Views from behind the wheel in a W123

Reading Time: 1 minute

What are the things you can see from behind the wheel driving a W123? Beautiful nature, wild animals, interesting architecture, challenging conditions and weather and unimaginable surprises. This is a small collection of stuff seen from going about in a W123.

The road trip is enjoyed best with good friends in a vintage Benz.

Of course you can see the same from other cars, but I found that the whole experience is much more visceral and when having road trips in a vintage Benz. You can maybe even call it cozy behind that big steering wheel hearing the sweet hum of the engine. Somehow you are more connected with the car and the road.

Instead of taking anti depressives or going to the psychologist due to the stress of daily life, take a week with some good friends on a relaxing road trip where the aim should be the trip itself. Go some place you have never been to see new stuff and not worry so much about the destination. There are always interesting things to see along the way. You might even end up some better place if things didn’t go as planned. Take a tent and a sleeping bag with you and you can camp literary anywhere.

Sometimes you need to cross bridges.

w123 over hardanger bridge
Crossing Hardanger Bridge

Sometimes there are optical effects in the atmosphere.

rainbow
Optical effects

Sometimes you see a field besides a river.

w123 and field view
River valley

Sometimes there will be rain.

w123 and heavy rain
A good dose of H2O

Sometimes there are good winter days.

snow covered field
Winter can be good too!

Sometimes driving in winter is needed.

w123 in winterlandscape
Did you remember to change from summer tires?

Sometimes there are fjords to explore.

w123 and fjord
Fjord country

Sometimes there are wild animals.

moose in the road
Moose in the road, for testing brake performance

Sometimes there are domesticated animals.

sheep in the road
Sheep on the road, for testing the horn

Sometimes there are very cold days.

cold landscape
Frozen landscape, hopefully the heater is effective

Sometimes tunnels are explored.

hardanger fjord tunnel
Wait a roundabout inside a tunnel?

Sometimes you will need to have a break.

300TD in mountains
Pit stop, who needs to take a leak?

 

How to change automatic transmission oil and filter in W123

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Now to the post you all have been waiting for. Time to defy old myths and the car companies themselves! Mercedes usually warns about changing the transmission oil yourself and in newer models they are so called sealed where you cannot even measure the fluid level without buying an accessory dipstick. I do not agree on this level of manufacturer control and you can totally do this yourself even on a Mercedes. Sometimes I really think that car companies have a bad attitude towards their customers. Just take for example the VW diesel scandal which they tried to cheat everyone…

Thoughts

Fluid changes are the number one maintenance priority of making your car perform optimally and mitigating excessive wear and damage. Fluid changes of the transmission oil should always be your concern. Some idiot say that changing automatic transmission oil in an old car will cause it to slip and thus you should not change oil. This is only true if the transmission is already very worn/broken and the only thing keeping the transmission from slipping is the high friction of metal particles and the old smudgy oil which is totally broken down and provides little friction and cooling. Then of course it might starting slipping when fresh oil is added which sole purpose is to give less friction and cool the internals. However not changing the oil will only delay the inevitable of total transmission failure.

A good transmission will always benefit from an oil change since this reduces friction and wear!

Mercedes does not recommend this job and it should be left to the “professionals”, all my respect to the mechanics, but they work on a hectic schedule and the quality of the oil change might not be perfect 100% of the time. Not saying they usually make mistakes, because they usually don’t when talking about good workshops. Anyway I think changing automatic transmission fluid is something you can easily do yourself on a Mercedes as any other car. It is not as easy as changing the engine oil, but not very difficult either. There are some fall pits so just be prepared IN ADVANCE.

I cover here the procedure for the M110 engine with the 722.xxx transmission. The procedure is basically the same for all older Mercs. Changing the automatic oil will give you a good indication about the condition of your transmission unit so you can take preventative measures or just continue like usual.

Preparation

You will need to get some new stuff

  • 6.6L ATF Dex3 on earlier models
  • 6.1L ATF Dex3 on later models (usually 81-85)
  • New filter and oil pan seal (get the right one from Mercedes)
  • Narrow Funnel
  • Brake cleaner
  • Shop towels (lint free)
  • Jack stands and jack
  • Dripping pan
  • Tools – sockets and hex bit
  • Torque wrench
Draining

Unless it is a very warm summer day, go for a drive (recommended is 24km to really warm up the transmission to operating temperature, but sure you can go less if it’s highway speeds) , it will drain easier and faster when warm. Try planning to do this work when coming back from work or after a trip to the store to avoid unnecessary driving.

