I haven't provided any updates about either of my two Mercs for sometime as both have been grounded due to bad weather and copious amounts of salt that has been spread on local roads.
Now the weather is starting to improve, I hope to use both cars more often. I started by taking the 200E for an MoT this morning. I am pleased to confirm that it passed with flying colours and no advisories. The MoT tester was impressed with the condition of the 200E, which will be celebrating its 30th birthday in December.
Whilst visiting my mechanic, I spotted a W123 230TE on a D plate. I've never seen one before. I thought that the last W123s were on a C plate and I am sure that I've seen a few W124s on a C plate too. Must have been registered very late. Unfortunately, the TE was in poor condition, despite the extensive work that has already been carried out.
Due to its sloppy steering the 230E had been a garage ornament for a number of years. I really did not enjoy driving it, the steering wheel needed excessive amounts of input whenever the road camber changed and there was far too much play in the centre position. Last year I had the steering box refurbished but due to covid, life and bad weather I didn't get a chance to drive the 230E far enough to appreciate the improvements. Until today. I took advantage of an opportunity and drove the 230E 120 miles from home (near Beaconsfield) via Amersham, Wendover, Aldbury, Aston Clinton, Aylesbury, Buckingham to Silverstone and home again. Wow! The steering feels superb, so much tighter and more direct. I really enjoyed the drive and to celebrate the occasion I took some arty farty photos
My love for W123s and W124s relates to an unhealthy fetish for old German taxis. I've been suffering for years. Back in the 1970s and 80s UK buyers paid a premium to drive a W123 and consequently these Mercs were seen as luxury cars driven by the elite. However, in other parts of the world W123s were seen as workhorses and a great example of this is the German taxi.
I found these images of a W123 German taxi and fell in love.
Whilst it would be impossible to re-create a proper RHD W123 replica taxi, I wanted my hellelfenbein coloured 230E to pay homage to the car in the photos above.
Massive thanks to tetleysmooth for pointing me in the direction of the taxi sign. I consider it a miracle that an authentic circa 40 year old roof taxi sign for a W123 found its way to the UK and then into my ownership via EBay. I happily paid the £90 asking price (inc p&p) and the item arrived a couple of days ago.
It's the real deal.
The metal framework and fixings are in perfect condition but unfortunately the sign is damaged.
If, big IF, I could find a piece of plastic the same (weathered and discoloured) colour, I could stick it on with resin in the butt joint and gaffer tape behind. Alternatively, I could shape the missing piece out of filler but then I would struggle to find right colour paint to finish off the repair. For now, I'm going to ignore the damaged plastic and put the missing chunk down to age and patina.
The framework fits perfectly and all the fixings are fully serviceable.
And now for the money shots.
I love it and do not intend to remove it. I know that it's illegal to impersonate a taxi but I'm hoping that if Mr Plod stops me, I will be able to convince him that I am not looking for fares in a 36 year old Mercedes. Perhaps I'll do a Robert De Niro impression - You talking to me? From Taxi Driver, if you're wandering what I'm on about.
In other news, a few years ago I treated some rust and re-painted the 230E's scuttle panel, however the filler had sunk and I was never happy with the paint match. I have a good spare panel, which I removed from the W123 230E that I stripped for parts a few years ago.
Apart from a small rust blister, the panel is mint.
I rubbed the rust down with sandpaper and put some Kurust on it. I've bought a couple of aerosol cans, hopefully in the right colour and will re-spray the panel next week.
I'm glad that I tidied up the 200E's underside over Christmas but I must confess that I did not enjoy the experience. Whilst I've got two weeks annual leave, I wanted to tidy up the 230E in the same way.
I started by getting the 230E on ramps and gave the underside a good pressure wash.
As I've already done the rear arches, I decided to work on the underside with the car up on ramps rather than axle stands.
I undersealed exposed parts of the 230E's underside a few years ago and I was pleased to find the old coatings are still holding up well and keeping rust at bay.
The underside, particularly the rear suspension, of a W123 is more accessible than the more complicated set up found on W124s. It's much easier to coat the majority of elements and do a decent a job of it, unlike my previous efforts, which left the rear subframe of the 200E looking like it was painted by a five year old. I applied fresh coats of Waxoil to previously treated surfaces as well as the wishbones, which had a light coating of unattractive surface rust. Surface rust aside, there was no evidence of other significant corrosion. Unlike the 200E, the 230E doesn't need any welding. Result!
In other news, I prepared and sprayed the replacement central scuttle panel.
Replacing it is not a five minute job.
With the paint flattened with 1200 paper and cut back with T-Cut and polished with Autoglym, I achieved a decent finish, however the colour match is not great. I think that my 230E's paintwork has faded. Looking at photos of German taxis on the internet, my 230E's cream finish looks more pale.
Finally, I gave the 230E a wash and tucked it back in the garage. I've decided that I need to spend less time polishing it and worrying about minor paintwork issues and more time clocking up the miles and picking up fares.
How to get twenty five 4.2m and five 5.7m decking boards home from the timber merchant? On top of a W124, of course!
