Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and Video Series. Of course, we're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. We're talking cars. How are you doing today, Bernie?
Bernie: I'm doing very well.
Mark: Mercedes Benz, the originators of automobiles actually, inventors, way back when. How reliable are Mercedes Benz vehicles in 2019?
Bernie: Well, I'd say overall they're pretty good. But one thing about a Mercedes that I'll say right at the outset is that it's a fancy car. It's a luxury car. They're all complicated vehicles, so if you're wanting simplicity and cheap to operate, this is not the vehicle to buy. That's where I'll start out with.
To me, I often define reliability as, can I get into my car and is it going to start on me every day? For the most part, Mercedes are bulletproof in that area. Where other things happen though, of course, where other reliability issues, if you're on a trip somewhere is this vehicle going to let you down? Is it going to go into limp mode and disrupt your trip, or your vacation? And generally, again, Mercedes are pretty good, but the key is getting servicing done on them.
I mean, Mercedes is a huge line of vehicles and I think what we'll do is we'll break it apart into different categories and talk about things. I mean, they have cars and SUVs, no pickup trucks, so to speak in Canada, or you have the sprinter vans. We'll leave that for a different separate podcast. We'll deal with the cars, the SUV, gas and diesel.
Of course, there are some new drive trains out now, electric and hybrid. And to be honest, I have nothing to contribute about that because they're just too new for us at this point, but in the future we'll undoubtedly be doing podcasts about those vehicles. Of course, there is the AMG too, which is the nice, fancy, high-performance line we can talk about a bit too.
Mark: All right, let's start with the engines. We've got basically two big categories that we can cover right now, which is the gasoline fuel or diesel fuelled engines. How are they for reliability?
Bernie: Gasoline engines in Mercedes, I find are really reliable. They have very few actual engine problems. There is one V6 model in around the 2000 year decade where they had some balance shaft engine issue problems, which can be expensive to fix. I mean that's the worst internal engine issue. Otherwise, they're pretty reliable. They do develop a few oil leaks, but again, they're not severe like a lot of other brands, other European brands.
The only thing that with engines I see, again, this is in the 2000 model year era, crankshaft position sensors sometimes will fail and the engine will just fail to run, or start, or die. Those are really the only issues with the gas motors. They're really quite bulletproof. And to me, definitely a better option if you want reliability in a Mercedes.
Mark: How are the diesels?
Bernie: Well, the diesels are another story. You can probably look on our podcast history and video history and you'll probably see we've done a lot of stuff on a three litre diesels, and that isn't the only diesel they have. There is a four cylinder offering as well, which is a little more reliable. But the diesels, they have a lot of issues.
Now, Mercedes had made diesels for a long, long time. Their early diesels back in the day before a lot of emission equipment were really, they're much more mechanical. They're very much more reliable. They're not very sexy performance, mind you. They're pretty slow, but you could count on that engine to just keep going, and going, and going and costs very little in an era when a gasoline engine was much more complicated to maintain. Gasoline engines just needed tuneups and spark plug changes and diesels didn't.
But nowadays, to me the tide has reversed. The diesels are actually the problem engines and the gasolines are the more reliable. It's interesting how that's changed. But, there is so much that goes wrong with the diesel. I'm sitting here almost stunned on where do I start with it? I'd say just probably look back at some of our other podcasts. I mean when they run great, they're fantastic, but just expect that if you own a diesel model, especially the three litre, there will be some substantial expenses keeping that engine going over time.
Mark: Regular service is extremely critical for the diesel Mercedes. Is that fair to say?
Bernie: Absolutely. Changing the oil regularly is key. There is a lot of engine failures on these where people just don't change their oil enough and the engine just basically just destroys itself, so that's really critical.
I think a lot of the fault with the three litre diesels is they're not really used how they should be. This engine should be used hot, running for long periods of time. A lot of people just do it for stop and go city driving. It's really the wrong engine for most people. That's what one of the things that ends up costing a lot of money on these things.
Mark: Let's talk about the transmission and drive train. How are those generally on diesel, or on Mercedes Benz vehicles?
Bernie: Yeah, I mean generally the transmissions and engines are pretty good. I mean, there are some transmissions failures. I mean, again, with every model year there are updates and changes. For a while there was a five speed automatic, then they went to a seven speed. I'm going back 10 or more years here in terms of my thinking.
But, one common failure item is a conductor played in the transmission that will often fail, and this is on both the five and seven speeds that causes problems. But, complete transmission failures do happen, but they're not super common. They're pretty reliable transmissions.
I'm actually speaking about automatics here because standards are incredibly rare in a Mercedes. We work on a hundreds of them and the only... of anything built say, year 2000, the only standard I've actually seen is a C series car. I was shocked to see this vehicle. It's just so unusual because everything else has automatic, so very rare to find a standard in a Mercedes that's been built in the last 20 years, or even longer. In the olden days, some of the diesels and the nice SL series, the old SLs had standards, but automatics are pretty much common.
But the rest of the drive train differentials, those type of things are really pretty much bulletproof. The axles, CV joints and the rear wheel drive, they're all pretty reliable. Some issues with the all wheel drive system in the 4Matic. We've had some axle shaft problems with the front axles in some 4Matic models. But other than that, they're... Everything is pretty reliable.
Mark: How about the exhaust system?
Bernie: Exhaust system, pretty much bulletproof. There are some, certainly some very expensive components, but they're all generally made of stainless steel and they last for a long time. The key, if you have an engine misfire of course fix that because that can cause your catalytic converter to get damaged. And diesels, we do run into diesel particulate filters that plug up or catalytic converters have failed because again, it's more of an engine problem that causes that. But, the actual exhaust systems themselves are really reliable, and on a gas engine it's rare to ever replace anything unless you get into the really old 80s and 70s models.
Mark: So, journeying into perhaps one of the weaknesses in German vehicles is the electrical system. How are the electrical components in Mercedes?
Bernie: Well again, generally pretty reliable, but there is a lot of... The electrical system and the electronics are highly complicated. There is a lot of stuff that's monitored. I'm just thinking about a video of one of our favourite, I'm saying that jokingly, favourite car guys who tends to say bad things about Mercedes, how complicated they are and how if you plug a scan to them it'll tell you your trunk light bulbs burnt out. Well, these are the things that a Mercedes will monitor. Every single one of your light bulbs is monitored.
There is some complexity there, but generally it's pretty reliable. I can't think of too many customers we have where they come in for an electrical problem. Things like windows, and power windows, those other electrical components are pretty reliable overall.
Mark: How is the suspension though on a Mercedes?
Bernie: This is where there is a lot of complexity as well. Some Mercedes just have a standard system. I say standard because it's just a regular shock or strut type system. There are some control arm bushings and things like that that wear out. But, a lot of Mercedes have air suspension systems, aromatic system, or some of them also have the active body control, the hydraulic suspension system, which these are all very complicated, especially the AVC, the hydraulic system, generally pretty reliable. But, there are some components that are exceptionally expensive.
For example, one hydraulic strut, depending on where you buy it is it would probably set you back anywhere between $800 to a couple of thousand dollars per strut, and there is four per vehicle. There is a hydraulic pump. There is a series of lines and hoses running through the vehicle valves. If you have to replace the whole system in just parts itself, you'd probably be looking at in labor $40,000. But, you'll never have to replace the whole thing. That's what you could be faced with if everything just blew. That being said, it's a pretty amazing suspension system because it just levels the car automatically, electronically all the time.
