Home » Here’s Everything Wrong With Our $4,500 Mercedes E-Class Wagon: Project Ski-Klasse

Here’s Everything Wrong With Our $4,500 Mercedes E-Class Wagon: Project Ski-Klasse

Ski Klasse Benz

The Autopian bought a $4,500 Mercedes wagon with 160,000+ miles, a rebuilt title, and a dream to turn it into a wintercrossing, snow-bashing machine. I found this a confusing choice, but Matt assured me the 210-generation Mercedes is basically the new Volvo 240. I love BMWs, how hard could this be? Then I actually drove the thing and got very confused. I’ve now spent a few days at mega-Euro parts supplier FCP Euro‘s headquarters in Connecticut wrenching on the car, and I’ve learned that Matt’s theory is half right and half wrong. The car is extremely different from BMWs, though in ways that are sometimes improvements. Here’s everything that was wrong with our $4,500 Mercedes and what we did to fix it.

[Ed note: This project is a big deal for us. We’ve got Vredestein Tires and FCP Euro (and more, stay tuned) supporting this project. We’ve got the legendary Bill Caswell helping us build it. We’re also attempting to create a sensible and sustainable model for writing about these things as we do them. To wit, you can follow the project almost in real time on our Instagram account and on Bill’s account. We’ll have posts coming, approximately, about a week after we do things. Then we’ll have a couple of big videos to wrap it up. This should hopefully reduce waiting for posts and updates. – MH]

Screen Shot 2023 03 10 At 10.19.46 Am

I know I’m too quick to judge. I could explain how I’m getting older and running out of time, but I’m probably just hating because I’ve already seen something very similar, and just assume that’s how things should be. Like a BMW. It’s German, so our Mercedes should be like a BMW. They must share parts suppliers and hire from the same universities. How could two German cars be that different? Well our car isn’t that German. According to the internet, our car was designed by a British guy! Steve Mattin, under Italian design chief Bruno Sacco, actually penned the car. I’m not sure how their work translates into our control arms, but I’d love to ask them some day. I also have a book on the way that might explain some of our wagons weirdness, but maybe it’s just a Stuttgart thing? Uh oh, we’re back to the judging…

Ball Joint

My first thought on driving our car was: Soft. Super Soft. Almost plush. Like the sofa at your grandparents. “Bouncy” was how Mercedes Streeter described it, but Chicago’s streets are rougher than Vermont’s. In general, ths wagon drove really well for a 23 year old car, but it never once occurred to us that our car was on at least one of the original front control arms from 1998! How is that even possible? I feel like I swap control arms when I wear out brake pads on my BMWs and I run pads that wear fast. Somehow, our Mercedes E320 wagon went 162,000 miles over 23 years without the owners feeling the need to tighten up the front end? This is where it hit me.

FCP Euro, an important partner in this endeavor, has a lifetime warranty, which always sounds a little crazy to me (people even send their oil back, apparently). But our control arms are 23 years old!

Controlarms

The front control arm on our E230 had a ball joint like you’d see on a BMW, but Mercedes-Benze had to be different. The company rotated the ball joint 90 degrees. I don’t understand, but it’s likely part of the 162,000 mile mystery. I figured it was a parts bin control arm made to fit to keep costs down. Clearly, Mercedes had to do something to make these cars robust enough to survive as taxis all over the world.

FCP Euro Has A Mercedes Expert And We Managed To Surprise Him

Danny

If you own a European car, you probably know FCP Euro. It’s a huge player in the Euro car parts game, and is a godsend for keeping our old German junkers on the roads.

We went to FCP Euro’s main HQ and distribution center in Milford, Connecticut to get our parts, but because we’re buddies they also let us work on our car. FCP Euro has a workshop for making its DIY repair videos and prepping its race cars for all sorts of events where European cars thrive (e.g. AER, IMSA). There were two GT-4 AMG GT’s on the lifts and a huge video editing area tucked off to the side. The back wall is glass (above the tool benches) and looks into the warehouse where three shifts of employees picked parts, packed boxes, and shipped your orders.

