How to change the front shocks and sway bar links in Mercedes w140 S-Class

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Changing out worn shocks might be most effective and cheapest fix that can transform the ride handling of your car for the better. My S600 had very noticeable up and down wobbling when driving over bumps and a quite large body roll making in tight corners. It was becoming a bit boat like there at the end. The S600 is a very heavy car and needs good handling when going fast. A flatter ride in corners also makes for a more comfortable drive overall, so your passengers don’t wake up from their naps.

Changing the shocks will reduce wear on other more expensive suspension components like bushings and tires, while overly worn might damage the suspension. Changing the shocks is in your interest to be an economical DIYer.

The front suspension uses normal a McPherson setup with separated gas shocks detached from the springs and can easily be removed. The rear suspension on the other hand uses the more complicated SLS leveling suspension setup and don’t use shocks at all. Instead it uses hydraulic rams along with pressure spheres. More effort and money is needed when doing maintenance on the rear suspension than the front. The SLS however normally lasts a lot longer if you remember to change the fluid once in a while.

When changing the shocks you should also use the opportunity to inspect/change some other wear items easily accessible in the front suspension. This could be sway bar links or the brake rotors and pads. The sway bar links wear down faster than the other suspension components due to their tiny ball joints and should be replaced whenever cracks appear in the sleeves or any slack starts to be noticeable. Worn sway bar links can make annoying sounds for you and your passengers. We all know expensive cars are known for being the most squeaky cars around, let’s change that!

Preparation

You should expect to use around half day to a day on this job, depending on your skill set, the amount of rusty bolts and your tools at disposal. It’s something you can do easily on a weekend. When doing the job I was even under time pressure since I had to catch a flight the same day. I managed to catch the flight and get the job.

If you want to bundle more front suspension jobs while doing the shocks, I recommend removing the front wheels and inspect the suspension such as the sway bar links, brake pads and rotors as well as the tie rods. Any more advanced jobs than that you will will require a lot more time invested so be sure to plan accordingly. Usually large front end jobs require a re-alignment of the suspension, but is not required here.

Parts needed (as described in the article):

  • 2x front shocks. I recommend premium brands such as Bilstein or Meyle
  • 1x Left front sway bar link
  • 1x Right front sway bar link

Tools needed:

I ended up using quite a tool collection because of rusted bolts on the sway bar links, but this might not be the case for you. I think this collection of tools goes into most home car mechanics tool box, but there might be a couple of them you should consider getting. Always better to be prepared than sitting there stuck without finishing the job.

  • Jack and 2 jack stands
  • Socket set
  • Long breaker bar
  • A set of long spanners
  • High quality hex sockets
  • Torque wrench
  • Hammer
  • Rubber/plastic hammer
  • Pin punch driver
  • Locking pliers
  • Long Hex keys
  • Propane blow torch (super handy when things are stuck)
  • XZN (12-spline) sockets (super handy when Hex nut gets rounded off)
  • Blue thread lock (for brake caliper bolts)
XZN socket set
This is how XZN Sockets looks like. They are always a savior when hex bolts gets rounded off.

Procedure

Start by raising the front of the car and remember to use the E-brake together with wheel stops. Place the front on jack stands. I also like to keep the jack in the up position as redundancy on the side I’m working with. You can lift the w140 with the jack on the rubber jacking pad and place the jack stands more towards the center of the car under the sub frame.

Jacking up a Mercedes w140
Jacking up the w140 with a garage jack and jack stands. Notice the rubber pad location is used with the jack and the jack stands are placed under the sub frame. Always use some padding between the car body with the jack and the jack stands, such as hard rubber or some wood to protect the under body from rust.

The shocks can be removed when the calipers are in place, but to remove the sway bar links, both the calipers and the brake rotors need to be removed to access it. I will first describe how to replace the shocks since it is a much easier job. Then I will describe how to replace the sway bar links.