The air system is less quick to react. Again, there is some issues with the air suspension system. You find that in a variety of different Mercedes as well. But things like it has an electric pump, a compressor that'll, those fail. There are other electronic valves that fail. Some of the struts fail. We've also had electronic shock absorbers where they start leaking and some of them, in my opinion, in a little earlier in life than they should. I'd say, the suspension systems on Mercedes, the fancy ones, especially in their air ONE, it probably has a few more problems than it could.
What else? Yeah, I mean, but other than that, generally things like the controller, and bushings is a general amount of wear on those. Ball joints will wear out from time to time, but nothing exceptional.
Mark: The steering components, how are they for reliability?
Bernie: Again, pretty good. The only thing that stands out for me as a problematic area is some of the ML series SUVs. The steering rack will develop leaks. Sometimes the leak will be from the... There is actually a shaft kit you can get or a pinion... The steering shaft kit is available as a unit from Mercedes. Now, that component tends to leak, so you don't have to replace the whole rack, but sometimes the whole rack and pinion leaks. That's the one that stands out to me as being a weakness. But other than that, most of the others seem to be pretty good on most other Mercedes.
Mark: How about brakes? How are they for reliability and length of wear?
Bernie: Again, pretty good. Yeah, generally Mercedes's brakes are I'd considered them to be average in terms of wear. You'll always need to replace the rotors with the pads. They just wear like that. They're that type of European design where the rotors get deeply grooved as the pads wear. Some of them have of course fancier brake packages. We'll talk about AMG in a minute. But, they're generally priced somewhat normally. I mean, more than a Toyota Corolla. But yeah, that's a different class of car. But generally, prices are pretty reasonable on the Mercedes brakes. But, a lot of them they have cross drilled rotors and for better heat dispersion, and so those costs a little more, but they're not, nothing is outrageously priced.
And of course, they all generally have pad wear sensors, so they'll usually warn you when the brakes are worn out. But just as a note, not every brake pad is monitored, so it's possible that some pads can wear out before the light comes on, on the dash, but that's not too usual. Usually it's pretty reliable. Things like brake calipers, we don't replace them hardly ever. They're really quite reliable, so that's a good thing. They have good longevity. They're sealed well and they tend to last quite a long time.
Mark: What's the difference? We've mentioned AMG. What's the difference basically with AMG vehicles, branded vehicles compared to the regular Mercedes Benz vehicles?
Bernie: Well, it's certainly a bigger engine, and more horsepower. And usually along with that of course the transmission, the drive train may be bumped up to handle that level of power. Suspension systems are usually different, again, for performance and then brakes, stopping power.
Interestingly enough with AMGs, I mean you can have any AMG that has a regular brake system. I mean they're still an upgrade from the regular model, or you can have the actual AMG package, which is an even higher end brake system, and often these can be very expensive.
For instance on a, say an SL55 that they... The regular brake rotors on the regular AMG standard brakes they're about $300 a piece for the front. But if you have the AMG package, the rotors are $1,200ish a piece, so four times the price. They're pretty fancy. I mean, you can tell by looking at them why the cost is so much higher. But I know with the regular brakes they stop pretty darn fast. But, that AMG package will just give you a little extra edge, so if you're going 150 miles an hour and you keep needing to stop and then accelerate back up you can do it, but the other brakes they will probably be pretty good.
Mark: AMG is basically a race car for the road.
Bernie: It is. The thing I like about the AMG is they are... It's an elevated class of vehicle, for sure. Like where you say, it's like a race car for the road, but they're not quite as crazy as when you get into a McLaren, or a Lambo, or something. Of course, they don't look quite like that. They're more drivable.
Now with that being said, I mean an SLS of course is an AMG model, but that's in the class of the Lambo. It's a higher elevated vehicle. But, most AMGs are just fancied up but, in a very good way. A lot of the interior trim on an AMG too is nicer than it is in a regular Mercedes. Believe it or not, if you can actually do that kind of thing.
Mark: That covers the lineup. Overall, Mercedes, if you want a high end luxury vehicle, pretty fair to maybe better than average reliability. Is that what your verdict is?
Bernie: Yeah. The other thing about Mercedes, and I saw a statistic somewhere that there is a, and I can't remember the number, but there is a lot of Mercedes that are built are still on the road. Compared to other manufacturers, their lifespan on the road is much higher than your average car.
There is certain models of cars once you get to a certain age people just... They're just gone. You don't see them. I'm just thinking about some of the Subarus and Toyotas I've worked on over the years and it's like I go, you never ever see one anymore because they're just... They get to a certain age and nobody will ever fix one.
But certain Mercedes, they'll still be on the road, especially the SL series, the convertibles. We fixed those when they're 20, 30, 40 years old. I mean those cars, people just don't get rid of them. They're still a nice car to keep and fix. Some models will probably never go off the road unless people neglect them severely, so a pretty good car for longterm longevity. But as I say, they are expensive to fix, but keep up the maintenance. That's really the key.
Mark: There you go. If you're looking for maintenance on your Mercedes Benz 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. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com, our You Tube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Of course, thanks so much for watching and listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching and listening.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive video series and podcasts and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And of course today we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: 2015 Mercedes Benz, CLA45 AMG, has a bloody long name. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, so this vehicle came to our shop for an inspection and we found that the front brakes, all we really found with the front brake pads and rotors were worn out.
Mark: Anything unique about the brakes in an AMG?
Bernie: Well, yeah, so AMG of course is a high performance version, the Mercedes high performance division and the brakes in any AMG model are definitely larger than their lesser model cars. So you know they're larger rotors, larger pads, larger calipers for obviously better stopping ability with the higher horsepower engines.
Mark: Is there only one type of brake option?
Bernie: No, actually there isn't. So interesting with Mercedes generally as a whole line. A lot of their cars you'll get a, say a C series regular sedan and they'll have like two or three different brake packages, which as an auto repair business, it makes it a pain to order the brakes sometimes, but on the CLA model, for instance, there are actually two different brake packages. There's the the regular brakes and then there's the AMG brake package and you think everything would have the AMG brake package, but, in this case, there was another option and this is true among a lot of other AMG vehicles. You'll have like this sort of regular AMG brakes, then you have the actual AMG brake package and the difference is very substantial in cost. For the rotors, I own an SL55 and the regular brake packages, for instance, like the brake rotors are, I can't remember, they're about about $300 per rotor for the front, but if you have the AMG brake package, the rotors are $1,300, like we're talking Canadian dollars, so you know $1,000 more per rotor. That adds a lot to a brake job.
Now the brakes are even bigger than, double my 55 and it's already got massive brakes and it stops really fast. With the AMG brake package has even bigger rotors. So I guess you know, we're going 150 miles an hour, you can keep stopping it really fast wherever you'd ever drive that fast. So the CLA kind of a drifted off a little bit. The CLA is the same thing. It has two different options. Fortunately for the owner of this vehicle, it had the cheaper rate package.
Mark: Any extra work required in replacing these brakes?
Bernie: No, there isn't. They're actually the same as any other Mercedes brake or most other brakes. Simple re-movement of the rotors, calipers, cleaning and servicing as we always do but there's nothing extra to do. Although some AMG models have, instead of like say two brake pads, they'll have, actually, the pad will be split into two pieces. It will be actually four brake pads per side. So it adds a little bit of extra labor but not a lot. On this car, it's basically the same. And actually we should get into some pictures.
Nice red CLA45 beautiful looking car. It's a little hot rod for a four door sedan. There's a view of the brakes. So again, the nice thing about the AMG too is they give a nice presentation. When you're looking at the wheel you'll see a nice, some are silver, some are red, you know with the AMG stripe and a nice sized caliper.
And you can see these rotors are, they're a pretty good size rotor cross drilled with some slots in them as well for extra cooling. And this is a picture of our old brake pads. So again, it's interesting, some of these, they have like little extra counterweights on the brake pads and I don't know why they do that. I probably should know since we're trying to speak intelligently about these things. But anyways, that's a picture of the brake pad. You can see the brake pad wear sensor goes in this area. You can see the pad's pretty well worn down, right where the pad sensor groove sits. So anyways, there's a few pictures.
Mark: So this is a smaller sized AMG vehicle. How is it?
Bernie: Oh, it's awesome. Fun little car. It's a two litre, twin turbo, really fast. I think zero to 60 in about 4.9 seconds, which is pretty quick, very quick. And yeah, it's a fun little car.
Mark: So there, if you are looking for some service for your AMG 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 check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube video series, Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos over the last five years on all makes and models of cars. And of course, thank you for watching the podcast. We appreciate it. And thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast and video series. And we're talking cars. And we're with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So today's victim is a 2014 Mercedes Benz C350 4Matic, long name, that had front brake problems. What was going on with this Mercedes Benz?
Bernie: So, the owner of the vehicle is a customer of ours with another vehicle. Had just had a dealer service done on this vehicle and they told him his brakes were nearly worn out, although they told him the fronts had about 40% remaining in the rears were getting less. So he brought it to us for a thorough inspection and to see what was going on with it.
Mark: So is 40% as a measure of the brake wear accurate or useful?
Bernie: I don't think so. A lot of shops from dealerships to independents to chains or specialists often use percentages in brakes. And it's a simple way to give a customer an idea of what they have left with their brakes, which is a good idea, but it kind of misses the mark in terms of accuracy. What is 40%? Is that 40% of the whole depth of the brake pad? And so, does that count that you really don't want to wear the brake pad to zero. There's a lot of things missing in that percentage recommendation. It's also something that's easy to do. A technician can kind of look and go, yeah it's about 40% left. Oh, it's like 30. So, it at least gives some information to pass onto the client, but it's not really entirely accurate.
Mark: So what's a better measure of brake wear?
Bernie: Well, the better measure is to actually use a brake measure gauge, and give a measurement in millimetres. Then that way you know. On this vehicle, a new brake pad usually starts out at about 12, for the front anyways, and the rears are about 10. Again, I'm being a little approximate here. So, if you give a measurement then you can kind of have an idea. Now I did a quick calculation. If the front brakes are 12 millimetres, 40% of that is 4.8 millimetres thick. So, that's still a fair amount of brake material. Usually two is considered completely worn out. Well zero is completely worn out, but two is really the longest you want to go with changing them. Let's get into some pictures here. I'll just show you some of the tools we use to measure things.
So there's are a 2014 C350, two door, nice coupe. Quick little car. This is our brake, this is our tool we use to measure brake pads. So, this isn't in the yellow ranges. This tool is kind of neat because it has green, yellow and red coloured bars, which kind of makes it handy. Once you get into three millimetres or two, which is as thin as it goes, that's a red bar. Then green is up six millimetres and up. But it's just kind of in the cautionary area. So you can see, if you look in this area here, this is the actual brake pad remaining. It's got four millimetres. And what I've found in experience is, once you take the brakes off, there's usually one pad that's probably worn a little worse than the measuring tool can see. So, if it says four millimetres, you've probably got something that's getting down to three. So, that's one accurate area of measurement.
The other thing we do is measure the brake rotors. Now, I'm not showing any rotor measurement here, but this is kind of typical of many European cars. The brake rotors, you can see some grooves worn in here. And to look at a closer photo, it's kind of hard to get the three dimensions here, and the photo is a little soft. It's not the sharpest picture I've taken. But you can see the original edge here where the rotor was.
And if you were to actually see this rotor and run your hand along here, there's a substantial drop. There's a lot of metal that's worn off this rotor. So, we do measure them. And what you'll find is if you compare to the specifications of the rotor, it's pretty much the rotor wear limit. So, it needs to be replaced as well. Now, there's not really any reason to rush out and replace these rotors if you're not doing brake pads at the same time, unless they're warped. And here's a comparison of our old and new brake pads. You can see this is the new brake pad at 12 millimetres. Our old one at four. And now, if you say 40%, to me it's a little confusing because I would think in my mind, okay, it's, the car's got 70,000 kilometres. I've got 40% of my front brakes left. That means ... Just doing some quick math here, they're a little less than half worn, I've probably got another 50,000 kilometres before my brakes wear out.
But that's not the case. They do need to be ... They're at the time where they can still last a little longer, but they could be replaced. And we actually did do them because the rears were worn substantially worse. So, it's not a bad idea to do them all at the same time. So there's our pictures show.
Mark: So, measuring the actual depth, actually taking the wheels off the car and measuring all the brakes, which it doesn't sound perhaps like the dealer did, is a more accurate thing than just giving an eyeball percentage?
Bernie: Yes. Yeah, it is. And now, there is a way. Sometimes on cars they have exceptionally open wheels. We can actually take a measurement through the wheel, but it's not very often you have a wheel that's that open that you can see through. So yeah, taking the wheel off is really the best way to do the inspection. And that way you can have a really close look at the inboard pad, the outboard pad, see if the calipers are moving property. If there's any other issues. It's the best way to do a brake inspection.
Mark: So, what service did you actually end up doing on this vehicle?
Bernie: So, we replaced the front and rear brake pads and rotors. As I mentioned earlier, the rears were worn worse. They were down to about two millimetres. And the owner could have left the front for a little while, but chose to do the fronts while the car was here. And then that way he's not going to need to come back for service anytime soon. I mean, he may have got a year more out of these brakes, depending on how much he drove. But I would say, it's not overly expensive just to do them now. But again, we leave the client the choice to do that. We also did a brake fluid flush at the same time. Brake fluid every two years on these vehicles. And according to his records, he hadn't done it. So we did that at the same time.
Mark: 70,000 kilometres in a 2014, it's not being driven all that much, but maybe driven kind of fast.
Bernie: Yup. Yeah. And that'll wear your brakes a little harder too.
Mark: Anything else that you need to do to service a 4Matic vehicle?
Bernie: Well, the 4Matic, so that's basically Mercedes all wheel drive system. So, there's a little more complicate ... Or I'd say a lot more complication to this vehicle. There are CV axles in the front. I mean, they don't need servicing unless something wears out. But there is a front differential. There's a transfer case unit, and an extra drive shaft. So there are extra parts and pieces, and just be prepared with a 4Matic that you will spend substantially more money when something goes wrong. Things like maybe an oil pan gasket, because the axle shaft goes through the oil pan. The front end is more complicated, and a lot of other, not this particular model, but certain 4Matic cars, the control arms are substantially more money, like by a magnitude of four or five than the regular non 4Matic model just because for some reason they just charge a lot more for the 4Matic part. So, that's what we've found on 4Matics. There are more expensive things to fix, but it's a nice car. And it's a good option, you're not ... the thing with Mercedes is you've got ... it's rear wheel drive otherwise. There are traction issues at certain times, and especially if you get a lot of snow. I mean, this isn't a great deep snow car, but for an average snowy road you could be stuck at home. But 4Matic will get you where you want to go.