Up front is s a little retail counter for picking up your parts or you can pull up and just text them. I wish I lived near FCP Euro. Life would be so much easier. [Ed note: I may have snuck off and actually picked up a part for my E39 while Bill was busy doing the actual work. Efficiency! – MH]

Screen Shot 2023 03 10 At 10.21.55 Am Screen Shot 2023 03 10 At 10.19.59 Amf

For the next 48 hours, we lived at FCP Euro. [Ed note: I actually had to make Caswell drive home to my place where we were staying, as opposed to on someone’s desk as he would have preferred. TBH I did fall asleep on the couch around midnight at some point – MH]. Anytime we needed a part, we placed an order, printed the picking sheet, and grabbed our parts off the shelves ourselves! Even better, FCP Euro put its Mercedes expert, Danny Kruger on our project. So when I put a sway bar link on backwards and damaged it, Danny was able to grab a new one off the shelf at 11pm! Think about how wild that is!

It was a trip for me because you know you will finish your project if every part you could ever need is on other side of the wall!

Raining Fluid

I have weird dreams. Being locked inside FCP Euro with a bare chassis with a race in a few days is one of them! I’ll need a pizza-sized door on the wall for deliveries, but FCP Euro has everything else. They even have have a shower setup for the shop, which I kind of had to use every night. I wear a car when I work on it, and I was staying at Matt’s, which is designed for normal human beings to live in, as opposed to, say, David’s trash house.

Credit to a man named Mark, who owned the car before, because Danny took one look at the underside of our Ski-Klasse and said it was the nicest one he’d ever seen. He also said it looked like it had been in at least two accidents. Oh Well!

Servicing The Mercedes S210 Transmission (Valve Bodies Are Black Magic)

Transmissionissue

Our transmission seemed to be fine and we had no issues shifting, generally, but servicing a valve body is just a thing you have to do with older 210s. So we did it. We took the pan off the bottom of the transmission. We made a mess, put it back together with new plastic, and I still have no idea what we did. It’s just one of those car things. You don’t need to understand, you just need to swap it. Because if you don’t, and it fails, which it will, you will be in limp mode at 5 mph.

The plastic tray is a reason I hate automatics. It holds a reluctor sensor (I heard that word a lot) that measures the speed of something and it goes bad over time. Instead of mounting the sensor to the side of the transmission where it could be swapped easily, Mercedes make you drain its “lifetime” fluid and swap this plastic tray. FCP makes a whole kit for this. Then you have to break the bottle’s seal and fill the transmission with new lifetime fluid.

Next time it fails, I’m putting a clutch in. I think it was the first thing Danny mentioned. “You know for about $500 more we could just buy a manual from a crossfire and…” Danny is awesome. That’s exactly how I think. Why take something apart that’s not that great? Just spend the time making it better and faster, or more fun. Maybe for Ski-Klasse Stage 2…

Transmissionunit

But we weren’t done with the nonsense. The automatic transmission pumps oil up the wiring harness and into the transmission computer when the seal at the transmission fails. Technically it’s a wicking thing, kind of like how a siphon seems to defy gravity. Or when a paper towel touches water and it soaks all way up the towel. Maybe a capillary effect? Either way, it’s dumb. You could be driving along with 150,000 miles on your car and it just stops for no reason. Then your mechanic shows you a computer drenched in oil under your passenger seat and asks for cash. So we put new seals in.

A Bad Transmission Seal Can Ruin Your Computer And Kill Your Car?

Howdobrakeswork

Mercedes really thought our transmission was a lifetime fill. So that means no dipstick — no way to measure the level. It gets filled at the factory and fuck it, it should be enough, for life. Until you NEED to drain it. So Danny gave us some dipstick from an earlier model that works on our transmission, because I would definitely need that a few times on the way to Chicago. If you have one of these cars definitely buy it. It’s the longest dipstick I’ve ever seen.

