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Mercedes-Benz M-class (ML320, ML350, ML500 and ML55) 2005 and earlier



  • I know there are other threads for buying experiences for the ML350, but I can't believe how this thread only discusses problems with the ML.

    My Mom bought one of the first 98 ML's when they came out. Great vehicle at the time. She only drives 3k per year and has had few problems though both the gas gauge and trip odometer have recently stopped working over the past year. She really likes the ML otherwise and wants to see the new ML.

    I have to say, after hearing the complaints from people, and knowing about the ML's poor reliability history, I see no reason to even consider a new one, unless you lease one at an attractive rate. I don't know how other M-B vehicles are doing, reliability wise, but so much for "Built Like No Other" or whatever their slogan they used to use 15 years ago. What a sad downfall for one of the most prestigious brands in the world.
  • I was test driving a 2006 ML350 and it seems to me there is a possible issue with the steering-column mounted shifter.

    In most vehicles, you always need to press the clutch button or forcibly maneuver the shifter between the zig-zag notches whenever you are shifting from NEUTRAL TO REVERSE. The ML does not seem to require this. Just a firm tap on the shifter and it can go from DRIVE to NEUTRAL to REVERSE!

    I found this out as I was test driving. I inadvertantly up-tapped on the shifter thinking I was turning on the left-turn-indicator. And, guess what happened? The engine revved as the car got thrown into Neutral and then with a lurch stopped as it went into Reverse. Thankfully, the vehicle was only at 5mph so nothing else happened. During all this time, my foot was neither on the brake nor on the accelerator.

    Does this describe a true situation with the current MLs or did I miss something?
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    Most of these new high-tech cars with column-mounted shifters put the whole thing under computer control and thus, require certain conditions to be met before they'll shift. Thus, to get them out of park, you have to have your foot on the brake, to go from drive to reverse, you must be stoppped, etc.

    What might have happened is that you bumped the shifter from D to R and the system decided going into N was Okay. Then when you braked to a stop, it decided R was Okay since you were stopped with presumably your foot on the brake.

    I'm not a fan of these shifters either, but they're here to stay and I suspect you'd adapt to them. With the computers running things, I doubt there is a safety issue, but I certainly haven't driven one to see for myself.

    - Mark
  • I should have mentioned those numbers were both hand documented and calced as well as a visual on the on-board computers.
  • My '99 ML 320 had 57,000 miles and the original pads when I traded on the S.
  • I bought this SUV new and have kept up with the maintenance schedule. Since 30K miles I have had to add a quart of oil between scheduled oil changes. I am approaching 60K miles and I have had to add 2 quarts this time. Is this considered normal?
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    I suppose it depends on what your change intervals are. If you're running 10K-15K between changes, using a qt or two in this interval is well within normal bounds, although the trend line of it increasing is worrisome.

    Actually, MB considers anything up to about 1 qt/1K within normal bounds, although if you make a stink about it, they'll sometimes intervene before this. There are a lot of complaints about high oil consumption on this engine, although typically with the 98, 99, and 00 models. Some of this may be due to MB's bogus original recommendation to use conventional oil with the long change intervals recommended by the maintenance reminder system. This turned out to be bad idea and they settled a class action suit about this which gave owner's a 100K warranty. But by the 02 models, they were going with synthetic across the board so it's not applicable to your vehicle.

    - Mark
  • I drive a 2006 ML500 and absolutely love the vehicle. All of the improvements are awesome except for the ridiculous seatbelt warning chime. I can't tell you how annoying that incessant chiming is! I've been to the dealership and been told that Mercedes will not permit it to be disabled. PLEASE let me know if you have discovered any way to do so. It is driving us crazy!
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Sandcreek, if you buckle up, does it stop? I have not heard the new ML chime... my '02 ML500 was not a problem.

    If you buckle up before you start the car, it shouldn't make a noise at all.