There are two choices when draining the fluid. Either just from the oil pan or both from the oil pan and the torque converter. I highly recommend to drain from both so you can get rid of as much of the old oil as possible.

Torque converter mercedes 280ce
Torque converter, but no drain plug in sight. The engine has to be turned.

Get the car up on jack stands, at least in the front. Block the wheels and apply the parking brake. Put the Transmission in Neutral (N). Start by locating the torque converter at the front of the transmission. In 99% of the cases you will have to turn the engine so the torque converter drain plug is pointing straight down so you can access it. In order to turn the torque converter you will have to have the car in Neutral! Use a socket wrench to turn the crankshaft pulley bolt in front of the engine and rotate the engine CLOCKWISE. If you have a helper he or she can tell you when the torque converter drain plug is coming into sight. Otherwise you have to crank the engine a bit at a time.

Torque converter drain plug mercedes 280ce
Torque converter drain plug in position for draining.

When you turned the engine so you can see the drain plug, don’t drain the torque converter before you have started draining the oil pan.

Open the oil pan drain plug with a hex socket, be careful to avoid burning yourself on the warm oil suddenly coming out very fast! Do the last unscrewing by hand to catch the bolt so it doesn’t fall into the drain pan.

automatic transmission oil
Draining the transmission oil pan

When no more oil is coming out reinstall the drain plug so you won’t loose it. Now you can remove the torque converter bolt with the same procedure as with the pan. Reinstall when no oil is coming out of the torque converter.

Now it is time to remove the oil pan completely for installing the new filter. The pan is secured with 6 bolts. be careful to hold it horizontally when loosing the last bolts because the pan contains a lot of oil still. After the pan is removed, let the fluid drip for a while from the valve body before removing the filter. Cleanliness at this point is of importance, do not wipe off the oil coming out of the valve body or you might get dirt on the valve body which is quite bad. It is pretty hard to clean the valve body since oil is constantly coming slowly out of it underneath for days.

The filter is held by three Phillips screws, be careful to not loose these screws! Also be careful of even more fluid coming fast at you when removing the filter from the valve body.

With the filter gone, the transmission will keep on dripping slowly, I mean for days if left like this. So have the drain pan under at all times.

The quantity in the drain pain will determine how much oil you need to add later. Overfilling the automatic transmission is not good due to overpressure which may lead to excessive fluid leaks and foaming of the oil.

Inspection

Now it is time to inspect the oil pan for metal particles, and fluid quality. If there are no visible particles and the fluid has a fresh red color (slightly darker than new oil is normal) and there are no oil sludge at the bottom of your pan, your transmission is just fine and you have changed the fluid in time. Also use your smell, the fluid should have a sweet smell and not smell like excessive burnt oil. If  you find a very tiny amount of metal particles and no sludge in the pan, your transmission is probably fine too, but the mileage of the car is starting to show and you should consider finding a replacement transmission. If there are both particles and the oil is very sludgy and of dark color, then you probably have noticed some shifting problems already. Also the fluid change have been long overdue and the clutches are starting to wear out. Decide if you should change or service your transmission!

transmission oil pan w123
Inspection for metal particles and sludge in the oil pan. The oil here had a sweet smell and was only a bit darker red than new oil which is perfectly normal. In the picture it might look that it had some metal particles but it is simply some dirt that fell off from beneath the car and my sloppy handling before I managed to take the picture.

In my car, the pan was empty of particles and sludge, the oil also was very red and clear still after many years as seen in the picture, however I did not drive the car a lot either the last years since it has been in a “project state”. The shifting is super smooth and I have not encountered any shifting problems. These transmissions are usually rock solid and will outlast the car itself, only if however if the fluid have been changed at regular intervals.

Cleanliness

Clean the pan very throughly with some brake cleaner, wipe it completely dry with no fluffs from paper hanging inside it. Use your palm to feel it is super smooth and no dirt traces are left. Now you can also clean the surface of the transmission where it meets the seal, so you can expect a leak free gasket around the pan. Do not clean the valve body though, just leave it wet with fluid.

Cleaned transmission oil pan w123
Cleaned transmission oil pan and new gasket
Installation and Refill

Fit the new filter and apply the new gasket to the pan.