If you have a W210 (or W208 or like a million other cars that use this thing), you might want to watch this video, where FCP Euro runs through everything you need to do:

We should have. Danny has done this so many times that he doesn’t need to watch it, but with me talking and and laughing and distracting him, we forgot to undo the harness and made a mess. So even if you know the job, sometimes it’s smart to just skim the video as you go. Or ignore my talking while wrenching! [Ed Note: He also stopped and made videos for FCP Euro, drove some employee cars, went on a journey through the distribution center.

Bill Being Bill

It’s amazing we got any of the car done or slept at all. – MH]

The S210 Front Suspension Is Robust And Also A PITA

Frontsusepneions

There’s a reason our car went 162,000 miles on its front suspension, but it has nothing to do with the quality of its engineering. I think it’s because Mercedes made it such a nightmare to swap that when owners were quoted the price, they just skipped it. Danny looked at the first control arm and was like “Yup, that’s original.” The other one is a bit of a mystery. We think it may be a junkyard part so, still original, just replaced at some point? Everything rubber also looked original.

The outer ball joints are so tight. You can’t even get normal tools on the nuts. (Ohhh wait to we get the engine mounts, there’s a weirdo little wrench to get the nuts off). Danny handed me some weirdo obscure tool, saying: “Hey, put this in the car, you’re going to get so upset when you realize you need this to get the engine out. Just put it in your kit and I’ll order another.”  Thankfully, FCP Euro sells all these weirdo parts. Here’s a short list of things you might need:

You can buy just the inner bushings, and there’s even an offset type for adjusting camber, but like I’m going to press bushings out of arms while staring through the glass at a football field of parts? Nope. I’ll take the whole new arm with fresh bushings and a lifetime warranty replacement! Thanks FCP Euro! We also got the tie rod kit, which is pretty cheap and has fancy new parts. [Ed note: ([Self Ed Note: To the readers [OR MATT]: I know there’s a lot of FCP Euro love in this article. They are one of our partners on Ski-Klasse, but I have been ordering parts through FCP Euro for years. They use some of my profits to go racing and hire friends and support project like this, so it’s easy to go a bit over the top.]) YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SELF ED Note: THAT IS NOT A THING – MH]

Mattehlepd

Matt, in his infinite wisdom, ordered the wrong control arm kit. Thankfully, we were able to swap it for the correct one, which is this one if you were curious.

The S210 Rear Brakes Weren’t That Bad

Rear Brakes

We finally found a broken part! Every thing else was just tired. One of the rear brake caliper’s pistons was seized. Apparently it’s kind of rare (should be if you flush your brake fluid), so FCP Euro didn’t have one on hand and we needed it immediately so we made the mistake of just going to the parts store. That’s right, we were at the biggest Mercedes parts warehouse I know, but we go hit the local store and guess what? The caliper was wrong and didn’t fit. Seriously. I’ve never laughed so hard. It’s why I buy parts from companies like FCP Euro. You’ll almost never open the box to find out it’s wrong and your car won’t be able to make the event.

The issue is Mercedes and the workhorse S210/W210. They put so many engines in it. Five for every continent! I’m kidding, sort of, but the list of variants is wild. Then add in the four-wheel drive versions and combine it with wagons and wow. Somehow, Mercedes spec’d slightly different rear calipers. Maybe not that slight. Even the pads pin in differently. Had to be supplier contract stuff. Or Mercedes was just emptying the parts bins? No idea, but it’s so weird to see that the first time I look under a Mercedes.

Here’s all the stuff you need for the job:

Valve Cover Gasket Replacement

Valve Cover

Maybe the reason why these Benzes last so long is that they’re self oiling? The whole time we were driving the car you could get a whiff of burnt oil and, looking down into the engine bay, it was everywhere. The valve cover gaskets are, basically, the inverse of the control arms. They don’t hold up.

Oh, for all my slathering praise on our partners… FCP Euro was a really nice place to wrench, but it was not perfect. After two days of looking for a flaw I finally found it. I (and I mean we, all of us DIY car people) do not usually have a full race shop with a warehouse of new parts behind it. We have to clean our 20 year old parts and bolt them back on. I don’t have a parts washer either (and I refuse to use my dishwasher like David), but I have a big tub and brushes and cleaners and solvents. It’s just clean. Remember the line from Caddyshack about the pool? FCP Euro needs a pond out back for guys like me; or something.

