August 3

2006 Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG, Convertible Roof Repair



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 24 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim is an 06 Mercedes-Benz SLK AMG Convertible. These German guys have the longest car names, I swear. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah. So this is the SLK55, the little convertible. And this is the vehicle that has, they call it a vario roof, which is basically a hard top convertible. I think that it's awesome. It kind of gives you the best of both worlds. You've got a convertible top when you need it. And when you put the roof on, it's a hard top and kind of nice and quiet. Except with the odd little creak and bang that happens as the cars get older. But other than that really solid roof.

So this one came to our shop. The trunk lid was kind of half opened, held down with duct tape and the roof was kind of just partially opened. So the owner in the process of opening the roof, something broke and that's how we got the vehicle. So it was a roof problem.

Mark: So I imagine this is probably, I think I've seen how this folds into the trunk. It looks like a really complex system. Is it pretty hard to diagnose? 

Bernie: It is a bit tricky to diagnose. And yeah, you're right, it's very complicated. I had an SL55 for a while and I loved watching the way the roof worked. To me, I always think of it as like a finely tuned orchestra. When you pull a button, the windows pop down and then the trunk opens and then the roof unlatches and starts moving and all these pieces, they're well orchestrated movements and eventually it all folds into the trunk. And then the lid closes down and the windows pop back up and it's all complete. So there's a lot that goes into it. 

There are a number of switches that have to be either open or closed in the computer has to see them in the right position for things to work. Plus of course, there's a whole hydraulic system of valves and actuators to move all the component. So there's a lot to it. So a scan tool is certainly one thing we use to see where the position of the switches are. And in this case we also found from a visual inspection that there was fluid dripping from the front of the roof. There's an actuator at the front to lock the roof to the windshield. And there was fluid dripping. Now we figured, okay, that's gotta be the first fault to look at. 

A lot of times with things it's like what's the first thing to look at. Some things generally speaking with a convertible roof like this, there's only gonna be one problem, but you gotta start somewhere. So we definitely found where the start in place was. 

Mark: So what was your next step? 

Bernie: So next step is to remove the liner from the roof and to inspect the actual component, to see what was going on. We did pull that down. Of course, being a Mercedes, everything's very well fitted and as in most European cars, very good quality fitment.

So removing can be complex. Gotta do it carefully. Pulled the liner down. We did find that the actuator at the front was leaking fluid. So that was the item to replace. 

Mark: And what was involved in replacing that unit? 

Bernie: Well, that's where the fun begins because there's and we'll get into pictures in a second, but the actuator unit is hydraulic. So that's why the fluid had leaked out. There are two very small diameter hoses that run to the back of the vehicle where the pump assembly and valve assembly is. And of course the actuator comes with those hoses. It would make the job a lot easier if you could actually change the actuator without having to change the hoses, but that's the way it comes. So you have to remove all the rest of the trim inside the roof. So the the hydraulic pump is located behind the front seat. So there's a whole array of trim to be removed from there, and a lot of hoses and bits and pieces. So anyways, that's what's involved. It's a lot of work, many hours. Let's just get into pictures because that often explains a lot. 

So there's our car. Nice, cute little, two seat sports car. This is really a true two seat car. I know my SL55 had a bit of room in the back, not seats, but you know, there's a bit of storage, but these have pretty much none. They it's a very compact little version of the car and pretty cool with the high performance V8 and the big AMG brakes. It's a fun little car for sure. 

2006 Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG, Convertible Roof Repair

This is the actuator unit in the front. So that's the hydraulic unit there. You can see a couple of hoses here and this is the unit we replaced along with these hoses here. 

2006 Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG, Convertible Roof Repair

This is a view with the seats removed. So again, we have to take the seats out. We have to remove the liner at the back here, you can see, this is part of the headrest behind the driver's seat. And this is the hydraulic motor and actuator in the valve block assembly. You can see, I haven't counted all the hoses, but you can see there's a lot of them here. And so this is actually bolts up into this area up here, but that's the unit removed. 

2006 Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG, Convertible Roof Repair

And a slightly closer view of the valves here, kinda gives you a closer view of the various valves. And so you can see there's a lot of potential things to go wrong with this. I mean, we've just replaced two hoses and there's many more parts that could fail over time. You just never know. It could go for many years and not have a failure. 

2006 Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG, Convertible Roof Repair

I sold my SL55, I think it was last year. It had a few more years on it than this car never had a problem with the roof, knock on wood, but you never know when it's gonna happen. So I think that's our picture show. 

Mark: So why do you think they went with hydraulic instead of electric system? 