The roof was flexing a fair bit to the point that I could see the sunroof panel deflecting whenever I drove over a bump. As soon as I removed the decking boards I checked the (electric) sunroof and I am pleased to report that it is working ok, it has not suffered any damage.
As proposed, I have taken every occasion to drive the 230E over the past two weeks (whilst I've been on annual leave). Weather permitting, I've been out in the 230E to take rubbish to the dump and to visit DIY stores. I've made new friends on route, seems people are enjoying seeing a taxi sign atop a tidy old Merc.
After driving the 230E I realised that the 200E's driver's seat was set too high. The height adjustment mechanism didn't work, time to investigate.
I took the seat out. Amazing how Mercedes can make a seat weigh 100kg. In the process I uncovered 29.5 years of dead skin, which got promptly hoovered up.
As soon as I removed the seat, three coins dropped out, one of which was marked. With the coins on the floor, the seat height adjustment mechanism worked a treat. Putting the seat back in was easy, job done.
I know I said that I'll spend more time driving the 230E and less time polishing it, however I could not resist the opportunity (rainy day) and I slapped a coat of Autoglym High Gloss Polish all over it. It gleams! Unfortunately, the polish also shows up every mark and scratch. The 230E's paint has seen better days. Let's call it patina and move on.
A quick update on the 230E. It's been out on a few local journeys with no problems to report. The taxi sign continues to attract a lot of attention and a number of people have stopped for a chat, asking whether it's a real German taxi. I consider the taxi sign as jewelry, like a giant diamond butt plug perched on the roof.
For ICE I use a JBL portable speaker, Bluetooth connected to my iPhone. The original Becker radio cassette player and electric aerial are in good working condition, however I like my DAB. As part of my maintenance regime I refresh the grease on the aerial mast every year.
A few weeks ago the 200E's starter motor developed a screeching sound. It only screeched when the engine was first started, subsequent re-starts were silent. I got in touch with Mike at JASM and he's willing and able to give the starter motor a refurb. This is just as well as looking on AutoDocs and ECP's websites and on EBay brings up multiple listings for W124 starter motors, with contradictory results. Id rather have mine fixed rather than spend anything from £50 to £150 on a part that may not fit.
One last action shot of the 200E, I needed more decking boards and what better car to collect them with than the 200E.
I removed the starter motor yesterday. I got the front of the 200E high on ramps, which gave me plenty of room and comfortable and safe working conditions.
All the action took place from underneath the car, neither the starter motor nor the wiring are visible from within the engine bay. The starter motor is secured with two long bolts, which were easy to access and remove. The bolt and screw that secure the wiring could only be got at once the starter motor was unbolted and rotated in-situ. As I only have two hands, both of which were needed to remove the nut and screw, I used a piece of wood and a jack to wedge the starter motor up against the floorpan.
I got the starter motor off, it was surprisingly light and small. There is no identifiable Mercedes Benz part number on it, however the Bosch part number is nice and clear. Hopefully reinstatement of the starter motor will be less faff than removal.
The 200E is still up on ramps in the garage whilst I wait for JASM to refurbish the starter motor.
I have added a 1999 W210 E240 Avantgarde to the fleet. It has 129k with FSH, which comprises of a fully stamped service book and a stack of receipts and old MoT certificates. Not all receipts are in place, for example the previous owner recently fitted new front brake discs and pads, of which there is no record in the history. Never mind. It's got three (electronic) keys, two of which work, one allegedly needs a battery.
It's my ideal spec, post facelift saloon, silver, black interior. The previous owner fitted period correct CLK alloy wheels, which are in decent condition and have four as new tyres, a pair of Continentals up front and Events on the rear. There's also a matching spare.
Being a W210 it's going to have rust issues. The previous owner has had two jacking points welded and there are localised blisters appearing under the paint along the front and rear wheel arches. It's not too bad, at least not yet but it looks a lot better than some W210s that I have seen. There is a small crack on the front bumper and the front end has been touched up where it picked up stone chips. The headlights are not cloudy and the exterior trim is unmarked. Overall, I'd give it 8/10.
The interior is very tidy and well specced. We have leather seats, the fronts are electrically operated, electric windows and mirrors, the latter fold at the press of a button, cruise control and air conditioning. There is virtually no wear on the leather seats but the floor mats that came with it were horrible and didn't fit right. I binned them. I will buy a cheap bespoke set from EBay. The air conditioning doesn't work but that doesn't bother me, I suffer from sinus issues and never use it anyway. The boot is big and tidy, it's got all the original tools and warning triangle and first aid kit is in place (in the rear armrest). Overall, I'd give it 9/10.
I noticed yesterday that the offside rear alloy wheel has a polished outer edge whilst the other three wheels are all silver. Not an issue as far as I'm concerned.
The V6 looks quite small in the giant engine bay. The bay needs a clean but as the E240 will be used daily in all weathers I'm not going to get too precious about it. The engine starts and runs well. It's very smooth and quiet but not as smooth as the gearchanges, which are virtually seamless. I was surprised by the high gearing. On the motorway, at 70MPH the engine is spinning over at 3,000 revs/min, which is high. I recall that the W126 300SE that I had years ago had similarly high gearing, although that had a four speed automatic gearbox whilst the E240 has five.
