The major issue with this car which basically prevents me from driving it is a malfunctioning front window wiper mechanism. It rains quite a lot here especially in the autumn, also it’s illegal to drive without them. While the front window wipers are essential, the rear one is not working either. Side view mirrors are often enough, however the mirrors on this car are so small and “well” designed so you can’t really see whats directly behind you. So I will need to fix that one as well.
The front wipers were almost not working when picking up the car when I bought it and the wipers were stuck in a weird position. Unfortunately it was heavy rain this day and not really possible to drive without it. When inspecting the mechanism it turned out that the motor was fine, but the wiper bracket was broken due to a totally seized right side wiper shaft.
After some 2 hours of fiddling in the rain we managed to get the driver side wiper to work (barely). The drive home was quite interesting where I operated the wiper only when strictly necessary. Thankfully it worked all the way home with no fuzz.
Front Wiper Mechanism
The access to the front wiper mechanism is easily made with removing the plastic cover just over the engine beneath the front window. But first open the hood to get better access to the wiper arms. Some care here is needed so you don’t crack the front windscreen, such as dropping your tools and slamming the spring loaded wipers on the window.
Removing the wiper arms can be a challenge if you don’t know the trick. Unscrew the nut half way, then use an open ended wrench to pry off the wiper arm and voila it’s off. Once both wiper arms are removed, you can remove the plastic guard cover. It’s only held in place with 6 hex screws located at the top of the engine bay. Take care not to loose any tools or screws into the engine bay. You will never find them again from the bottom of the engine bay.
The wiper mechanism itself is easy to take off. There is one cable to the motor, then the mechanism is held together with 3 bolts. When reinstalling a used one, or refreshing the existing one. It’s an excellent opportunity to lube the wiper shafts with some oil and put some grease on the mechanism joints. Much easier than when it’s on the car.
Before reinstalling the wiper mechanism, make sure the joints are installed the correct way. Use the article as reference since there are two ways the joints can attach to the middle pivot bar. Installing them the wrong way might ruin the assembly when turning on the key. Also beware that the motor is really powerful, so don’t put your hand or fingers down in the mechanism while someone is turning the key or checking the mechanism from inside the car. Ideally the battery should be disconnected while working on the wipers.
Before assembling the whole thing, make sure the wiper mechanism works properly by turning on the wiper motor and inspect that the mechanism works without any issues and clears all obstacles under the windshield. There is some wiggle room for the bracket in the 3 mounts. Then you can put back the plastic cover.
Installing the wiper arms is probably the most difficult with this job, since it needs some fiddling and adjusting to get the correct angle. The two arms are not equal either so make sure to put them on correct to their assigned side. When aligning them, you will need to try them out and see if they have enough clearance when operating while also cover most of the screen. This might take a couple of tries, so be patient. When they are aligned, then put back the plastic covers and your are done.
The issue with this type of wiper arm design is that the wiper arms seem constantly to fight for position. If one binds or get stuck the other wiper will most likely break the other arm with a punch! A problem in older cars with more non-synchronized wipers like these is that they end up fighting for the windscreen and the wiper arms get bent, for example Lamborghini Espada.
Feels good to have working wipers again!
Rear wiper mechanism
The rear wiper motor is easier to replace. First remove the wiper arm, or if it’s broken off like mine, remove the nut. Then open the rear hatch, there is a plastic cover under there which can be removed without tools. Just use a plastic prying tool to snap it open.
The wiper motor has a plastic tube which needs to be unhooked. The plastic tube delivers wiper washer fluid to the rear window. Don’t worry, it will not leak water when unhooking it. Don’t mess up the plastic spring, otherwise you will leak washer fluid into the boot. Also unhook the power plug.
The window motor is held in place by only three bolts, and when removing these you can slide out the whole motor from the rear.
A new rear wiper blade comes actually wih a new arm as well, since the wiper blade is quite special and non-standard. It is not super cheap, buit not expensive wither. Installation is just reverse of disassembly, remember to test it and check for leaks before finishing at the end.
