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Engineered like no other car. Not a single one like it. Thankfully.


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Another failure of the car that never breaks down.  There's not many pictures of this one as I was working flat-out to get the car drivable again.

As I alluded to in the "what bodges have you done at the roadside" thread.  When pulling away from a set of lights, the temperature suddenly skyrocketed.  Really very badly, so I pulled in, opened the bonnet, and fished this out of the cowling at the front of the engine:

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Well, that's fairly fucked then.  Why has the car overheated so badly though?  Because when the fan came off, it did this:

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Actually, that's not strictly true.  What it did was to punch a hole in the rad, that I then had to bung up somehow.  That somehow was chewing gum.  Was just about water-tight enough for me to limp the few miles to a Mercedes breaker/specialist in the area who I know, (with water pissing out the whole time.. had to fill up about every 2 miles) who very kindly just said "well, there's a pile of cars outside, grab something and see what you can do".  So I did.

The air conditioning condenser was unceremoniously binned (it's in front of the rad and very in the way), the fans ripped out, and just about anything that wasn't absolutely needed was thrown.  Whilst he didn't have another E300TD in stock, the rads for all W210/S210 models are basically similar, it's the side-tanks (and consequently the transmission cooler) that differs.  The only rad I could get out was one from an E430 V8, so that was shoved in.  Transmission pipes were bodged to fit, and I think they went the wrong way around into the side tank.  I really didn't care.  The intercooler had to be shoved out the way to make it all fit and about a thousand cable-ties were used to shove it all back together.

And it worked.  I no longer had any cooling fans whatsoever.  The viscous one was fucked, and the electric ones were consigned to the boot:

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But as there was no longer an aircon condenser or cooling fans in the way, as long as you weren't in stop-start traffic for too long, or towing 2 tonnes up a hill, the airflow through the grille was more than sufficient to keep it at operating temperature.

Took me several hours of bodging, but it worked and the car stayed like that until its demise.

Edit to add.  Why had the fan suddenly come off and done an effective job of trying to drain all the coolant?  Because this bearing had completely failed:

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Meaning the viscous coupling was completely bypassed, and I now had a direct drive fan.  A direct drive fan that was never intended to spin at 4000rpm.  As the whole arrangement sits on a single threaded connector, clearly when I'd slowed down for a set of red lights, the fan had unwound itself, and with the remaining momentum decided to kamikaze itself into the rad.  Bastard.

I am now somewhat distrustful of viscous coupled fans.

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Bodge-tastic!
One of the spring perches went on mine, but it had cracked and partially broken away from the mount rather dissolved into a flaky brown mess. It was about the only thing that went on it during the couple of years I had it.

They get a bad rep for rust but there are still some solid ones out there. I love them, I'd have another.

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Fans are overrated. We had a Volvo 144 with no fans for similar reasons and it got forgotten about until about once every 4 months when we drove down south to see her family and all the brake lights came on on the A1M.  A Swedish heater and a large sunroof were nearly good enough! It was like that for years.

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I worked at Merc when all the rusty ones were still coming in to dealers. WTF Merc were thinking letting a prestige car go out with the rust protection of a Ka I don't know. Those spring hangers and front crossmembers were terrible, seeing an 8 year old car with air where a chassis component should be is not good.

I can't bring myself to like Mercs, the engineering is lovely on the majority of them, but I find them ugly, and a lot of the people who owned them new were utter arseholes.

Still, top bodgery. I ran my 2.9 Cosworth Scorpio with no cooling fans, electric didn't work and the vicious was knackered so came off for an extra 0.7 BHP. All well and good untill you get stuck on the M25 queuing for the Dartford tolls.

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Back when I worked at a breaker's yard, we had a customer with a Scorpio with a knackered viscous fan.

After a tour of the yard, relieving every Sierra, Granada and Capri of it's fan, only to find that none would fit.

In the end, the viscous coupling got a couple of bars welded across it to lock the fan into working constantly.

You could certainly hear the car coming after that!

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In the trade I found them to be overly engineered and not in a good way. More, the designe engineer was bored and decided to make everything as utterly contrived and shit as possible. 

What's that? You want to adjust the rear tracking on an SL500? Yeah, I'll bolt the adjuster on with an inverted spline headed bolt then  run the exhaust nano meters from it, then bury the exhaust into the rear bunper so good luck getting that thing cracked off.

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Nice work! The first check I always do on these is to full lock the steering each side and have a good look at those. Late final facelift w124s are not immune from this either, as I can confirm when a coupe I had did something similar.