This came up because we really needed to soak that valve cover (conveniently, FCP Euro also has a valve cover gasket kit with the correct $6 breather hose so you don’t get almost done and realize you miss that one stupid little part). It was disgusting,. Then we had to reseal a cover onto the valve cover with this fancy Mercedes RTV that comes in a horse enema-shaped contraption. Danny said this stuff is used a lot in later models but in ours, you just change the valve cover gaskets like you swap control arms in a BMW.

Oil Change And Differential Fluid

Dirtybill

Change your diff fluid. Get the right stuff. There are weird additives in the oil for the gear pressure and they can get crushed or cooked or just degrade over time. Plus, a differential takes less than two quarts of oil, so it’s not that expensive. Flush it while you can. Normally this isn’t even worth mentioning. Liqui Moly isn’t a partner, but shout out to them because when I opened the containers, a 6″ long, flexible tube pulled out of the top so I could fill the differential without a pump! I just squeezed the bottle. Very cool. Of course 1/3 was left in each bottle, but, whatever, the diff service was done in minutes. The same for the oil change (oil change kit here).

Alignment The Old-School Way

Screen Shot 2023 03 10 At 10.28.12 Am

When it’s late at night you want to do everything quickly so you can go to sleep. Resist this urge!

I’ve done an alignment so many times. I can do it fast. I can get the toe perfect. Despite it being almost midnight my first toe setting was perfect! But… I forgot the part about straightening the wheel, which was pointed to 3 o’clock. Not perfect. Which is super weird with an OEM wheel that doesn’t seem to be round. We needed to be closer to not get a cam effect.

Alignment

For the next 40 min I chased my tail reversing everything. This was dumb. You’re on the ground, on your back looking up at the car trying to remember to turn the adjuster the correct way. You do a good job and check and it’s wrong. Waaaaaay wrong. Ohhh, you somehow forgot its a Bizarro BMW and Mercedes put the rack on the back of the system! Full mirror. So extending the tie rod on a Mercedes toes you in, but on my BMW’s it give you toe out. FML.

I ran through five or eight or maybe 10 iterations [Ed note: It felt like 90 – MH] before realizing I can’t check the iterations fast enough with our unmatched tape measures and our aluminum bars that I drew sharpie marks on to line up. To make it extra fun, we had to balance the bars on weird chunks of wood to get above the bulge at the bottom of the tire. I know FCP Euro has lasers. They have two AMG GT race cars. No way they set the tow on those like I’m doing on Ski-Klasse. This only needed to get us home and I finally gave up with a slight bit of toe for lazy driving to Chicago and was just happy the wheel was at 11:15 AM and not 3:00 PM because it was getting close to 2:00 am. Close enough. let’s go!

After we fixed the alignment, there wasn’t a need to constantly turn the wheel while driving and the wheel squeak was almost gone by Chicago (that’s where my shop is). I have a plan for a different squeak though! And it’s going to be way more obnoxious. [Ed note: Wait, what? – MH]

Stuff We Could Have Done But Have Saved

Just so you know, if you ever see someone standing on the engine of their Mercedes with both hands appearing to be in their front pockets while steam pours out from the side of the car, they are simply fixing their crank sensor, which has failed and needs to cool down. In a pinch, you can allegedly pee on it and it’ll buy you some miles. Better than that? Just buy one and put it in your trunk, it’s like $40.

While you’re at it, also grab some engine mounts and wheel bearings. Neither of those are specific to the Mercedes, of course, but if you have the time to do it just do it.

