Active Body Control Vs. Coilovers
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
This is an ongoing topic of discussion that never gets old. As Mercedes models that incorporate the ABC (active body control) into their suspension age, the cost of repairs and maintenance increase greatly. So much, that this often is the beginning of the end of ownership. Mercedes of course, supports the repair and maintenance of these models. The OEM new parts are plentiful and easily accessible by the dealership, but costly. Labor cost is also a factor that must be considered. Another option does exist, nonetheless. Before I mention it, I must say....nothing feels as perfect as a functioning ABC suspension. Nothing can equally replace the results of Mercedes engineering, research and development. But, there is an option. Coilovers.
There are several options regarding coilovers.There are many manufacturers, but only a select few make setups specifically and proven reliable for the Mercedes-Benz brand.'Purist', as I call those who are against deviating from the OEM design, will argue that any modification 'less than' the original design will devalue and falsely represent the brand. Incorporating aftermarket parts, which are often Chinese manufatured parts, further subjectively justifies their argument. There's several directions I can go with this perspective, but to keep this discussion practical, I will focus on a few points.
"Active Body Control, or ABC, is the Mercedes-Benz brand name used to describe fully-active suspension, that allows control of the vehicle body motions and therefore virtually eliminates body roll in many driving situations including cornering, accelerating, and braking."-www.mercedesmedic.com
It is a phenomenal, well engineered hydraulic suspension that does an amazing job, when it does what it is supposed to do. Hence the main concern. It will not always, do what it's supposed to do. Like anything else mechanical based, failure will eventually happen to one of the many components, thus, compromising the functionality of the system. It's not a matter of if, but when. So when it does fail, you have options. You can fix and maintain the system by way of dealership, independent mechanic or self repair. The cost of doing so is based on such factors as new/used parts prices, labor prices, and proper diagnosis. The latter factor is often the greatest problem. 'Symptoms' do not directly indicate to source of the problem. It begins the process of elimination. Even with advance diagnostics tools, such as the Mercedes STAR diagnostic scanner.....one isolated repair can reveal the pending failure of another component. An ABC warning light can be just the beginning of your woes. A visit to the shop can quickly turn into thousands of unexpected dollars spent. The uncertainty worsens as the technician tells you, that he/she cannot guarantee that you will not encounter more issues with the ABC suspension down the road.
Some Mercedes owners have been able to keep their Mercedes on the road, more than in the repair bay by doing the work themselves. They often emphasize the need to replace all lines, accumulators and the advantages of rebuilding each valve block. Regular fluid changes and Rodeo can lead to less failure. Taking this route can seem cost effective for the owner if done by the owner. But if the needed suggested maintenance and overhaul is completed by a shop, the cost can easily surpass the value of the vehicle. Those are factors worth considering when choosing to keep and maintain the ABC system.