Very oddly IMO one form of an MB approved repair is to rivet an new spring perch on (!)

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To be fair, the car was 23 years old and had over 200k miles on it at the time of repair.  There are not many cars that get to that age and mileage without some fairly significant corrosion.  Modern Mercs are definitely not the cut above that they once were for longevity.  I think they've stayed about the same, and other manufacturers have caught up.  The W210 is no more rust prone than the W123 was.  The difference is that a Mk2 Mondeo is far more corrosion resistant than a Mk4 Cortina ever was.

What I like most about the W123/W124/W210 series of Mercs is that they just work.  I don't mean that insofar as nothing is broken, just that as a car (and particularly as an estate) they just function really well as a well-thought-out and well-designed vehicle.

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Turns out that exhaust mounts are there for a reason.  Who'd have thought it?  When one breaks off, it tends to impart rather significant loads elsewhere.  After a while, those loads then break things.  So of course the fix is to hold everything together with ratchet straps.  They don't like holding up hot exhausts and tend to melt:

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Welder to the rescue:

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And as for the joint that split wide open and made the car sound awesome at idle and abysmal at anything above idle:

Who needs exhaust clamps:

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Fuckit.  I just didn't care any more at this point.

Along with beginning to need some serious welding to the floor:

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I decided it was getting time to sack this one off.  It had a lot of issues (not least needing 4 new tyres, as can be seen above!) but also welding and various other bits and pieces.  MOT was getting close too.  Above all, the most irritating thing was that this model didn't have the power memory seats, and hence everything was manual.  Not so much of a problem, but the driver's seat CONTINUOUSLY wound itself backwards, meaning you had to wind the back of the seat forward about every 2-ish hours of driving.  Drove me absolutely potty.

So, what to replace it with?

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That whole thing about "I now have no cooling fans, so best not tow two tonnes up a hill".

Yah.  That:

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Found on the bay of snot.  It had the worlds worst description that went along the lines of "Mercedes Car.  Silver.  Drives OK.  Has some doors."   With five close-up pictures of the same part of the car and absolutely no detail of the rest of it.

However, from the tiny little snippets of things you could see in the corner of those photos, you could just about work out that it was an E300TD, and it looked pretty clean.  Quick trip up to SE London to have a look over it.  Turns out it was bought as a company car new, then the driver of said company car decided to buy it off the company, and kept running it.  He then gave it to his wife to use to take their dogs out walking, but now they had decided to get rid of it as it was costing too much in repairs.  Having a good look over it, they weren't wrong:  New exhaust, new radiator, new glowplugs recently (which is a bastard job and very expensive).  New set of tyres, new this, new that, new the other.  The deciding factor for getting rid now was that it had a "wierd gearbox fault" that the seller really couldn't explain properly to me.

However, it was cheap.  Absurdly cheap for what was clearly a well-loved and very well maintained car.  It also had *all* the toys fitted.  Digital climate control, double power memory seats, parking sensors, decent stereo, etc.etc.  I shook on a deal there and then but decided not to drive it back due to possible gearbox issues, but went up in the shitter with a trailer on to get it.

Did get raaaaather hot trying to negotiate that lot through South East London on a warm afternoon and I did pull in to let it cool off a bit at one point (I wanted to go and re-check the straps anyway, so timed it about right).  Once on faster roads it was fine.  Anything above about 40mph and any cooling fans are pretty much useless anyway.

Got it back and started using it, as it appeared to drive OK.

Then the Gearbox issue manifested itself:  Turns out that the solenoid to engage 3rd gear had something amiss with it, as if you drove the car very gently, it changed up and down the gearbox just fine.  However, if you started to use a bit more power, when changing from 3rd to 4th gear, it would flare badly (revs would spike during gearchange) and if it flared too badly, the gearbox computer would go into limp-home mode and lock it in whatever gear it was already in (ususally 3rd)  The worst aspect was if you were going around a largeish roundabout with the gearbox pondering about in 4th or 5th, and then gave it a boot to exit.  It would try to change into 3rd, but would then flare so badly that the gearbox just completely disengaged, leaving you with no drive.  The fix was to slow down and manually select 2nd, at which point it would re-engage and you were on your way again.

Can't keep driving it like that though.  So I scheduled a day with the same Merc specialist mentioned above and we ripped the gearboxes out of both cars and shoved the perfectly-good one from the blue car into the silver.  Eleventy thousand times easier using a 2-post lift and a gearbox stand.  I can't believe I even considered doing this myself with the car on axle-stands.

