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Mercedes-Benz E-Class Maintenance and Repair

I just found this board yesterday and can't believe all the problems people are having with this car. I thought it was just me as the dealer has been tight lipped about the issues.
I bought a new 2003 E500 in October 2002 and had the following problems
SRS/Airbags defective
Tele-Aid system not working
Audio-some many problems I can't list them all here but the best was when it would just inadvertently come on when the car was locked and I was away from the vehicle.
Headlights randomly coming on while car turned off
After months of arguing with the mercedes regional rep who was of absolutely no help I finally did some research and I tell you what changed everything. I sent a formal Lemon Law letter to Mercedes (google search by your state but plenty of information out there). Once that happened they completely changed their attitude towards me. They worked hard to resolve the problem but never did. Finally, in May they just gave me a new car with about $3,000 more in options on it.
Well, I wish that was the end of the story but my new car has been in the shop for 13 days with guess what? Electrical problems. They all seem to be related to the Audio system this time so I guess you can call that progress but it is unreal to understand the frustration I have gone through and having spent $60,000 on this car.
The new car has been in 3 times now and some tech specialist from Chicago is flying in next week to examine my car.
I finally had one of the mechanics pull me aside this morning and said effectively, "it's not just you MB is having a ton of problems with this vehicle and are trying to keep a lid on it best they can".

All I can tell you is I am fed up, but MBUSA completely changed their attitude when I sent them the first Lemon Law letter. I suppose they are about to get another one from me if they can't get this fixed.
Best wishes to all


  • I have a 2003 E-320 - love the car, but can't keep it in my garage and out of the dealers. Problems started on my drive home after picking it up with a "return to repair shop - brake problem" message. Problems with the parking sensor system, a shield under the car coming off, now the computer shows I should schedule service "C". Not sure what happened to service "A" and "B". And a problem with "Tele-Aid" to cap it off.

    Bottom line, many days in the shop, where it currently is. Seems to be the problems are all in the computer system.

    Any similar experiences?
  • states that they cannot recommend ANY Mercedes Benz model because of low reliability. If you read some of the other Mercedes forums you'll hear experiences similar to yours.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,077
    Revision: Topic re-opened! Let the problems roll...

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  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    I need that quote - I saw that statement about the ML - can you shoot me a link or e-mail me?
  • Not sure if you mean the quote about CR not recommending any model MB or the one about the M-Class having 60% more problems than average.

    The M-Class number is from a bar chart on pg 31 of Consumer Report's 2001 Annual Auto Issue. I found the CR 2002 Annual Auto Issue. In that issue on pg 27 the bar chart shows the M-Class with about 50% more problems (difficult to be precise because of the way the bar chart is graduated). By the way, the same page has a chart showing the MB CLK with 94% more problems than average! The CLK number is more precise because the CLK bar was actually off the chart in the bad direction so CR printed the numerical value.

    The statement about CR not recommending any MB model because of reliability is in the CR 2003 Annual Auto Issue. I don't have a copy of that issue (read it while waiting for a prescription), but it's on the newstand now.

    Hope this helps.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
  • hicairahicaira Posts: 276
    Also, read the article(s) in the Wall Street Journal (Section D)of yesterday. They mention the increasing problems in the MB as well as the narrowing gap between luxury cars and your basic "bread & butter" types. They imply the blame lies in the electrical complexities that are now common features in the luxury laden autos. There may be some merit to that argument (Volvo has something like 16 different system warnings - ranging from "Check at next Service" to "STOP! Get Out!! Run for your Life!"), but, if true, Lexus seems to have found a way to avoid them, for the most part.

    Elestrics aside, anyone seeing more general mechanical problems on the E series?

    The other article in the WSJ was about longer warranties and owners who are now being labled "Warranty Hypochondriacs". Good reading for someone in your field.

  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    the majority of the issues I'm seeing on the M and E Class are normal engine management issues, normal electrical issues and brake problems.

    I see continual problems with EGR Valves, 02 sensors, throttle position sensors (TPS) and fuel system-related problems.

    On the electrical side, it's simple stuff like power window switches, sunroof motors and stereos zapping themselves.

    On the brake side, it's warped rotors, premature pad wear and failing ABS sensors.

    The point is, I see the same things on a Pontiac Grand Am or Ford Taurus - it's not just a Mercedes thing. Mercedes has repetitive issues in these areas, and just like other manufacturers, aren't stepping up, in accordance with Federal law, to take care of consumers.
  • You have a unique perspective. Most of us have access to only limited anecdotal data from our experience or friend's experience. The sources with large amounts of data (Consumer Reports, JD Powers) show the data only in summary form. And the manufacturers with the most data seldom share it at all.

