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Perhaps you are probably not familiar with the "Intellectual Process" of a 10 year old car with an air suspension, and at some point "something" happens to the air suspension.

The front suspension has been an ongoing process of replacing suspension arms, and ball joints. 

The rear suspension we replaced a shock in 2011, and lately it seemed that it was gradually losing air.

To start 2013 on a positive note the rear suspension acts up on New Years  day, and decides to remain a permanent low rider. Not only is it a low rider, the huge red warning "Stop car too low" comes on in the middle of the dash to really raise a level of alarm. 

A call to our friendly mechanic is in order...the conversation went as follows..."the rear is very low, the center of the speedo is red, could it be the pump, the air shocks, something is losing air, and something else is no longer pumping air".

Obvious that flatbedding this @#$% to your place is going to cost some money, and then some. 

After a spin around the block, still refuses to raise itself, and rides like a "hard tail chopper", we left a message to our friendly mechanic..."forget the flat bed...we are driving this @#$% over to your place tonight". Yes highways are smoother than surface streets. What is the worse that can happen? Not much...its not rubbing anywhere, do not hit bumps/wave that will flex the body too much, and go.

Once we reach our friendly mechanic his question "how low is it?"...our reply "there is no suspension travel in the back, how low is that?"

The conversation continued "Do you need the car? Tomorrow is Thursday, if we need parts it might be Friday" our reply "We could have used the car for the next few days, now its here, next week we don't need it...just fix the thing".

As we always say being amused, bemused, and at times aggravated with an older car is not for everyone. 

We are waiting for the OUCH!!!! 



More Service in 2012

Road Trip December 2012As you have probably concluded 2012 developed into a year of "service", we had the feeling that it would require more, than less service. 

Come June returning from a road trip, its getting progressively warmer in the car, yes its the air conditioning system which again lost refrigerant. The visit to the friendly mechanic elicited the "just fix the @#$ air conditioning" and tell me when its done, and it blows cold again.

The remainder of the summer was quiet on the service front, the car runs good, and spends less time parked, by now we are parking another car, although this one is often used sparingly. 

Agreed we also wonder how long it will take to reach 200K at this rate of usage. 

By mid September the rumbling noise in the front is aggravating, yes we dislike any car that does not run well. It seems like the bearings, there is a road trip on the horizon, a visit to our friendly mechanic is in order. Check the car, especially the rumbling noise in front!

128,000 kms December 2012This develops into another ball joint on the left side, after a comprehensive check of the front wheel bearings our mechanic concludes that its the tires. While replacing a ball joint, checking the bearings, the front brake pads are worn and replaced. 

The rumbling sound it could have been the bearings or tires, it seemed to be more bearing oriented than tires, and checking further since front wheel bearings are sold complete with the hub for a high price, and checking twice is not a bad idea to confirm that its the bearings.

A word on tires...having 2 sets of tires mounted on wheels, when we installed the summer tires in the spring, they were showing signs of wear at about 50%, instinctively one concludes that they will do another summer. Although high performance tires worn at 50% are not the ideal...since they lose their edge. 

The front brake pads seamed to have a shorter than longer life, although in our case we know why...when you stand on the brakes hard to scrub off speed negotiating turns there is a higher wear and tear factor than just braking. Obvious to same applies to tires. 

December 2012 Service Center 401 EastLingering on how much money we have invested in the car this year is not productive...agreed it would have made lease payments on a new vehicle or very close.

Why keep, and persist with a 10 year old car that requires upkeep. 

Its a V8, you know that we enjoy V8's, the 3 valve 5.0L  engine has appreciable low and mid range torque. Great highway cruiser with an impressive sound system, and reasonable fuel economy. Its rear wheel drive...we do not appreciate AWD cars. Still drives well...too.

We enjoy fooling around with the car, having it serviced by our friendly mechanic, with the convenience of having other cars while this one is serviced. The reason we always mention that its not for everyone.

Since its an early production, built in October 2002 the car has a sophisticated folding rear seat (had to order the rear seat to get a car from the factory, it was over 1K for the option), not only do the seat backs fold flat, the seat cushions are removable to gain additional space. This car hauls stuff that would not fit in a CUV. 

The December Road Trip...with huge clouds and almost dark in mid afternoon...