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Sure enough, it drove perfectly thereafter.

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I bought one from Sheffield, they are nice cars, but they do have a few wel known faults. The electronics don't run very well with a worn out battery, and FFS Mercedes, can you please sort out that rust trap on the corner of the front wings. Just have a look at every other car that doesn't rust there and copy their design!

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4 hours ago, Sausage5000 said:

an you please sort out that rust trap on the corner of the front wings.

Ah yes, another reason why I decided the blue one was not worth the effort.  The silver one has possibly had new wings at some point as they are absolutely perfect.  I'm planning on keeping them that way, as there's a neat little modification you can do to avoid the mud trap that exists there.

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Mercs went through a shit phase when they were worse for rot than pretty much any other maker. My FiL had an E300 that was fucked after 7 years and cost £2k to get through an MoT. They seem to have mostly disappeared but you still see the odd one with hammerite around every arch.

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1 hour ago, The Mighty Quinn said:

W123's didn't need new doors and wings at three-five years old.

Nor did the vast majority of W210s.  Granted there will be a few that have suffered badly, but I suspect a lot of the "rusty mercedes" issues are down to the short period where they changed to a water-based paint and cocked it up quite badly.  I think it was the very last of the W124s and the very early W210s that had that transition (different time for different colours IIRC).  Once that problem had been ironed out, I really don't think W210s were any worse than either a W123 or other contemporary cars.  I think it's just more visible on a 210, as the front wings and sill ends were particularly vulnerable.  Not like say a 306, which looks absolutely fine until the entire rear inner wing and seatbelt mounting falls to pieces.

My own E300 makes that point.  it's 23 years old with 209'000 miles on it, and only now is it just beginning to need a bit of welding on the end of a sill and a bit of bubbling around the rear window.  But then it was looked after.  I wonder how many cars weren't looked after (left covered in winter salt, never washed, deep scratches not fixed etc.) which then ended up very shabby by 10 years old.  As any car treated that way would.

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No doubt this will be used as evidence in the "all mercedes are rusty shitboxes" argument, but one thing that did go wrong early in ownership was related to corrosion.  A know corrosion issue on both W124s and W210s.

From the first pictures in this thread you can see that the front spring bears on the lower arm, meaning the entire weight of the car is taken on that lower arm (IE not like a McPherson strut-type car, where the load is taken at the top of the hub and the lower arm is track control only).

These lower arms are hollow, and if the drain hole in them blocks up, they rot out from the inside.  Quite hard to diagnose, as they appear fine right up until they're not.

Driving one morning, I felt a very subtle "donk" from the front suspension, with the steering moving a tiny tiny fraction to stay in a straight line.  I then also found that at full left lock, something was jamming on one of the wheels.  Had a good look under the car and immediately found the NS lower wishbone split open.  Ah hell.  Not only has it split, but the bottom ball-joint has now moved to the extreme of it's travel, and the pivot is now the remaining metal bending, hence it will fatigue through in a short period of time.  That needs to be caught quickly, as otherwise the complete collapse of the suspension will tear the front wing with it.  Not good.

So, limp it very carefully and slowly to the Merc specialist again and beg/borrow/steal an arm off a car for breaking.

 

Fucksakes:

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This is what had happened to the old arm:

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Dead arm and replacement less-dead arm for comparison:

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This is all very familiar:

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Took a couple of hours all told, but managed to get it back on the road that evening.  It's fairly straightforward to change, but of course requires a lot of components to be removed to get to it.  Luckily this is another Avantgarde model, so I didn't have to compress the spring to get it in or out, just used the same method as the blue one (arm right down and then push it into place).

I am massively appreciative for the Merc specialist I go to, as they've got me out of a hole a couple of times now and have just completely taken it in their stride.  What's particularly amusing is that one of the guys there also runs an S210 and he commented that the lower arms are known for this, but he keeps a close eye on his,  Not a month later, and he's had exactly the same failure after hitting a pothole.  No visible corrosion at all, but clearly some fairly nasty internal rot.  It's also a fairly heavily stressed component, so when it goes it really does fail.

This summer I will probably put two new lower arms on it, as they've lasted 23 years.  New ones will easily outlast the car, and I really don't fancy doing that job in a panic again.