My experience so far with working on this car is that it’s actually super easy to work on. It seems that if a car is easy to assemble on the factory thus making it cheap, it will also be easy for the home DIY mechanic to do work on. I’m quite happy for that. Older cars are usually more complex in their build and also a bit harder to work on.
The W140 How To.. articles are too and far between, especially on this site. Gladly on my part (sadly for you guys…) there has been very little wrong with this car and there’s not much maintenance either since the S600 has not been used as a daily driver. The W140 appears to me as a very over engineered car with an extremely durable design. As mentioned in the review, it is quite heavy due to all the extra sound dampening and extra equipment for comfort. I have never been in such a quiet car ever. Rolls Royce is probably the only comparable here. But as any other car, it too require regular maintenance such as oil changes. So how do you change the oil and filter for the engine in the M120 V12 engine. Sounds a bit scary right?
This Mercedes model was one of the last one without the common OBD2 interface, and it is not required to a use any electronic diagnostics tool to reset some car computer during the oil change. What you need though is a lot of oil, A lot with a big A, 11 Liters to be exact. Remember to get an oil filter too, please get a good German known brand since they will last longer, not disintegrate and not ruin your engine. The price is anyway insignificant at this point. You don’t want to cheap out here, trust me.
Another tip is to get 2 new air filter elements since you will be messing with the air filter box anyway. And since they are cheap and should be replaced regularly it is a good time to change them now.
What type of oil then? Well it kinda depends on the conditions used, warm climate vs cold, harsh driving vs. balanced etc. I am using the car mainly in summer in a moderately tempered climate and use the car quite balanced. So no need for high performance or very cold weather conditions. However the engine is quite large and is quite slow to get up to operating temperature, so a thin cold start oil is probably beneficial to avoid unnecessary wear and tear when the engine is running cold the first 5 minutes.
I ended up using Castrol’s recommendation chart and it recommended the 0w-40 Edge fully synthetic oil. This is not an ad for them, but easily available here.
You will also need a special oil filter cap tool which can be acquired quite cheap from any car parts supplier. The cap is tightened to 25Nm and is nearly impossible to remove by hand. It’s also made of plastic so it can break, a new cap is not cheap. The trick here is however to get the correct one since there are hundreds of different ones. I spent quite some time to figure out the correct one without actually looking in the car and measuring. Firstly I couldn’t travel physically back then due to the lock-down and secondly I didn’t want to fiddle with the car just to find out the specs for the tool. (The oil filter cap is not visible by just opening the hood and requires removal of the air intake box). The oil filter removal tool is 74mm width with 14 slots.
Parts and tools
Oil filter (oil filter comes with new oil filter cap o-ring and a copper washer for the oil drain plug)
11L of Oil, your choice, e.g. 0w-40 fully synchetic
Oil filter cap removal tool. 74mm 14 slots
The oil removal process can be done with a oil suction pump inserted from the top of the dipstick tube and then removing the drain pan plug after, this makes less of a mess and is done in most workshops. However then you need an extra tool, so this guide will only use the drain plug method.
The engine should have normal operating temperature while changing the oil, since the oil will drain out easier, so take the car out for a drive before or plan to do the oil change straight after a trip.
Start by lifting the car up in the front and place it on jack stands in order to access the oil drain plug. Some of the w140 have plastic panels hiding the drain plug, so make sure to remove these. However my car does not have them and the drain plug is easily accessible. Before draining the oil from below, the oil filter must come out to allow better drainage. After opening the hood it can be very confusing locating the engine oil filter housing, and in fact you cannot see it unless you remove the left side air filter box. It’s well hidden below it.
Thankfully it is easy removing the air filter housing. It’s attached by two bolts and a couple of clips to the intake housing. You also need to disconnect one airflow sensor cable. Take care not to loose the intake hose clips into the engine bay which can be hard to recover, since they can come loose by themselves after loosening the air box. Loosing such a clip will make dirty air potentially enter the engine since it can then bypass the air filter.