Before we forget...there is a corrosion "blob" that is developing on the right rear quarter will be annoying come spring 2013.

We will continue...




Service in 2012

As you have concluded by April 2012 the car requires a level of service, as usual we visit our friendly mechanic. 

We provide a list of items that require attention, which elicited the comment "Do you want a new car?" we know about the rear brakes, more ball joints or something else in the front suspension, some bracket is lose in the exhaust system, the BAS light is on, some sort of rumbling in the front, it probably needs spark plugs, air filters, and an oil change. 

It was a relatively long list, with "here is the car, just fix it" was our comment. 

Front Upper Control ArmThe front suspension is the continuing story of most components having undergone a cost saving process with abbreviated durability. More ball joints, and an upper suspension arm and the current issues are resolved. By now we have literally replaced over 50% of the front suspension components on this car. There is a wear and tear reality, and there is a cost saving effort by M-B (we hope the folks that worked on the front suspension of the car all got a promotion for saving a few Euros).

The rear brakes are normal wear and tear, with the discs and pads replaced. On the E500 the rear discs are ventilated similar to the fronts. The ABS/BAS light which might have been a simple sensor, turned into the sensor on the axle, the price of an axle will take your breath away. Obvious that you cannot "just buy the sensor" you need to buy the axle shaft. As you can imagine the sensor on the axle shaft is over one thousand dollars, and a great forum discussion subject. Wow this light turned on, the sensor is on the axle shaft, its "big money" to repair.

Rear AxleThe reasonable price solution is to locate a used axle shaft, at approximately one third of the price of the new part.  

The spark plugs were replaced, all 16 (yes 2 per cylinder). although they are supposed to last for 160,000 kms, we concluded that after almost 10 years and 120,000 kms it was time. 

New spark plugs make a difference, the engine is crisper, more responsive.

The exhaust is a spot weld on a bracket which has "unspotted" itself; its tack welded back, and the minor ratlle at idle in gear is gone.

The rumbling sound is a front wheel bearing (more cost saving on the front of this car, hopefully the entire department that engineered the front all received deserved promotions by being exceptional spreadsheet jockeys). Lets cut a bit here, shave a few thousands there, while making certain that it lasts longer than the warranty. 

Rear Brake DiscEmulating the spread sheet jockeys (engineers) we conclude that there is still some life remaining in the bearing, lets see how much longer, and how the slight rumble magnifies in sound, and when can we say that the bearing is gone. The car has 120,000 kms now lets see how much longer.

Now the car has new rear brakes, all the lights in the dash are off, the engine is crisp, and we are good to go for a while. 

Until something else rears its head, since it seems that this year (2012) this car will need more attention that we probably planned or anticipated....stay tuned.

How much did it cost...what do you think? Yes over one thousand....

If you do not enjoy servicing cars, having fun diagnosing what is amiss, having your own alternate transportation while the car is serviced/repaired. Having a friendly mechanic that understands you, and that you understand and trust.  Playing around with an older car is not for you, and we do not suggest or encourage you to "play" with an older car. If you enjoy older cars, there is a fun factor.

So far this year we have resolved the cracked wheel in February, rear brakes, ABS/BAS sensor on the axle shaft, ongoing front suspension parts, spark plugs, air filters, oil change, exhaust bracket, and front wheel bearing (postponed).

We will continue.....




The Car in 2012 

We start 2012 with air dissappearing from the winter tires on the original alloy wheels. Its another riddle like the mirror, first time it was ..."Did we forget to check the air pressure?" "Something is up". Not a big deal, we have a compressor, tire pressure gauge in the door pocket, easy to replenish the air and check the pressure. 

In hindsight if air is disappearing from alloy wheels, it could be a big deal, have the tires dismounted from the wheels and take a look (inspect) at what is "going on". 

We did a road trip in early February, having done a previous road trip in January with another vehicle, its was exciting to embark on a road trip with this car, and obvious at some point deal with snow, inclement weather, salt, while using industrial quantities of windshield washer fluid. 

During the road trip, we were very lucky to crawl to a gas station for air in the right rear tire, instead of having to install the spare tire. Subsequently discovering a cracked alloy wheel while getting quite disturbed that a wheel would crack. As per the manufacturer wheels crack when one hits a bump, we remain with our version of the incident. Put it this way its not unusual for wheels to crack, without hitting a bump. 

