just write off the $150 I spent on the DSS axles, throw them in the car with some new tie rods and the engine/trans mounts and drive it.. see how it feels. If the diff is junk maybe I'll sell them to someone on here.
for the future I would like to get the original axles refurbished if they are oem. I cant tell if they are or are not yet.

That being said I would love to hear additional opinions on the play in the inner cv joint while fully inserted in the diff. If anyone can confirm or deny that the inner cv should have no play at all in the diff.
Also the fact that I cant spin the output bearing by hand is strange.

I still have to take the driver's axle out. I will be going over on Tuesday to do that. at that point I'll have something to compare the passenger's side to.

can you replace one of these diffs with the engine in the car? just by removing the transmission? It has to come out at some point to do the rear main seal anyway.

Mitch
 

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Discussion Starter #10
got the Driver's axle out today and it had similar play at the CV to the passenger's side. So that's encouraging.
No noises coming from either axle or front hub. both inner cv's and front hubs(without axles installed) have a similar amount of play and turn freely without feeling too loose or making noise.
So the clanking and rattling while in reverse remains a mystery.
I wiggled the front driveshaft and it didn't feel too bad.
I also checked the rear driveshaft flexjoint at the transmission and it had some small fissures along the surface but no large cracks or splitting.

Can anyone help diagnose this transmission oil leak? [apologies in advance for low quality pictures]

Here is the back edge of the trans pan. dry.
Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 5.51.37 PM by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

Here is the driver' side near the driveshaft. also fairly dry. But you can't see the driveshaft because there is a cover under it.
https://flic.kr/p/2jgYgJH
the passenger side looking up at the driveshaft. Its hard to tell but it looks a bit drier underneath that cover where the rear trans seal should be.
Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 5.50.45 PM by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

The bottom of the transfer case is an oil slick.
Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 5.49.15 PM by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

There could be seepage from the front driveshaft oil seal
Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 5.51.03 PM by Mitchell Wood, on Flickr

its tough to get decent pictures under there but Im happy to take more pictures of whatever anyone wants to see.

Essentially the transmission is dry until you get to the crossmember that is directly behind the transmission pan. There once you get past that crossmember you can only see the transfer case and the bottom of that is soaking wet with oil. there isnt a lot of oil on the sides, but there is a ton of it on the bottom.

as far as where it could be coming from my obvious guesses are: transmission rear output seal. front driveshaft output seal. the transfer case is seeping between the case halves. the transfer case is leaking where it mates to the back of the transmission.

If anyone can tell me the exact location of the "pilot bushing" which I gather is a rubber piece that carries the transmission wiring from the trans to the inside of the car, I can find it and inspect it for oil leakage.

I suppose I'll clean it up once I get the axles and engine mounts sorted out and if the car is driveable at that point I'll keep an eye on where the oil starts to build up anew.

Mitch
 

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Clean up the oil leak and drive and monitor.

Check if the transfer case has oil in it, it doesn't take very much -- I think it's something like 0.7 quarts, so there isn't a lot oil left in reserve.

Pilot bushing is german name -- it is basically the transmission connector.

1593571723538.png

That's the pilot bushing. The transmission connector goes inside that.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
working on the engine mounts today..
I wanted to ask can anyone tell me how they installed the driver's side engine mount without removing the exhaust?

I have seen multiple people share how they've replaced both mounts without removing the exhaust or the CV axle just by sliding the AC pump forward. I find this almost unbelievable, as I am working on a car with no axles and there is absolutely no room to get the new engine mount between the stub axle from diff and the chassis rail. There is no way. I was able to squeeze the oil mount out this way but the new mount will not go in. It is much taller as the old mount was completely perished.

whats the trick?
I have read multiple how-to articles and none of them mentions difficulty in re-installing the driver's mount. I jacked the engine as high as it would go, high enough that I hope it didnt crush anything against the firewall, and there is still far too little room on my car to slide the new engine mount in.

Mitch
 

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Yeah 4matics are a pain. Most of those guides you're reading is for the regular rwd cars.

You might need to unbolt the rack and pinion from the subframe and just let it drop down, should give you a few additional inches.

Otherwise the exhaust has to come out.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Yeah 4matics are a pain. Most of those guides you're reading is for the regular rwd cars.

You might need to unbolt the rack and pinion from the subframe and just let it drop down, should give you a few additional inches.

Otherwise the exhaust has to come out.
yeah I finally arrived at the conclusion the exhaust is the only way forward.
there is a P/S line the runs along the chassis rail that makes it impossible to get the mount in from the front side of the crossmember
 

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If you're talking about the PS line that comes from the high pressure side of the pump and goes to the rack, and it curves to the side of the engine bay?

Remove the 1 10mm bolt, it's somewhat flexible.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
got the mounts in
2640429

2640430


Im kind of surprised by how much I can wiggle the engine from side to side on the new mounts, but maybe thats normal. Went down to santa cruz for the weekend, next week Ill do the trans mount, axles and throw on some new tie rods. also ordered some tires as I found a huge gash in the left front tire
2640431


If anyone is scrolling through here in the future:
you can get the top bolt of the passengers side mount from under the hood with a few extensions and a universal joint. best way to torque it.
I had already undone the 10mm bolt on the PS line, but the section of that line that is bent hardline prevents the engine mount from squeezing past the stub axle. dont waste your time going from the front. for the drivers side engine mount it does require the removal of the driver's side exhaust. its not difficult to remove, takes maybe 15 minutes. im realizing if you try to game the system working on these cars youre just wasting your time and energy.
I was able to get the top bolt on the driver's side mount pulling on the handle of a socket wrench with a ratchet strap while holding it onto the nut with the other hand. no other way I could get enough leverage and there is 0 chance of finagling a universal joint or flex joint on there so you can get a breaker or extension going, I wasted a couple hours trying to do that. I dont have the mercedes engine mount wrench though

Mitch

2640433
 
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