Mark: And how are C350s for overall reliability?
Bernie: It's a good car. Really, there's nothing major about this. It's a 2014, so it's only five years old and there's really no major problems showing up with the car yet. I mean, given another five years, a few more things might crop up. But overall it's a good reliable car, and the owner of this vehicle has had no problems whatsoever.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your Mercedes Benz in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. And of course, you have to call and book because they are busy. Or check out the website, PawlikAutomotive.com. There's many years worth of posts on the blog about repairs and maintenance of all makes and models of cars. Of course, our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, same thing, over 300. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast and watching, and we appreciate it. Thank you, Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you, Mark. And thanks for watching.
Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and video series, and of course we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and 38 years of repairing and maintaining vehicles in Vancouver. Of course, we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: Today, a 2009 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG, A service. What was happening with this super high performance vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, so the car just came in for us a basic service. An A service is the, I like to call it, the lower level of services. It's the simplest service that the car needs. That's why the car came in. No complaints, just basic maintenance.
Mark: What's involved in an A service?
Bernie: The A service, I mean the heart of the A service is an oil and filter change. What else is involved is inspecting all the fluid levels. We also put the vehicle up on a hoist, make sure nothing's loose suspension or steering wise. It's not a full steering or suspension inspection, but it's a basic inspection, adjusting tire pressures. Of course, these cars have tire pressure monitors, so they'll tell you long before you come in for service if your tires are low on air, but nonetheless we look, set the tire pressure to spec, look at the air filter and an under hood inspection. And light, the lights of course we look at, but again, these cars will tell you if your lights are are out. There's a lot of self-servicing these cars do, but it's all looking at the things that the car doesn't look at that we take care of too.
Mark: Anything extra required because this is an AMG?
Bernie: No. Really, it's not. The services basic. I mean the thing about the AMG is it's the performance package that comes along with it, but there's nothing extra that needs to be done. I would say, like an SL series that has active body control, those have hydraulic suspension, but actually even the non-AMG version has it, but those often will sometimes require fluid replacement in the suspension system. But this car doesn't have that, so it's a nothing that's required.
We'll just go into a picture here of the vehicle. You've got the car?
Bernie: Beautiful. Awesome. Yeah, so there's our 2009 C63. Nice looking car. Fast as can be. What I like best about AMGs, not only do they drive nice, but the engines. It's a good looking engine. With so many cars, and this includes some Mercedes. A lot of Mercedes, you pop the hood, you just have this plastic cover that goes on top of the engine, you don't really get to appreciate the beauty of the engine like you did and I think that's some of the appeal of older cars. When you look under the hood, you go, "Wow, look at that engine. It looks neat."
With an AMG, you often get that a lot. Though I will say I'm an SL65 is a little disappointing. It's a V12 twin turbo and it has a big huge plastic cover over the top, so they didn't do such a nice job on that engine. But a lot of these AMGs, this one in particular looks really nice.
Mark: This is a V8?
Bernie: This is a V8. It's a 6.2 liter V8. They call it a C63. I guess it's pushing 6.3 liter, but it's actually classified as a 6.2. The other thing that's neat about AMGs is they all have this tag on the engine here, on these V8 engines, it actually says who built the engine and if you look on YouTube, you can actually find some neat videos in the AMG factory of them putting these engines together. It's a neat process to watch. I mean I've rebuilt, I've built a lot of engines in my time, but it's neat when the, you know, in this AMG factory, it's like a laboratory, so super clean.
Of course you want it to be clean, but I mean this is like extra, extra laboratory like, and because it's a large manufacturing facility, all the pistons come all labeled for the cylinders, and they all arrive on a cart, and it's kind of a neat step between someone building an engine in their small shop or a massive factory just manufacturing the engine.
It'd be kind of a cool job. It probably gets tedious after a while, but it's kind of neat thinking, "Hey, you built this engine yourself." Yeah. So so there we go.
And as I say, it looks beautiful. It looks beautiful afterwards. I guess if it doesn't work or blows up, you could always phone the factory and go, "Hey, Adolf. My engine blew up. He didn't do a good job." Or 10 years later you go, "Hey, that was a good job you did." Anyway, I digress. All right.
Mark: Did you find anything else that needed to be done on this vehicle?
Bernie: No, not in this particular service, actually, it was just the basic service, so it was good to go. Of course, the next level of services is the B service, which includes everything in the A plus brake inspection and looking at things in further detail.
The thing about the brakes on a Mercedes, of course they are monitored with a pad wear sensors which are accurate most of the time, so if the brakes were to wear out in between, a warning light will come on telling you you need to do something with your brakes. But we usually, the full brake inspection, steering suspension inspection is something we do at the V service. But yeah, there was nothing else required at this time.
Mark: And so we know you, obviously waxing quixotically about AMG engine building. You like AMGs. I know you have one of these, not necessarily this model because. Do they cost more to service than regular Mercedes Benz products?
Bernie: Well, the potential is there for a lot more expensive repairs, but for the most part the thing that's nice about an AMG is that it's still a factory, it's still a production level car. It's nothing. It's not really in the realm of exotic unless you get into an SLS or some car like that. I mean, they have bigger brakes, the brakes costs more, and some of them can be substantially more expensive in some models, but for the most part, they're not a lot more. I mean, the oil service on this car cost no more than it does on a lesser, you know, a C300. I mean, maybe 10 or $20 more, but there's not a lot more. I mean, you're certainly going to be paying a lot more money for gas in this car because of the large engine and that extra horsepower. But the potential is there to spend more money but for the most part, it's not a lot. It's not a lot worse than the base model.
I think that's the nice thing about AMG. For a lot of cars, it gives you that sort of almost supercar performance without the supercar hassle. You know, things like Ferrari's where things are, you know, it'll, or Aston Martins, where of course they're more exotic, but they're just so much more, I mean, so much more expensive to fix by magnitudes of like 10. It's kind of crazy and harder to get parts for it, so these are easier to deal with.
I think it's a good option, I mean, any of these. And of course BMW has their M series, and Audi has their performance line as well, but this is a nice car for sure if you want a nice four door that goes really fast.
Mark: So there you go. You need service for your Mercedes Benz in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead, they're busy. Or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. On the blog, there's literally hundreds of articles and videos. Our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Again, hundreds of videos over the years of all makes and models and types of repairs. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark, and thanks for watching.
Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and we're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and servicing and maintaining cars in Vancouver for 38 years, and we're talking cars, how are you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So, today's victim, 2004 Mercedes Benz SL500, kind of a classic Merc, that had an SRS problem. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So this vehicle came to our shop, the SRS warning light on the dash was on and that needed to be serviced and replaced, other than that, the car was in great shape and running well but the owner wanted that item fixed.
Mark: So, what's the SRS? Super Real Specialness.
Bernie: Yeah, well no, it's a little more boring than that. It stands for Supplemental Restraint System and kind of a fancy word for the air bag system, but there's a little more to the air bag system than just the air bags. And depending on the car, of course air bags have gotten more and more sophisticated and restraint systems over the years, originally they just came out and there was an airbag for the driver, that was kind of the original start to it and then they put one in for the passenger and then they started putting side airbags and then of course a lot of them were a little too powerful or they'd go off at a small accident, people would get hurt quite badly from the airbag, so they've become very sophisticated over the years and the other thing they've added, part of the restraint system is seatbelt tensioning. So what happens when you get in a collusion is that the seatbelt will actually pull tighter.