We are thankful that nothing untoward happened, we solved the problem, and as usual "there is nothing that money can't fix on a car".  We went from rather ugly corroded original alloys to a set of 5 spoke (M Class) aftermarket alloys that look good on the car. 

A few times during the winter the traction control light would come on for no reason, it could be the cold. 

In late February/early March the "visit workshop brakes" light comes on...yes must be the rear pads, and by the time the light comes on there is little friction material remaining. One thing leads to another, and about a month goes by, in the meantime the ABS/BAS light is on...the dash is starting to look like an illuminated billboard.

By now its early April, its time to visit our friendly mechanic with a list of things that need to get done. 

Obvious that the year is not complete we will do a later entry to complete the year.

We will continue... 



The Mirror

At times "stuff" happens in life, in work situations, and on cars that for a moment defies rational thinking. 

At some point in 2010 the left outside rearview mirror starts having a line across the mirror glass, as if "something" is degenerating behind the mirror. This process starts at the top of the mirror and with time progresses making its way towards the bottom of the mirror.

While leaving the mirror looking as if its wet and not properly dried, which is not the case.

At the same time a brownish liquid (similar to tea) starts leaking out of the mirror on the door. 

Have you ever seen a mirror slowly degenerate, with a liquid leaking out? Yes...there is always a first time. 

Obvious that the mirror is now murky, with various lines across, and a dark spot at the bottom.

Its the anti reflective "whatever" that has leaked out of the mirror...

What is the cost of a new mirror with the anti reflective properties? Don't ask...approximately $400...yes it does take your breath away. 

Why would this mirror deteriorate after about 8-9 years? Stuff happens is perhaps the best answer! We have another vehicle with a 34 year old original non reflective mirror which is still fine.

What would Mercedes-Benz say? We have no clue we did not ask them, perhaps we should, and they will probably unearth some obscure technical bulletin justifying that its a normal occurence after over 96 months of gravity that the anti reflective liquid would literally leak out of the mirror.

Its an older car...there is no warranty remaining...need we say more.





Service in 2011

On all vehicles as components inexorably wear, or defective components continue to deteriorate the performance does not improve. 

The left rear shock absorber progressively deteriorated, affecting the composure of the car, which started to feel "loose" on the road.

Not as much fun when the car is no longer as stable as it should be in on/off ramps. Mid size sedan with a V8, 18 inch high performance summer tires, 4 piston front calipers, vented discs all around.

Obvious that all that stuff gets used on our favorite on/off ramps. 

A quick note on Air Matic suspensions, yes you can stiffen the suspension for aggressive driving. The reality, in most street application the suspension is at its normal position not to rattle yourself silly in the car. When you get aggressive the suspension is still in the normal position, if a window of opportunity opens there is no time to take the opportunity, and simultaneously stiffen the take the opportunity.

Its November 2011, we finally get a deal on an "almost new" rear shock from our friendly mechanic.

Wow...what a difference...the car just regained its composure, and its on/off ramp capabilities. 

As the car is on the lift, a quick inspection reveals additional wear and tear of ball joints, and upper suspension arms in the front. Lots of ball joints in the front suspension, between the lower suspension arms (2 on each side), stabiliser bar link (one each side), upper suspension arm (one each side), total of 8 ball joints all of them smaller than bigger.

By now its obvious that someone was on a serious mission to save money when engineering the front suspension of the car. You wonder if that cost saving generated a career advancement for the various individuals.

In 2011 we invested approximately $600 on the car, resolved the rear shock/suspension issue, the car still runs strong, not a bad deal. Although there is front suspension work lurking on the horizon.

As we mentioned at the outset, if you are not comfortable and do not enjoy diagnosing, having unexpected issues appear, and resolving them, an older car is not for you. 

As the car gets older, and continues to depreciate, there is a fine line of how much money will you spend on such a car, where do you reach the line of diminishing returns (spend more than what its worth). 

In the meantime, its a cool car with V8 waftability, a great sound system, its not a 4 Matic, its the first version with none of the tacky "facelifted" stuff that made its way on later version.