Install the oil pan and do not over tighten the bolts to not crush the gasket, make the rubber do the sealing and not brute force. Use a crisscrossing pattern like tightening the lug bolts to ensure evenly distributed gasket. If you are OCD then you should use a torque wrench.

Now time is due to measure the quantity of oil you extracted. A leak free automatic transmission will not use any oil and this is the quantity you should use. Pour in exactly this amount into the transmission through the filler tube, which also happens to be the fluid level checking tube. You have to use a narrow funnel to avoid spilling oil over your (hot) manifold which will make a lot of smoke and can cause fires.

Filling transmissio oil 280CE
Fill transmission oil through the filler/measurement tube. Use a funnel

Inspect under the transmission to see if there are any leaks. Then it is time to start the engine. Let it go for a few minutes before you start engaging all the gears one by one. Do this gear cycling  3-4 times with a minute in between so the fluid can distribute itself within the transmission.

gear lever mercedes w123 280CE

gear level mercedes w123 280ce
Cycle through the gears 3-4 times with staying in each gear for about a minute
Level measurement

After this is done, check the fluid level again with the car running in idle. It should be some below the maximum mark, also it can also be slightly under the minimum when the transmission is not warm. The level will usually be below minimum when the oil is cold even when the transmission is filled with exact fluid quantity. The transmission oil heats up slower and you need to go for a drive to get the right operating temperature, and the fluid will start expanding reaching to the recommended level. Check under the car again now while car is running to be sure there are no leaks. Then go out for a spin, drive at least 24km at normal cruising speeds. Do not race or do any high RPM of the car. When coming back after your drive the oil should have reached the right operating temperature. Remember to keep the car idling when checking the fluid level again. If the fluid level is still under the minimum mark, fill more ATF slowly and re check until it reaches between min and max level on the dipstick. If it is already this level, then you have filled the right amount and your car has probably not leaked a single drop between oil changes. Normally you have to refill some after this test drive so the level can reach the desired level between minimum and maximum, older cars have a habit of sweating slightly some oil through old gaskets.

If you over fill, so that the level is above maximum, do not panic! Then you have to suck out some fluid from the filler tube with some brake bleeder tool or similar oil extractor hose. It is critical that the level is between the max and the min mark, since little fluid can make gears slip and wear out the clutch material, and too much fluid can make to much pressure and your transmission might start leaking from gaskets and the oil can start foaming.

The only big difference here between engine oil and automatic transmission fluid, is that the transmission fluid has to be warm and the engine has to be running while checking the level. The engine oil can just be checked while parked and also when the engine is cold. If you happen to check your transmission fluid and forgot to turn on the engine, you would swear and rip your hair out since it looks like there is too much oil, then you turn on your engine, and while the fluid is still cold it looks like it is too little.

-> Correct automatic transmission oil measurement is when fluid is warm with engine at idle 🙂

Cheers, Robs out!

How to re-haul the rear fuel delivery system on w123 (gasoline)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The fuel delivery system on w123 consists the fuel tank and a collection of components until it reaches the combustion chamber. This article will focus on the rear components until it reaches the CIS fuel injector assembly. The CIS system is pretty much a black box for me still. I will however go through how you change the fuel injectors and gaskets in another article.

I had to do a re-haul of the entire rear fuel delivery system when an entire tank worth of gasoline (~80 liters) had leaked out after my 280CE was parked for a while, totally delayed my plans for cruising in the summer by almost a week. This made me furious and is the reason for why I wrote this article.

Preparations

It is up to you how many part you want to change. I would recommend to change all the rubber fuel hoses and fuel filters as a minimum!

Parts

  • New fuel tank filter (the first one)
  • New main fuel tank delivery hose
  • New fuel delivery filter (the second one)
  • New high pressure flexible fuel hose
  • Two other fuel hoses and clamps (see pics)
  • 4 fuel assembly rubber mounts
  • [New fuel accumulator?]
  • [New electric fuel pump?]

Tools

  • Spanners
  • 45mm socket
  • screwdriwer
Common questions

So why bother changing the fuel accumulator? Well it can lead to problems such as warm start problems (yeah the M110 usually have warm start problems more than cold starts), this is due to the inability to hold fuel pressure after shutting down the engine and starting it before it gets cold. There are separate start up procedures either if engine is cold or warm. I thought a broken fuel accumulator was the problem with my car’s warm start problems, but it was in fact the old injectors and brittle gaskets that was the cause since they could not maintain fuel pressure.

