Most of the hoses for the cooling system of the 300SEL appear to be original, or quite old.  I wanted to replace these hoses with ones that looked original, or at least were the current Mercedes part.  Searching through the EPC to gather part numbers was rather useless.  There were many different part numbers for hoses that appeared to be the same, and nearly all of the part numbers turned out to be bad.  With the help of the classic center, I was able to come up with some length of hose in the necessary sizes.  For future reference:

  • 38mm: N 900271 038025.  This 38x46mm hoses is used on the thermostat housing.
  • 18mm: N 900271 018038.  18x27mm hose used for the heater connections
  • 12mm: N 900271 012018.  12x21mm hose used for several connections, including the injection pump and fan coupling thermostats.
  • A 340 501 02 82.  The upper and lower radiator connections use this short funny hose with a large bulge in the middle.
  • 46mm+: The connection from the water pump to the radiator is larger than the 38mm hose I had.  I still need to figure out the correct size for this one.
12mm Hose
12mm Hose, old and new

Today I managed to remove all these hoses and replace most of them.  You begin to appreciate just how complicated the M189 when you work on it.  There are a lot of hoses.  There are several very short pieces of 12mm hose associated with the fan coupling thermostat which are very difficult to get to.

I ran into a snag when I realize I didn’t have the right size hose for the large water pump connection under the manifolds.  Since I had already removed the old hose and the car would now be laid up until I could get the right size, I decided to take things a little further.

Looking through the radiator cap, I could see the core was pretty crusty looking.  So I pulled the radiator out and will have it cleaned up at a local shop.  While its out, I’ll have easier access to change the belts and and address the oil leak at the front of the engine.  Still lots of work to do!

Getting ready for spring

Yeah, its been a while since the last update.  There has been one major issue with my 1967 Mercedes 300SEL which I might have mentioned before:  I didn’t have a title.  This is a fairly major problem for a New Jersey resident.  But I finally found a solution and the car is now titled and registered in my name!

Title and Plates

This opens the door to get the car on the road by the spring.  In the last year or so, its been sitting in a very nice and dry garage.  I’ve been starting it occasionally and driving it around a bit to get it up to temperature and the car continues to sit on its own airbags without falling significantly for a few weeks.  Its now suffering from having old gas in the tank (but luckily its only 1-2 gallons) and has become more difficult to start.  It really needs to see some regular use.

From what I can see up to now, the following things need to be addressed before the car is roadworthy:

  • Change all cooling hoses
  • Change belts
  • New Exhaust system
  • Fix oil leak in the front of the engine, which appears to be related to the fan coupling.
  • Change power steering hoses, and change the oil in the rear differential
  • New Tires, and an alignment
  • And cleaning… lots and lots of cleaning, inside and out.

Its not an insignificant amount of work, and will require a lot of time and money.  Hopefully I can make it by spring!

W108/W109 Heater Levers

I’m starting on a few more minor projects now that the car is getting closer to being road worthy.  One thing that really worries me about the car is the non-functioning heater blower motor.  Exchanging this motor is a difficult and time consuming job and one that I’d like to avoid if possible.

Determining if the motor is bad is a pretty simple process.  First, checking to make sure the  filters at the air intake behind the chrome grill in front of the windshield is a good idea.  If any debris makes it past these filters it can prevent the motor from turning.  If this checks out, next step is to jumper the switch.

You can access the fan switch connections by removing the speaker in the center of the dashboard.  The switch is part of the upper left (blue) heater lever.  Remove the connector and check for 12V when the ignition is on.  Once you’ve found it, jump the 12V to one of the other pins.  Each of the three other pins are one of the fan speeds.  If the fan runs, you’re in good shape!  If not…  check your wiring carefully, but you might be in for a fan replacement.

I’ve found several early W108 and W109 cars that had functioning heater blowers, but faulty switches.  I’m not so sure this is as common on later cars with the redesigned heater levers.

So, since the switch was my problem, I decided to remove the lever assembly and rebuild it.  Thanks to some mice who made a home in the dashboard, they were in pretty rough shape.