    Mark :)
    2010 Land Rover LR4, 2013 Honda CR-V, 2009 Bentley GTC, 1990 MB 500SL, 2001 MB S500, 2007 Lincoln TC, 1964 RR Silver Cloud III, 1995 MB E320 Cab., 2015 Prevost Liberty Coach
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    My Dad was an emergency room doc in the mid 70's. When he first started in the ER, he did a non-scientific poll. He asked every victim of a motor vehicle accident whether they were wearing their seatbelts. After 6 months, he gave up -- it was intuitively obvious when the patients came through the door whether or not they were wearing their belts. Those who were not wearing belts were badly injured. Those who came to get checked out "just for insurance reasons" and were fine had been wearing belts.
  • gteach26gteach26 Posts: 576
    Hi! I just bought my wife a 2006 ML350 -- it comes pre-wired for a cell phone but... where do I get the phone to use with this car? Do I have to buy it from Mercedes? Who is the carrier?

    So far... this suv is a big improvement over my wife's previous one (2002 RX300). There's LOTS more room and it drives very smoothly with a powerful oomph. No complaints so far. I am crossing my fingers that this SUV will be as rock-solid reliability-wise as the Lexus......
  • "The ML does not seem to require this. Just a firm tap on the shifter and it can go from DRIVE to NEUTRAL to REVERSE! "

    Yes, as long as you are under 10 mph, the arrows on the shifter display allows you to shift to Park or Reverse even while the car is still moving. You don't need to have your foot on the brake to shift to Park or Reverse.

    If you are in Park, you must step on the brake to shift.

    You can also take the key out while the car is still moving. The automatic shifter will attempt to shift to park, but if the car is moving, all it does is grind the gears.

    These are minor compared to problems with the transmission jerking me around with hard downshifts several times a day.
  • mitch9mitch9 Posts: 3
    Contact AutoWireless Solutions at (800) 266-7746. On their website at This is the Mercedes "authorized" cell phone dealer and they show the phones that are compatible. The list has recently expanded. Before it had to be a "Mercedes" phone; now it appears you can use non-Mercedes specific phones such as the Motorola E815, which cost a bit less.
  • gteach26gteach26 Posts: 576
    Thanks! I will certainly check them out. I just spoke to my dealer and the phone plus installation costs..... $2,700!!!!

    I'm in shock. For 3K I can buy a top-rated cell phone with cellular service for life!

    I was willing to pay up to 1K for a dealer-installed phone with warranty, etc... but 3K..... I just cannot bring myself to writing that check for a cell phone.
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Gteach26, I totally agree, $2,700 is absolutely ridiculous! Just keep a cell phone in the car and get an ear piece of you don't want to hold it to your ear. Technology changes so fast that when it's time to trade your Mercedes in, that phone will be worthless.

    Good luck, Mark :D
    2010 Land Rover LR4, 2013 Honda CR-V, 2009 Bentley GTC, 1990 MB 500SL, 2001 MB S500, 2007 Lincoln TC, 1964 RR Silver Cloud III, 1995 MB E320 Cab., 2015 Prevost Liberty Coach
  • Hello, all.

    I just bought a used, "dealer-driven" 2005 ML500 (12k miles) around Christmas from a respectable MB dealer. During the test drive, there was a very loud squeaking from the Brakes (usually only when I was coming to a complete stop.). At first the dealer gave me the song & dance about "build up" from the car sitting, etc. But I insisted on a brake inspection as part of the sale.

    The dealer inspected front & back pads/rotors and said "there was some scoring, but overall looked okay". But they offered to change the front pads/rotors for free in good faith, leaving the back as-is. Things were great for about 2 days, but now the consistent loud squeaking is back.

    We've gone about 500 miles since then and nothing had changed. I've tried car washes to clean the wheels, no luck. If this had been my old SUV, I would have sworn it was metal on metal sound of pads on a rotor. But overall the ML500 brakes great and I never hear the noise when just slowing down.

