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Tuesday
Oct072014

Brake Lines

At times cars have this innate ability to totally irritate you. Walter as you can see from the latest posts is on a mission to become an irritant, starting with the suspension air pump, crank sensor, windshield, then the wheel alignment, and a few days ago a brake line.

Lets step back for a moment.

There was a hydraulic fluid leak in front of the left rear wheel. At first blush it could be the shock absorber which has hydraulic fluid, that started to leak.

Not a big deal, but a constant minor leak. 

Peaking under the car during the wheel alignment the left rear shock is very dry...oops does not seem to be the shock abosorber. 

If its not the shock abosorber, the other possibility is a brake line. It almost does not make sense that a brake line would leak (seep)...or does it?

Until the "brake fluid low visit workshop" comes on in the dash at the most inopportune time. A case of "I don't need this s$%t this morning" 

If you see some sort of hydraulic fluid leaking/seeping from the car, got to a workshop immediately and have the leak confirmed and repaired.

Been around Benzes for decades, we keep on driving Walter, even when it was not the shock we still drive Walter, even when the lights in the dash come on, we still drive Walter. 

Hydraulic leak, low brake fluid, how much is left in the master cylinder? 

Walter makes it on its own to the friendly mechanic. Yes...drove Walter in a very cautious fashion to minize brake applications.

The conversation goes as follows.

"A brake line is leaking in front of the left rear wheel" reply from the mechanic "You should not have driven the car...not safe"

"How could a brake line leak?" reply from the mechanic "SBC brakes generate very high line pressures the metal fatigues crack, leaks". It all makes a ton of sense on a 12 year old car.

From the mechanic "You know that its a pain to bleed the lines with SBC brakes...you remember" the reply "Yes...and it consumes a ton of brake fluid too...I don't think its bad that too much air went in the system".

Fortunately we have other vehicles...and the patience to endure Walter's foibles.

Hopefully whoever engineered those weak brake lines from over a decade ago and saved a few pennies in the process got a promotion. 

Again...if you see hydraulic fluid on the ground best not to drive the car, if a leaking brake line bursts especially with SBC brakes it can turn into a dangerous situation in a nano second. 

Bottom Line:

Replaced the left and right brake line and bled the brakes. Absolutely not lingering on what could have happened if the brakes failed.

 


 

Tuesday
Sep232014

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 get 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.

 

Monday
Aug182014

The Windshield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun112014

The Crank Sensor

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

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

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

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

Here is the deal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tuesday
Jun032014

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. Yes...it 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 cracked...at 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

Agreed...one can make payments on a brand new something else, for the maintenance costs of this car, so far this year.