 

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I have to say, it's probably the best engineered and best built car I've ever owned.  Granted, with my chod history the bar isn't that high, but the level of engineering detail in the car is superb.  Even things like the headlamp switch are well designed so they're comfortable in use.

The "rest" function on the heater is an absolute stroke of genius.  Quite why other manufacturers haven't done similarly is a genuine mystery.

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I think the very very scabby Sprinters of the era didn't help the image of MB at the time either.  Some not-very-old Sprinters looked absolutely fucking shocking at the time.  Not something you want to see when it's wearing the same badge as your remarkably expensive prestige car.

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I heard the issues with water based paint were down to the bacteria levels in the pipes.  
 

Apparently if the levels were low the rust resistance was a lot better.  At a Sabre meet-up a few years ago someone brought along a T reg OMG that looked solid.  He said he was going to keep running it until it was too expensive to repair.  He bought it cheap because it had a higher than average mileage but he had done a lot more since buying it.

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Great thread, I share an enthusiasm for these too and the little details you find on the car. Maybe in deference to the German taxi market I’ve always found them (and all mercs ) to have a decent turning circle, and how thoughtful- those rust prone front wings are easy to unbolt and replace ?

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41 minutes ago, Sausage5000 said:

What is the rest function?

The "rest" function on the heater only works when the key is either out, or in the accessory position.  If you prod rest, it turns the climate control system back on at a fixed (quite low) fan speed, and basic thermostatic control.  It also starts up a small 12V pump under the bonnet that pumps hot coolant from the engine block around the heater matrix.  This will run for about 20/30 minutes at a time, and can be activated about 4 times before the engine block gets too cold to dump any meaningful heat into the passenger compartment.  It's exceptionally useful if you're waiting for someone in cold weather, if you've only been away from the car for a bit and you get back and aren't leaving immediately, or if you're only going to be out of the car for 10/15 mins and you want to keep the interior warm for when you get back.

In winter I use it all the time.  Even if you're going shopping and are going to be out of the car for 30/40 mins, if you run rest mode as you leave, the car is noticeably warmer when you get back in than if you don't.

The very very early W210s didn't have it, but just about all later models do.  I think W211 cars had it, but the feature seems to have been lost these days.  A real shame as it's a genuinely useful feature.

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19 minutes ago, HMC said:

I’ve always found them (and all mercs ) to have a decent turning circle,

The turning circle is fantastically small for such a long vehicle.  There are places I can turn a 210 around in in one go that most FWD cars need to do a 3-point turn.   RWD may lose you a fair bit of interior space, but it has some superb benefits on the road.  The really amazing thing is where you can maneuver trailers into and out of.  Being able to do a U-turn without reversing when you have a trailer on is just brilliant.  You can turn so tight that the trailer can get very close to clashing with the rear bumper.

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12 hours ago, Squire_Dawson said:

To paraphrase Junkman, Mercedes-Benz are a commercial vehicle manufacturer who make a few cars on the side. Once you accept this you will be much happier. Merecedes-Benz cars are taxis.

I know a certain shed-dwelling shiter on here (@shedinagarden) harbours a desire to own a proper German taxi-spec E200, to be honest I think it’d be a laugh too.

 

12 hours ago, The Mighty Quinn said:

The Sprinter was, however, a league ahead of the Vito. They were a disgrace. I always remember being in a mate's fairly tatty Transit and a Vito pulled alongside. It looked as though it had been used as a trawler since the war. The driver saw us laughing at it and started sniggering himself. I have never seen so much rust on one van.

Agreed. W638 Vitos really are woeful, I can only guess there was no corrosion protection applied whatsoever when new. I had one a few years ago and it drove well, but I sacked it off long before it came due for test.

One of my older relatives has an S210, it’s done 41,000 miles in 21 years. It’s getting to the point where it’ll be fragged in the next 12-18 months because whilst the drivetrain is almost perfect (apart from the usual M112 oil cooler leak) the body is disintegrating around it and the electrics are racing the rot to the finishing line marked ‘major borkage’. The tops of the wings have the usual Mercedes paint issues of looking like they’ve been attacked with scouring pads, on the n/s the rust is now coming through it. The arches went west a few years ago and now have stupid chrome covers. The boot lid has the rot breaking out all over the numberplate recess. It had new sills 7-8 years ago.

It will probably pass one more test - in the last few years it’s had quite a bit spent on new brake calipers all round, lots of new bushes etc, but the way the rot has recently come through the wings makes me thing the rest of the body will follow suit fairly swiftly.

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