    Since this is my first ML500, is this normal?!? While my MB dealer tells me everything looks good, I've never heard any SUV ALWAYS SQUEAK SO LOUDLY when coming to a complete stop. Do I need a second opinion? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


    Chicago, IL
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    There's probably nothing functionally wrong with your brakes, but really loud squeal is very annoying. They may not have used the appropriate brake pads, springs, clips, and paste at the last brake job. Or, in an effort to minimize the cost of the job, they may have let excessively scored or too thin rotors pass spec when they should have been replaced. It's even remotely possible that everything was done right, but the brakes still squeal. This can be a vexxing problem.

    If you can get them to agree that the squeal is excessive, then you'll probably have little issue in getting them to take things apart and see if all the squeal reduction measures are in place.

    Or you can learn to live with it. It may go away on it's own. Pretty much up to you whether you want to go to the matt on an issue that is annoying but probably not serious.

    - Mark
  • I was comparing the X5 3.0 and MB ml350. I will repeat the test drive for both. How can I get the best price from the MB dealer. Should I ask for the invoice and lower the invoice price, and how much I should pay according to the invoice. Thanks :surprise: eciated.
  • ditto to Mark's comments -

    I have the same problem in my ML 320. I had Midas and BrakeMax check the rotors and break pads and both told me I have about 50-60% of pads left on the front wheels and about 70-80% on the rear. Sometimes the squeals or squeaks maybe due to the hot weather (I live in AZ) - BTW am going to see if my dealer can do something about it. I doubt it, but hey there's no harm in trying.
  • newcar17-

    Your answers are awaiting you at ==>
    This website is incredible and I don't want to spoil it for you, but you will learn all the tricks of the trade and how not to get ripped off as well as buy your new ML at invoice or even below invoice....make sure you are aware of the dealer holdback and any incentives currently being offered by MB - I hope that helps...let's know how you fare.

    Good Luck.....
  • I am looking to buy either 2002/2003 ML320/ML500 or Acura MDX. Any issues with ML or MDX or 2002 or 2003 models.
    Any cons or pro between 320/500 or MDX.
    What should I pay for these vehicle.

    I am seeing the prices ranging from $20K to $25K, 38K to 55K miles on them.
    Also which is the best Extended warranty available for these vehicles should i get that too and what should i pay for it.

    I am in chicago mkt and looking on Ebay and some local dealers.

  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Don't buy a 2002 MDX over a 2003 MDX. The 2001-2002 MDX's have an older automatic transmission design that has proven to be more problematic than it should be. They received a redesigned automatic transmission in 2003.

    Don't go older than a 2002 ML; the 2002's received the mid-model-cycle update and it was significant (e.g. side curtain airbags).

    Also, I forgot if the 2003 MDX's had side curtain airbags or not. They definitely weren't there for 2001 and 2002.
  • What are the good Extended Warranties available for 2002 ML500. Which are good companies to go with.
    I will be buying 2002 ML500 soon with ~45K miles. Can I get them from online or should I go with Dealer offered warranties.
  • hello,
    i have a 2003 ml500. its really something - my dealer had also told me that i should get my brakes done at 24000 miles. i took the tires off, they still have alot of life left on the pads.

    the problem i have is that the tires have alot of uneven wear, they already did alignments 3 times. they tell me the struts are fine. on these trucks tires only last around 15000 miles.
    i can't blv this. any ideas?

    another problem - alot of times ithe car would not start. i put the keyy in, turn it, nothing hpns. i turn it back and the car stoats fine.

  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    I just traded in my 2002 ML500 with 48,700 miles about six weeks ago for a 2006 Land Rover LR3 HSE. Anyway, my tires lasted for 38,000 miles and could have gone to 40,000 miles easy but I like to have "newer" tires for safety.

