Knowledge Base

3 Reasons Your Mercedes SL500 Suspension Fails (and How to Fix It)

Maybe you’ve noticed that your Mercedes SL500 is leaning to one side a little bit, or riding a little too low. Maybe you’re already seeing the dreaded ABC warning light. Whatever it is, your Mercedes SL500 hydraulic suspension is failing.

The question you might be asking now is “why?”

While hydraulic suspensions offer a great deal of responsiveness and comfort, there are many drawbacks. Namely, the all-but-guaranteed eventual failure of the system and the expense of repairing and replacing it.

Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons why these expensive systems fail.

1. Too much complexity



Mercedes’ hydraulic suspension system, called Active Body Control (ABC), uses precision sensors and an onboard computer to regulate the hydraulic pressure in the shocks.

While this allows for a very responsive and comfortable ride, it means there are lots of things that can go wrong.

Furthermore, the ABC system requires all of the components to function in unison in order for it to work properly. If one component is failing it creates a domino effect and puts more stress on the other components. This will significantly shorten the working life of the other components.

2. Too many moving parts



The sensors in the SL500 hydraulic suspension are moving parts. Like all moving parts, they wear down over time and become less effective, eventually wearing out completely.

The hydraulic pump, which pushes hydraulic fluid to the components, is itself a moving part. Once it wears out, the entire system will fail. It is a difficult and expensive component to replace.

3. Fragile components


The SL500 uses a series of lines to transport the hydraulic fluid from the pump into the struts. These lines need to be flexible and thus are made of materials like plastic and rubber.

Plastic and rubber lines can be easily cut or ripped from road rubble or other debris. Even a small leak will significantly worsen the performance of the suspension.

A hole in a line will cause the pump to work harder to keep the struts pumped up. This will cause the pump to wear out even faster.
Now that we know why the hydraulic suspensions fail, let’s take a look at how to fix them.

How to Fix Your SL500 Suspension

The first and most obvious option is of course to take it to the dealership or a mechanic. They’ll get the OEM parts ordered and replaced. Repairing the entire system could cost you upwards of $4,000. For many, that’s a little too much to spend on an aging car.

Another option is to forget that troubled hydraulic suspension entirely and replace it with a sturdy, dependable coilover suspension from Strutmasters.

A coilover suspension is a much simpler solution than the hydraulic one. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s pretty simple to DIY at home. And if you’d rather take it to a mechanic, the install only takes about one hour per wheel, meaning you won’t pay too much in labor fees.

Here’s a video of an install we did here at Strutmasters. You can see for yourself how simple it is:

Once you decide to make the switch, give us a call at (866) 985-0387 or browse our website start your order!

 

Is Your Acura MDX Suspension Failing? Don’t Ignore These Warning Signs

uspension problems in the Acura MDX can be tough to identify early on. The family SUV was factory-equipped with an air suspension that makes the ride smooth and comfortable–when it works.

The problem is, once things start to fail, they go downhill quickly. Soon, problems begin to compound and that once dreamy ride is now feeling more like a nightmare. Thousands of dollars in repairs could await you if they go on long enough.

However, there are several warning signs to look for even before the suspension warning light comes on. These indicators of a bad or failing suspension may help you identify problems before they get too drastic.

If you see one or more of the following problems with your MDX, it’s time to have someone look at the suspension:



Your MDX is Sagging or Leaning to One Side



Sometimes suspensions wear out all at once. More often than not, however, a leaky suspension will start over just one wheel.

If an airbag has trouble staying inflated over one wheel, the body of the car will dip down at that point. This will cause the car to sag or lean to one side.

Most often, this is the rear of the car. This makes the car appear like it is crouching down.

If you see this, it is likely you have a leak in your system. Inspect it yourself or take it in.



Your Compressor is Making Too Much Noise



You’ll barely hear the air compressor in charge of inflating your MDX’s air bags when it is functioning properly.

So, if it is noticeably loud, you can guess that there is a problem somewhere in the system. Similarly, if the compressor runs for more than 10-15 seconds per cycle, it is probably working too hard.

Left unattended, this will cause the compressor to overwork and eventually wear out. While air bags can be repaired or replaced rather easily, the compressor itself is one of the most expensive components in the air suspension.