These things are all timed down to the millisecond, the airbag blows off, the seatbelt tensioner pulls you back so you don't get wacked so hard, but it all kind of keeps you in place and I mean, these things do save lives and reduce injuries drastically. So the SRS module basically there was a warning light on, when the light's on the system may or may not operate, so the interesting thing is you don't know whether it's going to go, whether it's not and it's one of those strange things because you don't need it until you need it and hopefully you never do. It will only ever work during an accident but if the warning light's on, the system's seeing a fault and a problem.
Mark: So how did you test and diagnose this issue?
Bernie: So, scan tool is the way to go. We have a very good quality scan tool, it works well with Mercedes, so we scanned it and found there was no communication with the SRS module. So there was our first problem there, whether there was anything more we couldn't know because the scan tool wouldn't communicate and just to be sure it wasn't a fault with our scan tool we have other brands of scan tools, we plugged them in and there was no communication either, so the next step is to access the SRS module, which is located under the console, it's a bit of work to get to and then test some of the key wiring components, like make sure it's got power, make sure it's grounded and then there's a communication network called CAN, it's a controlled area network. There's some wiring to that network and just to make it's actually getting the proper signals, so after doing all the lengthy testing we verified that everything wiring wise was good. Basically making the module the fault, so we replaced the module.
Mark: So any options available for parts for this vehicle?
Bernie: Well let's just do a quick little picture show here. So here's the SRS module, I mean nothing fancy to look at really, it's a little box about four inches square, I don't even have a picture wiring connector but it's got about I'm guessing a hundred wires that go in and out of it over in this area here of the module and there's an arrow, it actually has to be installed in a certain direction. You see it's got three bolts in different patterns, so you probably can't even bolt it in the wrong way if you tried. But there are accelerometers and things inside the sensors that can detect collisions and things like that. So the repair, that's the question you're asking, is that correct?
Mark: No, where do you get this part from?
Bernie: So, unfortunately the only option is the Mercedes dealer. You can only buy this module brand new and you can only buy it from a Mercedes dealer and the reason why is once you program the module for the vehicle you have to initialize the module through a proper scan tool. You have to set all the perimeters, does it have emergency calling, some of these cars basically if the airbag goes off it'll call a call centre somewhere and alert them that your car's been in a collision, it's kind of like GM OnStar, it'll do that.
So does the car have that option, does it have knee airbags, these are some of the questions that are asked when you program the module, but once you put the VIN number in the vehicle, once you initialize it for the car, it's basically locked in and you cannot change it and put it in another car, which in my opinion is absolutely ridiculous that you can't take a used module, reprogram it for something else but for some reason in Mercedes wisdom they've decided that once you lock it into the car, it'll only work on that car and never on anything else. I can talk about this a little more because I think to myself, why would they do such a thing? It's like, if we think of Mercedes on the good side, they don't want anyone to screw something up.
They want the system to be 100% reliable for that car, so you buy this fine German quality car and you put the right part in it and it's going to function as advertised, whereas if you were going to take a used one maybe there's a risk that it wouldn't be programmed properly, so from that point of view I can see why they do that, but from a perspective of waste, if you think of all the cars out there that probably use the same module, there's hundreds and thousands of them sitting in auto wrecking yards right now and their only fate is just to be disposed of or recycled because you can't use it in another car, and why wouldn't you?
It should be so simple to just erase the programming, redo it. Before we initialized it, I said it had a knee airbag when the car actually didn't and it's an error code and it wouldn't allow me to program it, so the car's actually smart enough to actually tell you what to put in the module. Anyways, that's my little rant about this particular module, but unfortunately it makes for quite an expensive repair as opposed to what it could be just because you have to buy the module new.
Mark: So this car's getting on over 15 years basically but it's really a nice model, is it worth hanging on to?
Bernie: Well this one certainly is, believe it or not this vehicle we worked on has actually only got 14,000 kilometres on it and if you put that into miles I think that's like, 8 or 9,000 miles, it's like a brand new car and it was amazing driving it because it really was as tight of a feel as a brand new car. It was beautiful and the owner of this vehicle apparently had previously passed away and the car sat in the garage for ten years, one of those kind of neat stories but this one was great.
But these are complex cars, there's a lot that can go wrong with them, so you just need to be prepared, and go hey, it's a nice car. You can buy it for a very good price, because they tend to depreciate nicely but over time you'll spend a lot of money repairing it. This module job was a couple thousand Canadian dollars over that by the time we diagnosed it, replaced the part, reprogrammed and did everything that needed to be done, so it's a pretty pricey repair but the owner will never need to do that again, but they'll be something else, so you could probably count on spending $2 to $4,000 dollars or more a year to maintain this car if you drive it around.
Mark: So there you go, if you're looking for a Mercedes repairs 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 really busy or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Pawlik Auto Repair is our YouTube channel, got that mixed up really well and of course thank you so much for listening to the podcast, we really appreciate it and thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you Mark and thank you for watching and listening, we really appreciate it.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. And of course we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. 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 very well.
Mark: So, today's victim is a 2004 Mercedes SLK32 AMG. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So this really rare vehicle came to our shop for a pre-purchase inspection, which we did. The purchaser ended up buying the car, so we did some service work on the car as well.
Mark: So, this is an AMG model. What differentiates it from the regular model?
Bernie: Well, so for this particular, for the SLK, the major differences is the supercharged 3.2 litre V6 engine, which is a pretty awesome feature. I mean, that's definitely the biggest feature of the AMG. Also, it has nicer trim pieces, like fancier tail pipes. It looks like half of an SL tailpipe assembly, just with on one side. It's got the nicer AMG wheels, wider tires and wheels. And I'm not certain on this car exactly what the other features are. It's a little more basic than say an SL55 is compared to an SL500, but definitely has some beefed up suspension and performance enhances. But the engine is really the big thing.
Mark: What is unique about SLK series compared to SL's or other Mercedes?
Bernie: So, the SLK is basically a smaller version of the SL series. And I don't have the actual German translation front of me, but the S's roughly translate to sport, the L is light, and then the K is short. And it's interesting, because if you look at the other Mercedes line, you have your GLK, which is basically like a shorter, smaller version of a GL series. So, there's a German term for it. I'm not going to try to butcher it or anything. Porsche is about the best we'll go on the show, until I learn some more German. So what I find unique about this SLK car is that right up until ... They made the car from 1996 to 2004, and even up to 2004 it's got some features that you wouldn't really see in that era of Mercedes. Most Mercedes, they have electronic keys, the infrared keys, rack and pinion steering, things like that. This car is still has a mechanical key.
It's a much simpler version of a car. It's got a lot of the earlier 90s technology that's kind of just kept on going. So, some people may say that's a bad thing. I think it's kind of neat. It makes the car a little simpler. And this reminds me more of like a kind of a fancy Mazda Miata, just in terms of how the car is. So, let's just look at some pictures. So there's our SLK. Nice looking little car. As you can see, it's got the AMG wheels. It's a hard top convertible as well, which is awesome. So it gives you the ride, and when you're driving on a rainy cold day, it's just like having a hard top car, but you can take the roof off and then you have the benefits of the convertible. There's our 3.2 litre supercharge. If you're looking down at it really quickly, it really looks a lot like an SL55 engine, except it's of course two cylinders shorter. And it's about 350 horsepower, which is an awful lot to pack in this little car. It's, I think, about 32 or 3,400 pounds.