After the left side air filter box is removed, you can now access the oil filter housing and remove the cap with the special filter housing tool. Use a joint on the socket to make the operation easier since access is poor down there. Pack a lot of paper and keep a tray on hand to avoid spilling oil when taking out the oil filter. Clean up all of the spilled oil, since it’s hot down there and we don’t want smoking and fires while the engine is running. Also use a small suction pump or syringe to get the little left over oil which lies in the house after the old filter is removed.
Then it’s time to open the bottom oil drain plug. You will need a large oil drip pan which can have at least 11 Liters. Beware the engine oil is hot and will come out with great force when removing the drain plug. Use plastic gloves to protect the skin and try to not loose the bolt into the pan when removing it. Expect about 10-10.5 liters of oil to drain out. It’s nearly impossible to drain it completely of 11 liters by just removing the plug as with most cars.
When the oil has stopped draining after 10-15 minutes. Change the copper washer on the drain plug that comes with the oil filter kit, and the reinsert the drain plug. Do not over tighten since it will ruin the threads in your drain pan. Tighten the drain plug bolt to 30 Nm. It have happened a few times over the history that people have forgotten to insert the drain plug bolt and poured in the new oil which just lands on the floor. Do not stress and make this mistake!
Then replace the O-ring of the oil filter cap with the one that comes with the oil filter kit. Many recommends giving the O-ring with a coat of engine oil before assembly. I have no idea if it’s any useful, but I did it. It gives at least some less friction when installing the cap. On most cars it’s good to fill the oil filter hosing with oil so the first few rotations of the engine will have faster access to the new oil, but on this car it is not possible at all. Pouring new oil into the housing will just drain straight into the block. Also it is not possible to install the oil filter without it being attached to the cap itself, so there is no chance here.
The oil filter is installed by popping the oil filter to the cap and then inserted into the filter housing. Tighten the cap to only 25 Nm and it’s very important to not over tighten here since it’s made from plastic and easily strip threads. And a new cap is very expensive!
Before poring in the new oil you need to know how much to add so you’re not over filling the engine. Simply adding 11 liters will most be too much. So you should always measure the quantity of oil which was drained. In my case it was slightly above 10 Liters. Also inspect the bottom of the oil drip pan, look for sludge and which can indicate overdue oil change interval and metal shavings which can indicate excessive wear in bearings and pistons. In my case it was no such indications and all is good.
Double check drain plug and oil filter cap is secured, then start poring fresh oil using a funnel to avoid spilling oil all over the engine. After you have filled the quantity you need, measure with the dipstick and inspect it’s not above maximum level. Some of the oil will need to get into the filter and you probably have to add slightly more after the engine have run a few minutes. Turn on the engine, see that you get good oil pressure, and inspect for leaks in the drain pan and around the oil filter cap. After the engine has run for a few minutes, turn it off and measure the level with the dip stick again. Add oil if necessary, but do not over fill. If too much is added then you need to remove the excessive oil with a suction tube.
Then reinstall the air filter box. Now It’s a good time to also change the two air filters on either side of the engine. No tools required here, it’s made like a drawer, like how you store your underwear at home.
Then take a short drive of 5-10 minutes, see that you have good oil pressure and that the engine feels normal. When coming back home, inspect for leaks around the oil drain plug. And remeasure the oil level with the dip stick, add oil if needed. Then you are done for another 15.000km.
There was this annoying hole in the exhaust from last summer. It was the thin sheet under front muffler that had cracked and I had it welded just before the MOT last year. Unfortunately the job was poorly done by the workshop. Another lesson learned on why we should fix our own cars…. The fix ended up costing almost as much as the new pipes, so that was also dumb. On the very day before this summers epic 3000 km road trip of crossing Norway I had to change the entire exhaust system. The pressure was on to get it finished before the trip!
The poorly welded exhaust only got noticeable few weeks before the upcoming road trip, but another car was planned to be used so there was no pressure initially. Then because of circumstances it was decided to use the 280CE after all and the exhaust leak needed to be addressed asap. I decided to swap out all the pipes since some rust was starting to appear in the pipe welds and its easier to just swap the whole thing at once.
