2007 Mercedes CSL550 Control Arm Bushing and Ball Joint Replacement
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Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Bernie Pawlik and we're talking cars. How're you doing, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: Today, we're talking about a 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550. Pretty nice car. There was a front end problem. What was going on with this Mercedes?
Bernie: Yeah, absolutely. Very nice car. What was happening, is the owner was complaining there was some clunking sounds when he hit bumps in the car, so that was what we were looking at and that's what we did an inspection on the front end and found a few interesting things.
Mark: What did you find?
Bernie: We found that the control arm bushings, so, there's two lower control arms on this vehicle and all the bushings had excessive play. We also found that one of the ball joints was extremely, badly worn, as well on the right, lower ball joint was extremely, badly worn also.
Mark: With all that kind of play, what needed to be replaced to fix the issue.
Bernie: There's different options, and it depends on the car. Sometimes you can buy just the control arm bushing, sometimes you have to buy the whole arm. In the case of this vehicle, we replaced complete arms, because that's what was available. Some of the arms, they call it an upper and lower control arm, only because of the way the ball joint mounts. But the upper control arms come with ball joints, but the lower ones do not. The ball joint is actually pressed into the steering knuckle. I might be saying this backwards, lower, upper. But, anyways, either way, one of the control arms comes with a ball joint, one does not. So, on the right hand side, the ball joint is pressed into the steering knuckle and then that one, we just replaced the ball joint only on that side. So, why don't I just go into sharing some pictures here, so you get an idea what's going on with this car. We'll start with a video, and you can see this worn area. Are you seeing this, Mark?
Bernie: Okay. This is the worn ball joint. It spins very easily and then there's a lot of up and down movement in that ball joint that shouldn't be there. With someone with their hand, they should never be able to move that at all. It's normally very tight. So, the ball joint on the left-hand side was tight. It's brand new, but this one was completely worn. Now, there's our car, first of all. Beautiful, sleek looking ... got to love technology. I've got to roll with it sometimes.
Anyways, to make a long story short, that ball joint that you saw, that play, we cut the dust boot open. It was full of rusty crap and normally that's full of grease inside that boot. It keeps the grease in. So, somehow, moisture had seeped in, worn the joint out and caused all that excessive play.
Mark: Since you were replacing one, wouldn't it make sense to just replace the other ball joint at the same time?
Bernie: There are some parts when you do something on the right side of the car, you want to do the same on the left. It's like brakes, for instance. If you do a brake calliper on the right, you want to do the left as well, especially on the front, because it'll affect your braking. Something like a ball joint, it's a precisely made part, you know, machine to a exact tolerances, they're all the same. And there's really no ... if the ball joint on the left side is good, there's no reason to change it because likely, it's not going to be wearing, it could still last for 10 more years before it wears out. This one, unfortunately, got some water incursion, which wore the ball joint up prematurely.
Mark: How are these parts for longevity? Do they wear out frequently?
Bernie: They do. I think they do faster than they should. I mean, there's some cars where control arm bushings never wear out and others where they wear out kind of frequently. A lot of European cars have control arm bushing issues. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. There's a lot expected of them in terms of movement and plus, they make them in such a way, you get a nice, smooth, controlled ride, so it's a precise component and they do tend to wear out. Probably a little more on these cars than on some others.
Mark: Bushing, in this regard, is basically a rubber end piece that's built to be super stiff, but has some flexibility, so it's more flexible than if you just bolted the control arm to the frame.
Bernie: That is exactly what it is. I mean, if you actually just bolted the control arm to the frame solidly, there would be no movement. A bushing allows flexibility, but in a controlled manner. And I guess, the only other option you would have besides a rubber bushing would be an actual bearing that would move, but that would be a very hard metal to metal type of movement and so it would actually probably give an uncomfortable ride in the car. It would allow the movement and probably be very durable if you kept it lubricated, but it wouldn't allow for a very smooth ride. These bushings are very thick. A lot of them, you know, the rubber can be an inch thick surrounding a metal core, like ... if I'm explaining it right, I mean, the bushing can be three inches in diameter and then the centre core can be an inch, so there's a lot of rubber in between and there's a lot of movement there over time, but when it's new, it's pretty tight. If that explains it, I think?
Mark: Sure. And how are these CLS-Class Mercedes for reliability? Do you work on quite a few of these?
Bernie: We do. Yeah, they're pretty good cars. I mean, this particular one, we've serviced for quite a while. It's had its share of issues, you know, some fluid leaks and alternator and things like that that are worn out, but possibly it's not a very high-mileage car. My expectation would be it probably should have lasted longer, but that's what it is. They're not as reliable as Japanese cars as I often say, but it's a beautiful ride and I'd say worth the price of admission.
Mark: And a bit more of a high-performance vehicle really, for that size of car and sedan, really.
Bernie: It really is and actually this car drives. It's got a lot of power, surprisingly, you think, oh, you'd want the AMG if you wanted to go all out, yes that's true, but actually, this 550 is, it's very adequate in terms of power and performance. It's a pretty awesome car, not disappointing in any way. And yeah, nice step up from a, like a S-Class, which is more of a ... I want to say like a nice, conservative, luxury sedan. This has got some sportiness to it.
Mark: At the risk of insulting Mercedes-Benz fans in the world, S-Class is almost like an upgraded, slight upgrade, from a Jetta.
Bernie: Yeah, it is. Yeah, slight upgrade, yeah. I'd call it a large one, but, you know. We can talk about S-Classes later. I mean, great cars too, just different.
Mark: So, there you go. If you're looking for service and maintenance or any kind of repairs on your Mercedes-Benz in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, to book your appointment. You have to call ahead and book. They're busy. Check out their website, pawlikautomative.com. Check out their YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair and I hope you're enjoying the podcast. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark.