How I Managed to Upgrade My Mercedes-Benz to Ultra-Dead Level

Image for article titled Project 190E: I killed my Mercedes-Benz good and dead, again

Photo: Lalita Chemello

The whole thing is blurry. I vaguely remember taking the key to our kitchen. Suddenly I was in the driver’s seat staring at my husband through the windshield in a panic when I realized things had gone black. There was no more light in my the beloved Mercedes “Baby Benz” from 1989. She was now truly dead, and the trail of evidence led to me.

But before I could wash the grease off my hands, I decided to retrace my steps. in the hope that I could understand how I ensured his future death – or if it was just an act of the gods. Hopefully, just maybe, I could work things out and put this all behind us.

At this hour, I’m not sure the Mercedes is beyond repair, but after Sunday, she is to a new level of death. If we could categorize the levels of a dead vehicle, like you would for our Homeland Security Advisory System Chart, the Mercedes stands at an orange. It may not be the end, but there is going to be work to make sure we don’t elevate our situation to red.

When I retrace my steps… everything seems to start only a few weeks later my latest update on the Mercedes. My husband called me in the garage late one night on the assumption that “I would like to see this”. Oh man.

The Mercedes, in a move I guess to get attention, started making that awful creaking noise. Hoping it was a faulty relay and not a rabid animal, I grabbed something to throw in anything that might live in it.

I was relieved to find no animal under the hood, checking that the noise was actually the relay, specifically the washer relay (a big suction cup hidden under the dash). I disconnected the battery to stop the noise and prevent further damage. During the month we purchased a battery strainer to keep it at a healthy charge while everything was sitting.

(I would like to add that to one point, I had a video of this phenomenon, but I couldn’t find it.)

Fast forward to this weekend where Michigan decided to give us both snow and 60 degree weather and I was finally able to get back into the garage to work. Manual in hand, I settled down to review everything. I also thought that with a fully charged battery I might even try to start it – thinking maybe, just maybe, it would start right away. How naïve of me.

Instead, turning the key to the on position, I heard most of the unpleasant Mercedes start-up sounds (and the lack of a fuel pump). Throwing the key led to a thud and everything went black. Another attempt ended the same way. The third and fourth attempts? No noise. No lights. Nothing. The Baby Benz was now ultra dead.

Remembering the relay problem from weeks ago, I decided to start there. The smaller relays, as well as all the fuses that I had replaced, looked good. After 20 minutes of trying to find the fuel pump relay (which in the 89 Mercedes 190E is behind a secret panel near the battery and on the firewall), and another 25 minutes of trying to remove it, I found that both relays had seen better days. An even larger relay, loaded with things like the wiper motor and lights, was also worse for wear.

Because I’m at a point where I have to focus on the electrical problem, my work ended there. I ordered about $200+ new relays and treated myself to new lenses for my headlights as they still sport the masking tape look.

The plan is to reinstall the old relays (if/when they come) after I get back from the NY Auto Show this week, then reconnect the battery to make sure that’s not the problem either. From there I’ll start swapping out new relays and hope to fix just a of the many electrical problems the car has. Eliminating the battery/relay issue will help me move on to the next one, which I still feel like I’m looking into is a fuel pump or shift cable issue.

Oh. And I can’t forget the mysterious cable connection. Gonna have to look into that one.

The few hours of tooling this weekend in the garage have been more than frustrating, but also incredibly rewarding. I’m probably in over my head, but I like the idea of ​​solving this big, expensive puzzle. Will I understand the problem? Ultimately. Am I preparing to accept that there is even a chance that the motor is burned out? 100 per cent. But I can’t know unless I try. I understand why people expose themselves to pain and suffering – because every little discovery/solution is a monumental victory.

One last thing while I’m here: I’ve had a hell of a time looking for parts for the Merc. My Eurocar employees, I have to ask, what are some of your go-to locations/sites for older imported/foreign auto parts? If you have any suggestions, throw them in the comments. I also want to know what projects you are tackling or struggling with in the garage this spring. Let’s sympathize together.

Good tearing!