Why bother changing the electric fuel pump? This has to be the number one reason why people are stranded in their cars with M110 engine. After some time (around 7 years if in daily use) it will with certainty stop working. The part is however quite expensive and I would suggest to not change it if is still working and not obviously very old. A maintenance tip instead of investing in a new part is to remove the corrosion on the electrical connections.

Procedure

Pretty straight forward, just change all the fuel hoses and refit… OK I will guide you through it like Gandalf in the mines of Moria. Smelling fuel is usually an indication of leaking hoses.

Before you even start you have to disconnect the battery to avoid explosions. Then completely drain the tank, either by sucking up the fuel from the gas filler tube or by unloosening the main tank outlet hose from under the tank. I would suggest you drive the car nearly empty before undertaking this task. Make sure the area you are working in is very well ventilated since gasoline fume is highly explosive!

Main fuel hose 280CE

After the tank is drained you can remove the plastic cover start by removing the thick fuel hose connected to the tank. Just have a look at this one in the picture under which caused all the fuel in my car to drain out.

broken fuel hose
Broken main fuel hose

A massive 45mm socket is needed to remove and fit the fuel tank filter. Remember to replace the gasket as well.

fuel tank filter 280CE
Fuel tank filter.

Now you can remove the flexible hoses connecting the high pressure and the return hard lines. If you see rust on the connection then you have to be extremely careful not to round off the relatively soft metal on the hard line unless you want to go through with replacing the entire line. Believe me this is a shit job (my old hard lines were rusted and leaked fuel).

High pressure fuel line W123
High pressure hose

Disconnect the two electrical wires to the fuel pump and when all the fuel lines are disconnected from the body, you can go on and loosen the 4 bolts holding the bracket for the pump, fuel filter and accumulator. Beware this bracket can be pretty rusted and you need either to get hold of a new one or remove the rust and repaint the one you have. The rubber mount bushings are probably dried up or broken so you should replace all 4 of them.

On a work bench you can now go on with the job of replacing the components and the old fuel hoses. Look at the picture below on comparing new and old hoses.

fuel assembly hoses 280ce
Old vs new fuel assembly hoses.

Assembly is just opposite of removing. The main thing you have to consider is to make sure there are not any leaks before you start driving. Look at the picture below to see how the components should fit together in the assembly.

Fuel pump assembly 280CE
Fuel pump assembly 280CE. From top to bottom: Fuel accumulator, fuel filter, fuel pump.

The best thing is that there is no need of special fuel bleeding or start up procedure when starting up the car after fitting all the lines together. Just refill the tank and crank the engine and it will start right up. Nothing difficult as with the diesel.

Then mount the assembly and fasten the hose to the fuel filter. Don’t forget to fit the electrical wires to the fuel pump and mount check for leaks when starting the car. When no leaks are detected, mount back the plastic mud cover to protect the components. Hopefully you will have no leaky days or being stranded by a malfunctioning fuel pump.

Cheers!

How to get a (Gasoline) car starting that has been sitting a few years

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As an example I will use this rotten 280SE that has not been driven for a long time. It has been standing outside, somewhat half of it under a roof next to a barn for 3 years.  So how do you solve the mystery of starting a car that has been sitting for so long? This method applies for all Mercedes and all other gasoline cars in general.

280SE M110 Engine
Sleeping M110

I will also touch upon the subject of what you have to do after you get the car started in order to make it drivable.

Preparation

This list is the bare minimum preparations to get the car starting. To get it to a drivable condition you will need to do much more stuff. I dive into that at the bottom.

  1. Get a new battery
  2. Get some fresh fuel
  3. Get some new spark plugs
  4. New fuel filter and fuel tank filter
  5. Check condition of ignition system to determine if you need to get new parts like distributor cap and spark plug wires.
  6. New air filter
Procedure
  1. Remove old battery. The old battery is quickly dead if not been used for a while. Just throw out the old one at the same place where you buy new one, they will recycle it for you. Don’t cry over the old battery, maybe this time you will take better care of the newer one?

    old car battery
    Ready to be recycled
  2. Empty the tank from the old fuel since this fuel is pretty much useless. If the car has been sitting for more than a few years then just change the fuel filter as well. There might be the case where you cant raise the car to get under it to drain the fuel and change the fuel tank filter as was the case with this particucular case. Then you have to drain the tank by sucking out the old fuel from the tank filler hole. It is easily done by “stealing fuel trick” (just suck on a hose hopefully not with your mouth, just use a vacuum pump instead). It wont get your filter clean, but often it is not completely clogged in a gasoline car and you can get the car running by pouring some new fuel in.

