When did Mercedes stop making cars that people could work on without a garage?

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killingtime

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Hi,

First post on the forum, and I'm looking to buy a used Mercedes. Something like saloon or coupe, an E class, preferably a turbo diesel.

As the post title, when did Mercedes stop making cars that any old garage or enthusiast could work on, and start making cars that needed to go back to the dealer for a computer re-code for every small ailment?

I've always liked working on my own cars and want to continue this, the issue is ... modern cars of any brand have turned into a no go for the enthusiast. Just changing the lead acid battery needs a dealer now. By way of example, on many cars now a new battery has to be programmed into the BMS, otherwise you get full screen dash warnings throughout every journey. That would drive me nuts.

I've asked a few garages and was told the late 90's early 2000's was the end of the era for non dealer lock in. Cars had electronic injection and an engine computer so you got longer service intervals and error codes to read via OBD when something went wrong, but the rest was mechanical. Don're care for LCD instrument clusters. Analogue dials are fine. A manual 6 speed box would be fine as well (less to go wrong), but I'll take an auto if they're reliable.

Looked at the 190E (W124) first gen but they never made a turbo diesel in the UK. A bit under powered. I like the styling though.
Second gen E w210 (1996 - 2002) made a turbo diesel in the straight 5 and 6 cylinder (E250/270/290). Styling was an acquired taste.
Third gen E w211 (2002 to 2009) also came in diesel, but can't work out if they had turbos or not, or if they were reliable.

Thanks.
 
Emissions control and other legislated safety equipment requires manufacturer specific computer diagnostics for some but not all components.

As pointed out , this is not specific to Mercedes.

The E Class range you mention all have Turbochargers it must be the 1990's since normally aspirated Diesel engines have been fitted to cars. Unsure where you are checking to find your information from.

As for reliability, like everything it depends on how well a vehicle has been looked after.

My 2008 E320CDi has covered over 176, 000 miles.
 
I don’t think it’s just Mercs.

Emissions control and other legislated safety equipment requires manufacturer specific computer diagnostics for some but not all components.

As pointed out , this is not specific to Mercedes.

Correct. All new cars have some level of dealer lock in now, but I wanted a Merc as I've never had one.
It's not so much the lock in, but the nagware when things do go wrong. It used to be just the check engine light came on, now you get full screen warning with buzzers and there's no way of turning it off until it's fixed. By design of course, but I won't be buying a car like that.
 
Correct. All new cars have some level of dealer lock in now, but I wanted a Merc as I've never had one.
It's not so much the lock in, but the nagware when things do go wrong. It used to be just the check engine light came on, now you get full screen warning with buzzers and there's no way of turning it off until it's fixed. By design of course, but I won't be buying a car like that.
Then your choice will be very limited and old.

What "buzzerd" go off until a problem is fixed?

A check engine light will stay illuminated until the fault is cleared or clears itself. Sometimes warning messages about a specific problem may be displayed.

Hardly intrusive and also helpful.
 
Then your choice will be very limited and old.

I'm OK with that. Driving a 21 year old car ATM.

A check engine light will stay illuminated until the fault is cleared or clears itself. Sometimes warning messages about a specific problem may be displayed.
Hardly intrusive and also helpful.

Depends on the dash implementation. Some cars have 100% LCD instrumentation or multi LCD like the BMW iDrive.. No analogue clocks at all and the software designers go for a massive warning window. Useful if the warning is genuine, but if it's not (a sensor error, or non-critical fault like AC overheating) then it can be ignored until the next service, which could be months away.

I sometimes get a 'coolant level' warning on my current car, and it tells me to stop the car as it thinks there is no coolant in the engine. It's a well known sensor problem that comes and goes. Easy to check, just lift the bonnet and look at the coolant level in the expansion tank. Once I know it's a false alarm I can continue my journey with just a warning light. On a modern car there'd be warnings all over the pace with the added insult of limp mode, if it even starts at all. Not just Merc that does this now, standard practice across brands. It's not for me.
 
1990’s. It’s a worldwide thing

But. Excuses, excuses, there’s still a lot you can do with an ObD reader that you couldn’t do when you were “cleaning points and plugs.”

Germany and the States are full of people doing maintenance and mods. And there are still plenty in the Uk who do their own fiddling.

The challenge, with so many expert gearbox and electrical experts around these days, is why fiddle yourself when someone with loads of experience is easily available ?
 