It's about 1,000 pounds lighter than an SL55, less power, but certainly enough to move this car really, really fast. The key I mentioned. So this is like a ... This is a 2004 car, but this key is really a very 1990s Mercedes type of key. It's a regular switch blade style key, and a regular toothed basic ignition. Steering is interesting. This is a ... I mean, it's hard to see a lot with the details of this picture, but this basically the view of the bottom of the steering box. This vehicle actually has a steering box, not rack and pinion, which of course is not quite as good in a way as rack and pinion steering. But it's interesting that it has this type of technology. And of course the car steers fine. And it's a lot simpler in construction than an SL series in terms of the way the geometry.
The lower control arms, which were actually one of the items we replaced due to worn bushings, it's just a simple wishbone style control arm as opposed to a lot of the newer ones where they have two control arms in the bottom and two at the top. I mean, there's advantages to that, but this has less parts and pieces. As I say, it's a simpler ... It's a nice car and it's simpler. And then here's our interior layout of the car. I know there's something else I want to point out about the interior layout of the car, that again is kind of a simpler throwback, but for some reason I can't think of it at the moment. So anyways, there's the basic interior layout of the car, and there we have it.
Mark: What services did you do on this car?
Bernie: Yeah, so some of the ... We did a number of catch up maintenance items, like a fuel injection cleaning and some fluid changes, drive train fluids. The control arm bushings and some of the steering linkages had wear, and also the tires were worn out.
So, their pre-purchase inspection helped them negotiate the best price, and then from there we repaired the vehicle and got it back in really nice shape. I mean it was ... I actually drove the car myself before he bought it, and the car drove really nice, but you could certainly feel the front end was wobbly, and didn't quite handle well. And then afterwards of course it's just the control was amazing. And of course, tires just make such a difference.
Mark: And how reliable are SLK cars?
Bernie: I find them fairly reliable. I mean, they do need the odd thing here and there. I'm saying it's a little simpler than a lot of Mercedes, with the technology a little older. But of course it's still got a lot of electronics. Some of the repairs we've done besides basic maintenance in the more basic SLK, we've done supercharger replacements on those. We've had convertible top issues, some simple wiring repairs. I think we've done podcasts or videos on these. But overall it's a pretty reliable car. And I think it's a nice ... I think this makes a nice ... If you're looking for a nice little semi luxurious little sports car, this is an excellent car. Especially the AMG model because it's got some really good performance.
Mark: So there you go. If you've got an SLK or Mercedes in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead, they're busy. Or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. And of course, thank you so much for listening on the podcast. Thank you, Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you, Mark. And thanks for watching and listening. We really appreciate it.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive podcast and video series, and of course we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So we're excited. We just found out we were the number one automotive podcast in Canada and a few other countries around the world and we want to thank everyone for listening. Of course, today we're talking about a 2010 Mercedes ML350, 3L diesel, something we've certainly spoken about before. What was happening with this ML350, Bernie?
Bernie: So the owner of this vehicle brought it in for some oil leaks. She was only noticing some drips in her driveway of oil and was concerned about it.
Mark: What did you find?
Bernie: Well, we found some oil leaking. So our procedure with finding the oil leaks is to remove the, Mercedes, there's covers on the top, there's covers in the bottom. So we remove the covers on the top of the engine, remove the covers underneath the vehicle to assess where the oil was coming from. Most of the oil, actually fortunate for the customer this time, most of the oil leaks were coming from the front of the engine. These are usually less expensive leaks to repair than when they are coming from the rear of the engine, and I'll explain a little detail more in a minute, but let's just have a look at some pictures right now.
So there's our a 2010 ML350, and all that white stuff you see, I took this picture yesterday. We did the service yesterday. That's actually snow in March and Vancouver. So kind of unusual, but there it is.
Mark: People were freaking out everywhere.
Bernie: Yeah, exactly. Well, we're getting used to it. It's been weird. February, it snowed a lot and I don't know, maybe we're getting used to it. Yeah, people do tend to freak out a bit. Anyway, let's get into some pictures. So we found the oil leaking from two spots. First spot. This is the oil filter housing and there's a seal in behind this area. You can see pulleys. This is looking down the front of the engine and there's oil leakage down in this area here.
This is one of the more common leaks from the front of the engine. The other leak that we found was from the power brake booster vacuum pump. So this is located on the right valve cover, the oil filter adapter's located on the left front of the engine. The yellow arrow points to the actual booster and the right arrow points to the oil leakage. Again, it's a little hard to see, it's not a huge leak in terms of tons of fresh oil coming down. But underneath it was definitely more obvious as to where the leaks were coming from. But that's basically where the leak was coming from.
So in terms of repairs, what's involved?
There's the oil filter adapter removed with the seal in place. This is the area where the leak occurs from. The seal basically gets hardened over time, and a good example of that. This is an example of the new gasket and this is the old gasket. You can usually tell when a gasket's old and bad. We have these special picks, they're very hardened, very sharp little hardened picks, like the thing a dentist would use to scale your teeth, only a little more rigid and a lot less expensive. But basically I had to basically pick this gasket out, and of course it came out in chunks as you can see, and the other one is much thinner. But over time it squishes out and flattens out and given 9 or 10 years, it'll probably look the same as this. But that's the new gasket.
The other area issue that we repaired was the vacuum pump. This is the brake booster vacuum pump removed. There is a gasket between the pump and the cylinder head, which was seeping a bit, but the actual pump itself was actually leaking a fair bit too. So we replaced the pump, replaced the gasket and that was it.
Mark: So you mentioned that these are, and we've done a few things about these 3L diesel engine with different problems. There's pretty common to have leaks on these engines, is that right?
Bernie: Yeah, oil leaks are one of the bigger issues that occur with these engines over time. There's probably, I'm thinking five, at least five common spots for oil leaks. We just covered two of them. The front of the engine, and these are the leaks you want to have, if you have any oil leaks on a Mercedes 3L diesel. The most expensive one to repair is the engine oil cooler seal, which is the oil cooler. We've done podcasts on this so you can find them somewhere, either on a Mercedes or Jeep 3L. They use the same engine. In the intake valley, the oil cooler is located right down in the bottom and there's seals that leak there. Also the turbo stand gaskets will leak, which is a bit less work than the oil cooler seal.
But when you do the oil cooler, you change the turbo stand at the same time. So usually you can kill two birds with one stone. But the other leak that does happen from time to time is the rear main crankshaft seal too. So again, that's a pretty involved leak. But the oil cooler seals and the turbo stand are probably the most common, and these are up there too. But fortunately for the owner of this vehicle, that's where the major oil was coming from, was from the front of the engine from these two leaks.
Mark: So as I mentioned a couple times, we've addressed these 3L Mercedes engines a few times. Is it because they're so problematic or is it a maintenance issue?
Bernie: Well, they are problematic. They're finicky. There's a lot of things that happen. We haven't talked about the intake actuator, or on Jeeps they're called a swirl valve motor. They have variable intake runners, there's an actuator system that causes problems. Anything and everything can go wrong in these things, and actually the other unfortunate issue with this particular engine is, when we started it up, on this particular car, the timing chain had a rattle for a few seconds. So it's going to need a timing chain replacement. It actually already does need it. It's just a matter whether the owner will choose to do it or not before something breaks. But there are a lot of problems that happen with these engines and I think I've said it before. A lot of times it's because people don't really get them warm enough.