    I would be interested in a long post from you based on the data you have access to, addressing some of the quality/reliability issues that have been raised here on Edmunds such as current German luxury cars vs. Japanese luxury cars, has quality at Honda/Toyota slipped recently, have the Korean makes improved, etc.? Perhaps, you could even get into some specific problem areas. I know this is a lot to cover, but I think lots of us would find it informative. How about it?
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    No problem, though.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    I am shocked at the quality of Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Audi and Volkswagen vehicles. This misconstrued understanding we all have that if you pay more, you get more, is ridiculous. In Germany, car owners worship their vehicles, shop guys wear white coats and have 14 diplomas - a far cry from the "gas it and go" mentality of today's consumer with little or no attention, ever, to preventive maintenance. Most people don't realize their fuel injected car has a fuel filter. Here, all a "technician" has to do is fog a mirror and hold a wrench to get a job, and all he has to do to keep the job is to not make stuff blow up. With all this in mind, European cars don't last very well here in the states - they never have, with the exception of those with owners predetermined to maintain their vehicles.

    I don't believe Honda and Toyota quality is slipping - I think people have assumed these vehicle are totally perfect, and that simply is not the case. I've done lemon law cases on Hondas with blown motors, bad tranmsissions (one Accord had 3 transmissions before 20K) and I've seen my share of Toyota engine management problems. They aren't perfect, but these two manufacturers are a darn sight better than anything else out there.

    The Koreans, Lord knows I respect them, have always built "average" cars. My opinion, and I get paid for my opinion, is that Kia and Hyundai service departments compound the relaibility issues 10 times over by doing shoddy diagnostic work, poor repairs and poor follow-up. Most Kia and Hyundai techs simply don't care and are pissed that they couldn't get a job in a high-line dealership. The Korean manufacturers, and their legal representatives here in the states don't trult understand how someone could be dissatisfied with a product and want to sue them. In America, we have laws in place just for this action. In Korea, people are happy just to have a car, for those of them who own cars.

    General attitudes and opinions - I'll do my best with any specific questions you have.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    the manufacturers are responsible for training and certifiying technicians. If your car is misdiagnosed or repaired incorrectly, it's still the responsibility of the manufacturer. Manufacturer's attorneys, in every arb I've gone to, try to blame the dealer - hang them out to dry - what we bring up is that the dealer is the manufacturer's authorized service facility - you can't drive up to the front doors of the Ford plant and say "Fix my car" - you have to go to a dealer.
  • Absolutely no problems. Solid as a vault without a shake or rattle. Was a little leery about buying another 1st year MB, but to date I am completely satisfied.

    My previous 96 E-Class had lots of minor issues with the light bulbs repeatedly blowing out. The build quality and durability however were bulletproof. Took a couple years and several dealerships before the faulty relays, bulbs, and assembly on the lights were completely worked out. The car had over 120K miles, and aside from the annoyance of blowing light bulbs, was bulletproof.
  • Glamourlife - Your experience matches mine exactly. I finally took care of the bulbs myself. Other than that, I had the usual rear window regulator. These two issues aside, the car is still nice and quiet after all this time.
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    94-96 were probably the peak of quality and reliability of all brands as the late 95/96 conversion to OBD2 caused many teething problems.
    But it made diagnosis easier and cheaper as everyone can afford $200 worth of software.Understanding what the codes actually mean FULLY is quite another thing!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I think people lump EVERYTHING into the word "quality".

    If the dealer flubs the diagnosis, it's the car's fault.

    If the technician does a bad job, it's the car's fault

    If one part on a car containing 15,000 parts fails, or worse yet, fails twice, the entire car, from tip to stern, is a "lemon"

    If indeed the car does break down a couple times but is built well and saves your life in an accident, the 'quality' is still "no good".

    And last of all, if car A with an MSRP of $20,000 has only two warranty claims, and car B with an MSRP of $40,000 has 5 claims, then car A is better than car B and buyer B was a damn fool.

    This is not to say it isn't annoying when an expensive car has faults, nor is it excusable since some cars seem to be somewhat more reliable than others, but generally between dealer's mistakes and incompetence and buyer's nit-picking, the quality of modern cars is being mis-judged badly IMO.

    There is a hyperbole and hysteria about it that is simply not justified.
  • irvnirvn Posts: 11
    I have had my share of electrical issues with my E430 from a faulty O2 sensor to replacing the yaw sensor three times to replacing the COMAND and a control unit to replacing the CD changer. I love the car, but I am concerned that I will not be able to keep the car past the warranty period. I understand that the vehicle is complex and things will wear out, but I think the number of electrical issues is a bit more. My wife has a Toyota minivan and we have not had any issues with that car in 26,000 miles and two years.
  • As most consumers buy a car and service as a package (essentially a black box), does it really matter who or what creates a fault ? I mean, the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the dealer network providing service. You can't drive your car to the factory and say: "Fix it!" Ultimately, the consumer only cares if there is a problem, not who created it.

    There are many reasons to buy a car other than quality. In the luxury segment, it's probably mostly about how a car makes you feel, both driving and simply owning it.
    At the same token, Lexus has shown that you can build cars of equal complexity with less initial defects. I wish Mercedes would catch up.

    As far as hysteria is concerned, I would agree. According to JD Powers, car quality has generally improved over the years. Blindly picking any car from any manufacturer, you are probably better off than you were ten years ago.
    On message boards at Edmunds, problems are likely to get overamplified.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well sure the factory is *ultimately* responsible for quality, and a bad dealer network will kill off a car as sure as a bad car itself will (can you say "Renault"?), but the factory can't micro-manage the dealership, not actually or even legally. Best thing Mercedes can do is be more careful who they give franchises to in the first place.

    Lexus had a great advantage here in building up Lexus dealers from scratch. No bad habits, no old ways. They did a good job, too.

    It's my opinion /guessimate/ hunch that maybe 75% of the difference between Lexus's reliability record and Benz's is because of the dealers bobbling the service and repairs. The other 25% of the difference between Lexus and Benz is genuine, but not worth choosing a Lexus over a Benz, at least not to me. My sweetie's 1998 Lexus is about the most boring, isolated, numb car I have ever driven in my entire life, next to a 76 Eldorado, which takes the crown.

    Nice ride, though, and runs great, so I can see why some people would give up a smudge of reliability and chose a Lexus. Me, personally, if I had 2-3 trips a year to the dealer, even on a tow truck, I'd pick a Benz every time. As long as I have a warranty, as long as they fix the car, and as long as the car finally "settles" down after the first year, I'd be fine.

    If my new E Class kept kicking up a fuss as warranty's end drew near, then maybe I'd bail and admit that Benz isn't building a great car anymore.

    But I do wonder, if we really dug into CRs complaint file, how many of these "black marks" are really legimate, serious, *repeatable* defects, and how many are just people who cant' stand the thought of their new car breaking down or who are getting reamed by a sloppy, diffident dealership.

  • r1_97r1_97 Posts: 181
    Granted, the manufacturer can't micro manage the dealer, it can and should monitor the service function and yank an franchise of an under performer.

    I don't understand what you mean "..give up a smudge of reliability and chose a Lexus." You may have meant Mercedes. I have and did. MB had to replace my transmission on a '98E-320 after less than 30k miles. The fault here was the manufacture not the dealer.

    I suspect many people view a car as a utility and opt for a Lexus even though a Mercedes or BMW may be more fun to drive. At some point degraded quality will neutralize the advantage of better handling. It's a question of how much inconvenience poor manufacturing and poor dealer service pushes a buyer to a boring but reliable car.
  • "It's my opinion /guessimate/ hunch that maybe 75% of the difference between Lexus's reliability record and Benz's is because of the dealers bobbling the service and repairs"

    This might possibly account for some of the difference between Lexus and MB. However, Toyota also has very high marks for reliability from CR, yet CR ranks Toyota dealerships well below average. So Toyota's high marks in reliability cannot be explained by superior dealer service.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yes, but while all Lexus dealers are Toyota dealers not all Toyota dealers are Lexus dealers. If CR culled out and polled only Lexus dealer surveys, I suspect the results would be much much higher. I have to say that my friend gets excellent service at her Lexus dealer, much better than I ever got at my local Benz dealer. However, my Benz parts department is excellent, I give them high marks.

    sorry, r1_97, I mis-typed. What I mean was "I could see people giving up some reliability to own a Mercedes rather than a Lexus because the MBs drive so much more accurately IMO".
  • My own experience with Mercedes parts departments has also been extremely positive. Most recently, the parts tech went out of his way to find an equivalent to a part that I had actually requested, which saved me about %50 of the cost.

    Last night, I got a good dose or road grime and brake dust into my mouth while removing my E's splash guard. Does that qualify as an 'Mercedes E-Class Repair Problem ?'
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yes, you could have swallowed it and gotten sick. Mercedes should be held responsible and should have a "do not drink" label on all their brake pads.

    Mercedes parts network is awesome. They stock just about everything for my 1980 Benz, at least everything I've ever asked for, including sockets to hold the instrument cluster bulbs and the right front door automatic door lock actuating rod. I am very impressed with stuff like that.
  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    We've owned, and are current owners of both MB and Lexus. Various models and years of service. .... which car would I rather drive...hands down MB. Which car would I rather service.....hands down any Toyota product, in any price range.

    There is no question in my mind, MB is built to a higher standard of fit and finish and is a superior driving experience and probably overall a safer car. But MB drivers are being asked to be satisfied with the same level of parts and systems reliability as the 1980s while Toyota has continued to increase reliability to the point that they are now the bechmark for the industry.