Your MDX Does a “Nose Dive” at Stops



Cars with a worn down suspension have trouble distributing the weight properly. This is especially evident when a car tries to come to a stop.

Whereas a vehicle with a functioning suspension will stop evenly, a worn out or busted suspension will cause more weight to be distributed to the front of the car.

This will cause what’s known as a “nose dive.” The front of the car dips down while the rear springs up when the car comes to a stop. The faster the stop, the worse the nose dive.


Your MDX is Taking Too Long to Stop



The suspension in your car is an important part of its braking system. By distributing the weight evenly throughout the frame, the suspension helps to slow the car down as it tries to come to a stop.

If your Acura is taking longer to stop than usual and you’ve kept up with the brake service, you can almost be certain that the suspension is on its way out.

 

While this may seem like just an inconvenience, the difference in stopping distance could be the distance between getting into an accident and driving away. Don’t ignore this potentially deadly problem.



What to Do If You’re Experiencing These Problems



Let’s put this bluntly. Air suspensions are difficult and costly to repair and even more difficult and costly to replace.

A good mechanic can do a wonderful job repairing or replacing your air suspension. But understand that one problem now means that there are more problems just around the corner.

 

Be prepared to spend thousands over the remaining lifetime of your MDX to keep the air suspension in shape.

 

There is, however, another solution. You can ditch that air suspension and all its problems entirely by converting to a simple, time-tested coilover suspension.

With Strutmasters’ four-wheel conversion kit with light fix module for the 2007-2013 Acura MDX, you can replace your entire suspension and fix the suspension warning light for under $1000. That’s thousands less than you’d pay for that OEM suspension, and it comes with a Lifetime Limited Warranty!

Consider going the trouble-free route with your Acura MDX today. Call us at (866) 610-9848 to get started on your order now!

 

Fix Cadillac Escalade Suspension Problems the Inexpensive & Easy Way

Ever since its debut, the Cadillac Escalade has been, well, the Cadillac of SUVs. The American-made luxury vehicle has had a broad appeal, with fans and owners in nearly every demographic.

The Escalade has everything you’ve come to expect from a Cadillac–a plush, roomy interior draped in leather, no-nonsense exterior design, and a smooth, smooth ride. That is, until the air suspension eventually fails.

For all its popularity, Escalades, especially the ones made between 2007-2013, has had several consistent issues. One of the top complaints owners have had has been a partial or total failure of the air suspension system.

 


Why The Escalade Air Suspension Fails



For starters, the Cadillac Escalade is a behemoth. Weighing in at around 5,500 pounds, it asks a lot of the OEM suspension. Add to that the weight of passengers and cargo and you have a lot of strain and stress on that original air system.

However, the main problem is not specific to the Escalade. It’s air suspensions themselves.

While air suspensions provide a comfortable ride, they do so by employing a complex system of sensors and moving parts. These complicated systems rely on everything functioning in harmony to work properly.

Many of the materials used in air suspensions, like rubber or plastic for the air bags, simply just don’t last. Constant use and changes in temperature and humidity over the years can dry rot or crack many of these components.

In addition you have a web of moving parts under constant use. Moving parts, by their very nature, will wear down eventually and need to be replaced. The more moving parts you have in a system, the higher probability something is going to fail.



How to Fix It Once and For All



Over the lifetime of your vehicle you could spend thousands of dollars repairing or replacing components in that air suspension. Once one component fails, others are sure to follow soon.

The other option, however, is to forget the air suspension altogether and convert to a reliable, sturdy coilover suspension.

A good coilover suspension just relies on mechanical springs and tension to dampen the ride. No sensors, no computers, no compressors, and no moving parts. Just a good, simple solution to the problem.

The biggest advantage of converting to a standard coilover suspension is the amount of money you’ll save. Whereas you might spend upwards of $3,000 at the dealer to replace your air suspension, you can install a brand new suspension on all four wheels for under $700.

Part of the beauty of this simple solution is that it can easily be installed at home with just a few common tools and a little mechanical sense. If you don’t want to DIY, the installation takes just about an hour per wheel. That means the labor cost of installation won’t kill your wallet either.