Shocks

Start by removing the lower bolt. Use a long breaker bar and a large spanner to break the bolt loose. Then move to a ratchet to get the nut off. Use the jack to lift the lower suspension arm a little bit to relieve some tension in the bolt through the bracket hole. Then use a punch to smack out the bolt with a hammer. Be careful if the bolt catches too much, then try to relieve more pressure before continuing. Most shocks do not come with replacements for the lower bolt and nut, so try keeping these in good shape.

Removing lower bolt on damper
Remove the lower bolt on the damper.

When the bolt is loose, open the hood and locate the top nut. The top part of the damper can look different from each other. You have to keep the strut bar still with a hex socket or flat pliers while using a spanner to unbolt it. There exists a special tool to do this with a socket, but is frankly unnecessary except if you’re addicted to tools. This locking nut always comes with a replacement nut and you should throw away the old one. When the locking nut is off you can easily remove the old damper.

Location of top part of damper under the hood
Location of top part of the damper. This old damper uses a hex setup for keeping the damper still while loosening the locking nut.

Before installing the new damper, push it completely down a few times to relieve tension. The installation orientation has no influence if the brand does not specify it. Start by installing it with the top part and the top locking nut. When installing the new damper you must take of not letting the damper shaft rotate while turning the locking nut. Keep it secured while fastening the locking nut. This is to reduce the risk of breaking the internal seal of the damper so it will start leaking. The nut does not need to be extremely tight, but do tighten it until you feel it is secure. It is very important to make a re-tight after the car is on the ground. I will remind you of this again shortly.

Now you will probably notice that the new damper is quite shorter than the old one when you took it out. You therefore have to compress the spring by jacking up the lower suspension arm until you can align up the bolt hole. This might be a bit tricky and use a hammer to punch the bolt through since it is nearly impossible to align them up 100%. Again take care of not ruining the threads on the bolt. The lower bolt and nut should be torqued to 80Nm.

Front shocks w140
Old Vs New shocks. Notice the old one even leaks oil!

Front sway bar links

Now on to the more fun part where you can expect to meet more of a challenge. First you need to turn the wheel you’re working on all the way out to get access on the backside. Start by removing the caliper, it is held by two bolts. You may require some force to break them loose. Prepare some method too hook the calipers up in the spring to relieve tension on the flexible brake hoses. Never let them hang freely. I used long zip ties here and I could just to cut it off when done. But a simple S-shaped hook would have been even easier!

Front suspension and caliper
Turn the wheel out completely before starting.

The caliper might be difficult to get off if the brake rotor has a lip on the edge. Use a pry bar or the back side of a hammer to press in the outer brake pad by using the rotor for leverage. Be careful not to damage the pad material. When the caliper is loose, secure it up onto the spring.

Location sway bar link w140
Location of sway bar link. Notice only one accessible bolt. The other one is behind the disk rotor.
Brake caliper w140 removed and hanging
The brake caliper is remove and secured in a zip tie from the spring to relieve tension in the flexible brake hose and brake caliper sensor.

When the brake caliper is loosened you can start remove the break disk rotor. It is secured by a tiny hex nut, but you might find this lost or broken. Mine was broken off on the right side, but the left one was fine. Loosen the nut with a hex socket. If the brake rotor is sticking to the hub, try hammering gently on it with a plastic hammer. If it does not pop off, it can be quite frozen due to rust and you’ll need heat to loosen it. Ignite up your blow torch and heat the area just around the hub. This should expand the rotor just enough so it will pop off with a light hammer blow. Over heating the hub might make the hub grease melt and run out, so be careful with the heat.

Brake rotor locking nut w140
Brake rotor locking nut with hex. This might have broken off already.

Now it’s the time to locate the outer sway bar link nut. Cross your fingers for no rust. It is located right under the brake rotor. The locking mechanism is not the best engineering, since you’ll need either a special tool or trying to combine a socket with some magic tricks. I used a socket, secured it with locking pliers and then used a hex key sticking through it. After some fiddling I managed to get the nut off. You can usually loosen the bolt the first few turns by using just the socket normally.

