Do yourself a favor right now. Go out and look at the color of the antifreeze in your Mercedes Benz (Make sure the engine has cooled before opening the coolant cap). Is it by chance GREEN? If you have anything other than the pale orange Mercedes antifreeze in your cooling system, please read on because you may be harming your engine! As a bit of background, antifreeze is in many ways a miracle formulation, because it not only lowers the freezing point of water, it also raises the boiling point, assuming the correct 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. George Murphy, a member of the MBCA National Technical Committee, strongly urges that only genuine Mercedes antifreeze (properly mixed with water) should be used in your car because it contains special additives to keep the coolant from corroding your engine lock, radiator, and engine heads. Apparently Mercedes antifreeze contains buffers to keep the pH of the coolant as close to neutral as possible, which then prevents corrosion and leaching of the engine. pH is a measure of the relative concentrations of acids versus bases in a liquid. Other name brand formulations, while claiming to be specifically formulated for aluminum engines, do not contain the correct pH buffers.
While genuine Mercedes coolant is a little more expensive at $10 a gallon vs $6 for the “Green Stuff”, think of it as extremely cheap insurance to extend the life of your M-B investment. Also note that Mercedes recommends changing the coolant at least once every two years. Promise yourself, you will check your coolant and have it drained and refilled with the Orange stuff. Those of you with the correct fluid, pat yourselves on the back and worry about collecting your 155,000 mile pin.
Time To Re-Tire?
Anyone who has gone into a tire shop to get new tires knows the people on the other side of the counter speak a language all their own and they don’t bother to let you in on their secret. Before heading to the tire store, read this article and learn the lingo or better yet, bring this article with you when you go. Forewarned is forearmed!
Let’s take a typical tire specification and break it down into the major components. For example, original specifications for the 87 300D were 195/65 SR 15. The 195 refers to the width of the tread (across the tire) in millimeters. The 65 refers to the length of the sidewall, but not as one would expect. The 65 is a percentage of the tread width. For a 195/65 tire, the actual sidewall length would be 126.75 Millimeters. By sidewall I mean the length measured from the edge of the wheel rim to the edge of the tread. The S specifies the speed rating of the tire. Referring to the chart below, an S-rated tire can safely withstand a maximum speed of 112 MPH. NOTE: Never buy a tire with a speed rating lower than the maximum speed your Benz can attain, because doing so could cause tire failure at high speed and a major accident. The R refers to the fact that the tire is known as a radial. Almost all tires made today are radials, but in the past that is not true. My 66 Mustang must have bias-ply tires, for example. Radials are specified because they have much lower rolling resistance and hence better fuel mileage is obtained. Last but not least, the 15 refers to the diameter of the wheel, measured in inches from one edge of the rim across the center to the outer edge of the rim.
Related matters: Balancing. Whenever tires are remounted on rims, they need to be balanced, which refers to the process in which the wheel and tire are spun on a machine to determine heavy and light spots, then small weights are added to the wheel to bring it into dynamic balance. Unbalanced or improperly balanced tires can cause excessive wheel wobble, premature tire wear and vibrations that can be felt throughout the vehicle. Balancing is a MUST whenever new tires are mounted.
This is also a good time to consider getting an alignment, which refers to the angles by which the tires make contact with the road and with respect to each other. Pay particular attention to the tread wear patterns on the OLD tires. If there is nice even wear across the tread and there are no undue vibrations at speed, then an alignment may not be necessary. Your call.
Everyone talks about tire rotation, but is it necessary? There are of course two schools of thought on this matter. Some say that rotations are only needed about halfway through the life of the tire, while others say to rotate every 5000 miles. Based only on my experience with my 300E, I found that rotating the tires wasn’t worth all the effort because it didn’t extend the life of my tires. Your mileage may vary of course!
Inflation. Refer either to your Owner’s Manual or to the inflationary pressures listed inside the gas (or diesel!) filler door and always check pressures with the tires cold (undriven). NEVER exceed the maximum pressure rating noted on the side of the tire.
Insurance. Tire store staff will try to sell you “insurance” on your tires and want to replace the valve stems. If you value “peace of mind”, spend the extra $$ for the insurance and the valve stems and, if not, save your money and buy those neat valve stem caps with the MB logo on them.