I ordered the exhaust less than two weeks before from Germany and it arrived two days before the road trip was starting. Just in time. It only costed me 500$ which I think is a bargain for a classic car! The quality also seems very good as well.
Stage 1 – Getting the car up in the air
You need some good space to wrestle with the large exhaust system under the car. I drove the front of the car up on ramps then lifted the back of the car on jack stands so the whole body was up in the air. I leave the tires on for extra safety and don’t lover the jack either. Also make sure to block the front wheels from rolling on the ramps. I’m a fan of redundancy and here I even placed a couple of jack stands in the front which is kind of unnecessary, but makes it feel somehow safer.
Stage 2 – Removing the old pipes
This is usually the most time consuming job involving rusted fasteners and wrestling with stuck pipes. I was planning to only change the pipes up to the down pipes, since the down pipes are in a really good condition compared to the rest of the exhaust. The issue then become separating the down pipes from the pipes underneath the car.
I started removing the clamps for the front pipes and loosening the system from the transmission mount. Then unhooking the four rubber donuts from the rear muffler. To avoid too much stress on the pipes I placed something under the rear muffler for it to rest on, in this case a tree stub.
Then the issue with sliding off the exhaust system from the down pipes. They were extremely stuck and you’re not able to twist them since it’s a pair of dual pipes. I was first trying to push them out with putting my entire weight with my legs and kicking. Then I tried heating the outer pipes with a heater torch. After a while struggling with no success and them not moving at all I had to make a drastic decision. I needed to cut them out without damaging the inner down pipes. This would mean the old exhuast would be trash, but it’s old and not worth much anyway.
In order to get the old outer pipe off, it needs to be split and then removed. It would be impossible to try pushing them off otherwise. I started by cutting the pipes across a few centimeters before the mating point. Here I used an angle grinder with a thin cutting disk for about half the way, then a manual cutting saw blade for the rest. A bit tedious, but will get the job done. The best would be to use a hack saw which is much safer than an angle grinder and faster than the manual saw. However I don’t have one. Maybe now it’s a time to acquire one?
After the pipes were separated I could remove the old exhaust system. The old stubs of the outer pipes are just as stuck and a slit have to be cut down the middle and care have to taken in order to not damage the inner tubes. The only tool for this is an angle grinder. Watch out for sparks in your face!
When there is a slit along the length of the pipe I could use a punch with a sharp end and drive it into the slit until it grew larger and eventually the pipe will split along its entire length. Then it was super easy to remove the outer pipe.
I was surprised of how effective it was, and it was sour that I wasted so much time trying to free the pipes with different methods before I ended up doing this. I was also surprised to find that there was essentially no rust that was binding up the pipes, instead it looked like the metal had expanded into each other and exhaust coke had made this kind of glue between them. Now that the old exhaust was removed, I could mount the new system on.
Stage 3 – Fitting the new pipes
This was the fastest part of the job. It was basically lining up the three exhaust part components, putting on the clamps and tighten them. When the full length is assembled I could slide it under and mount it to the down pipes. Don’t forget to slide on the clamps before joining the exhaust pipes.
I found having some help with the assembly part is useful due to the quite heavy and large part that needs to be aligned, but also doable alone if you plan all the moves ahead in time.
The exhaust kit came with four new rubber donut muffler hangers. These rubber hangers crack at an incredibly fast rate due to the heat of the exhaust and they rarely lasts more than 1-2 years before they break.
Stage 4 – Road trip
Luckily I managed to sort it out the evening before and could leave the next day.The road trip went fine and went without issues all the 3000 km. The tail pipes of the new exhaust have a slightly different shape and the heat reaches the rear bumper a bit more making a subtle bluish tint on the chrome which is quite cool.
I have the habit of doing jobs in hurry lately where I needed to travel shortly afterwards. Unfortunately this introduces a lot of stress and takes the joy out of fixings cars a bit. I need to plan better indeed.
Changing out worn shocks might be most effective and cheapest fix that can transform the ride handling of your car for the better. My S600 had very noticeable up and down wobbling when driving over bumps and a quite large body roll making in tight corners. It was becoming a bit boat like there at the end. The S600 is a very heavy car and needs good handling when going fast. A flatter ride in corners also makes for a more comfortable drive overall, so your passengers don’t wake up from their naps.
Changing the shocks will reduce wear on other more expensive suspension components like bushings and tires, while overly worn might damage the suspension. Changing the shocks is in your interest to be an economical DIYer.
The front suspension uses normal a McPherson setup with separated gas shocks detached from the springs and can easily be removed. The rear suspension on the other hand uses the more complicated SLS leveling suspension setup and don’t use shocks at all. Instead it uses hydraulic rams along with pressure spheres. More effort and money is needed when doing maintenance on the rear suspension than the front. The SLS however normally lasts a lot longer if you remember to change the fluid once in a while.
When changing the shocks you should also use the opportunity to inspect/change some other wear items easily accessible in the front suspension. This could be sway bar links or the brake rotors and pads. The sway bar links wear down faster than the other suspension components due to their tiny ball joints and should be replaced whenever cracks appear in the sleeves or any slack starts to be noticeable. Worn sway bar links can make annoying sounds for you and your passengers. We all know expensive cars are known for being the most squeaky cars around, let’s change that!
You should expect to use around half day to a day on this job, depending on your skill set, the amount of rusty bolts and your tools at disposal. It’s something you can do easily on a weekend. When doing the job I was even under time pressure since I had to catch a flight the same day. I managed to catch the flight and get the job.
If you want to bundle more front suspension jobs while doing the shocks, I recommend removing the front wheels and inspect the suspension such as the sway bar links, brake pads and rotors as well as the tie rods. Any more advanced jobs than that you will will require a lot more time invested so be sure to plan accordingly. Usually large front end jobs require a re-alignment of the suspension, but is not required here.
Parts needed (as described in the article):
2x front shocks. I recommend premium brands such as Bilstein or Meyle
1x Left front sway bar link
1x Right front sway bar link
I ended up using quite a tool collection because of rusted bolts on the sway bar links, but this might not be the case for you. I think this collection of tools goes into most home car mechanics tool box, but there might be a couple of them you should consider getting. Always better to be prepared than sitting there stuck without finishing the job.
Jack and 2 jack stands
Long breaker bar
A set of long spanners
High quality hex sockets
Pin punch driver
Long Hex keys
Propane blow torch (super handy when things are stuck)
Start by raising the front of the car and remember to use the E-brake together with wheel stops. Place the front on jack stands. I also like to keep the jack in the up position as redundancy on the side I’m working with. You can lift the w140 with the jack on the rubber jacking pad and place the jack stands more towards the center of the car under the sub frame.
The shocks can be removed when the calipers are in place, but to remove the sway bar links, both the calipers and the brake rotors need to be removed to access it. I will first describe how to replace the shocks since it is a much easier job. Then I will describe how to replace the sway bar links.
Start by removing the lower bolt. Use a long breaker bar and a large spanner to break the bolt loose. Then move to a ratchet to get the nut off. Use the jack to lift the lower suspension arm a little bit to relieve some tension in the bolt through the bracket hole. Then use a punch to smack out the bolt with a hammer. Be careful if the bolt catches too much, then try to relieve more pressure before continuing. Most shocks do not come with replacements for the lower bolt and nut, so try keeping these in good shape.
When the bolt is loose, open the hood and locate the top nut. The top part of the damper can look different from each other. You have to keep the strut bar still with a hex socket or flat pliers while using a spanner to unbolt it. There exists a special tool to do this with a socket, but is frankly unnecessary except if you’re addicted to tools. This locking nut always comes with a replacement nut and you should throw away the old one. When the locking nut is off you can easily remove the old damper.
