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Entries in Service (7)


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.



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.



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.




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 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.






Why Keep the Car

Of all the cars on the planet why keep this particular E500?

Excellent question, and easy to find all the reasons in the world not to keep the car. With the habitual urban legends of its got an air suspension, it will at some point require additional maintenance, it will get expensive, and so on.

Must have been serendipity of late 2008, that at that point in time, in the middle of a financial melt down the car is here, and for some reason its not going anywhere...perhaps it was just a multitude of reasons. Who are we to question what the future will bring!

At the same time, the other thought is that of all the cars on the planet, why an early production E Class with such an erratic track record of reliability, and the recipient of excessive cost cutting in who knows how many areas.

The excessive cost cutting is not a secret, Mercedes-Benz having admitted that they presumably had a brain fade with reliability. Which really meant we sliced and diced the cost of so many components, with the most obvious having caught everyone's attention in the first few years, and generated warranty claims.

The less obvious cost cutting...we will discover in due course.

In the meantime we have spent no money on this car besides the scheduled service, the car runs well, and whatever electronic glitches everyone is talking about, this car does not have far.

To give you an impression from back in the day a review of the 2003 E500.

Its understood that:

> We have been around these cars for enough years to have our own knowledge base.

> Our expectations on overall performance are high.

> We have the flexibility of "alternatives" for service, and maintenance.

Prior to keeping an older vehicle for an extended period of time, especially a Mercedes-Benz having the flexibility to service and maintain this car is an absolute requirement.