I have covered the first part of removal of the levers in this old article.  Follow up to step 6 to gain access to the heater levers.  In short, you must remove the radio, ashtray, and cigar lighter.  At that point, you must disconnect all the cables from above and below.  This is a bit difficult, but possible.  Be patient and keep track of all the small clips!

Once the cables are off, you can remove the lever assembly by removing the two nuts that hold the chrome dashboard piece in place.

Below are a few pictures of the heater lever assembly removed from my 300SEL and the first steps of disassembly.  Remove the black caps from each of the large plastic shafts to remove the levers.

Additional care must be taken for the blue lever since it is part of the switch assembly.

The three pictures above show some areas you should exercise caution.  The blue lever must be removed together with the switch assembly.  Two screws at the top of the switch assembly hold it in place.  Also note the cable lug that sits in each of the top levers will fall out when the lever is removed.  And finally, the last picture shows the spring loaded mechanism that produces the stops for each fan speed.  Be careful not to loose these small pieces.

After inspecting the switch parts, it was pretty clear why it didn’t work.  The photos above show the dirt and oxidation covering the contacts.

Removal of the lower levers is quite easy… they should just pull out with the shafts.  They’re connected together via a linkage which I didn’t see a need to take apart.

Next step is to throughly clean all the parts.  I used a mild soap and soft cloth to ensure I didn’t scratch the plastic pieces.  I used some emory cloth to clean up the electrical contacts.

Mercedes Heater Levers disassembled
All of the pieces cleaned and ready for reassembly.

Reassembly is straight forward.  I used a white lithium grease on all the moving parts.

After reassembly
Assembled levers from below

I need to repair the wiring for the lighting before installing the levers back in the car.  Don’t forget to check the bulbs and switch with a meter to ensure they’re working correctly.  Also check the movement of all the cables in the car.  Its likely these will need lubrication or replacement.

Do these levers look different from the ones in your car?  In 1968, the interior of the W108 and W109 were changed somewhat for safety reasons.  The later version of the levers were much more prone to breaking, but safer in the event of an accident.  Its worth noting that I’ve never seen a set of early solid plastic levers broken unless severely abused.

Front suspension

After a month break, I’m back to work on the W109!  I’ve got three days this week and hope to make some good progress.

The most important work to be done is the front air bags.  The driver’s side bag is leaking badly and the passenger side isn’t far behind.  This job is one of those that goes much faster after you do it once or twice.  The order in which you remove things is pretty critical to making things go smoothly.  This is well documented in the factory service manual, but sometimes I need to figure things out myself first!

So, heres how it goes:

  1. Disconnect the tie rod from the steering knuckle.  A proper popper (thanks Daniel) makes it possible to not destroy the boot on the joint.  I can’t see how you can get the air chamber out of the car unless you get the tie rod out of the way.
  2. Disconnect the air line.
  3. With a piece of wood (I used a short 2×4), press the bag up and away from the piston mounted to the lower control arm.  Do this before the removing anything else!
  4. Once with piston is free from the bag, disconnect the 5 bolts holding the piston to the control arm.  There are 5, not 4 as I initially thought!
  5. You should be able to pull the piston out now.  You might want to disconnect the sway bar to keep it from holding up the control arm to give you more clearance.  Or, it helps to have both sides of the car jacked up with the wheels off.
  6. Now, remove the three bolts at the top of the subframe and the assembly will fall out.  Remove it from the back.

Thats it!

Actually, thats not it.  Now you need to remove the bag.

112 320 00 17

To start, I use a wire brush and some penetrating oil to clean up the tops of the screws and the nuts.  The locking tabs (A 112 327 01 73) need to be bent down to expose the nut completely.  Do this carefully, and you can reuse them.  I ended up replacing 10 of them, since this is what the dealer could get me when I originally ordered up the parts.  There are 24 total on the car.  To remove the nuts, start with a good quality thin 13mm wrench and get the nut to turn.  Once it moves, use a nice #3 philips screw driver to remove the screw while holding the nut.  I didn’t find it necessary to hold the chamber in any special way when doing this… I just put some cardboard down on the floor to avoid scratching the paint.