    removing old fuel
    Removing old fuel from the tank, used the old suck on the hose until it start flowing.
  3. Remove the old spark plugs, they probably are so dirty they won’t give a proper spark.

    old vs new sparkplugs
    Can you spot the which ones are the new spark plugs?
  4. Pour a little oil into the cylinders from an oil can to make better compression upon startup, the oil will make a temporary seal between the compression rings.

    oil being poured into cylinders
    Pour some oil into those cylinders
  5. Put in new the spark plugs, gapped to the right specification.
    spark plug fitting
    Torque the new spark plugs to not damage the engine block threads

    Go over the ignition system again if you didn’t get new parts, like removing obvious corrosion inside the distributor cap. Check for cracks and corrosion on the spark plug wires. Remove all traces of corrosion since it might hinder current to the spark plugs.

  6. Check the engine oil level, fill up if low. Low level might indicate oil leakage and dried up gaskets.
  7. Check radiator coolant level, this has probably evaporated quite a bit and you have to fill up with new coolant.
  8. Throw out the old air filter. Simply remove the air filter housing at initial start up to get the maximum amount of air into the combustion chamber. Don’t forget to put in the new air filter after startup to avoid dirt getting into the engine.
  9. Crank the engine first by hand from the crank pulley, go in clockwise direction when looking from the front of the car over the engine. The engine should be able to turn without too much force. If not you might have a big problem! Then the only chance you have is that the engine will turn with the starter motor.
  10. Check for blown fuses, easy fix and often overlooked.
  11. Put in the new battery and check that the battery pole clamps are cleaned from corrosion. Put them on tight.
  12. Fill the car up with some new fuel, but just a little since you don’t want to waste fuel id you can’t get it started.
  13. Cross your fingers and try to start the car. You know that a good Mercedes should always start unless….

Hopefully you got your car starting, congratulations and pat on the shoulder! Then now what?

rusty 280SE
I managed to get the car starting, and moved it inside, but it is so rusty that it is not worth saving. I will take the engine though since it is in quite good condition from looking at the service history.
After procedure

Some even have the trouble of even moving the car after starting it, can the wheels turn or are the brakes completely seized?

Well the job is not done just because you only got started. Now the big job is starting. The absolute most important thing is changing all the fluids and filters! The fluids change property when being stored for a long time and does not have the right cooling and lubricating properties anymore. That means changing the engine oil, coolant, transmission oil, servo oil, brake fluid and differential fluid.

The brake disks are probably rusted beyond recognition and has to be replaced along with the brake pads and pad sensors.

rusted brake disks
This is a no go

Engine valves needs adjusting if this is not done automatically if you want peak power and better fuel economy.

Serpentine belts needs replacement since they probably are slipping and are cracked.

Change the tires, they probably have cracks in them and are not round at all after sitting this long.

Check the brushes on the generator, they probably need replacing.

Consider cleaning or replacing the injectors since they probably have bad spray patterns making poorer performance and again lower fuel economy.

There is an environmental problem, but only seen in the eyes of us now, in a larger picture this is not new or the worst, 20000 years ago when there was mass extinction of all large mammals on Earth due to over hunting.
Bosch CIS injector
After thoughts

Getting the car started is just a small part of the job, making it drivable is a much more tedious job that might take you . Leaving a car sitting for long periods of time is not good for the car or you. It leaves you a lot of work and more things than you think needs replacement after just a few years. The engine does not like it and it is quite tedious to get rid of all the old fuel in the tank and filters that makes life miserable. Not even to begin mentioning old dried up gaskets.

I have my car parked for around 5 months of the year during the winter, and I do not recommend leaving the car for much more than that. I make sure I do the necessary preparations before parking, like removing the battery to inside a warm place and recharging it before use again. Trying to have as little fuel as possible in the tank when parking. Blowing up the tires to around maximum pressure. Parking the car without touching the brakes and not using the parking brake to prevent seizure. Then covering the car in a car blanket to protect the paint. The brake rotors will unavoidably get a thin rust layer, but thin enough it will all go away rapidly after a going hard on the brakes a few times. Leaving the car for more than one + year will make the rotors so rusty that they have to be replaced. You have been warned.

Cheers!