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The Wheel Alignment

We have replaced most of the front suspension components on Walter, be it suspension arms, ball joints, and more suspension arms.

When so many components are replaced, the thought turns towards perhaps the car needs a wheel alignment. It was all good for most of the compnents until the last suspension arms were replaced. At that point the steering was slightly off center.

One gets busy, the crank sensor decides to stall the car, the windshield crack decides to start travelling up the  windshield.

The summer tires are soft, and stricky, and especially the front have a tendency to wear on the outside edges (we know why up to a point).

A few weeks ago we notice that the left front tire has more pronounced wear on the outside edge than the right front. It creates a "oops moment", and who has time to go chasing after a wheel alignment.

The other thought is "This is never ending, every month something crops up". Then our innate sense that the car must be right takes over, and obvious we proceed to get a wheel alignment. 

As expected the toe in of the left front was off, and creating the more pronounced wear. 

What a surprise nothing is loose in the front suspension. No kidding...there is nothing left to be loose, its all been replaced.



The Windshield

Around here we consider windshields a consumable wear and tear item on any car, especially after a few years of collecting various amounts of road abrasions, and minor chips.

The windshield on Walter was tired having accumulated a good amount of road abrasion through the years, it might have been the original windshield.

Earlier this spring we noticed a crack at the bottom of the windshield in the black area going the entire width of the car. It was not caused by a stone chip, or salt chip its too low, below the edge of the hood. Could have been a crack caused by some flexing during the winter, or could have been a gazillion other reasons that could crack the windshield.

Why is it not surprising that a windshield would crack on a 2003 E Class that was engineered under extreme cost cutting of the time.

From our experience when a windshield cracks on a Benz, there is a strong possibility that the crack will propagate through the windshield. Obvious that Walter did not disappoint, and the crack started propagating on the left side. 

As you can see the crack starts rising in the windshield, and after a wash (cold water/warm glass contrast) starts going across in the line of vision.

A case of Thank You Walter for such an innovative way of dealing with a crack.

Looking back its not so bad, we have had windshields last less than 24 hours on cars. Replacing a windshield, and immediately picking up a stone the same day, and replacing the windshield again. 

Replacing an old, tired, abraded windshield is not a big deal.

As you can appreciate replacing a windshield on a Benz is not an inexpensive proposition, especially when the car has rain sensing wipers, and a panorama roof. You also need the "windshield kit" which is primarily a tube of black adhesive, and a new Daimler sticker for the right hand side. The older white stickers are no longer available.

We call our friend at Reliable Glass who through the years has replaced a ton of Mercedes glass for us. Obvious you seek folks that have extensive hands on experience, and knowledge base in replacing windshields on a Benz. 

The conversation was the following "I need a windshield for my 2003 E500 with rain sensing, and a panorama roof" the reply "Do you want an original windshield?" our reply "No" (its a 2003 not a 2013) the response "Let me see what I can do, I'll call you back".

On the call back they can get an after market windshield and we agree on a reasonable price to replace the windshield. 

Yes...corroded metal appears at the bottom of the windshield...another sign of cost cutting from back in the day.

We endured the annoying crack for precisely 8 days, now Walter has a new after market windshield.

We do not suggest that you install an after market windshield on a newer car, get an original windshield from Reliable Glass. In this case its an older car, and with our new windshield track record it might only last a few days. Especially that a road trip on the 401 is in the immediate horizon...

The kilometers? Almost 154,000 we are slowly getting there.

The fuel economy in warmer weather, less than 10 liters per 100 kms on the highway.





The Crank Sensor

As you know newer vehicles do not have  ignition points, a distributor, and a distributor cap to name a few components from the old school ignition systems.

Its a high tech system with individual coils, and triggering replacing the ignition points of way back in the day. The triggering usually runs from the crankshaft in one fashion or another.

Walter is no different, having 2 spark plugs per cylinder, ignition coils on top of the spark plugs, at first blush its a bullet proof system with a crank triggering from the flywheel.

Such a system gives the initial impression of lasting forever, with the exception of the spark plugs which were replaced last year.