The best part is that like most Strutmasters products, the conversion kit for your Escalade has a limited lifetime warranty. That means once you decide to make the switch, you can count on having a working suspension for the rest of your car’s lifetime.



Give us a call at (866) 830-5450 today and get started on ending those Cadillac Escalade suspension problems for good!

Why Your Jaguar XJ8 Suspension is Failing, and How to Really Fix It

If you are getting the dreaded suspension warning light or experiencing other problems with your Jaguar’s air suspension, you are not alone. A simple online search will yield many people facing a sagging, leaning or otherwise failing air suspension in their Jaguar XJ8.



Why the XJ8 Suspension Fails

 

Your Jaguar XJ8 came equipped with an air suspension system. When it was new, it was responsive and glided over bumps and dips in the road. They don’t always age well, however.


The main problem with air suspensions is that they are complicated. They are made up of many components that need to all be functioning in unison in order for the system to work properly.

In addition, they rely on small computers and electronic sensors to tell the system what to do. This means more things that can break and a more difficult time finding the problem.

Another major problem is that air suspensions are made of moving, rather than static parts. Moving parts are guaranteed to wear down over time as they slowly erode from use.

Your Jaguar XJ8’s suspension failure isn’t your fault, it isn’t Jaguar’s fault, it’s just the nature of air suspensions.



What Can I Do?

 

The most important thing to do is to act now. Suspension problems will build up very quickly. This is because once one component goes bad, the entire system suffers as it tries to pick up the workload. Do not assume the problem will go away or get better on its own, because it won’t.

If you were to take your Jaguar into the dealership, they would suggest that you repair the current air suspension or replace some of the components. If you want to keep your air suspension, this is what you should do.

However, there are several things to consider before going down that road.

Since we know that air suspension components do inevitably wear out, if one or more components are failing you can be sure that others will fail soon.

For example, the air bags on your XJ8 all wear out at about the same rate. Once one has failed, it won’t be long before others spring a leak or rot out. If you choose to repair your air suspension, you are looking at continued expense for the remainder of your car’s lifetime.

You do, however, have another option: to get rid of that troublesome air suspension entirely and replace it with a brand new, time-tested coilover suspension.



Why replace?

 

The number one reason to replace your air suspension with a coil suspension is price. While a new air suspension might cost you upwards of $3,000, our Jaguar XJ8 conversion kit costs just under $1,000 and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. That means you spend money once and not again.


While an air suspension is certainly comfortable, you may be surprised at just how smooth Strutmasters’ patented Glide Ride Technology system feels. Some people even prefer the feel of coilovers to their original air suspension.

The beauty of the coilover system is its simplicity. Rather than a web of moving parts and electronics, the passive struts feature just a couple of sturdy, reliable components. In fact, the coil suspension is so simple, many of our customers choose to install it themselves at home. You probably already have the tools you need at home.


Once you look at the numbers, it may start to make sense to just go ahead and ditch that air suspension. When you’re ready, we’re here to help. Give one of our associates a call at (866) 684-6473 and end your Jaguar XJ8 air suspension problems for good!

How to Stop Worrying and Love Your High Mileage Car

You may not know the name Irv Gordon, but you will certainly want to listen to some of his advice. The retired schoolteacher was driving in Alaska in 2013 when his 1966 Volvo P1800s hit the 3 million mile mark. Yes, in case you were wondering if you read that wrong, that’s 3 million.

Gordon’s number one piece of advice? Read the manual.

 

“Do what the manual calls for, not what the dealer calls for,” Gordon said in an interview. “People who built the car wrote the manual.”

That’s some pretty sound logic. It’s also something we harp on constantly. Cars are not designed to be disposable. They are an investment and something you want to protect.

If you’re driving a high mileage vehicle, you’ll want to pay attention to Gordon’s advice. You may not be trying to push your car to 3 million miles, but if you’re like us, you’d love to keep that old friend running as long as possible.

Here are some of the steps recommended to keeping your car running well well into its golden years.



1. Stay on schedule



Your owner’s manual recommends having different services performed at specific intervals. These are decided on by your car’s engineers. Regular service will keep everything in tip-top shape and allow your mechanic to spot small problems before they become big ones.

2. Love your tires



If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times: your tires are (hopefully) your car’s only point of contact with the road. They are incredibly important.

Your owner’s manual and the driver’s side door jamb will tell you the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Keeping your tires at the recommended pressure ensures you will get optimal gas mileage and steering response from your car.

In contrast, driving on underinflated tires especially puts unnecessary strain on everything in your car from the suspension to the engine.

3. Change that oil



You will find loads of competing information about how often to change your car’s oil. Disregard anything anyone but the manual tells you when it comes to your car.
While advancements in fluid and engine technology have improved oil longevity, the old standby advice of “every 3,000 miles” still holds true. In fact, Gordon said that changing your oil at that interval is still, “your best insurance policy.”

Rest assured that you cannot possibly change your car’s oil too often. Once you’ve gone over the 75,000 mile mark make sure you change that oil every 3,000 or less!

 

4. Clean it regularly



While this might seem more visual than functional, keeping your car clean without a doubt will increase its longevity.

Dirt and grime work their way into paint and will eventually cause the car to rust. This makes the body of the car fragile and what’s inside a lot more susceptible to damage.

Particles on the inside of your car can get into the seats and dash materials and create holes and tears in fabrics, vinyl and leather alike.

Chances are, if you keep the outside of your car looking nice you’ll be paying attention to the inside as well.


5. Drive responsibly


We all know some driver who loves to stomp the pedals. While that can be great for a race car driver, it is absolutely devastating on your car.

Driving a car is a big game of physics. Your car can use only use and withstand so much energy over its lifetime. It takes a lot of energy to get a car up to speed, and lots to slow it down.

Maintaining a steady, consistent pace keeps your car running efficiently. Newer cars have gas mileage information on the dash screen that lets you see this in real time.

That fuel efficiency translates into how often your car is purring along and how often it has to grunt and strain to get the job done.

The lifetime of your car is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you don’t overdo it when you don’t have to.


Stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog for more tips that save you time and money!

 

What’s Up With my A/C? Common Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Cool

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With summer now in full swing, the A/C in your car is about as necessary as the brakes. In many parts of the country, heat waves aren’t just a comfort issue, they’re a health risk too.

So when you find that your A/C is no longer cooling your vehicle down, it is important to figure out why and then how to fix it. Here are a few tips on where to look for trouble.



A bad fuse or other electrical system problem



Your car’s A/C needs electrical power to get and keep the compressor running. Many things can lead to electrical failure. It can happen from corrosion of wires, a bad fuse or even from just being overloaded.

Use your owner’s manual to determine where the correct fuse for the A/C unit is. This video will demonstrate how to inspect a fuse to see if its blown.

If this is your only problem, consider yourself lucky. It’s a cheap and easy fix to do at home, or more accurately, in the parking lot of the auto parts store.



A broken compressor clutch



The compressor clutch is part of your A/C’s compressor assembly. It is responsible for pressurizing the air and keeping the refrigerant moving through the system.

Every time you use your A/C, the compressor clutch goes through on/off cycles. This means it is prone to wearing down eventually. When the compressor clutch is broken, you will notice warm air blowing from the vents.

Unless you are very handy with small mechanical repairs, this fix is best left to the pros.



A leak within the A/C system



This is, by far, the most common ailment of an A/C system.

Leaks in the air conditioning system are often caused by a mixture of the refrigerant used in your A/C and moisture. This reacts to create an acid that can corrode valves, hoses and seals within the system.

Therefore, this will cause warm air to come out of the vents in your car because there isn’t enough refrigerant going through the system.

If you’re handy with a wrench, follow this video to inspect your A/C system for leaks and replace any parts that have been corroded.

 

A weak expansion valve



The expansion valve in your A/C system is what regulates the amount of refrigerant that goes into the compressor. Too much or too little can cause problems with the entire unit.

If the flow of refrigerant is blocked going into the compressor it could cause parts of the assembly to get so cold that ice or frost can form around or even inside the system. This will cause further restriction of refrigerant and failure of the compressor.

Too much refrigerant passing through can flood your compressor and also prevent it from pushing out cool air.

