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AirMatic vs ABC Suspension on Mercedes-Benz Cars

Summary

Learn about the difference between Mercedes-Benz AirMatic and Active Body Control (ABC) suspension. 

What is the Mercedes-Benz AirMatic suspension

AIRMATIC is a self-leveling suspension system found on Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The system uses air to control the suspension height and stiffness. 

Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with AirMatic suspension use air to control the struts and vehicle level. High air pressure is stored on a reservoir, and those vehicles have an air compressor that fails around the 100,000-mile mark. 

What is the Mercedes-Benz ABC suspension? 

mercedes abc suspension problems

ABC stands for Active Body Control. Instead of using air to control the suspension, it uses hydraulic fluid. The advantage of using hydraulic fluid over the air is that the responsiveness of the ABC suspension is superior to that of AirMatic. 

Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with Active Body Control (ABC) use hydraulic fluid to control the struts and vehicle level.

Mercedes ABC tandem pump

On ABC suspension, you don't have an air compressor. Instead, it is the power steering pump (TANDEM) pump that controls the ABC suspension. 

Vehicles with ABC suspension can react to road conditions much faster than vehicles with air suspension. This guide can help you troubleshoot ABC suspension problems.

How do I know if a Mercedes-Benz has ABC or Air suspension?

The easiest way to find out if a Mercedes-Benz has AirMatic or ABC suspension is to look at the suspension button on the dashboard that changes the suspension dynamics. If the button says ABC or ABC sport, that vehicle has ABC suspension. 

Mercedes with abc suspenion

You can see the ABC button in this photo, which means this vehicle has Active Body Control or ABC suspension. In other words, it uses hydraulic fluid to control the suspension and not air, as is the case with the AirMatic vehicles. 

Another way to check if you have ABC or AirMatic suspension on your Mercedes-Benz is to look at the top of the strut

mercedes with abc suspetion

If the strut has an electrical wire going in, you have ABC suspension, which means your suspension operates using hydraulic fluid. 

Mercedes abc suspension

Lastly, vehicles with ABC suspension have a black hydraulic fluid reservoir on the driver's side of the engine

If the strut has a white tube going in, you have AirMatic suspension, which means the vehicle has air suspension or what is known as AirMatic. 

Which is better, AirMatic or ABC suspension? 

mercedes abc vs airmatic which is better

As far as handling and ride quality, ABC suspension is superior to AirMatic suspension. Vehicles with ABC suspension may not even have torsion bars because the suspension can react fast enough to handle ar body roll in turns. 

When it comes to maintenance and repair costs, AirMatic suspensions are much easier to fix. Air suspension parts such as airbags and air compressors are much easier to find and replace. 

While a typical air suspension repair at a repair shop can cost about $500-$800, the typical repair cost for ABC suspension ranges from $1200-$2500. 

airmatic vs abc suspeiton
ABC connections and TANDEM pumps can be costly to repair. 

The maintenance cost of ABC suspension is one of the main reasons why so many Mercedes-Benz owners convert ABC to coil springs over shock absorber (coil-over). 

Which Mercedes-Benz models have ABC suspension? 

ABC suspension is common only on the high-end Mercedes-Benz S-Class, CL-Class, and SL-Class models. Common models with ABC suspension are S500, S600, SL500, S550, S600, S63AMG, CL550, CL600.

Typically on the AMG trims and 600 models, the ABC suspension is standard, while on the lower trims such as S500 and S550, the ABC is an option. This means those vehicles could also have AirMatic. You can find out by decoding the VIN