They don't run them for long enough periods of time, and that's really where a diesel is best is for long hauls. Mark, I know you had a Volkswagen diesel. You're the perfect person. You live in Langley. If you actually had a job in Vancouver where you drove down the highway every day to work and back, that'd be the perfect use for that vehicle. But a lot of people don't. They just hop into the car, they drive the kids to school three kilometres, go home, park the car or they drive to work and the engine doesn't warm up properly. So it's really, really hard on it and really not the best use for diesel. But of course, you'll never be told that when you go to buy one. You'll just go, oh great, it's got the best gas mileage, it's economical. I want to buy that. So that, to me, is where most of the problems lie with diesels. You just really need to run them and you need to get them warm.
Mark: So diesel really isn't an around town, run about, little vehicle engine type.
Bernie: It's not really. But it's interesting because we do a lot of Volkswagen TDIs and they seem to be pretty reliable in that area. So I think somehow they built them a little better. These engines definitely have more problems for that kind of running. I've seen these with really high kilometres where people do a lot of highway trips and drives and they don't have the same problems. So the thing is, you're not going to drive another a hundred kilometres a day just for the hell of it.
Either it suits your lifestyle or it doesn't. So, I think the takeaway here is before you buy a car like this, check out what your usage is and if you're just going to be mostly a running around town thing, yeah, the thousand kilometres out of a tank is a really attractive feature. But if you just pay all that money back and repairs and breakdowns, it gets a little discouraging after a while.
Mark: Better to go for a hybrid then.
Bernie: Much better to go for hybrid, and I say a Japanese hybrid, because they've proven to be really reliable. There's Europeans that are coming out with hybrids. I don't know how reliable those are going to be. They're all still too new. But Toyota Prius has proven itself to be extremely reliable, and definitely a worthwhile car.
Mark: Or a Highlander or Venza.
Bernie: Highlander, Venza, yeah. There's whatever. The Toyota's, to me they're number one for reliability. When things do go wrong, they can be exceptionally expensive, but it's very rare, whereas on these engines, it's pretty predictable.
Mark: Of course, we've talked about replacing these engines as well, and that's a very expensive proposition.
Bernie: Engines, yeah, they'll go. The emission equipment, things will plug up. So sometimes it can be a real snowball effect of things going wrong. It's not hard to even be hit with a $10,000 repair bill, which is a lot of money. As I said, with the gas motors, you don't tend to have the same problem. You can buy a lot of gas for 10,000 bucks or even five, where some of the other ones come in for some repairs. So, just check it out before you buy it, see if it suits your lifestyle. It might. The numbers might add up and it might be worth your while.
Mark: So there you go. If you need service on your diesel, and you probably do, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call ahead to book, they're busy, or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. There's many, many videos as well on YouTube, on our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, and of course you're listening to the number one automotive podcast in Canada, and we thank you. We're also very proud to be number one in quite a few other countries as well. So thank you for listening and thank you, Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you, Mark, and thank you for watching. We really appreciate it.
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.
Mark: Good morning. It's Mark Bossert here, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and we're here this morning with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: Welcome back to beautiful Vancouver. You've been in Europe. How was it over there?
Bernie: It was amazing. It was hot and in the world of cars there's a lot, quite a variety, but obviously, being in Europe, lots of European cars, lots of fancy ones, too. Northern Europe, they have nicer cars than around Italy and Greece area. Been there once before so. Anyways, just in terms of cars, it's always interesting to look and see what's around and I actually got to St. Petersburg and I was looking around for a lot of old Russian trashy cars and there are actually surprisingly weren't very many of them. I saw a few old Ladas and a couple of rusty things here and there but for the most part their fleet of cars is actually in pretty good shape all around Europe, they're pretty nice cars.
Mark: So today we're going to be talking about a 2013 Mercedes R350. Obviously a European sourced vehicle. They had an air suspension compressor. What was going on with the suspension in this vehicle?
Bernie: So this vehicle was brought to our shop actually not for a suspension problem. Well, not an air suspension problem. We'd done a service a few months ago and we identified some control arm bushings were worn out so the owner brought the vehicle in. We replaced the control arm bushings. Did the job, every thing was great, the next morning he comes to pick the car up and car is sitting very low. Figured maybe we'd done something wrong doing the service. Looked it over and then basically what had happened is the air suspension compressor just packed it in at some point when we had the vehicle in our shop so they tend to die from time to time like that.
Mark: Okay, tell us about the suspension system in this vehicle.
Bernie: It's air suspension so it relies of course on compressed air to keep the vehicle up. The great thing about the system is you can adjust it so you can raise the height of the raise and lower the height of the vehicle. Obviously when you're driving down the highway and you're just regular driving you want it low for stability but if you need some off road clearance, it's snowing or you go on a rougher type of road with pot holes and things, you can raise the height of the vehicle. There's also a couple of different modes for the suspension on this vehicle. You can adjust it for sport driving, you can have a more comfort drive or an automatic drive, which will kind of just take in between the two modes depending on what you want.
Mark: So why would the compressor just die? This vehicle isn't that old.
Bernie: Well, compressors seem to be one of the items that tend to die on a lot of air suspension vehicle. Probably the most common failure component. We do a lot of them on Range Rovers. They tend to die. Interestingly enough, in having this vehicle, diagnosing it, we found, we came across a technical service bulletin from Mercedes recommending replacement of these compressors if they have a certain model year. So I'm thinking this campaign probably started when these vehicles were under warranty. Of course, this vehicle is out of the warranty period and it costs to replace but I think why the compressor died in this vehicle, you know, I think they just didn't make it good enough for the vehicle and there's a revised and upgraded version.
Mark: Do you have some pictures?
Bernie: I do. Let's have a look.
R350 Station Wagon style vehicle. All wheel drive. This is a gasoline powered vehicle. They do come in diesel as well but this the gas model not that it looks any different from the outside and then we can get to the compressor. So there's the compressor, the old failed unit. Not a lot to see, I mean, there's a motor in this unit and then there's also a storage tank and from the storage tank it distributes the air to a valve unit and that'll allow the vehicle to go up and down. So besides being a compressor, this also has some valving in it that will allow the vehicle to raise and lower depending on what the computers command. Not much to see with this thing. It's basically just the outside of the unit. So that's our pictures.
Mark: So this is more complex than conventional suspension. Is that the main common failure part, the compressor?
Bernie: We seem to do more compressors, like I mentioned earlier, than any other components but certainly the other major components that will fail on an inner suspension system are the actual shocks and struts themselves, or the air springs. And given time, probably ten years plus on any vehicle, your air springs or struts are gonna wear out and start leaking and it really depends on the mileage, the usage, where the cars been. I mean, sometimes you might get twenty years out of them but at some point you will need replace them and that's the other major expense item on the vehicle. Of course, the old lines and pipes and hoses and valves and a computer so potentially everything can go wrong but a lot of vehicles, things don't. There are some cars that the struts will wear out, and the compressor will never wear out. Other vehicles, the struts last almost forever and the compressors wear out but you can always be prepared with this kind of thing that anything and everything can and will go wrong.
Mark: So can air suspension be eliminated if the owner doesn't really wanna incur the high repair costs?
Bernie: Yes they can on most cars. Most vehicles are made with air suspension as an option. I can't think, I'm not certain on this vehicle whether it's an option or not. It probably is. I know certainly for a lot of Range Rovers and Land Rovers there are kits available where you can just eliminate the air suspension. A lot of other vehicles, American like Lincolns, there's kits available. I used to own a Subaru that had air suspension. It was fantastic but of course when you get an old Subaru it's not worth a lot of money. A lot of customers we had would eliminate it with a kit where you just put in the conventional suspension.