 

Even if you can’t fix the problems with your A/C yourself, knowing specifically what is wrong will help your mechanic diagnose and understand the problem quickly. It will also demonstrate that you know a thing or two about cars and their air conditioners.

As always, knowledge is power and knowing your stuff will keep you from being overcharged or having unnecessary services performed.

For more money-saving and enlightening car care tips, stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog.

Why You Should Never Let Your Gas Tank Run Low

One of the many great car debates has to do with your gas tank. In short, is it better to let it run low or to always keep it full?

While there are points to be made on either side, there is a definitive answer on what the best strategy is.

The pros of letting your tank run low


Truthfully, there is one major advantage to letting your fuel tank run low. That is gas mileage. How does how much gas you have affect your gas mileage? The answer is weight.

A car with less fuel in it weighs less and thus will require less power from the engine to move it the same distance. However, while this is true there is something important to consider:

Gas weighs just over six pounds per gallon. That means the difference between a full tank and empty tank is somewhere between 70 and 95 pounds, less than the weight of an average person or a few travel bags.

The only other benefit of leaving your tank run low is some sort of thrill seeking. This was illustrated perfectly in the Seinfeld episode “The Dealership.” Suffice it to say there are better ways to get your kicks.

 


Why you shouldn’t let your tank run low


“Peace of mind” is the first reason to keep your tank on the full side. The road is already an anxious and stressful place. Therefore anything you can do to keep yourself calm and relaxed is a good thing. Not worrying about how much further you can drive before you need to gas up will help you focus on the road and enjoy your ride a little more.

But the main reason lies with the fuel pump. Your car’s fuel pump is located inside the gas tank. In order to function properly, it needs to be completely submerged in gasoline. Typically, this means you need at least ¼ of a tank to keep it submerged.

Long-term exposure to air can lead to early deterioration of the fuel pump. This is not a cheap or easy fix. When properly used and maintained, a fuel pump should last at least 100,000 miles if not the lifetime of your vehicle.

Leaving it constantly exposed to air can cause the pump to suck in air and generate heat. This can reduce the working life of your fuel pump significantly.

Allowing your tank to run low can also make room for sediment to build up in your tank.

Think about coffee in a pot. There is always some sediment at the bottom. Your first few pours won’t pick up any of the sediment and transfer it to your cup, but that last cup usually does have a bit of sediment in it.

Your fuel tank works much the same way. The last ¼ of your tank may pick up sediment, which will be absorbed by the fuel filter and clog it. This can lead to reduced performance of your vehicle and require early replacement of the filter.

How to tell if you’ve got a bad fuel pump


So maybe you’re a daredevil like Kramer and you’ve been driving around on E for a while. That doesn’t guarantee that you’ve run your fuel pump into the ground, but it does mean it’s a possibility.

Here are a few trouble signs to look for with your fuel pump:

 

  • Your gas mileage is going down. This could be a sign that your fuel pump isn’t operating efficiently.
  • The engine starts to “sputter” at high speeds. This means your car is having trouble delivering fuel to the engine.
  • Fuel pressure is low. This is a common symptom of a failed fuel pump. Any fuel pressure warning light should be attended to immediately.
  • Temperature is high. This doesn’t always indicate something wrong with the fuel pump, but it certainly can be a sign it needs attention.
  • The car surges. This typically indicates that the fuel pump is functioning irregularly and needs to be serviced or replaced.

 

A fuel pump is an issue that should be looked at by a professional. If you notice any irregularities with your fuel pump, take care of it right away before it affects other components in your vehicle.


Stay on top of your maintenance and get more awesome tips with the Strutmasters blog.

Is Your A/C Ready for Summer? Hot Tips for a Cool Car

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This summer is on the books to be one of the hottest in recent memory, meaning you’ll be asking a lot of your car’s air conditioner.

There are many things that can go wrong with your air conditioner, but the effect is consistent. The car will not cool down as its supposed to.

Below is a readiness test that you can use at home to determine whether or not your air conditioner is up to the task this summer, or if it needs some service.