Here is the deal:

We noticed that the idle had become marginally rougher, V8's are smooth at idle in drive, now the idle is a few increments rougher. There are no signs of anything amiss. This develops when there are a myriad of things going on, with higher priorities that an incrementally rougher idle on a car. Plus if something is really off some light is going to turn on in the dash or so we thought.

Last Friday a member of the family is using the car, we get a call that its turning over and not starting...we should mention that we have absolutely no patience for any vehicle that does not start. Fortunately the car is in a parking lot, by the time we get there with our just in case kit of a booster pack, and spare key not to disturb people. Walter fires up instantly, the check engine light stays on momentarily and then turns off.

What could it be? Perhaps its just a glitch...yes a case of wishful thinking when there are a ton of other priorities. Sunday morning the car does the same thing, except this time there is really no time to deal with a non starting car that is full of stuff. 

Fortunately we have a few vehicles available, we get into another vehicle to catch up to Walter and empty it out in case it persists in not starting. In the meantime we get a call that the car started. It then stalls at an intersection in the middle lane to absolutely not start again. 

Sunday morning busy intersection, cars backed up behind it, who needs this on a Sunday morning with a bunch of other stuff to do and little time. Serendipity steps in on our return from the rescue mission "Oh Walter is just up front...why are the flashers on?"

If you dont have a CAA membership get one, these folks are very helpful, in less than 30 minutes the flatbed is there to pick up Walter after transferring the contents to another vehicle. Obvious by then commandeering a 3 lane intersection.

While waiting for CAA a call to our friendly mechanic..."its the crank sensor" a common occurrence on those cars. Obvious that now all the dots connect. The sensor is garbling the signal which leads to the rough idle, its intermittent, no start, stall, then start again.

The best part is that the car started Monday morning at our friendly mechanic. Once the car was plugged to the DAS the crank sensor appears as a fault code.

You have to wonder who got a promotion by saving a few pennies on a crank sensor with poor durability. The spreadsheet jockey that saved the pennies, surely did not consider how annoying, and potentially dangerous an intermittent crank sensor can become.

A crank sensor is about $200. the circumstances around it are priceless, and time wasted irreplaceable.




Update June 2014

Its been a few months, Walter is up to 152,000 kilometers, its slowly creeping up there on the way to 200K.

What has been going on?

We visited our friendly mechanic which is busier than ever. Its helpful to have a few vehicles and leave the car for a few days to have the work done.

The right rear axle has been replaced. Huge difference, ABS is back, as well as traction control, electronic stability, and the cruise control. Interesting to see the impact of a sensor on an axle, and the effects on the car. It cascades to a myriad of functionalities that suddenly do not work due correctly to the axle being defective. 

No...did not get a new axle...yes it took a while to source a used one.

The clunking sound in the front suspension was a ball joint, we have replaced ball joints, suspension arms, and more ball joints. Must be fair to say that the front suspension is a weak area on the car.

The rear suspension is good for now, although as you can just imagine air suspensions, rubber bellows, age, wear and tear, it all tends to accumulate. One advantage, a few weeks ago we had to transport 4 20 liter buckets of paint in the trunk. goes down and once the car starts goes back up to normal ride height, its cool.

Obvious there are a few additional stone ships, the windshield has additional road abrasion, all part of winter driving, road salt, its the wear and tear process.

The windshiled is the bottom where the wipers park, in the black area. A crack that goes across the entire lower portion of the windshield...go figure how it happened. Probably on a cold day either a pot hole or wave in the pavement created a flex and the windshield cracked.

Yes...fresh oil and filter, yes...the valves tick when the engine is cold, obvious not as loud as in winter. 

The socket for the right front signal light burnt out, not the bulb, the socket. Its a $13.00 part and was replaced, good thing it was the right which is easy to replace...the left not as easy.

The rust blobs are increasing in size, its the annoyance of an older car that starts to corrode. Not a huge deal at this point. It does generate the question of why is it corroding?

The summer tires and wheels are on its refreshing to have the sticky tires for the summer, We have had the on ramp moment.

It drives strong, there is something about a V8 sedan that remains endearing. The 3 valve per cylinder V8's of the day had a good level of "grunt" (torque) which augments the satisfaction quotient.

Fuel economy, on the highway its 10 liters per 100 kms, surface streets it deteriorates to 13-14 liters per 100 kms.