Is It Real Or Is It Synthetic? Oil That Is
If you ever want to start an argument, just tout a particular brand of oil to a group of automotive enthusiasts and sit back to watch the fireworks. Other than perhaps the choice of tires, nothing seems to be as personal about one’s car as the choice of oil for the engine. The debate rages on as to whether synthetic oil’s superior (if indeed people can agree, synthetic oil is superior) properties, but dear price is worth it compared to conventional or “Dino” oil. Let’s try to separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of this admittedly slippery debate.
Oil must accomplish two main tasks (and many smaller ones) in it’s life within the engine: Lubricating the moving parts to reduce wear, and carrying away excess heat. Additionally, the oil must not foam, it must not break down under extreme pressures, it must flow at cold temps yet not thin out at high temperatures, and it must neutralize acids and bases that tend to accumulate in the engine over time. Clearly an almost impossible task, yet oil accomplishes this miracle daily.
If you want to know what is right for your car, begin with the Owner’s Manual where you will find a chart of approved oils and weight ranges. Study it and make your decision based on the ambient temperatures expected until the next oil change. The chart will list oils such as 10W-30, 10W-40, etc. The W in 10W-30 stands for Winter rather than Weight, because the oil has been approved for use during the winter months. The numbers refer to the weight range of the oil. When cold, a 10W-30 oil will act like a 10 weight, but when hot it will act like a thicker 30 weight. The current quality standard for oils is a rating of SJ which supercedes all lower ratings, such as SF, SG, SH etc. for gasoline engines. Mercedes used to specify certain brands of oil that met their rigid standards, but changed and now approve if the oil meets the current standards, regardless of brand name. Diesels, by virtue of their unique fuel source and content, pose additional stresses on oils; hence, a separate rating for approved diesel oils; CD, CE, CF, etc. The C in this case refers to Compression ignition, while the S for gas engines stands for Spark ignition.
A typical quart of “Dino” oil costs about $1.25 while a quart of synthetic is about $4.00. What’s so special about synthetic to make it soooo expensive? Synthetic oil is a bit of a misnomer in the sense that the base stock from which it is derived consists of highly purified and uniform “Dino” oil molecules. Most synthetic oil manufacturers start with similar base stock, but then add their own packages of additives that they think will result in superior engine performance. Does synthetic work? Yes, yes, yes! Some synthetic oils remain a liquid down to -60 F, which is far lower than regular oil, yet they continue to maintain their film thickness at high temperatures, which greatly reduces wear. Diesel owners take heed: In extreme cold, synthetic oil will allow the engine to turn over faster and may be just the difference between starting and being stranded. There are in fact synthetic oils made just for diesels, but may be difficult to find. Two examples are Redline and Delvac.
The rap against using synthetic oil, other than the obvious 3X cost differential, has been the question of leakage. When synthetic oil was first introduced, manufacturers did not get the additive packages right, and oil leaked through seals and gaskets that did not swell as they normally would with conventional oil. Over time, the additive packages have improved and reduced leaking. It is safe to say that if you have an oil leak with regular oil you will have at least as much of an oil leak with synthetic and possibly more. It’s just slipperier.
Does DaimlerChrysler approve the use of synthetic oil for Mercedes cars? I am not authorized to speak for DaimlerChrysler, but unless the Owner’s Manual specifically forbids synthetic oil, then tacit approval is implied as long as the oil meets or beats all specifications in the Manual. I might also add that DaimlerChrysler now REQUIRES all MBs with the FSS system (starting in 1998) to use synthetic oil ONLY.
The obvious question is whether oil change intervals can be extended in order to recoup some of the extra cost of synthetic oil. Under no circumstances is it approved to go beyond the changing interval as specified in the Owner’s Manual (the new FSS notwithstanding); however, if your oil is changed more frequently, only YOU can decide when is best to do an oil change (always change the filter too). In the end, as the debate rages, each owner must weigh his or her own individual circumstance and decide what is best. Time for me to slip-slide out of here.