1. Road test the air conditioner in car

This, of course, may seem like a no-brainer, but it is an important step. Take your car out and take note of how the air conditioner behaves. Is it running but not cold? Is it not pushing out enough air? Try to be detailed in your notes.

2. Check the cabin filter

Sometimes there may simply be something stuck in the cabin filter, or it’s time to replace it. Like any air filter, your car’s air conditioner operates best when the filter is clean and free of obstructions. This is a cheap and easy fix so it’s good to check this first.

3. Check the hoses

The hoses which carry cold air into the car are often made of high-grade rubber. Under abnormal stress, these can tear or break and allow air to escape. This will prevent your air conditioner from operating effectively.

Make note of the leaks and use good, strong tape to cover them while you source some new ones or take it to the dealer.

4. Refresh the refrigerant

This is one of those things you can easily do at home that would cost you a fortune at a mechanic. A kit like this one will make the job easy.

Here’s a great video to demonstrate how to refresh your refrigerant using these products.

5. Check the compressor

Note: This step is a little more advanced. Use caution or take it to a pro if you’re not comfortable.

The air conditioner in your car uses a compressor to generate the air needed to cool your car. This compressor is a complex little motor that can have lots of little, hard-to-solve problems. Fortunately, troubleshooting those problems isn’t too difficult.

This video does a great job of explaining how to test your car’s A/C compressor.

 

Going through this checklist will eliminate any air conditioner issues that you may be able to solve yourself, saving your the money and trouble of going to a mechanic. One of the silver linings of A/C problems is that you will know immediately whether or not you’ve sufficiently repaired it.

Stay cool this summer and stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog for more great car care advice.

 

How That Trip to the Beach Affects Your Car

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The sound of the ocean and gulls, the smell of sunscreen and saltwater in the air, the feeling of the sun on your skin; yes, beach season is upon us! But before you pack your cooler and the family into the car, it’s worth knowing a thing or two about how a trip to the beach can affect your vehicle.

Here are some of the ways your car may be affected by time down at the coast and how you can prevent too much damage from occurring.

External damage

You may notice that houses at the beach, even if they are relatively new, can look pretty weathered. This is because saltwater in the air is very corrosive.

Salt in the air and seaspray acts like those microbeads in your toothpaste or body wash. Tiny, gritty little particles being pushed along by the ocean breeze can scratch and wear down paint very quickly.

There is also a bit of chemistry involved. On its own, salt doesn’t affect metal very much. But when combined with water, it becomes an excellent conductor and leads to rapid oxidation–known commonly as rust.

So in effect, salty moist air can, over time, strip the paint from your vehicle and then cause the exposed metals to rust very quickly. Not good.

If you’re just headed down for a week or so washing your car after your trip will suffice. If you plan on spending an extended time near the coast, make sure to wash your car at least twice a month to keep your paint in tact.

Internal damage

While it may seem like a nice idea to bring the beach home with you, it can be detrimental to your car.

Driving on the beach presents an opportunity for sand to get under the hood of your vehicle. Your tires can pick up sand in the treads and then kick that back up into the chassis. Salt is incredibly abrasive, especially when it combines with any kind of fluid or oil.

Your car’s interior may also suffer from people bringing sand in. More than just an annoyance, sand can scrape and destroy fabric and leather seats, seriously diminishing the resale value of your car.

Avoid driving on the beach when possible. It sure is fun, but it’s bad for the beach and bad for your car. If you do need to drive on the beach, see if you can use a hose to rinse off everything under the hood after you get back.

 

Sun damage

Usually the sun is nothing to worry about. Sure, it will fade your paint and dash over time but that’s just the way of life for a car. Unless you plan on moving to northern England, there just isn’t much you can do about it.

Where sun really does some damage, however, is at the beach. Sunlight and heat cause the pores in your car’s paint to expand. While this isn’t a problem on its own, it means that salty air has an easier time working its way into the paint. This will lead to more rapid corrosion.

Try to park your car in a garage or under the house if its on stilts. Also, as mentioned previously, make sure to wash your car after your trip.


With a bit of prevention and some after-care you should be able to enjoy some time at the coast worry-free. As always, the first and most important step is awareness.

For more helpful tips and advice, head to the Strutmasters blog.