Its still enjoyable to deal with an older car, that by now has a patina can make payments on a brand new something else, for the maintenance costs of this car, so far this year.




Update March 2014

Its still winter, although spring is only a few days away. Been colder than usual, and as you know with cold there are always a few additional clunks, clanks, noises coming from any vehicle.

"Walter" is no exception making its contribution towards a few more sounds especially when starting on a brisk morning.

As you can imagine we are compiling our mental list for the upcoming spring inspection.

With cold weather the ticking valves until the engine warms up are more pronounced, and a few other sounds that go away ounce operating temperature is reached. 

Its up to 149,000 kilometers...agreed still a way to reach 200K.

The car has been on a few road trips as well as the usual errands on surface streets. It starts, it warms up quickly, and runs very well under the present conditions. Obvious...there are new wiper blades, winter tires, regular fill ups of windshield washer fluid. There are benefits to a 7 liter winshsield washer container.

As you can see from the photo salt is used profusely to keep roads in driveable conditions.

The sensor on the rear axle is increasingly acting up, with a few lights blinking in the dash, we are waiting for warmer weather to do an update. When the sensor on the axle acts up it affects the ABS, ESP, SBC, and traction controls, its the joy of a car with all sorts of tehcnology. 

As you know cold conditions are not ideal for any kind of fuel economy, whatever it is we simply gas up the car, on the highway it tends to use an additional liter to cover 100 kilometers.

On the list for "spring"


  • The right rear axle.
  • There is still a minor clunking sound from the front suspension.
  • Oil change
  • Check the rear suspension which drops down in cold temperatures.


The car does what its supposed to do, and does it very well under the present frigid conditions.



Ouch Revisited

Its fascinating when cars tend to act up around the same time on consecutive years. If you remember last year around New Year we had an ouch experience with the rear suspension, which was resolved for a reasonable amount of money.

Yes...we counted ourselves fortunate at the averted a painful experience.

Around mid December 2013 the rear suspension is acting up again, with one side going down, and subsequently coming up when the car is started. While getting the lingering feeling that it might just get worse, we are nearing the end of the year.

The conclusion is that there is something strange going on with the rear suspension, in addition to a clunking sound from the front suspension. 

Its winter, its cold, who needs the aggravations...well on January 2, as anticipated the rear suspension is way down, and no longer comes up...interesting.

Try to get a car with no rear suspension on a flatbed, another interesting experience. This time the gut feeling was to not drive the car like last year. Something to do with being lucky once and perhaps not again. 

A call to our friendly mechanic "I'm sending you the car, its down, fix it."

This time its was the compressor that was defective, and it required 2 other suspension arms in the front.

Its a classic case of an 11 year old car with an air suspension, and a delicate front suspension with an accelerated wear curve. 

A few days, and an ouch later the car is up, the clunk is gone, and the sensor on a rear axle is acting up.

Its part of the joys of fooling around with an older car.




Update November 2013

Temperature sensorAs Project 200K progresses, there is a way to go, the car has 144,000 kms. Yes...we have done a bit of driving this past summer. 

What transpired during these past few months.

For the 3rd year at almost the same time of year (end of August), and with the same climatic conditions (hot, humid, and rain), returning from a road trip the air conditioning stops working. You almost can't make this stuff up, that for 3 consecutive years the air conditioning stops working under similar circumstances; at almost the same place on the 401.

This time the system shuts down, is it refrigerant, or something else. A visit to our friendly mechanic, and its some sort of temperature sensor (photo) behind the dash that is defective and shuts down the air conditioning.

At this point while delving in the HVAC system, the valve (under the hood) that controls the water flow for the 4 zones was replaced. We knew the valve was occasionally "acting up".Its a common/known issue, and especially during the summer hot air comes out of the rear vents when the valve "acts up".

Checking the entire HVAC system, replacing the sensor and valve amounted to a few hundreds.

From the new cabin filter during the previous visit, to replacing the temperature sensor, and valve we have hopefully resolved all the HVAC issues. Obvious that its more pleasant when its cool in the car on a warm day.

Although the Falken Azenis are great "sticky" summer tires, they are probably useless in snow. 