Before installing the new damper, push it completely down a few times to relieve tension. The installation orientation has no influence if the brand does not specify it. Start by installing it with the top part and the top locking nut. When installing the new damper you must take of not letting the damper shaft rotate while turning the locking nut. Keep it secured while fastening the locking nut. This is to reduce the risk of breaking the internal seal of the damper so it will start leaking. The nut does not need to be extremely tight, but do tighten it until you feel it is secure. It is very important to make a re-tight after the car is on the ground. I will remind you of this again shortly.
Now you will probably notice that the new damper is quite shorter than the old one when you took it out. You therefore have to compress the spring by jacking up the lower suspension arm until you can align up the bolt hole. This might be a bit tricky and use a hammer to punch the bolt through since it is nearly impossible to align them up 100%. Again take care of not ruining the threads on the bolt. The lower bolt and nut should be torqued to 80Nm.
Front sway bar links
Now on to the more fun part where you can expect to meet more of a challenge. First you need to turn the wheel you’re working on all the way out to get access on the backside. Start by removing the caliper, it is held by two bolts. You may require some force to break them loose. Prepare some method too hook the calipers up in the spring to relieve tension on the flexible brake hoses. Never let them hang freely. I used long zip ties here and I could just to cut it off when done. But a simple S-shaped hook would have been even easier!
The caliper might be difficult to get off if the brake rotor has a lip on the edge. Use a pry bar or the back side of a hammer to press in the outer brake pad by using the rotor for leverage. Be careful not to damage the pad material. When the caliper is loose, secure it up onto the spring.
When the brake caliper is loosened you can start remove the break disk rotor. It is secured by a tiny hex nut, but you might find this lost or broken. Mine was broken off on the right side, but the left one was fine. Loosen the nut with a hex socket. If the brake rotor is sticking to the hub, try hammering gently on it with a plastic hammer. If it does not pop off, it can be quite frozen due to rust and you’ll need heat to loosen it. Ignite up your blow torch and heat the area just around the hub. This should expand the rotor just enough so it will pop off with a light hammer blow. Over heating the hub might make the hub grease melt and run out, so be careful with the heat.
Now it’s the time to locate the outer sway bar link nut. Cross your fingers for no rust. It is located right under the brake rotor. The locking mechanism is not the best engineering, since you’ll need either a special tool or trying to combine a socket with some magic tricks. I used a socket, secured it with locking pliers and then used a hex key sticking through it. After some fiddling I managed to get the nut off. You can usually loosen the bolt the first few turns by using just the socket normally.
The upper nut should be the easier of the two to get off, since the lower one usually gets all the rust and is easier to round off the hex bolt head. Soak it thoroughly with rust penetration fluid and let it work for 15 minutes. Then use a hammer and whack that nut good a couple of times.
I got lucky with one side, but the other side I had to drive in an over sized XZN socket with a hammer so it’s surely stuck in there. Then I could get enough torque to loosen the rusted nut. This will obviously destroy the part, but it’s thrown out anyway. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of this process since I was struggling a bit and running out of time.
Now you should be able to remove the sway bar link. Go fetch the one that fits depending on the side you are working (hopefully you order the correct ones). Fit the top side first, then you move on to the lower side. It can a be a bit tricky to fit the lower side onto the sway bar again. Get a long bar or a long spanner and wedge it between the spring to get leverage to push down on the sway bar.
It is not necessary to tighten the sway bar links very hard, just snug with enough force so they sit on. Remember these will probably rust tight faster than you can say cheese and the hex bolts will round off again.
Caution: Before assembling the rotors, make sure you brush off any old rust off the hub face and the inside of the rotor. This is to prevent rumbling while braking and that the rotor sits on straight! You can use a steel brush and a rough pad to do this. Also brush off any surface rust on the front side of the rotor where it meets the wheel.
The front caliper bolts need a layer of blue thread locker on them since there are no shims or similar. Use 115Nm torque when tightening the caliper bolts.
It can be a bit tricky to mount the wheel if the little rotor locking nut is missing, so a replacement might come in handy here. Otherwise you have to align the hub with the rotor first and then with the wheel when sticking in the bolts.
Now I hope you will take on this task without paying stupid amounts of hours for mechanics to figure this out at a workshop. Go do it yourself!