It’s Like A Volvo 240 That Has Been Beautifully Maintained

Dannyworking

During the whole ride from Connecticut to Chicago I thought about 162,000 mile control arms. How? Why? Did Mercedes design them to last that long or was that a byproduct of those cushy, bouncy inner bushings that somehow never rotted? Ours was from Maryland, so it had to have been parked in a nice garage its whole life. I think we snapped/stripped two or three bolts the entire time and they were all on the sway bar bracket. We cut the heads off and backed the remaining studs out with vice grips once the bracket was off. Even the exhaust looks nice. Maybe Mercedes used a better alloy? Maybe. I think garage.

But that doesn’t explain the 23 year old control arms. Or the other ancient parts. Danny noticed some valve thing near the driver’s front shock tower that looked new and made a comment about how that’s good, but the rest of the car looks like the original parts. The exhaust cracked at its lowest point so it either scraped something regularly, or maybe the rubber hangers failed. The rear muffler is massive, so I vote hangers, but my point is that an exhaust patch, some valve thing under the hood, a radiator, and likely an alternator seem to be the only repairs or maintenance done to this car.

I wish the the windshield wipers had dates on them. I know there is no way our car did 162k on the original, single wiper, but after seeing the rubber front control arm bushings from 1998, I wonder.

Scotttookthis

So Matt’s theory about these cars being robust workhorses is correct, but I think the reasons are slightly different. A Volvo 240 is a good design, like this one, but it’s also designed so you can replace everything quickly and economically. You can keep a Volvo 240 on the road because it’s cheap and easy to swap parts.

The Mercedes is different. First, the parts are designed to last and not to be replaced. It’s built so that it can go long miles without having to change much. Where it differs from the 240 is in the fact that these changes aren’t always easy. Plus, 240s live outside, and most Mercedes likely spend their first ownership in a garage.

We did most of the service needed on this car in about two days for about $1,200 in parts. If you wanted to do all the major stuff assume it takes $2,000-$2,400 and three days if you have a friend helping you. That’s not bad.

For all its bizarro-BMWness, I like the Ski-Klasse and can’t wait to cut into the nicest 210 a Mercedes expert has ever seen!

Big thanks to FCP Euro for their expertise, help with parts, and buying us pizza.

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

Photos: Matt Hardigree, Bill Caswell, Scott Lenkowsky

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

37 Responses

  1. Accurate assessment. The parts on my E320 lasted for a long time, but it is a pain to replace anything. Except the oil and filter, those were nice and easy.

  2. Yep, those old(ish) Mercedes have some good bones. Makes me miss my ’96 E300. Not a lot of horsepower, but that old tank was a nice highway cruiser. Looking forward to seeing where Ski-Klasse goes from here!

  3. Awesome write up. Just curious, if you had to estimate the costs of doing everything you need how bad it adds up. Or maybe thats for a future article!

    Keep it up!

  4. Love that you did the alignment yourself. I gave up on “pro” shop alignments after several young bucks completely fouled it up- I blame the computers.
    But it does take patience, and yes it’s hard to keep the directions straight when you’re laying on a parking lot trying to make an adjustment.

  5. I’m pretty sure that’s the same place that used to be called FCP Groton when I began buying Volvo and Mercedes parts from them, maybe 30 years ago. Is that correct?

  6. “The automatic transmission pumps oil up the wiring harness and into the transmission computer when the seal at the transmission fails. Technically it’s a wicking thing, kind of like how a siphon seems to defy gravity. Or when a paper towel touches water and it soaks all way up the towel. Maybe a capillary effect? Either way, it’s dumb. You could be driving along with 150,000 miles on your car and it just stops for no reason. Then your mechanic shows you a computer drenched in oil under your passenger seat and asks for cash. So we put new seals in.”
    This happened to my 1997 W202 in Black Butte, Wyoming in 2009 during a trip from Wisconsin.

    1. The car in the linked video was mine at the time and showed early signs of fluid wicking upwards (and the subsequent clip of about 250ml of ATF 134 draining from a TCM was sent over by our Mercedes Catalog Manager Kyle Bascombe, via his project W210 E55).

      I often call the 722.6 one of the most durable transmissions out there, but it does beg the question; if I have to add the stipulation “as long as you change the fluid regularly, and you don’t let a fluid-soaked TCM or a bad conductor plate strand you,” is it really true?