If you are sure it is not:
- old spark plugs (use only Bosch H9DCO regular set at .8mm – do not use platinum plugs – they fail and cause rough cold idle)
- old spark plug wires (change at 100,000 miles
- old rotor and distributor cap
- carbon on intake valves (add LM Ventil Sauber or Techron to the fuel tank and take car on sustained high speed trip to clean it out)
- bad fuel
There is a fix for 300E’s that involves a special part costing $70 that will smooth out rough idles (once all other causes are ruled out). Or you can fix it for 15 cents. The fix is to snip the wire to the injection system engine temp sensor B11/2 (rear of the cylinder head on left side) – it is a green wire with a red stripe. Then splice in a 470-ohm resistor in series. This has the effect of telling the injection computer to enrich the mixture just a bit at idle.
Do you know what a 124 is? Ever hear of a 140? These are internal Mercedes-Benz terms for the 86-95 E-Class and 92-99 S-Class chassis’ respectively. Typically MB will roll out a new chassis with a variety of engines, and for convenience’ sake it is easier to refer to the chassis designations than to all the different models. Below is a list of typical chassis designations, the “public” names for the cars and the years they were produced. This list is by no means comprehensive and may not include gray-market cars brought over from Europe. Just for fun, see if you can identify your car in the list and from now on you’ll refer to it by the Mercedes-Benz designation instead of the public one.
SL Class from 72-89. Always popular and never lose their value. Massive for their size.Examples: 72-80 450SLC, 72 350SL, 81-85 380SL, 86-89 560SL, 73-80 450SL
The S-Class precursor to the 126. One of which, the 450SEL 6.9 is a classic. Examples: 75-76 280S, 77-80 280SE, 73-76 450SE, 74-80 450SEL, 78-80 300SD
One of the most widely produced and successful MB chassis’ of all time. They were durable, relatively simple and safe. Just ask Cliff Matthews. Many 123s are still around today. Examples: 77-83 240D, 76-81 280E, 77-81 280CE, 300D and 300CD, 78-80 300TD, 82-85 300D Turbodiesel, 82-85 300CD Turbodiesel, 81-85 300TD Turbodiesel
The successor to the 123 and also a top seller. More refined than the 123, with higher torsional rigidity and a lower coefficient of drag. All around one of the best chassis’ ever made by anyone in the world. Examples: 260E, 86-93 300E, 87 300D, 94-95 E320 and E420, 92-93 400E, and 92 500E 126
The S-Class chassis from 81-91. Excellent reputation as a solid, dependable, long-legged ride. Examples: 81-83 380SEL, 86-91 420SEL and 560SEL, 81-85 300SD, 86-87 300SDL, 88-91 300SEL, 90-91 350SDL R129
The vaunted SL class. Massive for their size. Strong and aggressive stance. Beautifully styled. What more could you want? Examples: 90-97 300SL or SL320, 90-93 500SL, 98 SL500, 93-98 600SL or SL600
The flagship S-Class from 92-99. Massive chassis with many luxury amenities. Very solid and safe cars (as long as you wear seat-belts!) Examples: 92-93 500SEL and 300SE and 600SEL, 92 400SE, 93-94 400SEL, 94- 99 S500 and S600
The ML Class. Unique 4-Wheel Drive system. VERY popular Sport-Ute. Examples: 98-Present ML320, 99-Present ML430
The SLK. Smaller and nimbler than the SL. Electric folding hard top is a mechanical symphony. Example: 97-Present SLK230 Kompressor, new for 2000 SLK320 (V-6)
Also known as the 190 class. Many of the ideas pioneered in the 1984 190 were transferred to the E-Class in 86. Main problem is lack of rear legroom and early models were problematic. Examples: 84-94 190E and 190D, 190E 2.3- 16, 190E 2.6
The C-Class as successor to the 190E. Improved rear legroom but still limited. An excellent car as a first MB. Examples: 94-97 C220, 94- Present C280, 98-Present C230
The CLK. A personal luxury and performance statement. Examples: 98-Present CLK320, 99-Present CLK 430
The successor to the 124. Especially known for the bold, round headlights. Key change is rack and pinion steering instead of the old recirculating ball type. Again a definite world-class chassis. New V-6 engine introduced in 1998. Examples: 96-Present E320, E420, E55, 320 Estate, and E300
The new S-Class. High-Tech Tour De Force. New suspension. Complex Command Center. Examples: 2000 S430 and S500
If you are in the market for a used Mercedes or plan to purchase one sometime in the future, consider the value of having a professional inspection of all the major systems and overall condition before making an offer. It’s known simply as a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) and it can save you BIGTIME $$$$$ plus steer you away from purchasing a lemon that looks like a dream. Here’s the scoop.