The Car in 2011

We enter 2011, following a road trip in late December 2010, the car runs well, with a fresh service, winter tires are installed, the winshield washer works. The advantage of an air suspension, with a full complement of adult passengers, and the trunk quite full the car always keeps its composure. At the start of the year, its still parked, here, there, and all over for extended periods. 

May 2011 was a wet, rainy month, for some reason the engine starts running rough, the check engine light comes on sporadically (annoying), then it runs good. Its a 50-50 proposition half of the time its all good, the other half its rough, less power, with a stumbling idle. Not much fun...especially when you intrinsically hate cars that do not run well...really hate them!

A call to our friendly mechanic is in order, this car is not running well at all then runs good, could it be A-B or C, after a brief conversation we narrow it down to humidity in the spark plug wires. As usual for some cosmic reason, cars act up as per their agenda, never yours.

What on the surface seems like an easy fix, replace the plug wires, is not so easy financially, each wire is $70 and there are 16 (2 plugs per cylinder). Yes it does take your breath away! As it stopped raining towards the end of May and the weather warmed up, with less humidity the car ran fine, and has not acted up since. Must be a case of self healing...and/or intellectually insulting, hideously priced spark plug wires.

After focusing on spark plugs, plug wires, and the thought that the engine could perhaps run just a little stronger. Then you conlcude that the plugs are supposed to be good for 160,000 kms...and still running reasonably strong. Perhaps it could run a bit stronger....just a bit...the plugs are 9 years old. Lets see if the wires act up again! Will it need plug wires? Does it need spark plugs?

In August on a road trip with a compressed time schedule, half way to the destination its suddenly getting warmer in the car. Why is it warmer in the car? cold air coming out of the vents, "something" happened to the air conditioning. Interesting how newer cars seem to get extremely hot without air conditioning, especially when there is no time to have it looked after, and its hopefully just refrigerant. Enduring no air conditioning for a few days is required at this point. As expected any combination of windows/sunroof...its still hot in the car. Yes...the famous happens!

On the return, a stop at the friendly mechanic, as expected no refrigerant remaining, top up the refrigerant, add a leak detector (just in case), and obvious that by now the car has shut down the air conditioning, and requires the DAS to tell the air conditioning compressor to get going again. 

The car runs well, still a superb highway cruiser, with the left rear shock not improving, the Xenon headlamps showing signs of fatigue (the Xenon acting as the day time running lamps is great for waer and tear). The left rear view mirror is acting up (more on the mirror later).

When its cold a couple of lifters enjoy making noise for a brief period of time, a constant reminder of an old school small block Chevy with bad hydraulic lifters that lose oil overnight. Not as cool a sound like firing up a small block with mechanical lifters on a cold morning.

Overall for a 9 year old car with slightly over 100,000 kilometers, it still reasonably impressive considering the age, not so much the kilometers. Yes...our inclination for V8's, waftability, plays in the car's favor.






Service in 2010 

By early December 2010 the car requires some TLC, we visit our friendly mechanic.

The clunking sound in the front suspension which was increasingly irritating: 

Its the aluminum lower suspension arm, historically Mercedes has always designed ball joints on the smaller than bigger philosophy, and this suspension arm has a ball joint for the stabiliser bar link, and bushings (which probably follow the same smaller vector). The you really want to know (close to $300 each), and yes replaced both arms, left and right.

Front Brakes: 

While a portion of the front suspension is coming apart, and the front brakes are approximately 70% worn, might as well replace the front rotors, pads, and sensors too. As you probably know in any Mercedes the bigger the engine, the bigger the brakes, and obvious the price of the parts escalates. 

Front brake discs








The small battery: 

Finally replaced the small battery that was telling us to visit the workshop.

Windshield washer fluid: 

The windshield washer tank is behind the right front wheel fender liner...yes remove the wheel, remove the liner to access the tank, and reseal a fluid line that is leaking....its one of those where a dab of rubber cement (what was known at one time as yellow death) solves the problem, and it takes about an hour of labor to solve the problem. 

Oil and Filter:

Yes..changed the oil and filter...yes synthetic oil.

The clunking sound in the front suspension is gone, the brake pedal is higher, we can actually use the windshield washer (helpful in winter), and a fresh oil change.

In addition to encountering this big puppy while the car is being serviced.