After all the hardware is removed, pull off the bag.  It might help to blow some compressed air into the chamber if its really stuck.  Don’t pry anything between the ring and the chamber… this is part of the sealing surface!

The hardware just after removal is see here.  I cleaned everything up to get all the dirt and grime off.  I also lightly cleaned the air chamber, ring, and the sealing surfaces of both.

As you can see, the old bags were pretty beat up.  This one is from the passenger side that wasn’t leaking!  Its also interesting to see the bag rests in a position it would be in with the suspension completely collapsed, as it sat for many years.

Installation is reverse of removal.  Getting the new bag on the ring is a bit of a challenge, but some soapy water helps.  I tightened each screw and nut slowly to minimize the amount of distortion on the ring before it was fully seated.

I installed an air valve (A 112 320 06 58) and filled the chambers to check for leaks.

Here is the chamber filled with about 50psi.  I submerged it in water to check for leaks, then reinstalled it in the car with new seals at the air line.

While the air chamber was out of the way, I cleaned up the front suspension.  Years of old grease was caked up and covering most of the components.  I started with a large screw driver to pull away the larger pieces, then used a wire brush with some WD-40.  Heres a picture during the cleaning:

I can do more here, but the goal was just to clean things up to make greasing easier, and to help the guys when its time to get an alignment.  I greased everything with good chassis grease when I was done.

And finally, before reinstalling the air chambers, I replaced the bump-stops on the lower control arms.  Since the car was sitting on them for 20+ years, they took a bearing.  These are part number A 112 333 02 65.  Removal wasn’t so bad.  A pry bar with a 2×4 sitting on the control arm removed them with only a little effort.

While I didn’t get the finish the job completely today, I did get quite a bit accomplished in 6 hours.  I still need to clear up the driver’s side suspension and reinstall the air chamber there.  I’ll post pictures of the “before” state to show how dirty it is tomorrow.

More fine tuning

I’ve been thinking a lot about tuning the engine, and specifically, why it suddenly seems to run pretty poorly as of this past Wednesday.  I had let the injection pump soak with acetone again for a while, which didn’t seem to do much.  The engine was difficult to start, then would stall after it warmed up.  The idle was low and adjustment of the idle speed didn’t do much.

Out of concern for the problems it can cause, I first took apart the cold start valve.  Taking it apart was quite easy… just two screws hold the solenoid to it, and three bolts remove it from the manifold.  I confirmed that it wasn’t leaking fuel and the needle inside moved freely. I also confirmed that its a very good idea to replace its seals.  They were in very bad shape.  The small seal (A 001 997 75 40) is very expensive for a little o-ring, list price is $22.50.  The larger seal (A 002 997 52 45) is a value at only $3.  This is well worth the peace of mind.

Next started looking toward the thermostat on the injection pump used for warm-up.  It was clear that it didn’t work correctly since some air was being pulled through the little filter after the engine was warmed up.  I installed a new thermostat (A 001 203 95 75) and experimented with adding shims below it and it didn’t make any real difference in how the engine ran.

After thinking about it, the problem was quite obvious:  ignition timing.  When I removed the distributor to fiddle with the injection pump rack, I only eyeballed its position.  It turns out that it was WAY off.  I set it correctly and the difference in the way the engine ran was quite remarkable.

I ended up adding about 0.5mm of shims under the injection pump thermostat and it seems to work well now.  When running at operating temperature, no air is pulled into the warm-up system.  The idle speed adjustment screw works correctly and the engine idles smoothly at 800rpm now.  Throttle response is also much better.

To celebrate, I took the car on another trip around the parking lot:

As you can see, the car runs very nicely now.  There is no hesitation and it seems to have very nice power.

After this drive, I changed the oil.  It had already started to turn dark and I was worried it might be diluted with gas.  I also noticed that one of the front air bags began leaking, moving this job way up on the the list of things to do.