    Why should an MB driver be content with failure of such non-hitech parts as shocks and struts or radiators or head gaskets, or be plagued by electrical gremins and systems failures in a $50K + automobile in the first 5 years of service when someone driving around in a $12K Toyota Corrola or a $50+ Lexus will have nothing but routine maintanence and wear out part replacement for the first 125k miles of service?

    It's not just an MB problem and perception. There are many other car companies that have not figured out how to design and buy parts and systems that are as reliable as their Japanese counterparts. And I don't think that I am alone when I say that people should expect the same level of reliablility from their new E320 then their Toyota Corrola.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well, your point is well argued but I still feel people apply a higher standard to Mercedes than they do to a Corolla. I see this time and time again, and it is a most interesting phenomenon.

    The Toyota owner will insist their car is "great" and yet when I get in it and drive it I find many little things wrong or I hear or smell or see some potential problems. But they, driving as they do with no great expectations in either the performance or prestige department, simply ignore the little defects.

    The Benz owner, however, ESPECIALLY the first time owner, is over that car with a magnifying glass and an acoustic stethoscope.

    My sweetie's 98 Lexus 400 has a very annoying thump in the right front suspension, the tires wear out too fast and the seat heater couldn't warm a mouse on a beach in Hawaii.

    Does she complain? Never. The car is "perfect".

    You know, the Benz is like the smartest kid in your high school.The day he/she slips and falls into a mud puddle, everyone laughs.

    a) Another way that Benz is unfairly judged is in longterm durability and build quality. A Benz absolutely kills, demolishes a Lexus in fit and finish over the long haul. But how many people hold onto a car more than a 5-8 years anymore?

    As for why Benz owners must endure little glitches in basic components, well, that's a Benz. It's the same reason why people endure the eccentricities of Ferraris and Lotus.

    You wanna marry the librarian or the flemenco dancer? You want an SC430 or an SL500? They aren't the same, and to get the more exciting and interesting car you are going to probably have to trade off some reliability. You can't buy an SL500 from anybody else, so take it or leave it.
  • "But how many people hold onto a car more than a 5-8 years anymore?"

    "SC430 or an SL500"

    Not that I'm a particular fan of the SC430, but at that price difference, the MB should be "the flamenco dancer".

    I'm further wondering how much of MB's long-term reliability may be due to its design. MB boasts with a statistic of how many old MB's are still on the road. I may be biased, but old MB's have a certain classy look, while most older Lexi look like just that, old Lexi.
    I'd rather spend my money restoring/maintaining a good looking or enjoyable car.
  • irvnirvn Posts: 11
    I have enjoyed this discussion. . . I have owned four Toyota cars, two BMW's, and one MB (E430) and I have had more electrical problems and failed sensors in the first 5000 miles than with the Toyota or BMW products. I cannot say if I just received a bad E430, but I have noticed the same type of problems described in this Town Hall.

    I understand that parts wear out and I expect to maintain the car, but I am not sure if my E430 experience is normal; replacing two parts for the COMAND system in the first six months; replacing the CD changer in two years which caused the COMAND system to fail. I may not keep the car past 5 years, but that decision should be based on a desire to upgrade, not reliability. . .

  • Read back over the Lexus/MB related forums and count:
    1. How many posts from former MB owners who tired of repair costs and trips to the dealership, switched to Lexus and are glad they did.

    2. Vice versa

    Anyone who thinks there is a "slight" difference in reliability between MB and Lexus is fooling himself. Any source of reliability data will bear this out. To quote just one - the 2003 Consumer Reports car issue states that they cannot recommend any MB model because of reliability problems while giving highest reliability marks to Lexus.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    What reliability problems specifically? What components failing in massive numbers?

    In fact, CR doesn't even know. They just count dots, they don't weigh them. A burned out bulb is "an electrical defect" and a bad plug wire is an "engine problem". Whoever has the least black dots wins. This is pretty gross statistical analysis, at least by the time it gets into the magazine By "gross" I mean their "filter" has very large holes. It can spot very very bad cars but it cannot differentiate between a light bulb and a burned out alternator.

    Gentleman who just posted is a case in point. Annoying problems, totally justifiable complaint, but it's with his CD player and a fussy telemetrics program. His car is not falling apart, bursting into flames, or even sludging up its engine like a Lexus seems prone to do now and then.

    As for what you read on these boards, that is anecdotal, and if you added up all the "bad" comments about Benz, you'd find about 80% of them posted by 3-4 people, of which 100% do not even own a Benz. Proceed at your own risk.

    So while often amusing, intelligently crafted and interesting, I don't think Town Hall posts should be used to pass judgment on an entire automobile company.

    if we did that, Lexus would be in the dirt given the calamaties posted about them in Town Hall.
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