    The Mercedes place told me that same thing about my brakes and tried to replace my front brakes at 26,000 miles, I said no. I figured that's why there is a brake pad warning light. The dealership fooled me at 18,000 miles to replace the back pads. I was getting ready to go out of town on a driving trip so I let them change the pads.

    I drove the ML to about 44,000 on the original front pads (if I recall correctly) which gave me about 26,000 on the rear pads. I really believe the rear pads were fine at 18,000 miles. The brake light never came on. Since my local Mercedes shop tried to get me to replace my brakes to "profit-line" their pockets, I took the ML to a private shop and saved about $300 on a brake job. ($1,100, new rotors, pads, bleed and replace brake fluid, rotate tires)

    The only complaint that I had with my ML was it just rode so rough. I would have considered the new smoother-riding ML but they didn't offer a third seat anymore. Mercedes wants the customer to move up to the R-class which looks like a Pacifica van to me, and, at $70,000?

    The new Land Rover LR3 will seat seven and the rear area is huge! Also, the third seats fold completely flat and the ride is very nice.

    I think I was rather lucky with my ML500, as it had very few issues, just a couple of plastic pieces (rear cup holder broke, front plastic trim came loose). I did have uneven tire wear and probably was my fault as I didn't get an alignment for a longtime because I had no pulling and the vehicle drove straight as an arrow down the freeway. I had wear on the inside of the front tires. After I got the new tires at 38,000, I got regular alignments.

    2010 Land Rover LR4, 2013 Honda CR-V, 2009 Bentley GTC, 1990 MB 500SL, 2001 MB S500, 2007 Lincoln TC, 1964 RR Silver Cloud III, 1995 MB E320 Cab., 2015 Prevost Liberty Coach
  • Hi,
    I was looking for feedback on the ML55 when I saw your brake problems.
    Porterfield Racing brakes in Costa Mesa, Ca. has a full line of Carbon Kevlar brake pads. I have them full around on my 4runner. They are nearly dust free, quiet, rotor friendly, and have almost no heat fade period. They were designed for racing, but they have street compounds. They have a website, check them out.
  • dgcamerodgcamero Posts: 148
    FYI...As long as you are in motion it's *EASY* to steer a car with non-functional power steering. I had to do this before with the old clunker '98 ML (inherited because a dumptruck destroyed Morticia, my '98 Intrepid ES [a superior vehicle in every way to the early ML btw]). It is extremely difficult to steer while you're stopped or moving less than 3 mph.
  • Let me document, the history I have had with Benz, well just last five years, although going back 30 years my dad too was an MB owner of many classes. But in the last five years and due to the vast problems I have had with benz, I am throwing my hat in and going to the Japanese makers, particularly I am going to buy the Acura MDX. Shame on you MB for such poor quality.

    The last 5 years the MB cars I have owned and driven and their many problems:

    1. SLK230 2000 model - I bought this car brand new, after some months, some 10k miles the Supercharger started to miss-time, the convertible wouldn't close properly, the transmission started to slip and miss-time and cause abrupt shifting. NOTE: ALL MB cars have a transmission problem, bear with me I will reveal this here

    2. ML320 2002 model: this is my wife's car, endless problems, Power steering failure three times, many different sensors mal function, ABS failure twice, transmission failure and had to be replaced at 48k miles. NOTE: the replacement transmission had the same original problem of abrupt down shifting, evident in most benz models. My last visit to the dealer the car was in the shop for a whole emonth, at Smythe European in San Jose, CA. The list was so long, the also changed the catlytic Convertor it was cracked. Everytime I got the vehicle back something esle was broken. During this one month that my ML320 was in, I drove three loaner cars, next I explain my driving experience with the three loaner cars.

    3. Camry, loaner on week 1, great car, what can I say, we are dumb suckers for german Style, we are all bluffed. It is amazing. Smyth European of san Jose CA didnt have an MB to give out as a loaner, and everyone was really pissed at them. Anyhow, after a week, I came in to pickup my car for the original repairs, and saw the ABS light all on (not part of the original problem that the car was taken into the shop), next they gave me and ML350.

