Mercedes E300 estate
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This W210 is a very comfy load lugger if a bit short of extras like electric seat adjustment, steering wheel adjustment etc. It has proved extremely useful but it has probably been the most unreliable car I have owned

When I bought it, it soon became clear that about 50 horses had escaped. The garage tried all sorts of things but the problem was not resolved. Eventually I twigged it was a leak in the diaphragm of the turbo waste-gate  actuator. MB only sell an actuator with a free turbo at about £1000. The actuator is said to be matched to the turbo individually so not sold separately. I took a chance on an actuator on Ebay for £25. I was interested to see that the adjustment on the actuator rod was exactly the same as on the duff original. So the matching story was a bit dubious or I was very lucky. Anyway the horses came back into the stable with no ill effects.

I was not so lucky with the next major problem! In the south of France, the Merc failed to proceed owing to it not being possible to engage any gears. It was towed to the main MB dealer in Toulon. I asked them to find out what was wrong. They came back with a proposal to replace 2500 euros worth of auto gearbox parts. I asked whether they had checked the oil level (there is no dipstick on the gearbox - you need a special tool!). They said they had and it was ok. Rather than spend 2500 euros, I decided to have the car transported back to the UK and present it to the garage where I had bought the car and get it fixed under warranty. This cost about £1000! Turned out that the gearbox needed a litre of oil (£15 MB branded) that was all. It seems that this gearbox has a design fualt which allows oil to leak through an electrical socket, inside the cable and into the gearbox ecu case without leaving any oil on the ground. As you can imagine, I was not delighted with the French garage! I have now made up a tool for measuring the gearbox oil level using a drain-cleaner (would you believe).

Other journey terminating faults include a broken windscreen wiper (replacement £35 from Ebay - came the next day!) and a rusted through power steering pipe (I was able to make up a pipe with parts I had in the garage). The AC was out of gas but new bits were also needed. When the engine radiator was disturbed this sprang a leak and needed to be replaced. This was a garage job and cost £700.

Another fault involved the battery failing to fully charge. The charging voltage was too low - it needs to be around 14 volts to do any good. I replaced the alternator and it made no difference. I took off the alternator and had it tested. It was fine.

Eventually I noticed that the engine was missing an earth strap. This meant the alternator was earthing perhaps through the gearbox or the exhaust and losing about 2 volts in the process. With a connection between the engine and chassis the battery started to charge properly. However, all was not totally right. Alternators often have a connection which passes an electric current through the rotor winding to make sure it is magnetised to get the alternator generating electricity as soon as it starts turning. Once electricity starts to be generated the alternator passes a little of its current through the rotor so the external feed is no longer needed. In the old days this initial current  was supplied by the ignition or charging light in the instruments. The Merc does not have such a light. It does have an excitation supply to the alternator (presumably triggered by the engine ecu but it doesn’t work - possibly because it won’t play with a non MB alternator. Even without this initial excitation the alternator will work due to residual magnetism in the rotor which is enough to get it going and up to full voltage after a short delay. If the car has been standing for a day or two the residual magnetism declines and it takes longer for the alternator to get going. This triggers a charging fault on the dash display but it goes away and all is well - at least up to now!


The day the Merc disgraced itself in France.

Overall though, it’s been so, so useful. A really comfy van you could say!

It’s a great load lugger!

PS. Before we had the E300, we had the Grenada. That was a pretty good load lugger too. It was the 2 litre twin cam which was fast enough for us and reasonably economical. I bought it originally for my son when his car turned up its toes. It cost £600 only! He graduated to the Vitesse Sport, and I took the Grenada back. It did sterling service but when the Government’s £2000 scrappage scheme came in we were tempted to sacrifice it for a new Hyundai. Oh dear, looking at this photo has made me relive the guilt!

Mercedes E300 estate