The upper nut should be the easier of the two to get off, since the lower one usually gets all the rust and is easier to round off the hex bolt head. Soak it thoroughly with rust penetration fluid and let it work for 15 minutes. Then use a hammer and whack that nut good a couple of times.

Removing front sway bar link nut w140
Removing the lower sway bar link nut. Cross your fingers that the hex will not round out. I only got a 50% success rate.

I got lucky with one side, but the other side I had to drive in an over sized XZN socket with a hammer so it’s surely stuck in there. Then I could get enough torque to loosen the rusted nut. This will obviously destroy the part, but it’s thrown out anyway. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of this process since I was struggling a bit and running out of time.

Broken sway bar link sleeve
The sleeve was broken on the sway bar link. This does not take long until squeaking starts!

Now you should be able to remove the sway bar link. Go fetch the one that fits depending on the side you are working (hopefully you order the correct ones). Fit the top side first, then you move on to the lower side. It can a be a bit tricky to fit the lower side onto the sway bar again. Get a long bar or a long spanner and wedge it between the spring to get leverage to push down on the sway bar.

Use leverage to fit the sway bar link to the sway bar
Use leverage to fit the sway bar link to the sway bar.

It is not necessary to tighten the sway bar links very hard, just snug with enough force so they sit on. Remember these will probably rust tight faster than you can say cheese and the hex bolts will round off again.

old vs new sway bar links
Old vs New Sway bar links.

Caution: Before assembling the rotors, make sure you brush off any old rust off the hub face and the inside of the rotor. This is to prevent rumbling while braking and that the rotor sits on straight! You can use a steel brush and a rough pad to do this. Also brush off any surface rust on the front side of the rotor where it meets the wheel.

The front caliper bolts need a layer of blue thread locker on them since there are no shims or similar. Use 115Nm torque when tightening the caliper bolts.

It can be a bit tricky to mount the wheel if the little rotor locking nut is missing, so a replacement might come in handy here. Otherwise you have to align the hub with the rotor first and then with the wheel when sticking in the bolts.

Now I hope you will take on this task without paying stupid amounts of hours for mechanics to figure this out at a workshop. Go do it yourself!

Cheers, Robs out!

How to adjust the valves in the M110 engine – Part 1.5

Part 1.5 of valve adjustment of Mercedes M110 Engine. Stuck valve adjusting nuts require a DOHC valve compressor tool, which is hard to obtain for this engine.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Christmas came early..

Notice the part 1.5 nonsense, what is that all about you might think to yourself? Have I gotten mad over New Year’s? It’s rather just because of the half usefulness of this article. Since you readers are mostly DIY mechanics and Mercedes enthusiasts, I want to convey a story of the journey toward valve adjustments of such an old engine. In this way we share the ups and downs, the challenges and successes, and maybe learn something on the way.

Remember in Part 1 https://mercbenz123.com/posts/valve-adjustment-m110-engine-part1/ where I ended with 4 different options listed with increasing price and pain? Well since Christmas came early (2018) I ended up somewhere with a solution in the middle of option 1 and 2. After trawling the used car tool market, mostly ebay, I managed to find a seller which sold a late 70s vintage Mercedes valve compressor kit for DOHC engines. Although not specific to the M110 engine it is close enough, that with a few modifications it might just work. Let me just say it was the most expensive vintage tool I have ever bought. Lets hope it can come to good use!

Mercedes late 70s DOHC valve spring compressor tool.
Mercedes late 70s DOHC Valve spring compressor tool for several engine models.
M110 DOHC valve compressor tool
This is the M110 engine specific tool which is out of production. Looks similar right? Although not the same, I’m sure we can adjust the obtained one to do the same job with some modifications.

I almost did not buy due to the high asking bidding price, but after the deadline was reached it was still for sale. I decided to go for it as a Christmas present for myself and bid on the tool for a little less. Chance happened that we compromised and reached a fast deal. Two weeks before Christmas it landed in the mail box.

Valve spring compressors
It came with 4 different valve compressors. I might use the second from the left with some modifications.

It comes with 4 different valve compressors, although I’m not sure if any of them fit right out of the box. I might need to adjust one of them. The lever bar has a simple screw on attachment to swap out the compressor ends. The Hook is not attached, but can be placed in different grooves. I might also need to adjust the arrangement here as well.

Under I have tried to visualize how the tool is operated on the valve head. The idea is to compress the valve just enough so I can slide off the rocker arm. Since the valve clearance adjusting nuts are so tight we need a socket over the nut which is naturally blocked by the rocker arm.

I tried to overlay this tool over the valve and camshaft arrangement in the M110 engine. Here The sizes are not 1:1 but illustrates the point. Already here we can see that there might be clearance issues between the engine wall and the compressor. Also the circular edge for the compressor surface has to be cut, so it can slide onto the valve top under the rocker arm.

I’m excited to see how the tool can be used in real life, but since it’s winter and the car is hidden away, this have to wait until spring. I’ll keep you posted on the progress in this journey as soon as possible.

Cheers! Robs out


Other news: I tried to sell the S600 in the autumn, but was unfortunately little interest which is hard to believe when regarding the current economics and huge interest in classic cars. Norway is a weird country.. The car is in mint condition with low mileage so I will not give it away for free. I will instead keep it and enjoy it, make some good articles about the w140 and let time mature it into a true classic.

How to adjust the valves in the M110 engine – PART 1

Reading Time: 6 minutes

M110 Engine Valve adjustment – Part 1

I planned the valve adjustment job to be straightforward and easy, making it a delight to write an article about afterwards, but no! In the end I could not even adjust a single valve out of the 12 in total, and this is why I will divide the so called adventure into multiple parts and share my experience on the topic.

“Mother nature beats father engineer every time..”

Valve adjustments should be done every 15.000 km which means for most people every 2. or 3. year and is important for engine performance and fuel consumption. Neglected maintenance can even end up wearing your cam lobes prematurely if they get too tight!

A story of success

I got all the parts I needed, that is really only a valve cover gasket set. I let the car stay overnight for the engine to cool down. Then I start pulling out the spark plug wires, no need to mark them with cylinder number..haha! I unbolt the valve cover in a breeze, the nuts I throw somewhere neat.

Then I check the valve lobe timing, oh see that the first one is perfectly aligned already so I can start adjusting the first valve immediately. I find my valve feeler gauge easily from the toolbox and it’s not rusted together at all. I adjust the first valve and since my memory is faultless I can easily keep track of all the valves I have adjusted and the ones who are left. The crank is so easy to turn by hand and I don’t need to remove the radiator shroud or anything silly like that. I get everything done in under a less hour and bolt everything together with the new valve valve gasket and I’m now already on my way to the race track with 40 more HP.

A cake, but it's a lie

This is all however a big lie.

Sometimes wisdom words are painfully true: “Mother nature beats father engineer every time..”. The real struggle you can follow below.

bleak Reality

So before starting you should take care of a few things. In theory a valve adjustment is easy and requires little preparation and engine know how. You need a new valve cover replacement kit, since your old one is probably leaking oil and a new one is very cheap. The valve adjustment can be made either when the engine is warm (just after driving) or cold (20°C). I really recommend the latter since you will not burn your fingers and get better results since the engine is not cooling down slowly. Ideally it should be at ambient summer temperatures in the shade. You have to leave the car overnight to properly cool down after driving so this have to be planned in advance.

The tools you need is just really a spanner and some feeler gauges for the adjustment and a socket for turning the crank over, but as we will see here this is not the case for my case.

M110 engine with air filter off
Marked spark plug wires.

I start by removing the air filter housing to access the valve cover freely. Then I mark every spark plug wire with a number on a piece of tape. Usually the spark plug wires are different length, but it’s so much easier to plug them in afterwards. Then I take out the spark plugs.

Now I can start removing the valve cover bolts and place them somewhere safe. I note that the middle ones have a copper shim which I can keep, but the new valve cover gasket comes with replacement ones. It’s always nice to keep bolts, nuts and shims if they are in good order.

M110 engine with valve cover open

NOTE OF CAUTION 
With the valve cover off is is extremely important to not drop anything into the engine like a nut or something, since this will cause catastrophic engine failure. Also keep dirt away and exercise hospital  level cleanliness while the engine is open. Cover it always when not working on it, like lunch break etc..

I then go in the the toolbox to find my gauge feeler blades and realize they have rusted together and end up throwing them. I go in my dad’s old toolbox and luckily find some that are in a bit better shape. With a cold engine the inlet valve clearing should be 0.10 mm and the exhaust 0.25 mm. I draw a diagram over the valves so I can mark them after every adjustment, it will be very hard to keep track of otherwise. Just try remembering 12 boolean positions for reference!

Valve gauge feeler tool

Of course none of the valve lobes are pointing  directly vertical for any of the valves after opening the cover, that would be too easy! So I go ahead and try to turn the crank, but come over a problem. The fan shroud is too tight to engine for me to get any socket tool and ratchet to the crank. Loosening just the fan shroud is not helping either since the fan is sitting tight to the shroud. Then I loosen the fan and I can just get enough room for the ratchet and finally being able to turn the crank.

I align the first cam lobe and is ready to check the valve clearing. I expect most of the valves to be to bee way too tight, and the first one is as expected. I grab my spanner to start adjusting, but the valve adjusting nut is not moving at all. In fact I’m starting to slightly round off the nut. I stop before I ruin it. Then I quickly check a few other valves, they are all tight as expected, but also here the valve adjusting nuts are super tight. I am totally stuck.

After searching the Internet for similar issues it seems this is a common scenario for these aging engines. The nut material is quite soft and can easily be rounded off when they are tight. The solution is to remove the rocker arms to access the whole nut so you can get a socket over it to exert more force.

Seems easy right? To remove the rocker arm you need to depress the valves somehow. They are under very high pressure from the valve springs and a special compressor tool is needed. There are many different DOHC valve spring compressor tools on the market, however the M110 engine have very tight space between the cams and the engine walls where the spring compressor have to fit.  And the valve is at an angle so the tool need to be just for this purpose. There is such a speciality tool for the M110 engine, but I can’t find it on a single place on the internet.  It turns out it is in fact out of production. Fuck!

I am stuck and have to abandon my job and put everything back together. This was a waste of time! (But in the back of my cynical mind I think it can be turned into an article at some point..)

Here is a diagram over the valve assembly to illustrate the point better.

Valve Configuration M110 engine

The valve compressor tool is like a leverage bar with a hook for the cam axle and a crow foot depressor at an angle that can slide between the engine wall and the cam axle down on the top of the  valve. It looks like this:

M110 DOHC valve compressor tool

how to solve the tool problem

I have considered some options below and ranked them from easier/cheaper towards more expensive options.

  • Obtain the tool

I have reallly tried to find this on the internet, but with no success. I think I will not be able to obtain it. Not sure if Mercedes has one , but I am scared of even asking, it’s probably super expensive.

  • Make the tool myself

I know how it looks like and roughly the sizes. I can easily obtain some steel, and a crow foot. I have a welder so I can make the tool. However I expect it to take some time to assemble. Definitely worth looking into.

  • Take the car it to a workshop

I can just take it to a workshop and tell them to adjust the valves, but they are going to run into the same problems like me and they might end up ruining the valve nuts unless I explicitly tell them the problem in great detail. Remember these days no cars require manual valve adjustment and only the more experienced mechanics have done this. If you want things done right, better do it yourself.

  • Contact Mercedes on how the fuck….

This is my last option and will consist of asking if they have such a tool, and if the tool is not for sale (or out of production), if they can at least adjust the valves if they can send a tool from Mercedes Classic in Germany to their workshop. Problem is that is going to be very expensive for a simple job. Not likely I will venture down this path. Also would turn into a dreadfully boring article for you DIY people!

