How to replace tie rods, center drag link and steering damper on W123

w123 center drag link

When your car steering starts to feel floaty and maybe the car is starting to drift to one side so you constantly have to correct when going down a straight road, consider changing the steering linkage components and do a wheel alignment.

I will describe how you replace the tie rods, the center drag link and the steering damper only. I will not describe how to do a wheel alignment, because professional wheel alignment equipment is needed.

Changing the idler arm bushing is also possible if you experience a knocking sound going over bumps, but this procedure will be described later in a separate article.

 Theory

Get the parts needed for this job, they are quite cheap since they are normal wear items on a car.
Parts you should get:

  • Right and left side tie rods
  • Center drag link
  • Steering damper
  • Idler arm bushing (job not described in this article)

You will need a special tool for removing the tie rod ends, this can be picked up quite cheap. Either a tie rod fork or a tie rod press tool will do, the latter will not render the tie rod bushing seal useless, but if you are only changing the parts then this does not matter. Additionally you will need a hammer, a torque wrench, some hex tools and some spanners.

 Practice

Start by raising the front of the car on to jack stands, make sure you block the rear wheels. You will have to be able to remove the front wheels to gain access to the tie rods and also be able to turn the wheels.

Because you are working around the brake rotor, it is important that you wear a dust mask and get a bucket of soapy water and start cleaning the brake rotor and the area around to get rid of all the harmful brake dust before you do any other further work. Think of your health!

When you have cleaned the brake dust, turn the steering wheel all the way left if you are working on the right side, and vica versa.

tie rod tool
Use of tie rod press tool to pop the ends off

Get a small pick and clean road grime from the top of the tie rod so you can get a hex tool inserted in to the top. You will loose the bolt with a spanner, but because the whole tie rod end will rotate you have to counter it with the hex tool. When he bolt is off you will notice the tie rod is still extremely stuck. Hit the side hard a couple of times with a hammer to knock the rusted component loose, this might help to loosen it. Insert the tie rod press remove tool and start tightening until the tie rod pops off, this can sometimes be violent. Be careful and don’t lie under it when this happens, because it can happen quite suddenly and the tool and parts might fall on top of you, ouch!

You have to repeat the process twice on each tie rod for both of the car’s sides.

When you have gotten both off, measure the length by counting the turns the tie rod end can rotate before it comes off, it is important that this is exactly the same for the new tie rod. The new and old tie rod should have exactly the same end so your car will have the same handling properties, so it will not be too much “toe in” or “toe out”. The workshop will do the last alignment with reference to the manufacturer specifications after you take the car there. Tighten the tie rod adjustment screw so it will not rotate when the lengths are right.

w123 steering damper
New vs old steering damper. Old one was leaking and in bad condition

Time to take the steering damper off. This is the easiest procedure, it is held in place with two bolts only.

w123 steering damper bolt
Steering damper bolt on the frame side.

One end is attached to the frame of the car while the other one is attached to the center drag link.

Now it is time to get the center drag link off, the procedure is the same here as with the tie rods. Except you don’t have to adjust anything.

W123 center drag link nut
Unbolting the center drag link nut

The fitting is pretty much straight forward, but remember to use the right torque settings for the tie rod mounting nuts. You should tighten them down only to 41Nm, the tie rods will be stuck in the steering arm and the nuts have plastic inserts in them. Remember throw out the old tie rod ends nuts since thee plastic self tightening mechanism is word. The new tie rods and drag link comes with new nuts and be sure to use these. Loosing control of the car because of some old nuts would be as stupid as driving off a cliff.

Safety warning:
You absolutely have to take the car to a workshop where they will do a new wheel alignment. This must always be done right after changing the lower suspension parts!

Cheers, Robs out 

 

Author: robs

Passionate about older Mercedes Benz where driving, maintaining and learning new things is what keeps me doing this. Enjoying writing about cars and teaching others on the black arts of car maintenance. Have a major in space technology engineering and currently doing IT consulting for a living.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *