Car too low

Car us e5000 4matic, 2005 model, 144K miles, drives great, dealer maintained. From last week started to flash red alarm sign “car too low” on start. After engine runs for a while the red alarm sign disappears since hydraulics have lifted car to level. Also I ahve used “raise car level” button on panel, it dioes something. Drives fine after. I think driver side strut may be a problem since car leans on that side heavier during rest mode. I have suspected left (driver) side strut for sometime given softness on bumps etc. What is the issue? How soon should I get it fixed? Can I wait till service time since after start it comes up level and drives fine? Let me know the good and bad

There’s a problem with the Airmatic suspension system.


You already described the issue.

I’d fix it sooner rather than later.

Depends how long it is until the next service and wether you want to chance it causing other problems.

The good: It’s a nice car
The bad: It’s costly to repair and maintain, and will only get more so.


Its the strut then? Do we replace both struts , just one? How much labor for replacement of a strut?

You need to find a shop that knows its way around these suspensions. They just fixed a suspension like this (SL500) on Wheeler Dealer. Hoped it was just a bad seal in the control body, no luck. They had to replace one of the struts, a bit more than $1,000 for that part. Who knows if this is your problem, it’ll take diagnosis by a knowledgeable mechanic.


Generally what happens with air ride suspensions is dry rot due to age. The main problem is usually around the fold at the bottom of the rubber bellows and once out the dry rot can be seen.
It’s the same principle as dry rotted tires and hoses.

Repair costs can vary greatly based on locale and the shop doing the repair. Yes, struts should always be replaced in pairs air ride or no air ride.
The only time struts are not replaced in pairs is when the vehicle is under a new car warranty. In that case warranty will only pay for the faulty strut; unless the car owner is willing to cover the cost of the opposite side.

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There may be an option to bypass the air system and use regular struts as a money saver.

The air spring/shock absorber assembly is available remanufactured for $970, not bad compared to other air suspension systems. Six hours labor for both front shock absorbers plus wheel alignment.

Suncore is also an option both as to the air ride components and conversion kits. Front air struts roughly 700 a pair and 350 a pair for rears. There’s also the issue of the drier/filter which serves the same purpose as the drier in an A/C system and should be replaced now and then.

To me, the air ride is superior to the coil spring conversion but it’s an option if finances are part of the consideration.

No point waiting. They aren’t exactly going to replace suspension parts when you have an oil change. Unless you want to save up for the several thousand dollar repair. Plus they will at least need to replace both rear shocks, not just one.

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The strut replaced on Wheeler Dealers and the hydropneumatic rebuilt strut are not Mercs air ride, they are used in the active spring system not the air ride system. These are 2 very different systems.

The air ride system uses air springs much like a fancy air shock. The hydropneumatic system uses a conventional coil spring on a hydraulic spring seat that can raise and lower the car to remove roll and pitch.


Good to know, they did have that SL making all kinds of up/down moves at each corner.

Me, I’d replace with conventional springs/struts, $1400 for the kit at rockauto.

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The air ride system doesn’t have enough power to make the car “dance”. The air compresser is too small for that. But I believe it has 2 air chambers in each corner with a valve in between to make the corner stiffer when needed. It is paired with electronic shocks. So dual spring, variable damping.

The hydropneumatic system, oddly enough, doesn’t have electronically variable dampers. Merc said they could not make them work together. The hydraulic pump that drives the system is bigger than a power steering pump and lowers fuel economy quite a bit.

GM and Delco built a prototype in the early 90’s that did use variable shocks with the powered springs in a Cadillac Seville Northstar. It rode like a magic carpet but would have cost a ton and hurt fuel economy. Neither was going to fly in that time period. Toyota installed a similar system in their home market 90’s Soarer and Infinity in their Q45 Active in the same time period. Both were out of production by the 2000’s when Merc introduced their Active Body Control system.

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can the airmatic suspension on the drivers side be repaired instead of replacing the strut or does that come as a unit (strut plus air suspension)

Why rear shocks. No issues noticed in rear.

Suggest to not defer repair. When one side of the suspension system behaves differently than the other side, that left/right difference can cause the vehicle to become unstable, especially during turns while going over a bump. Suggest to renew both sides with all new parts.

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I assumed it was a rear problem but if front, same issue.

Why the rear? Because the weak link in the chain always holds true. The rear bags are likely dry rotted also. Fix the front leak and odds are soon the rears will leak.

If you decide to go with the coil spring conversion you will also need to contact the parts supplier and ask for directions on how to disable the air ride module.
With a spring conversion an Air Ride Error message will continue to pop up unless a wire or two is cut at the module. I’m not a Benz expert so off the cuff I do not know which wires that is.

When you say new parts I am assuming the full hydropneumatic spring leg for left and right? I understand that left and right need to be balanced but to ask for rear to be replaced???

Each axle should be balanced left/right. If rear is ok, good enough.