    4. For another week I wan in the ML350, this car was 2004 model, and it too had porblems with Transmission down shifting and abruptly shifting, MB will bluff you and say that this is normal, but to all the owners out there please be careful, and ask your MB dealr, to drain the transmission and see if there is graphite sludge because that is what they found with my car (the ML320 above) and they had to replace it. In my opinion the ML350, suposedly a better car than the ML320, also had the same transmission problems, if the downshifting is abrupt it just goes to show how weak of a tansmission design it is. At this point I was thinking maybe it is just me (well I know it is not). The dealer Smythe European called me and said they have to urgently come in and pickup the ML350 loaner, because it was sold and it was not supposed to have been loaned out, man I feel sorry for the guy that bought it, I had put some miles on it. Anyhow they (smyth european) came and brought a brand new (5k miles on it) E350, and took the ML350. For the next 2 weeks I was in the E350.

    5. E350 a real nice car, smoother and well performant, BUT it too had transmission abrupt downshifting and abrupt up shifting, although the problem is more prevelant in the downshifting. You can test this on your car, let say you have been driving for sometime on a highway and then you take your exist, and then slow down, say come to a traffic light and then you slow to a stop, lsiten in to the abrupt downshift, you feel the gears down shift and then you have to "extra-apply" the brakes. You have to test this when the car is normal operating hot temprature. This down shift indcates a failure in the transmission. This e-class shouldn't have this problem it is a brand new car, but of course the transmission on these vehicles is faulty and hence the downshifting.
    Anyhow, after a week of driving the e-class the dealer calls me and says my car is ready, I come in and they say there was a leaking oil to tansmission connector, they fixed it and fixed the abs lights, then I take the car and the abs lights are still on. So I am back in the e-class (E350 loaner) for another week, then I call them and ask them to look into the downshift, they call me back 3 days later and said we replaced the tansmission with a re-manufactured one, ie the casing is old, but the parts are new. I took delivery of the car (ML320) and guess what, I have more downshifting problems than in the past, and I complained to the dealer and they said we cant see anyhting wrong with it, I am secheduled to have an independent look into this.

    Mercedes benz, knows there is a real design fault with their transmission particulalry with ML and e-class, SLK. Note ML and E class are basically the same platform cars. However they shy away from making the offical announcement, you will drive it, and all the sudden at 51k the transmission goes out and guess what you will be left out in the cold. I can go on forever, I am angry and dissapointed at MB, it is a waste of money. When I was waiting for my car at the dealer (Smythe European of San Jose CA) I saw so many people come in, complain about sensor problems, one guy had an S class and the adviser said, oh it must be the water pressure cleaner caused some water to get into the sensor of the catylitic convertor, and we have just reset the computer and ignore the sensor warning. I guess another trick, how can they just ignore sensor warning, maybe they just didnt want to replace yet another Catalytic convertor.

    There is more to report, but I am fed up of writing, mark my word, you are bluffed into paying for a MB.
  • Went to back out of my garage today and the ML320 wouldnt budge..At first it felt like e-brake was on but I never use it in garage..Well I get the wife out there and see that my pass.side rear wheel is locked up...Could the caliper have just froze(rusted inside)? Iam in Park City and its cold but garage is not freezing...I havent used it for the last 2 days and have had no warning of brake drag....Can a caliper just go like that? Is there some way I can isolate this caliper so I can bring it to a shop? Any idea of what I can do? Never had any vehicle do this before...Thanks in advance...kevin

    PS ML320 98 97K miles..Had rear rotors and pads changed at 80k miles
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    All I can suggest is to remove the rear wheel and see if you can manually get the caliper to release from the disc. I'd check to see if it matters if the engine is running or not - there is some chance you've got some issue with the stability control system, or traction control system which brakes individual wheels under computer control to transfer torque and prevent skids.

    - Mark
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