Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best automotive service experience, and of course, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers, and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: So, 2013 Mercedes ML550 that had some rear shock absorbing problems. What was going on with this fine German SUV?
Bernie: It's a fine German SUV, it's a really nice vehicle. It's a 550. It's kind of a notch below an AMG ML63, and just a super awesome vehicle, twin turbo V8, lots of power, nice features. It's a super nice vehicle.
Anyways, so the owner brought it in for a B-Service a few months back and one thing we'd noticed was the left rear shock absorbers leaking fluid. So that was definitely something that needed to be replaced, so this was the day and we did the service on the shock absorbers.
Mark: So, why was it leaking?
Bernie: Shock absorbers will just leak when they get old. They have seals and to be honest, it's a six-year-old vehicle. I think it's got about a 140K, so I guess it's getting up there in mileage, but things just wear out.
Shock absorbers are filled with fluid. These ones are not a hydraulic shock like you do find on some Mercedes products where they actually have pumped oil into them, this is just the fluid is just contained within the shock absorber, but it's a critical part of any shock absorber action is fluid, pistons, valving and things like that, that reduce the shock when you hit bumps.
Mark: So, did you notice anything while driving the vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, you can really notice. Probably initially when she brought the vehicle in for service, the first service there wasn't really much noticeable in terms of ride but, it's been a few months now and more and more fluid's leaked out and you notice when you hit bumps you can hear a banging noise in the back of the vehicle and there's also the ride of the vehicle is not great. It tends to bounce around a fair bit because the shock absorption, of course, is pretty much gone on that left, rear corner.
Mark: Just for shock, explain maybe again pedantic-ness, alert, we're talking about a shock absorber basically stops the bouncing of a vehicle that the springs would normally do when you go over a bump.
Bernie: Exactly, so if you had no shock absorber, if you have just a spring, as soon as you hit a bump, the vehicle bounces up, and then it bounces down, and goes up and down, and up and down, until eventually the oscillations all come out of whatever the energy that was put into the spring dissipates, well that can often take a long time.
If you've ever driven in a vehicle where the shock absorbers are completely blown, it's a really uncomfortable feeling, the car bounces around. Not only is it uncomfortable, it's actually dangerous because the weight of the vehicle is not really in contact with the road as much as it could be. And worn shock absorbers, sometimes you think, "Ah, they're not that important." But they really are pretty critical. Brakes will wear out faster, vehicles don't handle as well, they don't stick on the road as well. So they're a critical safety feature in a vehicle, not to mention comfort. I think that answered your question in a long-winded way.
Mark: Sure. Is there anything about the shock absorbers that's unique on this Mercedes?
Bernie: Yeah, they are actually. These are like, I wanna call it electro-hydraulic, but I think that's actually the wrong term for it. GM has a term, magneto-hydraulic, it uses special fluid in the shock absorber, and it actually has little metal particles in it and when it's electrically charged or magnetically charged it changes the direction of the particles so it can change, let's say the bounce rate of the shock absorber, the absorption. So, it'll change the handling of the vehicle so they're pretty high tech shocks.
Let's just get into some pictures right here. So, there's our ML550, unfortunately not washed, it's a cold day in Vancouver and the vehicle would've frozen up had we washed it. It's a rare, very cold moment in Vancouver.
So here's our shock absorber on the vehicle and this is kind of showing the bottom end of the shock and you can actually see some oil and fluid dripping on the ground. So this has been going on for a couple of months. I'd say there's probably not a lot of fluid left to have been leaked out of this particular unit.
There's another view, a better sort of view of the shock, you can oil just seeping out. This is a dust boot. You can see the oil just seeping out, down the side of the shock. Whenever you see oil leaking in a shock absorber it's a sure sign that if it isn't bad right now it's gonna be bad pretty soon cuz the fluid is a critical component of the shock.
And there's the new unit installed. Again, there's this actuator unit here. Electrical connector. And that's what's really makes the magic of these electronic shocks, that's part of the process. That and the special fluid.
Mark: So are there still springs in this vehicle?
Bernie: There are, yeah. So they use an air spring. I'll just go back to the picture.
Mark: Yeah I saw it there in the background.
Bernie: Yeah, there's the air spring, right there. So these use air suspension. I can't remember what they have in the front, but on the rear there's air suspension. It's a good idea in an SUV vehicle where you're gonna be putting weight and needing to adjust the height of the vehicle, so definitely the rear has them. They probably do in the front too. But yeah that's the spring. It can have a coil spring too on some models, but this one, it's a Mercedes, you gotta go full out. Put all the good stuff in.
Mark: As you already alluded to, this type of shock isn't unique to Mercedes? GM also has it?
Bernie: No, it's not. Lots of different manufacturers use 'em. But you won't find them on a lower end car, they'll only be on the higher end. On Lexus, or Infinity, Lexus, Cadillacs, a lot of different German vehicles.
Bernie: Yeah, there's a variety of them, but they're all high end stuff.
Mark: And so once you've got the shocks changed, of course everything was running great again with this vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, rides good.
Mark: And how are the Mercedes MLs for reliability?
Bernie: Pretty good, but again we're in the luxury SUV category. It was a lot of things that can go wrong and expensive things, like these shock absorbers, for example, are quadruple the price of what an average shock absorber would be. So you pay a lot for that kind of thing.
These vehicles, I've often said they're kind of fair for reliability. We've talked a lot about the diesels and they have issues. The gas motors are really good, rarely run into any issues with them. I'm always personally a fan of the gas motor, I just think they're better, although the diesel's certainly more economical. You can just expect that you'll spend more money on this vehicle because of what kind of vehicle it is.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service and repairs on your Mercedes-Benz MLs or any Mercedes-Benz product in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, they're busy. Or you can check out their website: pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds, perhaps even maybe a thousand on there now. Videos, articles on different makes and models of vehicles, as well as the YouTube channel: Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds and hundreds of videos on there of all makes and models of cars, repairs, all sorts of details, us two making fools of ourselves for many years. Or of course thank you so much for listening to the podcast, we really appreciate it. And thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you Mark, and thanks for watching. Great to have fans.