More on this adventure when we return in Part 2 of the valve adjustment nightmare… soonish

(Not really, it’s damn winter and car is parked)

Cheers, Robs out! 

AC Part 4: Changing the Expansion valve in w123

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Changing the AC expansion valve

An old and defect expansion valve will decrease performance in your AC system. That can result in either the commonly too warm air, or in fact too cold air causing frost on the vents! The air can also alternate between these two modes. The more expensive consequence is that it can also wreak havoc on the AC compressor since coolant will always flow (unless the compressor has a shut-off clutch).

In the final part of this “AC 101” series we will look at changing the expansion valve. If you need to read upon how the expansion valve works in an AC system look at Air Condition Systems 101.

The Ac expansion valve is quite accessible under the passenger side dashboard, but you will need some large spanners to loosen the AC hoses.

Preparation 

Before you do anything, make sure the AC system is completely emptied of refrigerant at a workshop. I repeat what I have written earlier in this series; The AC refrigerant is a highly volatile greenhouse gas. And if you have an old R12 system, the system might contain old freon gas which will deplete the ozone layer as well as being a volatile greenhouse gas.

So do that and then go shopping.

Parts:
  • New Expansion valve
  • New AC gaskets – You should change these to avoid leaks.
Tools:
  • Philips Screwdriver
  • Little flat screwdriver
  • Large open ended spanners

Procedure

Removal

Start by removing the passenger side lower dashboard cover. It is held in place with three screws at the top under some brittle plastic covers and a plastic screw on the lower right hand side. Remember when dealing with old interiors you have to take extreme care to not breaking any parts or loosing them. Replacement parts are long out of production by now and are not available except used ones (if you can find them) at often very high prices.

Passenger side dashboard ccover MB W123

Use a narrow and thin flat head screwdriver to carefully pry off the three small plastic covers.

Removing lower passenger dashboard cover MB w123

Then  unscrew the three philips screws on top and the lower right plastic screw. The left side and back side of the dash cover is held up by tabs in the floor and wall construction.

Removing lower dashboard cover w123
Weird plastic screw location

With the cover off. You can immediately locate the AC expansion valve. You should detach one end of the ventilation hose so you can access it. Detaching it from the left side is much easier and you don’t end up breaking stuff.

AC expansion valve w123
The Expansion Valve was covered in some very old foam that is disintegrating.

The expansion valve is covered by some foam that is long past its lifespan. Touch it and it disintegrates. So be prepared to get some styrofoam replacement (which you have to fabricate yourself). The only practical function of this foam is to protect the other plastic from the very cold valve.

Start by unscrewing the hoses, they might site quite hard and getting to them is a bit of a grind. Start by removing those who you find easiest and remove the other ones as you go.

AC expansion valve w123

Note the orientation of the old valve before removing.

AC expansion valve removed w123
AC expansion valve is removed

After the expansion valve is removed you should change the old gaskets with new ones before you install the new expansion valve.

The new expansion valve also says R134 on the side so it can in fact work fine with newer AC systems. The old one was for the obsolete R12 system.

AC Expansion valves Mercedes w123
New vs old AC Expansion valve

Installation

Remember to change the  gaskets and then start to screw in the hoses making really sure not to cross thread them. Take your time here. The hoses should go on quite tight to make a tight seal under the pressurized gas.

AC Expansion valve R134 w123
New expansion valve installed. It says R134 on it so it will work better with the R134 systems since R12 is obsolete. Notice the styrofoam placed on the backside.

Then install the dashboard cover again and your job is done, for now at least.

I highly recommend to perform pressure testing of the AC system before filling it with new gas, since many workshops do not even do this before they fill. You basically have to demand it before they fill. An AC leak is quite nasty since you will get a dirty cleanup job, not mentioning the greenhouse gas effects…

Cheers, Robs out!