Falken Eurowinter HS449A quick word on tires:

As you know high performance tires do not last a long time. We drove approximately 80,000 kms on a set of summer and winter tires.

This car has 2 sets of wheels and tires, and 2013 is the year to replace tires. We replaced the summers in the spring and now came the time to replace the winters. We installed a set of Falken Eurowinter HS449  on the 17 inch winter wheels.

Agreed, replacing 2 sets of tires in one year ads up to a few thousands. Keeping in mind that these 2 sets will last a few years.

As winter arrived a few days ago, we also replaced the wiper blades. There are all sorts of wiper blades at all sorts of prices. For some reason the most expensive are from M-B and they are also the ones that work the best.

Perhaps we forgot to mention, this past summer "Walter's" paint was clay barred to remove all sorts of stuff that makes its way on the paint of cars, and was waxed. Yes...its good exercise to clay bar and wax a car.

Wondering about fuel economy on surface streets and short trips? Take a look at Walter's fuel economy, as you probably know colder weather is not conducise to improved economy.



Update August 2013

The car has been hauling all sorts of stuff in the trunk and folded back seat, and went around like a utility vehicle for a while...great to make good use of a car while listening to "Hotel California".

Its been on a few road trips and reached 139,000 kms...yes we are slowly increasing the kilometers. 

In case we forget, the"rust blob" on the right quarter panel as it joins the wheel opening and bumper is growing. Perhaps typical of a 10 year old Benz...but also annoying!

The Falken tires are simply amazing, smooth, sticky, great in rain...and fun in on/off ramp situations. Trying to set up the ideal ramp moment does not work since someone will usually get in the way at some point. But when it all comes together its a great moment.

Going by the service schedule displayed in the dash, the car requires a service at every 20 to 22,000 kms. We did an oil change last year prior to winter at around 128,000 kms not due for an oil change yet (12,000 kms remaining), but the "noisy" lifter started acting up on this last road trip when starting cold in the morning. The lifter sound is irritating...

In addition the air in the car was a little stale, its the cabin filter that picks up humidity, and starts emanating occasional stale odours. As usual since its progressive its almost seems normal, until the filter is replaced.

We had not replaced the air filters in a while too, although with our use of the car they could have gone longer.

Here is the deal: 

The oil filter OEM part is 25.45 when you see the size of the box you wonder how M-B arrives at a price of 25 bucks, the air filters are 78.15 for both, again you truly wonder how they arrive at such a price for a couple of generic filters. The cabin filter is 39.80 its charcoal activated it sort of makes sense. Almost 150 for a bunch of paper in boxes. The oil and air filters in the after market are dramatically less money...not so much the cabin filter.

The "old school" rule for an engine accumulates wear and tear, or when you "blueprinted" an engine back in the day and increased the clearances (less friction) you would run a higher viscosity oil. 

Way back in the day it was straight 30 or perhaps 40 in a "blueprinted" engine, then progressed to 20W50.

With the advent of synthetic oils viscosity requirements have diminished, its now 0W30 or 5W30 which works fine and is usually recommended by a myriad of manufacturers. 

This engine runs on Motul 5W40, and we instinctively know when the oil is on the downward slope of the bell graph, at about 10,000 kms we change the oil even if the dash indicator advises of 12,000 kms remaining.

Agreed...we can entertain all sorts of discussion on the viscosity of oils, and various manufacturers recommendations. In this instance its our car, and 5W40 works well, this car spends more time on the highway taching 2300-2400 RPM than crawling in congestion. 

Fresh oil, fresh air filters...the engine breathes better, fresh cabin filter...the occupants breathe better.

In addition we replaced the Xenon bulbs in the headlamps, these bulbs progressively lose their power/brightness with time. They wear out especially that they are part of the DRL (day time running lights) and are always on. The new bulbs make an appreciable difference. can find Xenon bulbs in the after market at substantial savings...which is precisely what we did.

With a few additional stone chips on the hood, increased abrasion of the windshield and "Walter" keeps on going. 



Update May 2013

Although its Poject 200K we are wondering when we will reach 200K with this car, in December 2012 the car had 128,000 kms and after two road trips it now has 134,000 kms. it has a way to go before reaching 200K.