No matter how knowledgeable you are about cars, it seems that all logic and reason fly out the window when you spot that gorgeous smoke silver S-Class you’ve always wanted with a For Sale sign and your name written all over it. It’s magical, but before getting too carried away, follow these steps. Carefully inspect the car for rust, body damage, uneven tire wear, fluid leaks, paint condition, body panel fit, interior condition and overall cleanliness. Ask if there are any maintenance records, which is a big plus if all scheduled maintenance is accounted for in writing. Take the car for a drive and make sure to include city and highway driving. If everything is a go, then ask if it is OK to have a mechanic of your choice at another shop inspect the car. If the owner or dealer balks, head for the hills and don’t look back. If given the green light, schedule an appointment with your favorite mechanic who specializes in MBs and who is knowledgeable concerning your particular model. Even if the car carries a warranty, is “certified” or is Starmarked, get a PPI or you could leave too much of your hard earned cash on their table.
A PPI involves simply paying an automotive technician to professionally inspect and evaluate a used car under consideration for purchase. The mechanic will put the car up on a lift, remove the wheels to inspect the brakes and suspension components, check for evidence of body repairs, check for rust, look for paint overspray, check all lights, check for leaks, test climate controls, note interior condition and finally do a test drive. If there are any questions about the engine’s performance or condition, there are several diagnostic procedures available for an extra charge. Mercedes automobiles can be made to LOOK beautiful cosmetically, but hide many mechanical defects, which is why an experienced eye is indispensable. Most mechanics have a PPI checklist to make sure all systems are inspected, which will include space to show what repairs are needed or will be needed soon and estimates for the cost of repairs. Take the inspection sheet back to the owner or dealer and use it as a bargaining chip in negotiating the final purchase price. Thousands of dollars can be saved, but wait, there’s more. You will now possess knowledge concerning when to expect certain parts to wear out so there will be plenty of time to financially prepare and you will have a MUCH better opinion concerning the overall condition of the car.
The cost of a PPI may not be cheaper, varying anywhere from $100 to $250 for a full inspection, but it’s worth it every single time. Let’s assume the car passes inspection with no suggested repairs, then by all means pay a premium for a well maintained MB. If the car fails inspection, then walk away from it and save thousands in repair bills and countless headaches. There are plenty of Mercedes beauties out there so don’t get too focused on just one. Be patient, find an excellent example, have it inspected, and enjoy driving the best car in the world for many years to come.
As Autumn recedes again into the distance and we look for the clocks going back at the end of this Month, in Great Britain at least, we are again faced with the dark cold months of Winter. Dark when you go to work and dark when you come home! Time to check that our vehicles are up to the challenge of Winter and that any breakdowns, which occur, are unavoidable and not something that for the sake of a half hours checking we could have avoided.
Time spent now along with a few pounds if necessary will be well spent, if standing at the roadside cold, & wet awaiting assistance can be avoided.
These few items in particular need to be thought about, and if necessary attended to Lights and Batteries bearing the biggest responsibility during this coming season, and who is going to bet on how harsh or otherwise it may be? Albeit here in the South we get off light compared with some! Battery Servicing is as important as on any other component or service, and with services so far apart these days there is little option but that you do it yourself. If you have a Battery that requires trickle charging to keep it in a serviceable condition during the summer months then be assured it’s going to let you down when it gets cold, when the engine requires more effort/power to turn it over and we start to use our electrical services more & more, therefore our battery needs to be in tip-top condition.
Original batteries tend to last longer than replacements, however a battery with a life of three years + needs to be cared for, if it is not going to let you down. Remember it doesn’t always happen when starting the car to go to work, it can happen on the road as well, and with no battery power you can’t even warn others of your presence!