      Sorry to hear you fell victim to this at the worst time. Love the W202s though, absolutely timeless.

  7. I think the fact that a BMW person is amazed that control arms can last 160,000 miles says all you need to know about BMWs. Those of us who drive Japanese cars didn’t know that people replace control arms.

    1. I changed the bushings in my ’78 MGB’s control arms this winter. I can’t tell if they had been changed but they were very rough. Of course the MG is lightweight and low power so it doesn’t wear things out very fast.

    2. Seriously. He’s going on repeatedly about “OMG the control arms are 160k old? How are they so ancient? How has this car only had an alternator in the last 23 years?”

      And I’m over here with 280k and almost completely original suspension on my Honda. 225k on a Cherokee and completely original suspension too.

      1. So what I just bought a 1978 Fiat 124 spider that came with its original tires. How do i know? They were a Bavarian make called Emmington or something. Research told me great tires chosen for Ferrari and Lambo race teams. Bought out and last used the brand name in 1979. I couldnt believe a 45 year old tire exploded into dust during the tow.

      2. Fellow Honda driver here, I was confused about the control arm thing as well. And it reminded me of my Dad changing wheel bearings on Mom’s Buick. It’s a 2012 IIRC, and he’s done this multiple times like it’s no big thing. I remember changing bearings on a ’75 Chevelle, but not since then have I even thought of wheel bearings. Why is this a thing? Why can Honda (and others to be fair) make parts that last, and some manufactures just not?

        1. I have 2 Toyotas as daily drivers.
          1 2004 Sienna XLS w/220k miles. I’ve recently replaced the front struts & springs, front brake pads & disc’s, rear shocks & springs, rear brake pads, discs/drums & parking break shoes & park drum assembly. All fluids. And at 180k the timing belt, accessory belt, 1 motor mount (bc it eas in the eay & thr bolts were frozen) + waterpump out of precaution. All regular maintenance stuff. Only non-maintenance repairs was replacing the radiator bc toe top left corner (ie drivers side), a common failure for this yr. that had developed a leak and the condenser (as a precaution) plus the compressor bc the ac was getting weak. And of course I’ve had to replace the battery, though I think only once. All above said the wheel bearings haven’t (yet) needed to be replaced.
          Other daily is a 2012 Prius Plug-in w/206K, which I’ve recently replaced the front brake pads & rotors, front struts & springs, rear pads (disc’s still fine), rear shocks & springs, replaced the transmission fluid (w recommended special Toyota atf) and I will replace the coolant & brake fluid in the spring. And (surprising to me) I had to replace 3 of the 4 wheel bearings/hubs with only the front passenger bearings/hub remains (as far as I know) original.
          Long winded way of saying while both have been super reliable, I’m surprised that the older car, (by 8 yrs.) with more miles, is still on what are likely to be all original wheel bearings & control arms, and yet w/the Prius I’ve had to replace 3 of 4 :shrug

    3. Hahaha! So spot on! I really want to build a Honda one day. Such a cool company with so much history. And so many of my friends got into cars through civics and CRXs.

  8. I’m so bummed I was working remote when the man, the myth, the legend that is Bill Caswell was working at the shop. Always good to see Yung Danny getting his hands dirty.

    1. I have a feeling we’ll be back! Any chance you’ll be at Pitt Race for AER at the end of the month?

      And Danny was awesome! So awesome that I let him knock out all the annoying stuff and wish he was here still helping me wrench!

  9. Yes, I’ll say it again- the cleanest W210 wagon I’ve seen in the Northeast!

    A lot of these cars sort of got driven into the ground because…well, why wouldn’t you? They’ll sort of just keep trudging along for decades whether they want to or not. But inherently, they’re an often-overlooked and very decent car for A-to-B travel. This one should make a great basis for doing a whole lot more than “A-to-B” though.

    Looking forward to seeing where Matt and Bill take the “Ski-Klasse” now that it’s been tidied up and prepped for a good thrashing!