What has been going on for the past few months?


  • After the "Ouch" was resolved in January, and we did an oil change too, we have used the car sparingly, and its been parked a few times while we were driving other cars. 
  • Agreed that 5,000 kms in 6 months is not much usage.
  • We did not spend any money maintaining the cars during this time, obvious we invested enough last year.
  • This past winter the sticky lifter did not act up, was it fresh oil prior to winter?
  • The A/C is blowing cold...yes we were surprised...almost expected the A/C to act up, but not yet.
  • We have some stuff going on and the folding back seat is very useful...we even put a lawn mower in its box in the trunk/ rear seat. Agreed we are huge fans of folding rear seats in  sedan, especially when they fold flat, with the seat cushion folding out of the way, and also being completely removeable.
  • Surprising how much stuff and how big you can fit in the trunk, rear seat combination.
  • At the time the folding rear seat option was a ridiculous price of over $1,000...which seemed crazy until you put it to good use.
  • Fuel economy on the highway cruising at about 2,300/2,400 RPM is constantly in the 9.6 to 9.8 liters per 100 kms.

Obvious that we need to have some challenges with an older car, if you remember we had a rumbling sound coming from the front, which seeamed like wheel bearings or tires...we eliminated the wheel bearing variable in the fall.

Our conclusions with this car...


  • High performance summer tires, the first half of the tire from new to 50% wear, is dramatically better than the second half from 50% wear to lower (25%)....especially when tires are also a few years old (swapping summers/winters).
  • The same applies to winter tires, the second half is not interesting, the winter tires were increasingly rumbling this year.


This year the car required new summer tires, we installed a set of Falken Azenis FK483 strange name, awesome tires.

Yes Falken is involved in racing.

The rumbling sound is gone, we have through the years found that Michelin tires are rounder and smoother that most other tires, these tires are just as good.

By now you probably know that we enjoy our "moments" on our favorite on/off ramps. The reason we like V8's, big brakes, high performance summer tires. 

The tires have a superior performance envelope, which is truly exhilerating. Performing at several increments higher than our previous summer tires. 

To be blunt a 5 point harness would be useful to truly work the tires.

The car has a name "WALTER"




Ouch is Resolved

Air Spring with expansion tankWhat started out as a potential OUCH!!! that could/would develop into substantial sums of money developed into a reasonable repair. 

As you can see from the photo the car has air springs (bellows) that hold up the car in the rear, in addition to shock absorbers. Needless to tell you that the air springs are in the same price range as the shock takes your breath away. 

Notice the hose going from the bellow to the aluminum tank, we had a leak were the hose connects to the tank (red arrow), this tank is under the car, the clamp is at the lowest point, its a 10 year old car...something will corrode and start leaking. 

Fortunately the clamp/fitting is easily accessible from under the car. 

In hindsight it had probably been leaking for some time until it deteriorated to the point of the bellows no longer holding air, and the car becoming a low rider. 

A word about our friendly mechanic, when we bring the car to his shop, we never ask for an estimate, its always a case of fix the car and tell me how much after its done. We have known each other for enough years, and we both know how much it costs to service and repair these cars.

Back in the day of old school mechanics when cars were repaired with initiative and imagination, parts were repaired if possible and not simply replaced. In this instance the joints (hose to tank) were repaired/resealed, although it would have been easy to turn it into a make work project quickly escalating into 4 figures. 

In our case we do not have time to do searches, review forums to see what is probably wrong with the car, we have our own knowledge base, while relying on our friendly mechanic. Our priority is to have the car repaired, we have absolutely no patience for a car that does not perform as it should, and as we expect it to perform. 

We were anticipating an ouch accompanied by a bruising, it turned into a minor irritant. The intricacies of the suspension on the E500.

The left outside rear view mirror was replaced (finally), and we had the oil changed did not need an oil changed, but fresh oil attenuates the lifters noise (remember the lifters?) especially in winter. 

The video provides a "hands on" view of the bellows, the aluminum tanks, the hose from the bellow to the tank, the hose clamped to the tank, how it all fits together, the amount of labor that is involved, and the DAS to tell the car to refill the bellows.


We will continue...during the year