Guest Post: Maintenance jobs deferred – W116 steering alignment

Owning more than a few classic cars can often be problematic, as minor maintenance jobs are often deferred. My 450SE (Claudia) had been on top of the hoist for a few months without being driven. I think she was prompting me to use her as a thick layer of dust had formed. When getting her off the hoist, I noticed I fair bit of auto transmission fluid had leaked out, and when measuring on the dip stick, it was reading under the low mark. Greg at “Gullwing Motors” quickly diagnosed the gearshift seal and kick down solenoid seals had failed and were promptly replaced.

One of the minor maintenance jobs I had been delaying since I got the car was looking into why indicators didn’t self-cancel when turning left.  I happened to ask Greg to look at it while the car was there. He promptly took the Mercedes emblem badge off steering wheel centre and communicated to me the mark inside wasn’t pointing down to the 6 o’clock position, but rather pointing to 4 o’clock, even though my steering wheel position looked correct when driving straight ahead.

Steering box alignment

Greg asked me to see if a wheel alignment would fix it before he did anything else mechanically. A quick visit to Donnellan’s in Blackburn confirmed it couldn’t be fixed by adjusting tie-rods. It was at this moment I knew the steering box had been out at some time (prior to my ownership) and hadn’t been centred when being re-installed.

The first task was to remove steering wheel and re-align it, in reference to the mark. This showed the steering box was at least one to two splines out, as the steering wheel was way to the left when driving straight ahead, which was disconcerting.

Steering box alignment

Back at the mechanic, we had the task to align steering box. The first task is to lock the steering in place. We used a specific tool that didn’t allow the wheel to move.

Steering box alignment

After detaching the steering shaft, you then remove the drain plug at the bottom of the steering box. Once removed you will see a block inside and when the steering is at centre, you will see an indentation that allows the box to get locked in place with a long-pointed end bolt (used in place of the drain plug). Once locked in place, you reassemble and then remove the bolt.

When off the hoist, a test drive showed steering was ever so slightly off centre, favouring the right. Back at Donnellan’s again, Rocky greeted me, asking if I’d fixed the problem. I said sorry to be a pain and yes, I’d fixed 99% of the problem, but I just needed some final fettling via a wheel alignment. Now my steering wheel is dead centred when driving straight and my indicators self-cancel for the first time since owning the car.

Author:  Nick Gruzevskis is a member of the Mercedes-Benz Club (Victoria) and the owner of this 1979 450SE, a 2005 CLK320 and a SLK230

Editor’s note:  On reading this article, it looks like my 1977 Mercedes 450SLC also has this problem.   

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