  10. I’m a guy who has owned cars from all 3 of the big German manufacturers (VW/Audi, BMW and MB.) I understand your surprise about MB being difficult. I find BMWs to be quite easy to work on, but when I bought a w124 I found MB does things differently, and it seems to me they did it differently just to make things more complex with no advantage other than higher parts prices. After that car, I decided I’m sticking with BMW.

  11. I wish I would have known, I live 40 minutes and work about 20 minutes from where you were in CT. I’d have love to come down and meet you for a few minutes. Perhaps in the future us members might be informed of stuff like this? Maybe???

    1. I’m starting to notice W210 wagons around too. There are so many more on the road than I realized. I kind of want my own now too. But with like 500hp and a manual and maybe a wide body kit!

  12. Ok car guys. Why didn’t you mention and introduce the blonde lady taking the picture? Oh didn’t even occur to you to switch to a manual or spanish manuel?

  13. The control arm replacement confuses me as well.
    I’ve been wrenching on cars for over 50 years, and I’ve replaced exactly one control arm. And that one was an upper on a ’72 Pontiac Lemans Wagon that was bashed off a curb.
    I would expect that a company like Mercedes Benz would make such a critical suspension part to be more durable and completely rebuildable.
    Were they all tweaked?

    1. To clarify a bit; the hardware that came out of the car was, for the most part, fine. The bushings were date-stamped 1998 (definitely driving home the hypothesis that they were original) and as a solid rubber bushing press-fit into the arm at the two pickup locations, things were in perfectly acceptable condition for road use aside from some cracking on the surface of the rubber (expected, given age and a vehicle of decent heft).

      Could those bushings last another ten years? Absolutely, and likely longer before making noise. The primary failure point on this design is the quintessentially-German double-headed ball joint that Bill notes above, which bolts into the end of the control arm on one end and onto the steering knuckle at the other. These have a tendency to wear a lot faster than the control arm bushings themselves, given the amount of motion being controlled by this one part.

      Could we have just replaced these ball joints then? Absolutely, and the car would’ve been great to drive. But considering the Ski-Klasse is targeting some performance driving and the OE-manufacturer control arms are fairly affordable (and we had them on the shelf ready to go), the full control arm assembly (bushings, ball joints, and the arm itself) was replaced on both sides. Buying the full OE assembly saved us all of the time of pressing out the bushings, cleaning up the antique control arms and pressing in new units, which was nice considering we only had a couple days of work time.

      I think it’s important to note that even if a bushing doesn’t completely fall apart, aged rubber can still merit replacement depending on what the end goal is. When I bought my Honda that I was using for Time Attack driving, the control arms were 180,000 mile original units. The bushings were fine (even the ball joints were acceptable) but I still felt an immediate ROI on install by having bushings that hadn’t been clattering over NYC bumps for ~150k.

      1. Just to clarify, I have rebuilt many control arms. I was wondering about your replacing them.
        If I’m going very deep on a front suspension service, new control arm bushings are a must do item.
        I have to say though, if someone handed me four loaded ones I’d swap them in a heartbeat rather than rebuild mine.

      2. Spot on Danny! We definitely could have left them, but we were going through the front end and it seemed to make sense to freshen everything at once. And we could have pressed the old bushings out and pressed in new ones, but the complete new arms weren’t that expensive, they were on the shelf and so much easier to swap in. If I was at home and had more time, I would have just ordered the bushings. Or even offset ones to adjust camber.

        I was hoping the front end would feel stiffer or more direct in feel after the new bushings, but it’s still super soft. So we probably could have left them. The tie rods made a huge difference though!

  14. Wait… You all in my home town? I drive by their chop all the time. Was curious about them. I see their trailers outside. I didn’t realize how nice that chop is inside.

    1. If you stop by sometime, shoot me a DM and I’ll give you a quick tour! I’ll even show you the single tool Bill used to dismantle nearly the entire front end of the Ski-Klasse.

        1. So funny! I nearly brought my own ratchet and a few 10 and 13mm sockets because you can’t ever have enough around when working on German cars!

Leave a Reply