Radiator Cap

One of the difficult things when working on old cars is finding the right parts.  Even when they’re available, its not immediately obvious what is correct.  Since I’ve had the engine running, I’ve noticed cooling water leaking out of the radiator’s cap.  Although the cap looked good, I decided to order up a new one and see what came.  The new part wasn’t what I was expecting, but makes perfect sense.  These pictures show what was on the radiator on the left, and the new part (A 000 501 19 15) on the right.

000 501 19 15000 501 19 15

The issue is the way the expansion tank, which is unique to the sedans, is connected to the radiator.  There is a small hose running from the tank to the overflow connection on the radiator.  This means that any pressurized water in the expansion tank was pushed out of the radiator’s cap above the rubber seal.  The new cap seals at the top of the radiator, closing the system and allowing pressure to build.  The cap that is on the expansion tank is more like the one on the left (although its a larger size) and uses a spring to hold pressure in the system up to a point.

So, another minor problem solved!

Brakes and Air Suspension

Since the engine is actually running, a few things needed immediate attention.  Brakes and air suspension.  There are no brakes since I removed the calipers, and a rear air bag is leaking bad enough that the car has trouble coming up with the engine running.

So, for the brakes, the process was fairly straightforward:  replace everything!  The car received new master cylinder, rotors, pads, hoses, and hardware.  Along with rebuilt calipers and a few new hard brake lines that wouldn’t come apart.

I didn’t take too many pictures as the work was quite routine.  I also repacked the wheel bearings with new grease, the bearings were in nice shape.

Now, to the interesting part:  air suspension.  I ordered up front and rear bags, along with all the necessary o-rings.  The o-rings are somewhat special, they’re square, and they’re expensive!  Not all of the o-rings came in, so I worked only on the rear bags.  Replacing them took me the better part of a whole day.  Removing the assemblies that hold bags required removal of the back seat, along with the front mount of the passenger side trailing arm to clear the exhaust.  Once they were out, it was clear just how beat up they were.

The air cells and hardware the holds the bags in looked pretty bad, but with some soaking, everything came apart.  A good PH3 philips head screw driver was very helpful here.  Once inside, the mating surfaces for the rubber looked surprisingly good and only needed a bit of cleaning:

Once put back together, I was able to fit a schrader valve and test for leaks.   I’d be surprised if the mating surface could leak.  The design is very good here.  Heres a bag filled with about 50psi of air.

Since I consider replacing of these parts just part of basic maintenance and repairs, not restoration work, I didn’t do much else to clean up the appearance of the parts.  I was happy with the clean interior of each of the air cells, and the fact that they don’t leak!

With everything back together, a short drive was possible!  Heres the car backing out of the garage for the first time.

And, outside, sitting at a nice ride height:

I drove around the parking lot several times.  I was quite happy to feel all four gears of the transmission, feel the power steering and brakes, and check the basic functions of the car.  The engine ran, but its clear that it needs a lot of fine tuning to run well.  It seems to be very rich and doesn’t idle well.    More work for the next days!




Starting the engine

While my wife and son are visiting family out west, I’m able to dedicate an entire week of spare time that I don’t normally have to the car.  The first major task was for Wednesday evening:  get the engine running.  This required several smaller jobs be completed:

  • Install the fuel tank
  • Install the fuel pump and hoses
  • Install throttle linkage and ignition components
  • Top off or change basic fluids
  • Installed transmission linkage

These were all pretty straight forward tasks, except for installing the transmission linkage.  As some of my followers have said, the bushings are difficult to push on, and its not immediately clear how they fit.  This helpful photo from a friend explains it quite well.

The difficult part is press it onto the shift levers.  Specifically, the one buried deep in the transmission tunnel.  After some creative use of locking pliers, and about an hour of laying in awkward positions under the car, it was installed.  A special thanks to my friend Adrian for enduring this torture and successfully installing it!  This is the type of job that would have been much easier with a lift!

After everything was installed, we cranked the engine with the starter, but without spark plugs.  Oil pressure came up after a short time and we were ready to go for it.  In went 5 gallons of fresh gas, and 6 new Bosch W7DC spark plugs.