Mark: I had a Lincoln that the compressor failed too.
Bernie: Yeah. You know, it's expensive to fix but I love air suspension for a couple of reasons. First, no matter what kind of load you put in the vehicle, you put five people and 400 pounds of suitcases in the back and the car doesn't sit like this. It just sits nice and level. Most air suspension systems offer ride height adjustments, which is again an advantage. You get a nice smooth low riding vehicle and then you can raise it up for off road or snowy conditions. So that again is an advantage but it comes at a price and often when a car gets old you don't necessarily spend five or ten thousand dollars on compressors and struts and things like that so there are options available.
Mark: So back to the R350, it's a pretty unique vehicle, how is it for reliability?
Bernie: I'd say it's fair. I mean, I'd say it's a unique shaped vehicle for Mercedes. It's kind of like, to me, it's more like a conventional large Station Wagon as opposed to an SUV or a Sedan but a lot of the components in this vehicle are shared among different models. The engines are shared between different models. You've got the BlueTec Diesel, which we've spoken a lot about. If you want an engine that's really reliable, I'd probably recommend that for long-term but it's good on fuel. Yeah, overall it's a pretty good vehicle. I mean, same as any other Mercedes. They're more complicated so things go wrong like this air suspension compressor but it's a nice vehicle and you just expect to pay a little more to repair it than a Japanese car.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your vehicle in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. You have to call ahead to book 'cause they're busy, even with Bernie having been on holidays, they were still busy the whole time. Or you can check out our website, pawlikautomotive.com or hopefully you're enjoying us on YouTube or our new podcast. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.
Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Bernie Pawlik and we're talking cars. How're you doing, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: Today, we're talking about a 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550. Pretty nice car. There was a front end problem. What was going on with this Mercedes?
Bernie: Yeah, absolutely. Very nice car. What was happening, is the owner was complaining there was some clunking sounds when he hit bumps in the car, so that was what we were looking at and that's what we did an inspection on the front end and found a few interesting things.
Mark: What did you find?
Bernie: We found that the control arm bushings, so, there's two lower control arms on this vehicle and all the bushings had excessive play. We also found that one of the ball joints was extremely, badly worn, as well on the right, lower ball joint was extremely, badly worn also.
Mark: With all that kind of play, what needed to be replaced to fix the issue.
Bernie: There's different options, and it depends on the car. Sometimes you can buy just the control arm bushing, sometimes you have to buy the whole arm. In the case of this vehicle, we replaced complete arms, because that's what was available. Some of the arms, they call it an upper and lower control arm, only because of the way the ball joint mounts. But the upper control arms come with ball joints, but the lower ones do not. The ball joint is actually pressed into the steering knuckle. I might be saying this backwards, lower, upper. But, anyways, either way, one of the control arms comes with a ball joint, one does not. So, on the right hand side, the ball joint is pressed into the steering knuckle and then that one, we just replaced the ball joint only on that side. So, why don't I just go into sharing some pictures here, so you get an idea what's going on with this car. We'll start with a video, and you can see this worn area. Are you seeing this, Mark?
Bernie: Okay. This is the worn ball joint. It spins very easily and then there's a lot of up and down movement in that ball joint that shouldn't be there. With someone with their hand, they should never be able to move that at all. It's normally very tight. So, the ball joint on the left-hand side was tight. It's brand new, but this one was completely worn. Now, there's our car, first of all. Beautiful, sleek looking ... got to love technology. I've got to roll with it sometimes.
Anyways, to make a long story short, that ball joint that you saw, that play, we cut the dust boot open. It was full of rusty crap and normally that's full of grease inside that boot. It keeps the grease in. So, somehow, moisture had seeped in, worn the joint out and caused all that excessive play.
Mark: Since you were replacing one, wouldn't it make sense to just replace the other ball joint at the same time?
Bernie: There are some parts when you do something on the right side of the car, you want to do the same on the left. It's like brakes, for instance. If you do a brake calliper on the right, you want to do the left as well, especially on the front, because it'll affect your braking. Something like a ball joint, it's a precisely made part, you know, machine to a exact tolerances, they're all the same. And there's really no ... if the ball joint on the left side is good, there's no reason to change it because likely, it's not going to be wearing, it could still last for 10 more years before it wears out. This one, unfortunately, got some water incursion, which wore the ball joint up prematurely.
Mark: How are these parts for longevity? Do they wear out frequently?
Bernie: They do. I think they do faster than they should. I mean, there's some cars where control arm bushings never wear out and others where they wear out kind of frequently. A lot of European cars have control arm bushing issues. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. There's a lot expected of them in terms of movement and plus, they make them in such a way, you get a nice, smooth, controlled ride, so it's a precise component and they do tend to wear out. Probably a little more on these cars than on some others.
Mark: Bushing, in this regard, is basically a rubber end piece that's built to be super stiff, but has some flexibility, so it's more flexible than if you just bolted the control arm to the frame.
Bernie: That is exactly what it is. I mean, if you actually just bolted the control arm to the frame solidly, there would be no movement. A bushing allows flexibility, but in a controlled manner. And I guess, the only other option you would have besides a rubber bushing would be an actual bearing that would move, but that would be a very hard metal to metal type of movement and so it would actually probably give an uncomfortable ride in the car. It would allow the movement and probably be very durable if you kept it lubricated, but it wouldn't allow for a very smooth ride. These bushings are very thick. A lot of them, you know, the rubber can be an inch thick surrounding a metal core, like ... if I'm explaining it right, I mean, the bushing can be three inches in diameter and then the centre core can be an inch, so there's a lot of rubber in between and there's a lot of movement there over time, but when it's new, it's pretty tight. If that explains it, I think?
Mark: Sure. And how are these CLS-Class Mercedes for reliability? Do you work on quite a few of these?
Bernie: We do. Yeah, they're pretty good cars. I mean, this particular one, we've serviced for quite a while. It's had its share of issues, you know, some fluid leaks and alternator and things like that that are worn out, but possibly it's not a very high-mileage car. My expectation would be it probably should have lasted longer, but that's what it is. They're not as reliable as Japanese cars as I often say, but it's a beautiful ride and I'd say worth the price of admission.
Mark: And a bit more of a high-performance vehicle really, for that size of car and sedan, really.
Bernie: It really is and actually this car drives. It's got a lot of power, surprisingly, you think, oh, you'd want the AMG if you wanted to go all out, yes that's true, but actually, this 550 is, it's very adequate in terms of power and performance. It's a pretty awesome car, not disappointing in any way. And yeah, nice step up from a, like a S-Class, which is more of a ... I want to say like a nice, conservative, luxury sedan. This has got some sportiness to it.
Mark: At the risk of insulting Mercedes-Benz fans in the world, S-Class is almost like an upgraded, slight upgrade, from a Jetta.
Bernie: Yeah, it is. Yeah, slight upgrade, yeah. I'd call it a large one, but, you know. We can talk about S-Classes later. I mean, great cars too, just different.
Mark: So, there you go. If you're looking for service and maintenance or any kind of repairs on your Mercedes-Benz in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, to book your appointment. You have to call ahead and book. They're busy. Check out their website, pawlikautomative.com. Check out their YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair and I hope you're enjoying the podcast. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark.