The 300SE strikes back

My ownership of the 300SE had been off to a good start until 3 issues reared their ugly head in the last couple of days.

As outlined in the last post, the first issue was the A/C stopped blowing cold.  I already knew I had to do a few things for the climate control –  I could hear the little aspirator motor rattling away behind the glove box.    The aspirator motor is basically a small fan that blows air from near the dome light down to a temperature sensor.   That sensor is used for the climate control.   I’m a little perplexed as to why Mercedes didn’t just have the sensor near the dome light.   The added tube and motor seem overly complex.    The aspirator motor should not cause the A/C to stop functioning altogether.   Therefore, my assumption is that the aspirator needs to be replaced, and the A/C needs a leak repaired.

Secondly, I was in a minor accident in the 300SE.  The car was not badly damaged, which given its value is important.

AccidentHopefully it can be repaired via insurance without undue cost.

Finally, the water pump appears to have given up the ghost.  Driving home, on a fairly cool night, the temperature was steadily rising.   Moreover, it would rise alarmingly while stationary.   I stopped at a service station to check, and took in the sight of the new green river emanating from the 300SE, gently meandering its way over the concrete forecourt.     Needless to say, this was not a river I wanted to see.     I was able to top up the water sufficiently to get home.

Once home, I looked under the car to discover the source of my new river.   Surely enough, it was dripping down off the sump, leaving its residue behind.   My assumption is that the water pump has packed in and is leaking as much water as it is pumping.   The water pump is a painful job on the M103, and I don’t think I will get the time to do it.   I will probably pay to have it done along with the A/C check and re-gas.    As the say, there is no such thing as a cheap Mercedes.

Sump

On a more positive note, the car has responded well to the transmission service, with smoother gear changes.   It also seems to be selecting the ‘right’ gear more.

300SE servicing

The 300SE didn’t come with much concrete service history.    I started a full service on the car to establish a baseline.   This will allow the car to be properly maintained to the factory schedule.    The service items arrived this week, after a quick call to MB Spares in Canberra.

Box of goodies

So far I have done the following:

  • Oil and filter change
  • Renewed spark plugs
  • Transmission oil and filter change
  • Differential oil change
  • Power steering oil and filter change
  • Removed the after market chrome wheel arch trims

Still to do, is both petrol filters, air filter and to properly flush the power steering.   This service I was only able to replace the oil in the reservoir.   I forgot to order the right oil but the oil for the rear suspension also needs replacement.   The car is fitted with rear self-levelling suspension that requires a Mercedes hydraulic oil.   This suspension is based on the design used in the Citroen DS.

 

Engine

Examining the car, it looks like it has been generally well looked after.  It has a new radiator and back half of the exhaust system.   It also would appear it has a refurbished or new A/C compressor.  However, from speaking to the previous owners the last service was done by an ultra-tune rather than the normal Mercedes specialist and it shows.   The car was fitted with resistor spark plugs.  On a Mercedes of this era, non-resistor spark plugs are a necessity as the leads have resistance built in.   Adding resistance via the spark plugs results in a weak spark.    The car has more power and runs better with the proper plugs.

Despite improving the car I had a setback today as the A/C stopped working.  It went from working well to warm air almost instantly.   My assumption is that the system developed a major leak, although I have not yet looked into it closely.  I checked the fuses first, to rule that out and noticed I am missing a relay.   It would appear it is for the high speed on the auxiliary fan.

Relay

I don’t know why it was removed.   I can only think that either it was blowing the fuse on high speed, or another relay that was more important failed.     Finally, I also noticed a bad bushing had caused the height corrector on the rear-self levelling suspension to disengage.  I was able to replace it temporarily until I can get a proper bushing.

Height corrector

All in all, the 300SE looks like it will be a good daily driver.    Next step is to finish the service, and fix the broken odometer.  The A/C is also important, but beyond my capabilities.

450SLC timing chain check

The Achilles heel of M116 and M117 engined cars is the timing chain.    As the engine is an overhead valve engine, the chain is used to make sure the valves open and close when they should.   On the V8 the chain needs to go to both heads and down to the crankshaft and so it is very long.    This exacerbates the potential problems compared to other engines.

Over time the plastic guides become brittle and the chain stretches.  The most likely failure is either due to a stretched chain or brittle guide, the guide breaks and causes the chain to jump a tooth.   Best case is valves and pistons meet, causing bent valves and the chain ripping a hole through the rocker cover.  Worst case is a completely ruined engine.

I’ve heard that the chain really should be changed every 100,000km.   My car has a full service history, but it doesn’t indicate if the chain was every changed.   I had this job done on both my 560SECs (also M117 engines).   Both cars were ticking time bombs – at around 300,000km they had original chains and cracked guides.

The only way to check is to remove the valve covers.  This is not a particularly difficult job on the M117:  It just involves removing the air cleaner assembly, spark plug leads and a few other pipes.   The picture below shows the chain and one of the plastic guides.   Straight away it is obvious this chain has been changed as the link is showing.   The original chains do not have the link.    The guides did not appear worn or discolored.

Timing Chain

I know a lot of work was done to the car about 12-18 months before I got the car – at about 230-240,000.   This would probably fit in with the condition of the chain, guides and sprockets.    In this case, the chain probably doesn’t need imminent replacement, although the correct procedure is to check chain stretch which I did not have time to do.    On various forums, I have read different things about the guides.   I have heard the Febi guides are not as good as the factory guides.   I have also read that there are uprated guides available.    I have not yet had a chance to investigate either option.

 

I had become increasingly concerned about the timing chain on my car.   I will need to do this job in future.   The good news is that it does not appear the engine is a ticking time bomb.

My new 1986 300SE W126

Today I purchased a 1986 300SE W126.  I needed a car that had room for three child seats when necessary and was eligible for historic rego.  It also couldn’t cost too much money.    Enter the W126.

1986 300SE W126I had originally agreed to buy a 1976 450SE in gold, but that car developed a major engine problem.   I had never owned a W116 and finding nice ones is not easy.   After that car fell through, I was able to find this one instead, and reasonable W126’s for little money are much easier to find than W116s.

The car has three owners before me and feels like it has been well looked after.   It drives nicely, has cold A/C, a new radiator and a very nice interior.   The downside is that the paint job is showing a few areas of poor preparation and the previous owners did not keep the history.  The colour is Signal Red.   Today, you can have your Mercedes in monochrome (white, black, silver or grey), but there was a time when they came with a range of much more interesting colours.

1986 300SE W126

The previous owner had the car since 1999, and was an older gentleman who had to stop driving due to age and health reasons.   He was very sad to see his pride an joy go.     Apparently the previous owner to him had the car repainted and it had around 240,000km at that time.   This owner named the car “Lillian” and the previous owner kept this up.   I am not really one to name cars, but I guess it is part of the cars history now.

Even better for me, the car is nice and basic, no power seats, no sunroof.   It has an indestructible MB-TEX interior, cruise control and self levelling rear suspension.

This car was a huge contrast to a 1987 300SEL I looked at earlier in the day.   There was no comparison driving the two cars.  If you were blindfolded, you would hardly think they came off the same production line 12 months apart.   The SEL had collapsed drivers seat, the engine idled poorly, had an oil leak at the top of the engine that looked like Niagra falls in dirty oil, needed new rear accumulator cells at minimum and was just generally tired.     There was another car on ebay that looked nice, but I wasn’t able to get hold of the owner to go and take a look.

I currently plan to remove the chrome arch trims as I don’t think they really work on the W126.   Tomorrow I will fit child seats.   The car has an indicated 280k km on the odometer.   The odometer is no longer working, but on the W126 this is a simple fix.   Since the car is already past 250k, it deserves an award badge!   Mercedes USA have such a programme for high mileage cars.   I fitted one of the badges I had when living in the USA to the car as I had removed them from the cars I owned over there.

Grill bage

P5 Coupe – Further evaluation

I spent some time yesterday examining the P5 Coupe I purchased from the Flynn Action in a little more detail.   Like a lot of the Flynn cars it has received a lot of mechanical attention over the years.  It is clear that little to no effort was spent on the body or cosmetics.

One feature unique to the P5 over the P5B is that it has provision for a starting handle.   I’ve never started a car using a starting handle, despite having two so equipped.  (The DS and the Traction).     Even though the car was cold and had not run for a few weeks, it started fairly easy (after only a couple of tries) on the handle.   Strike one item off my bucket list!

I raised the car on the hoist and the first thing I noticed was that the car has a complete exhaust system in stainless steel that looks brand new.

Muffler

The whole drive train also looks very clean.   So my guess was that it was removed for work at some point.   I have no records to show what was done, but the engine runs very well and key components like the steering box, brake master cylinder and booster look like they have been rebuilt or replaced.

Engine

Steering box

Braking

Conversely, as I experienced driving it back, the front end does need work.   The bushings look old, and the dust covers are split/missing on various linkages and so on.   The shock absorbers are also fairly old.    The car also has 165 tyres on the front which I don’t think are correct.   I understand the correct size is 185.   The tyres have reasonable tread but are old.

Suspension

Surprisingly though, after all that work, no attempt was made to fix the rust in the sills.   This to me would have been the first step before any mechanical work was attempted.   But I guess Dr Flynn wanted his cars in good running order and the condition of the body work was not so important to him.

Body

In summary, despite this cars looks, it has had extensive work mechanically.   It is certainly fixable, but realistically it is probably more of a parts car than one that will get a restoration.    I still plan to sell this P5 Coupe.

Citroen DS boot hinge

The photo below shows the various components that make up the C Pillar trim and boot hinge.  My trims are on OK but not perfect condition.  It is also clear how poor the previous paint job was with the over spray evident in the picture.

Boot Hinge

All the parts will need a good clean and polish before being put back on the car.  Despite being very old the rubber gasket was in good condition,

Removing the rear bumper from the DS

The next step to prepare the DS for paint was to remove the bumper bar.   This also allows the number plate panel to be removed which needs to be repainted as well.   In theory the whole bumper assembly can be removed by detaching the mounts, but I was not able to get the out.   Therefore, I removed each piece of the bumper assembly from the mounting points.   This will allow me to clean and polish them before I put them back on the car.

Bottom part of the bumper

The bottom part can be removed first, leaving the top part attached to the mounting points.   The wiring for the lights is quite easily removed from behind as well.   I found a wobble attachment for the ratchet was essential to get the various bolts undone.  Luckily, I don’t have a rusty car so the bolts were generally easy to remove, even if fiddly.   The Citroen workshop manuals were not really much help for this job.

Removed

I am starting to build up quite a collection of little labeled sandwich bags with various bolts and so on for re-installation.

Ken the Rover P5B

While I was at the Flynn auction, I had heard that there were a few people who were interested in buying back cars they had sold to Dr Flynn some years earlier.    This week I found a website that tells the story of a particular P5B Saloon (nicknamed Ken) that was bought back by its previous owner and how the car had been such an important part of their family.   I think anyone who is into cars will really get a kick out of reading this story.   I know I enjoyed it.   I don’t remember the car but it looks in reasonable condition from the photos on the blog site.  Ken the Rover P5B even has a facebook profile.

The re-launch of this website

This website was originally created on a free hosting provider over 2 years ago.   Generally you get what you pay for, so the speed and reliability were extremely poor.   Not long after, it was moved to a low cost provider ($10 per year) which was much better; but in the last few months this provider must have added many more customers to its shared servers, as performance suffered.     In addition, the Chinese search engine, Baidu was crawling the site to the tune of 1.5Gb per day which was exhausting all the available bandwidth.

Therefore, the site is being re-launched with a proper hosting provider and a proper domain name.   This should prove to be more reliable.

Citroen DS aluminium boot lid

All these years I have owned the DS I assumed the boot lid was fibreglass.   Fibreglass reproductions are available in Europe for those who want a cheap way of replacing rusted or damaged body panels.

However, the DS19 had an aluminium boot lid until May 1957.    The previous owner mentioned it was Aluminium, but since these boot lids are so rare I didn’t believe it.    However, on the removal of the trim, it looks pretty clear it is in fact Aluminium.

For the repainting I am removing all the badges, seals etc to ensure a good job.   It is clear that they were not removed the last time the car was painted.    This is not surprising given the quality of the job.

Boot Lid

It also looks like a previous owner used some generic foam pieces in place of the normal seal.    I may simply purchase the proper seal instead of trying to re-use this.   In addition, the seal underneath the boot button looks in poor condition.    Generally reproduction rubber on a DS is not very good quality, so where I can reuse it I will.   In this case, I don’t think I will.

Boot seal

The picture above shows how poor the last paint job was, with major over spray on the boot seal.    The model insignia shared this fate and has been removed.   Unfortunately one of the posts on the ‘2’ was damaged so not sure if I will be able to re-use it or not.   It might just be long enough as only the very tip broke off.

DS21

I am individually labelling and bagging everything removed from the car to make sure that I have minimal problems on re-assembly.