But. Excuses, excuses, there’s still a lot you can do with an ObD reader that you couldn’t do when you were “cleaning points and plugs.”
Agreed. This is why I brought up the late 90s / early 00s when cars had OBD ports for diagnostics and electronic injection for fuel efficiency. That's seems to have been the sweet spot for cost of ownership, longevity and reliability. 190Es were known for doing 250k miles without major issues. Try getting that out of a modern car (any brand) without paying full price for the car again in servicing and repairs.

why fiddle yourself when someone with loads of experience is easily available ?
In my experience, the more complex something is, the more difficult it is to fix, and the harder it becomes to find that 'expert' among all the hopefuls.

A friend of mine has a 2015 Jag x250. It's a nice car and it's been well looked after but it has a problem. The computer thinks the battery is going flat and won't charge when in actual fact it's fine. The alternator is charging it (tested), and there's no issue with the battery because I've had a CCA meter and an AH meter on it to run it down (tested). The car also starts fine, but because the BMS thinks there's an issue, the car is trying to conserve what's left in the battery and it won't allow the owner to turn on the radio (infotainment system) and he can't de-mist the windows. All this as well as full screen LCD warning messages every journey. Talk about being put on the naughty step.

We've had the main dealer look at it, one Jag independent, two auto electricians and me (as I wrench on my own car). It's been like this for 3 months. No one can figure out what's wrong. OBD doesn't point to anything. This is why I don't want a modern car even if there are 'experts' out there. You're better of just buying a car without all that complication to begin with, which means second hand car now unfortunately.
 
You can still carry out DIY scheduled servicing on even the most modern of cars. It's only the repairs that became complicated.
 
I'm OK with that. Driving a 21 year old car ATM.



Depends on the dash implementation. Some cars have 100% LCD instrumentation or multi LCD like the BMW iDrive.. No analogue clocks at all and the software designers go for a massive warning window. Useful if the warning is genuine, but if it's not (a sensor error, or non-critical fault like AC overheating) then it can be ignored until the next service, which could be months away.

I sometimes get a 'coolant level' warning on my current car, and it tells me to stop the car as it thinks there is no coolant in the engine. It's a well known sensor problem that comes and goes. Easy to check, just lift the bonnet and look at the coolant level in the expansion tank. Once I know it's a false alarm I can continue my journey with just a warning light. On a modern car there'd be warnings all over the pace with the added insult of limp mode, if it even starts at all. Not just Merc that does this now, standard practice across brands. It's not for me.
I that based on personal experience?

Maybe my experience of driving a variety of cars - and a variety of ages of cars - is more limited because I don’t recognise the things you’re suggesting being a big issue, or even an issue at all.

How many false alarms have you had, and how many of them have resulted in warnings all over the place and the car not starting. I have no doubt that the right issue or false alarm could, but how likely is it?

Vive la différence.
 
Agreed. This is why I brought up the late 90s / early 00s when cars had OBD ports for diagnostics and electronic injection for fuel efficiency. That's seems to have been the sweet spot for cost of ownership, longevity and reliability. 190Es were known for doing 250k miles without major issues. Try getting that out of a modern car (any brand) without paying full price for the car again in servicing and repairs.


In my experience, the more complex something is, the more difficult it is to fix, and the harder it becomes to find that 'expert' among all the hopefuls.

A friend of mine has a 2015 Jag x250. It's a nice car and it's been well looked after but it has a problem. The computer thinks the battery is going flat and won't charge when in actual fact it's fine. The alternator is charging it (tested), and there's no issue with the battery because I've had a CCA meter and an AH meter on it to run it down (tested). The car also starts fine, but because the BMS thinks there's an issue, the car is trying to conserve what's left in the battery and it won't allow the owner to turn on the radio (infotainment system) and he can't de-mist the windows. All this as well as full screen LCD warning messages every journey. Talk about being put on the naughty step.

We've had the main dealer look at it, one Jag independent, two auto electricians and me (as I wrench on my own car). It's been like this for 3 months. No one can figure out what's wrong. OBD doesn't point to anything. This is why I don't want a modern car even if there are 'experts' out there. You're better of just buying a car without all that complication to begin with, which means second hand car now unfortunately.
But that’s a Jaaaaag.

I had those problems and more with my Mark II and my XJ40 Sovereign in the early Nineties.