You might be curious as to how much it all cost, the suspension arms were close to $300 each, the front brakes pads about $100, front discs $150 each, the small battery $130 we are over $1,000 of parts. Its easy to quickly invest over $1,000 on any car.

At that time the car had close to 100,000 kms...

Wondering about the left rear shock absorber? We contacted a dealer that had one in inventory for over $700 and this dealer was not interested in selling only 1 shock, wanted to sell the set (2), we were not interested in replacing both rear shocks. Postponed for another time.






The Car in 2010

9.7L/100 kms - avg speed 108 KPH for 554 kmsBy now we have owned this E500 for 30 months, and its travelled approximately 30,000 kilometers, the small battery under the hood acts up occasionally, when its quite cold it takes a little longer to go from reverse to drive (annoying at times).

The winter tires are on the car, its still parked for extended periods, at one time we literally brought a shovel to unbury the car after being parked and enduring a snow storm. 

The car still runs good.

Its winter, its cold, occasionally it seems that a valve lifter is ticking when starting from cold (reminds you of the early days of hydraulic lifters), this car has 90 odd thousand kilometers, its a Benz why would lifters tick when starting from cold? Once the engine runs for a few minutes it all goes away.

On our usual stretch of broken road where all new vehicles are very solid, this E500 is solid but now a few sounds start emanating from the front suspension...something is loosening in the front.

The rear shock absorber that was leaking, is not improving either.

As anticipated the brake pedal is a little lower, the front discs have a more pronounced lip at the edge.

By early summer we do our annual cleaning / detailing, for some reason a clean car runs better we call it the Zen of Washing.

At one point in the summer, the car is telling us it needs windshield washer fluid...why does it need windshield washer fluid when we did not use any? Yes...something in the windshield washer system is leaking the fluid.  

In the meantime, its still parked here, there, for extended periods, but the minor issues are starting to accumulate. We did replace the air filters (2), and cabin filter at some point during the summer. 

We get annoyed, and aggravated when a car no longer runs the way it late 2010 the car is not performing to our expectations with a myriad of sounds from the front suspension.

Its still a mid size sedan with a 302 HP V8....need we say more!






Performance - Maintenance

We are unabashed auto enthusiasts, enjoy power in any vehicle, and have high expectations of vehicles especially when its a Mercedes-Benz. 

Although an S Class with an ABC suspension and serious power is a wonderful machine, its also a little over the top, and perhaps too obvious. The moments with such a car are extreme fun, and remain priceless memories.

When you are packing serious adult horsepower, and torque the components must deliver a corresponding level of performance.

With an older car you decide at what level of performance the vehicle is maintained. Do you just repair what is amiss, are you pro active to remain ahead of the wear and tear curve, and a variety of alternatives. 

Usually older vehicles tend to fall through the cracks, with reconditioning and maintenance being done on a times a tight budget. These vehicles are beyond the factory warranty, can generate unexpected surprises, and can get expensive to repair. 

From our perspective, if it does not drive, feel, perform like a Mercedes-Benz its not much fun or much of an enjoyable car. 

Not only is there the wear and tear of consumables (oil, filters, tires, brakes) which are similar to a new vehicle. There is also the wear and tear of time which is often the unknown aspect of maintaining an older vehicle.

When one is around vehicles for a few decades. The more you know, the more you are familiar, often the more issues you can uncover, which is not always a good thing. 

As vehicles get older they are not welcomed with open arms at franchised dealers, who prefer to deal with newer vehicles having a warranty as the facilitator for unexpected repairs. Warranties are a convenient interface between franchised dealers and customers. You need a friendly trusted mechanic that has the resources to repair and maintain the car, and has an understanding of your expectations. 

Our expectations are not to save money by having economical maintenance performed on the car. The urban legend that the franchised dealer will kill you with the labor rate compared to an an urban legend. 

We have an extensive knowledge base of these cars, from several perspectives. We have long standing relationship with several service alternatives. In addition to having our own mechanic to maintain this car, and we enjoy doing our own "old school diagnostics" when an issue arises. 

It becomes an enthusiast, gear head experience, which is at times aggravating but more often fun, and satisfying.

You don't fool around with an older car to save money, you do it for the enjoyment, the fun. 

One more thing, the more new vehicles we review the more this E500 holds its own. Perhaps if we did not review new vehicles we would have a different perspective.