Basic checks, ensure terminals are tight and free of any build of up of verdigris, ensure acid levels are up to the mark, If it is found that the acid/distilled water level is low then top it up in two parts, add water prior to a run thus giving the Alternator a chance to build the power back up before placing it back in the cold garage. If in doubt get it checked by your local garage they can test each of the six cells to ensure they are providing maximum power. Don’t forget all batteries are affected by the cold; check your key fob batteries don’t get caught out for the sake of a £1.00.a a small amount of silicone into the door lock slot won’t be wasted. Vehicle Lighting
Already we can see that many vehicles on the road are running with defective lights, agreed some of the bulbs on the ‘A’ Class are reasonably difficult to replace, but one way or another they must be done if we and other road users are to remain safe. It’s no good cursing the driver in front, if the driver behind you is doing the same!
As some of you are aware from my previous comments, I do not rely on the automatic warning devises, I am a firm believer of physically checking to ensure all bulbs light. If I can see them so can others. This of course includes lighting within the vehicle, My site, (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/albert.rowe) p26 gives a good indication what should be lit when the lights are on and also what dash symbols are visible when the ignition is on before we start the engine. Remember if travelling in France you are required to carry a spare bulb kit, in my opinion a good sound idea and one I have followed for years in England. Coolant Reservoir Contents
Should of course be checked before Winter arrives, if for some reason you have topped up the reservoir throughout the year make sure the contents still meet the requirements to prevent freezing of the engine taking place, many an engine has been severally damaged by the odd cold snap that always arrives when you least expect it! Small hydrometers can be purchased which enable Owners to check to ensure that the specific gravity will prevent freezing, and of course for the owners of cars in colder parts of the World, very important indeed. To have this system checked at a garage will only cost a few pounds and it could save hundreds. Screen Wash Reservoir
The same applies, firstly ensure that it is kept topped up and remember the contents are much more likely to have diluted over the last year Approx £2.00 for a bottle of concentrate and you will know that your reservoir along with the contents will do their job and remain free of ice. The 160/2002 ‘A’ Class has heated screen washer nozzles, as far as I’m aware there is no way of checking them, nor am I aware that they are checked for operation on either of the services? Even more important therefore, that the fluid doesn’t freeze in the tubing. Wiper Blades
For those of us that still use MB for servicing, they should be in good condition but check anyway and don’t forget the rear! A poorly wiped screen is dangerous, as is a frosted or partially frosted side window, it’s worth carrying a can of defrosting agent/de-icer with you in the car rather than being caught out, albeit the rapid heating of the screen and the car for that matter is a big help. But only if you are prepared or have time to wait those few extra minutes, before commencing your journey. Remember these minutes could save your life or that of somebody else. Full vision is imperative for safety; The ‘A’ Post is a big enough impairment to good vision on this car without ice up screens as well! And remember ‘cyclists ride on the pavement during the day and on the roads at night,’ usually without lights so take care.
When the heater is on MAX and the fan on Full the ice quickly gets moving. Air conditioning will also assist in keeping the car demisted, if working efficiently and the filter has been changed thereby allowing maximum airflow and efficiency. Rear heated screen
It’s worth checking to ensure that this does work, and that your vision isn’t going to be impaired by the misting up of the rear screen. Tyres
In addition to the above we do of course need to ensure, both tread and pressures are satisfactory and correct, that little extra tread can mean the difference between slid and grip when road conditions are bad. Trying to get the extra hundred miles from a set of tyres can cost you a lot more in Winter! Speed of course has a large part to play, and allowing that extra space at this time of year between you and the vehicle in front can make all the difference when it comes to stopping! Keeping an eye open for the ABS warning indicator that conditions are slippery can also afford us that little extra warning giving ourselves extra time and adjusting our driving style to suit the road conditions, along with allowing extra time for braking. High Visibility Clothing
Having considered items on the car, and got ourselves onto the highway lets take every precaution to ensure we ourselves return, For a few pounds high visibility waistcoats can be purchased which will ensure that other road users can see us should we be for any reason be stopped and on the highway. Easily stored under seat or in the driver’s door, when worn our greater safety is ensured. Having gone to whole hog, don’t forget that a coat of polish before the Winter sets in will help protect your paintwork and a wash of the underside, wings etc at regular intervals throughout the winter period will assist in reducing the corrosion to our more exposed components being exposed to the salt and grit, that our highways and byways seem to become coated with in an attempt to keep the Country on the move. Take care and safe driving.