Bernie: That's a good question. I mean, traditionally convertible tops have always been done with hydraulics. And I often wonder, yeah why wouldn't you just put an electric motor in. And I don't know whether newer tops have done that or whether it's just been such a tried and true system or whether it's actually less complicated from certain respects to just use hydraulic. And maybe it actually needs that extra power. It could also be that the power for a motor might require larger components. Whereas, you know, with hydraulic, they can do it with smaller components. So that might be the case, especially with some of rods that move the top.

I mean, they're just little hydraulic cylinders that pull things. So it might be with a motor, it would create too much bulk. But that's what I've thought to myself is why not have it electric because it would save at least maybe some of these components, like maybe this actuator, that could easily be done in electric motor. And create a lot less trouble. Especially fluid leaks. 

 I think we've done a podcast on this one, the Jaguar convertibles, and they're the soft top kind of convertibles, but they have this thing it's known as, if you Google it, known as the green shower, because the person will be activating, all of a sudden there's hoses that break and the hoses burst, and it sprays fluid down from the roof. Nice. That's, that's another nasty, that's another nasty repair. But those are actually a hose failure issue, not the actual actuator. 

Mark: So once you've replaced everything and shocked the owner with the bill, how did it run? 

Bernie: So there's a little more involved too in getting everything going. So once we replaced it, we had to fill the fluid back up in the system and then, you click the button and go, oh, it's not working. Okay. Why not? And so of course, the switches have to be in the right position. So we ended up having to actually manually close the roof and lock it. So the computer was satisfied that certain criteria were met.

From there we were able to actually actuate the roof. Run it a few cycles, make sure the fluid was full and all the air was out of it. And then after that, it worked great. And then of course the next step was to put all that trim back on that was removed. So we like to test as much as we can before we put the trim back on. 

Mark: Of course. Yeah you don't want to test after you put it all back on, cuz you might have to take it all off again. 

Bernie: Yes, exactly. And you know, this stuff is sensitive too. I think what a lot of car owners don't appreciate is that there's a lot of plastic on these things. And it's not really meant to be taken on and off and on and off. I mean, you're lucky to get one removal cycle out of things. And a lot of times things start to break and it's kind of frustrating for us because, you know, we don't wanna just charge people like a huge amount of money. We'll give you a car back with a broken piece of plastic, but sometimes it ends up going like that.

There's, you know, things break and they can't really be put back together quite right. I mean, they're manufactured to work from the factory. And sometimes repairs are not well thought out. Otherwise they'd probably still be using steel panels on everything with screws.

Mark: So once you put everything back together again, how did it run? 

Bernie: Oh, it's great. Yeah, really nice. Everything functioned fine. The only thing we did leave for the owner to take care of was the the residue of the duct tape that he'd put on the vehicle. And this is my little tip, you know, I mean, you gotta do it, you gotta do in an emergency, but duct tape is the worst thing to put on a vehicle anywhere. The glue on it comes off and it's, you know, stuck all over the paint. And of course there are things that'll remove it just fine, but it's, you know, we're not in the body and detailing business. So we recommended he deal with someone else on that kind of thing to have it done without damage. But it creates a lot of hassle. So duct tape is, just be careful with the kind of tapes you use on a car. Let's put it that way, but at least the duct tape held everything in place to get here. 

Mark: I can't remember seeing one of these with the V8 before I've seen other ones, the other small ones. They're pretty rare then. So how are they for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're good. I mean, just because it's got the V8, doesn't make it any worse for sure. It's a tried and true five litre V8. It's kinda like an SL55, but without the supercharger. It's a very light, little small car. If you threw the supercharger on, I think the car would probably flip backwards or something. Well, it would just burn the tires off. But yeah, it's a good car. I mean, no less reliable than I'd say a V6 version of the car. A little more expensive to fix. So as I showed in the first picture, it's got the AMG brakes on it. These are the real expensive brake rotors.

Mark: And they do wear out a little quicker if you're driving hard. 

Bernie: Yeah, they do. For sure. Yeah. They're I think last time I priced them out, they were like somewhere in the $1,200 per rotor range. So they could be more by a lot. You know, it's a lot of money, but you know, it's kinda like when you look at brakes on Ferrari or something, then you, oh, that's like $5,000 a rotor or something. You go like, wow. It's just a hunk of metal, but it does help you stop more efficiently. Yeah, it's an excellent little car. Same reliability as any other Mercedes would have, but it, again, more complex, cause it's got the hard top convertible roof and a few more accessories. But less complex than like a full size SL500, because it doesn't have the hydraulic suspension.

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your Mercedes-Benz product in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. Thank you so much for watching and listing. We really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie. 

Thank you, Mark. Thank you for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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