Not convinced that it’s anything new for Browns Lane. Just a bit different
 
Modern cars are a lot more reliable nowadays, when is the last time you seen a car stranded on the hard shoulder ?
A lot of servicing and basic repairs are still capable of doing without a garage, I have a 2014 E250 and do everything (so far) on my driveway.
That includes changing the battery without needing to code it.
 
But that’s a Jaaaaag.

I had those problems and more with my Mark II and my XJ40 Sovereign in the early Nineties.

Not convinced that it’s anything new for Browns Lane. Just a bit different
Our Jaaaag didn’t give us any electrical issues at all.
 
I that based on personal experience?
No. I've driven the same car for 22 years.
Listening to others in my office and family that have bought new cars. I've stuck with my older car as it's reliable. Things do fail on it, but the small stuff doesn't seem to stop it.
I don’t recognise the things you’re suggesting being a big issue, or even an issue at all.
Have you tried keeping a car for 10 years while doing a lot of miles? If not and you buy new every 3 years and or do low miles this might be the case. Cars tend not to go wrong when they're young, but they do when they get older. Also depends on how much preventative maintenance you do, driving style etc.

There's no doubt in my mind that new cars are more fussy about the failure of smaller things than older cars. It takes a lot to get my car to go into limp mode, like turbo over boost. I've heard co workers get stranded over an engine temperature sensor failure. I'm generalizing though. Lots of cars out there. I've not kept a list.

How many false alarms have you had, and how many of them have resulted in warnings all over the place and the car not starting.
On my car since it got to 10 years (12 years ago), I get warnings every two months or so. Some are sensor errors / failures (water level), some are genuine failures like the ABS hall effect sensor, temp sensor. To be expected given the mileage and age. None should or did stop the car from going though.

The rest of my family and co-workers buy new cars under lease (BMW, Merc, Jag) and the list of small faults that drag them back to the dealer amazes me. Like my example above with the Jag and the battery. Wouldn't be an issue on my car. There's no BMS.

Anyway, each to their own. My original question was about the Mercs that people could wrench on by themselves without needing complicated computer involvement to 'code' a new part in. You did answer that above, so thanks.
 
A lot of servicing and basic repairs are still capable of doing without a garage, I have a 2014 E250 and do everything (so far) on my driveway.
That includes changing the battery without needing to code it.
This is what I'm here to learn about. The Merc cars that you can wrench on yourself without a dealer. ;)
 
Part of the issue is the prohibitive cost of diagnostics in the Mercedes. There are packages out there for other manufacturers that have far less buy in while simultaneously reaching further into the systems, and that can make all the difference for the driveway mechanic
 
But that’s a Jaaaaag.

I had those problems and more with my Mark II and my XJ40 Sovereign in the early Nineties.

Not convinced that it’s anything new for Browns Lane. Just a bit different


Besides JLR's ongoing reliability issues they a have in the pursuit of net zero, manged to completely screw up parts supplies.

You couldn't make it up

Report: 10,000 Jaguar Land Rover cars stuck waiting for parts | Autocar


Back on topic.
My 2009 C180K is now 14 years old and I have done all maintenance on a DIY basis for the last 8 years. I've had one engine light and code in that time and it was one of those that resets itself after a number of clear engine starts. Nothing has gone wrong needing repair. If it hadn't been for this forum I wouldn't have had the knowledge to be worried about the things that are supposed to go wrong such as steering lock motor, door pulls, rear light wiring burning out and the infamous rear subframe rust. To be fair the awareness may have helped me avoid the failures.

I previously ran a 190e for 21 years and to be honest that was a less reliable with failures such as cold start fuel injection, water pump, heater valve, 2 thermostats, rear electric window wiring breakage and worst of all serious structural rust. That experience would suggest to me the the optimum era is a little later than the 190e. I liked the The last of the 124's which had a newer engine and electronic fuel injection.
 
Have you tried keeping a car for 10 years while doing a lot of miles? If not and you buy new every 3 years and or do low miles this might be the case.
I’m not very good at selling cars 👀 so I end up being at both ends of the spectrum you describe, ie <3 years and >10 years.

I’m genuinely surprised at the number of false alarms you mentioned. Perhaps there’s a common root cause?

Have you considered older? A petrol W/S123 is possibly the most modern Mercedes which is tough, simple and fixable.
 

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