So far there is only one issue that requires attention. Driving at low speeds or whilst stationary, I can feel slight friction and a rubbing sound when the steering wheel is turned. At first I thought it might be dry ball joints. I've had various Mercs in the past that suffered from the same problem and displayed identical symptoms. I took the front wheels off and squirted some engine oil via a needle and syringe into the top and bottom ball joints. I used a small needle, which won't cause any significant damage to the rubber covers. Unfortunately, the procedure did not improve the situation.
A bit of research on the internet revealed that there is a rubber seal at the base of the steering column, inside the cabin, which can get dry and cause the reported symptoms. I will have a go at greasing up the seal later today.
With the front wheels off, I could see the new brake discs and pads, which is a bonus. Not so good is the rust, which affects most surfaces. W210s, you gotta love them.
I had a bit of time this morning to take a look at the steering column seal. Getting to it involved removal of the lower dash panel and footwell carpet. All very easy, the interior is really well assembled.
Unfortunately, I found the seal to be perfectly well lubricated.
I did more sniffing around and noted that the groan only occurs when the engine is switched on and the steering wheel is turned slowly. With the engine switched off, there is no noise. Driving at normal speed the steering is just fine. I came to the conclusion that something inside the steering rack is not happy. I drained approx 400mm of power steering fluid and poured in the same amount of Slick 50. I am hoping that by reducing friction within the rack the noise will stop. There was no instant improvement, however research on the internet suggests that these types of additives can take approx 2 weeks to work. The car drives absolutely fine, with the radio switched on the noise cannot be heard and worst case scenario, the noise only occurs at parking speeds and is not overly intrusive. The plan is to live with it and see what happens.
I know I said that I won't get precious about the presentation of the engine bay, however I managed to spill some of the Slick 50 and it dripped all over the auxiliary belt. I tried my best to clean the mess but as soon as I started the engine, drops of Slick 50 ended up getting flicked all over the front of the engine. I removed the top cover to find leak free cylinder heads.
I spent 20 minutes with wet wipes and achieved a tidy engine bay.
In other news, I was not too bothered by the incorrect designation but the spacing of the digits was all wrong and looked plop.
A little heat got the adhesive soft and the digits came off without leaving a mark. Much better.
Not one to give up easily, I had another go at sorting out the steering rack noise. I got the front of the car up nice and high.
I removed the steering rack gaiters to reveal the rack. On the nearside, the rack was shiny and silver. On the offside, around the teeth that mesh with the pinion, there was a fair amount of surface corrosion. Fortunately / unfortunately, the rack seals are good and there is no evidence of fluid leakage. I squirted silicone spray onto the rack whilst my wife was turning the wheels from side to side and finished the job off by applying fresh grease before putting the gaiters back.
I went for a drive around the block and sadly the noise is still there.
Evidently, something is binding inside the rack. However, with the outer seals / bushes intact, there is no way of getting any fluid or grease to lubricate the offending surfaces.
A replacement reconditioned rack is £145. Then there's postage, cost of new fluid and having the geometry re-set. There won't be much change from £250 and that is assuming that I can complete the job in my workshop. As the chances of me putting the rack back in line with the column in exactly the same position as it should be are extremely low, I expect there would be a need to remove and align the steering wheel before the geometry can be fixed.
I can remove the rack, the job doesn't look too daunting (there's a nice YouTube video that really helps) but what chance do I have of getting into the innards without special tools? And if I do strip it without renewing the seals, how long will they last before the rack starts to leak?
It's worth having a stern look at the power steering pump. I've had the same symptoms as you and it turned out to be the pump not being able to supply constant sufficient pressure. The binding-effect I've felt was the pump... for the lack of a better term... 'cutting out'. Raising the engine RPMs revealed that the intervals between the pump working and not-working became somewhat shorter.
230E update first, whenever the weather permits, I take it out on trips to all sorts of lovely places, such as the industrial estate in Iver (near Slough), see photo below!
Since I started using the 230E more often, I've noted that the brakes pulled slightly to the left. I presumed that there might be air in the front nearside brake pipe / caliper or the caliper was getting a bit sticky. The other day, whilst approaching a totally clear roundabout, driving behind a Fiat 500, the cinquecento came to a needless complete stop, forcing me to slam my brakes on. The front wheels skidded a little, I shat myself but the 230E came to an incident free stop. Since then, the brake pedal feels firmer and the brakes pull up straight.
200E update next. The 200E has been stuck in my workshop whilst Mike at JSMA was overhauling the starter motor. The fresh and clean starter motor was returned to me this morning, the plan is to refit it and have the 200E back on the road tomorrow. Wish me luck.
Finally, the W210. It's with my mechanic in London. I did all I could to diagnose the cause of the creaking / friction in the steering wheel and I've run out of time and patience. A few people have suggested that the PAS pump could be the culprit, which, if proved correct, would be less of a pain to replace than the steering rack. Thank you for your advice guys. Watch this space.