We cranked and cranked.  No firing.  We checked the fuel supply at the engine, then at the output of the pump… they were dry.  It seems that with the arrangement of the fuel tank and pump, 5 gallons isn’t enough to naturally flow in the direction of the pump, and the pump isn’t strong enough to prime itself.  The solution was to jack up the back of the car to help the fuel move forward, then run the pump with its output  running into a small container.  Once we had fuel here, we connected everything up again and confirmed fuel delivery to the injection pump.

More cranking.  After a while, it started to fire a bit.  It reminded me of starting a diesel in the dead of winter.  There was some fuel burning, but not enough to run on its own.  We  keep at it.  And just as we were about to give up and look for other problems, it started!  Rough, but it ran on its own.  It seems that it takes a long time to get fuel down to the injectors after all those years.  Here is the engine after running for a few minutes:

The engine sounds great!  We let it run long enough for the thermostat to open.  Oil pressure and temperature looked good.  It also smoothed out somewhat and no longer has a defined miss as in the video.

Everything was smoking a bit as the old nests and dust burned off the engine and exhaust.  We also seemed to have disrupted a mouse’s home in the exhaust system:

Overall, a greatly successful evening.  It ended up taking about 6 hours to do all of the above.

W109 Brakes

With the sale of the 300SDL, I’m motivated to start doing some serious work on the 300SEL.  Once the engine is running, the following things need to be done at nearly the same time in order to actual drive the car a bit:

  • Brakes (replace everything)
  • Suspension (new air bags in the rear, at the very least)
  • Tires (nice ones)
This is a short, but fairly expensive and time consuming list.  In order to get a bit ahead, I decided to pull off the calipers and send them off to be rebuilt.  I was happy to find everything came apart nicely.  The wheel bolts weren’t too tight and nothing was very rusty.  This further supports the low mileage of the car, and an easy life.  After about two hours, I ended up with this collection of parts:

It was nice to see the brake pads were original Mercedes parts.  The star was still visible on one of the rear pads.  I suppose the aftermarket parts business was non-existant in the 1970s and 80s, or these were installed at the dealer.  It was also worth noting that the brake hoses were marked with “Ate”, but had nothing else visible.  This makes me wonder if they’re original.  The hard brake lines broke free from the hoses and calipers up front easily, but things were not so eager to come apart in the rear.  I removed the calipers, but both ends of the brake hoses look as if they’re not willing to come free from the lines.  These lines are pretty short, so getting replacements won’t be such a big deal.
Once the calipers get back from the rebuilder, I’ll order up a new master cylinder, pads, rotors, hoses, hardware, and any hard lines I may need.  I don’t want to take any chances with the brakes, so replacing everything is the way to go.

Fuel tank and fuel pump

I moved onto cleaning up the fuel system this week.  I was happy to find that the fuel tank was essentially empty, reducing the risk of a environmental disaster significantly.  Removing the fuel lines from the tank and fuel pump resulted in only a few drips of foul gasoline out of each.  Dropping the fuel tank out of the car was very easy… four bolts and a little prying and it dropped out.

I pulled the fuel level sender out and could see by the stains on it that the tank was probably about half full when it was stored.  It seems that if you leave about 10 gallons of gas for about 20 years, it reduces to about 1 quart of nasty brown stuff.  With the help of a friend, we poured what we could of what remained into an appropriate container.  Getting the last bit out it nearly impossible due to the location of the drain, fuel pickups, and filler.  Inside, its definitely rusty, but I’ve seen worse.  There is a local radiator shop that can clean it up for me.

Next, we moved onto the fuel pump.  Overall, it doesn’t look that bad from the outside.  We decided it made sense to remove the bottom cover of the pump to see if what crud might have made it inside.  There was some sludge and varnish, but it wasn’t too bad.  After soaking and flushing with some acetone I had handy, it cleaned up nicely.  Here is a look inside during the cleaning process:

We then briefly connected the pump to a battery to ensure that it would run.  The pump did run, but a bit unevenly.  It didn’t seem like a good idea to run it any more than a few seconds without any fuel in it, so I concluded that it works well enough to install back in the car for now.  I’ll order up a new seal (thats A 004 997 04 45, I hope) along with new fuel lines, a fuel filter, and tank screener.