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Walter's Demise

Walter came into the "house" in the summer of 2007, it was a 2 owner car in good condition, at a reasonable price with approximately 63,000 kms at the time.

Its a 2003...not the best model year, its an early production car assembled on October 2002 with the panorama roof, folding rear seat back. The early E500's at that time had to be ordered with those 2 options.

The intention was never to keep Walter for such a long time.

Through events, circumstances, other priorities, Walter hung around for 8 years. Its almost mind boggling to think that The Colonel would have kept a car for all those years.

Around the end of August Walter was involved in an "encounter" with another car at an intersection. To say that it was an upsetting experience is an understatement. From the photo, its not huge damage, but its an older car.

You can see where this is going, the car was "written off" by the insurance company.

Its an endearing car, its part of the house, its been around for 8 years, and its an inglorious way to go. But its just a car, its "metal" and worse things can certainly happen in life.

Hopefully Walter will become a parts doner for a multitude of other cars.

What did we learn through the years?


Unless you enjoy having an older car, enjoy maintaining an older car, have alternate transportation, its not for everyone to keep such a car around for so many years.

Especially maintaining the car to factory standards...its absolutely not for everyone, and reasonably expensive to do. Some components have prices that defy gravity.

Agreed...there is also this strange fun factor in the process.


Keeping a car for such a long time, it becomes a member of the house, its totally wonderful some days, and on others it can aggravate you to no end.

A friendly mechanic is absolutely essential...

A CAA membership is have the car flat bedded when it acts up.


If the car has features, qualities that appeal to you its even worse in keeping it longer. In the case of Walter, V8, rear wheel drive, supreme highway cruiser, great sound system, drives like a Benz, were a constant. Often it was "This old car still drives better than a bunch of newer cars".

4- keep a car long enough, it goes through oil changes, filters, tires both summer and winter, wiper blades, and a bunch of other stuff. Any vehicle will wear out consumables...not a big deal.


Project 200K...Walter did not make it to 200K it had 170K but we tried, and perhaps we were a little obstinate in reaching 200K...not a ton of kilometers, but on a 13 year old car the combination of age, kilometers, electronics, M-B cost savings, SBC brakes, Airmatic suspension, its a witches brew.


How much money was spent keeping Walter maintained to factory standards? Never kept an exact count, suffice it to say that it was an appreciable amount of money through the years. Scroll down Project 200K to see the details.

Some quick rounded numbers to provide an overview:

In 2007 we paid (+-) 32,000 (wholesale) for Walter, today its worth approximately 5,000 wholesale for a difference of 27,000 divided by 8 = 3,375 per year in depreciation = 281 per month

Average approximately 1,500 per year in maintenance and consumables, obvious the maintenance was less in the earlier year and more in the later years divided by 12 = 125 per month.

It amounts to 406 per month not factoring in the fun, having our own alternate transportation, and enduring aggravations. Its absolutely not for everyone.

Do we miss Walter, its just a car but after all those years there is a void. Its the first time we have done an ongoing story on a car (Project 200K)...although Walter is gone the story endures.

What is next? The Colonel has been driving Benzes for decades, what do you think will be next?




Update June 2015

After having gone through a winter with cold, snow, more cold. Then spending time parked here and there as we do vehicle reviews. Walter was due for a spring maintenance.

The car performed well all winter long, starting during the coldest days, getting stuck in snow once when the traction control tells the rear wheels to stop turning, and not many road trips this year. Basically a quiet winter.

What developed this winter.

  • A slight exhaust leak on the left side, a clamp unfastened and developed a minor exhaust leak and rattle.
  • The rear suspension started leaking air, with the rear of the car occasionally lowering itself.
  • The front suspension developed more noises that either a suspension arm or ball joint is worn out.
  • The SBC issue we covered in our last update (scroll down).
  • The brakes have a slight pulsation which is tolerable.
  • We endured the winter tires till last week, the car was parked all over the GTA for extended periods.
  • The rust blob on the right quarter has increased in size.

Not so bad for an almost 13 year old car experiencing a another winter.

What service/maintenance was done by our friendly mechanic?

  • Oil and filter change.
  • Exhaust leak repaired.
  • One ball joint in front suspension replaced.
  • Rear suspension not touched its relatively expensive the install new redesigned shocks.
  • Summer tires and wheels finally installed by the Strada pit crew as usual.
  • The car has 165,000 kms still a way to go to reach 200K

Not bad so far this year, compared to last year when Walter was very needy with all sorts of items, getting stuck and flat bedded at the most inopportune times.

Agreed...Walter needs to spend a few hours at the Strada Spa for its annual treatment.



Update for 2014

At times cars have a craving for attention and Walter in 2014 turned into an extreme attention seeker.

Not only seeking attention, but having perfect timing in seeking epic care at the most inopportune times. Knowing that a car (Walter) was not high on the priority list at that specific moment.

In 2014 Walter acquired a taste for flatbed tow trucks. Although being stranded is part of the Benz DNA, Walter expressed his true colors, character, and upheld the German tradition.

1- In early January, an auspicious start to the year, Walter elects to squat down on its rear suspension, and remain down. A great way to go for a ride on a flatbed, and get a new air pump for the suspension.

2- In June Walter decides to become a total nuisance, make a scene at a busy intersection on a Sunday morning. Obvious go for another ride on a flatbed, for a new ignition crank sensor.

3- A few weeks ago in December, Walter decides its time to go for another flatbed ride. What better way than to have the belt tensioner fail, at a choice moment.

Yes...its absolutely fair to say that Walter is an undisputed flatbed hero. Testing patience, understanding, and making sure that its always done at a time when priorities are disrupted.

If Walter could speak, the conversation would go like this...

Walter: You are trying to crank me up to 200K, watch me act up, get obtuse, and really show my Teutonic colors.

Colonel: I don't need to crank you up to 200K, you are very lucky that every time you become a flat bed drama queen I have other priorities than take you to the back field and deal with your Benz DNA.

Walter: Still suckered you into an axle, a windshield, maintenance, brakes pads, and I probably forgot some stuff.

Colonel: You sure did, you are aware that I hate cars that get too needy.

Walter: I love getting flat bedded to the friendly mechanic.

Colonel: Sure you do, and its not free. The friendly mechanic does not pay me, I pay him.

Walter: When I'm there he treats me good, and you like royalty when you show up. He does not pay you?

Colonel: No...I pay him to fix you, and take care of you...I repeat I pay him.

Walter: never ask how much it will be, I thought he payed you. I was helping you make money.




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.



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.




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... 



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!