Replace The Steering Stabilizer on a Chrysler Crossfire
One of the most prominent criticisms of the Crossfire, and indeed any Mercedes vehicle based off the early R170 platform, is its lackluster steering. Using a recirculating ball steering system, the wheel often lacks the responsiveness of other sports cars.
A major contributor to this "looseness" is the steering stabilizer (or damper, or dampener, depending on who you talk to.) Many in the Crossfire community suggest replacing the damper as the first step to tightening up the steering. Thankfully, this is about as easy a job as they come: the part is cheap, and it takes longer to lift the car than it does to replace the old damper with a new one.
It seems universally agreed upon that the Crossfire's steering stabilizer will degrade over time. If the wheel begins to develop noticeable "play", or looseness in the steering wheel before it actually begins moving the wheels, the stabilizer ought to be the first part to diagnose.
What to look for in a faulty stabilizer
Remember that with the recirculating ball system, some level of "play" is nominal as the wheels are turned significantly to the left or right. Test the steering wheel when it's centered straight ahead. The wheels should respond almost immediately upon moving the steering wheel.
If possible, lift the car and examine the stabilizer. It's located behind the aerodynamic plate, so you won't have to remove that to access it.
Look for leaking fluid. If you can be bothered to remove the current stabilizer, test to ensure it compresses and extends smoothly. It should be quite resistant (and a stabilizer with little resistance is a faulty one) but shouldn't be "springy."
Remove the old stabilizer
Lift the car and ensure it's secure before venturing underneath. Never, ever get under a car supported with a jack - use ramps or jack stands (recommended). The stabilizer is connected to the steering linkage assembly by two 16mm bolts. Note that you may need to turn the wheels to the left slightly to access both bolts. The passenger-side bolt is anchored with a 16mm nut, while the driver-side bolt screws directly into one of the flanges holding the stabilizer. When removing the nut from the passenger side bolt, you may need to use a 16mm open-ended wrench to hold the opposite end while loosening the nut with a socket wrench.
The driver-side bolt is easy as pie. Unscrew, remove, and pull the stabilizer out.
For comparison, here's the old stabilizer next to the new one. The old stabilizer had a "springy" feel and would actively resist any sort of compression or extension. The new stabilizer compressed and extended smoothly, albeit with normal resistance.
Install the new stabilizer
Simply reverse the steps to install the new stabilizer. Align the holes in the stabilizer with the holes on the flanges, insert both bolts, and tighten each to 40 ft-lbs using a torque wrench. Lower the car and do a careful test lap to ensure the steering responds as expected.
In my case, while the difference in steering quality wasn't dramatic, it nonetheless noticeably tightened the feel and removed the "play" in the wheel. The steering wheel is no longer jerking and responding to every pot hole, divet, and bump in the road.
- Bolts (and hex nut) connecting steering stabilizer: 16mm
- Torque spec for bolts: 40 ft-lbs.
- Part number for stabilizer: 124 463 04 32