RE: Mercedes-Benz E320 (W211) | Shed of the Week

RE: Mercedes-Benz E320 (W211) | Shed of the Week

Friday 30th August 2019

Mercedes-Benz E320 (W211) | Shed of the Week

Hang on, a rust-free big Merc from the early 2000s, at Shed money? They do exist...



Why, when decent steel was being made in Persia 3000 years ago, have we still not found a foolproof way of preventing corrosion? Maybe it's because the main component of steel is iron, and iron likes being rusty. That's its thermodynamically favoured natural state. So, while you motor serenely on, your steel-based car is constantly working on a foul plot to dump you through the floor.

Some cars have been very successful at this. The Lancia Beta that Shed once owned, his Dad's Vauxhall Viva HA (which actually did provide several views of the road through the floor), and quite a few Mercedes-Benzes built around the turn of the last century. That included, but was not limited to, a large number of E-Classes.

Theories abound as to why the quality control went so wrong for Mercedes at this time. Let's not get into all that. Let's just say that finding a clean, rust-free E-Class from this era could be seen as some kind of happy miracle in 2019. Praise your chosen Lord then, because that's what we appear to have in this week's Shed.


The owner assures us there is no rust, and no mention of it appears anywhere on the MOT history other than in the usual places (brake pipes). It should help that this 2003 specimen is an early-ish W211 rather than a late W210, although you might think that rust should not have been a problem for owners of either car as Mercedes brought in a 30-year Mobilo-life warranty against bodywork corrosion as long ago as October 1998.

At the time, M-B boss Dieter Zetsche said something along the lines of the high quality of materials, standards of workmanship and corrosion protection of the bodywork and underfloor structures allowing such a warranty to be put in place. The conditions of Mobilo-life were that if a customer had the car serviced regularly (at least every two years) at an authorised Mercedes-Benz dealership, anti-corrosion coverage would continue for another 26 years beyond the regular four-year warranty. If the body was perforated due to corrosion from the inside out any time within 30 years, Mercedes-Benz would repair the damage at one of its workshops, at no cost to the owner.

Wow. So, in theory at least, assuming the servicing criteria have been adhered to, you should be able to chuck in a Mobilo-life claim on a 2003 W211 E-Class even now, or even a 1998 W210. In reality of course you'd have about as much chance of getting somewhere with your local M-B dealer as Shed would have with the village postmistress, unless you could somehow prove that the car's body was perforated due to corrosion 'from the inside out'. Good luck with that.


Anyway, it's all moot-ish for the time being at least, because there is no trace of the brown stuff anywhere here. The mileage is low and the car seems to reflect that outside and in. Not everyone will be a fan of the resale silver that permeates the entire car, relieved only by fillets of Mercedes Woodยฎ, but you have to admire the way it's stood up to the passage of time. You might be pleasantly surprised by the easy thrunge of the 3.2-litre petrol motor too, and the generally bargealicious all-round experience of a mid-sized Merc unbarried by the curse of too-thin tyres and 'sports' suspension.

Early 211s suffered from their fair share of maladies though, mainly electrical. These weren't really sorted out until the 2006 facelift, but the owner of this 2003 car reports no dash lights, which on an afflicted car would typically be for the BAS (Brake Assist System) and ESP, often caused by brake light switch failure. Dampness getting into the seat weight sensors can activate the SRS light.

Under the bonnet, crank position sensors are known to fritz, and it's worth checking to see if it has a Valeo radiator. These leak, allowing coolant into the automatic transmission and potentially knackering the torque converter. Changing the Valeo unit is a sensible bit of preventative maintenance.


The pump for the Sensotronic Brake Control is another weak point. SBC was a clever thing but if you planned on pressing the brake pedal more than 200,000 times the pump could go. Rather than trying to count up your brake presses, it might be simpler just to get a new pump. Replacement units should carry a yellow label with a date.

Finally - well, never finally, but finally for this story - the bags for the Airmatic self-levelling suspension can leak, lowering the car when it's left switched off for a while. This usually happens at the back, so you don't even get that cool low-nose gangster look by way of compensation. You will however get a not so cool STOP, YOUR CAR IS TOO LOW warning on the dash, requiring a prompt visit to the garage. Not sure how you would get there with a too-low car, a lot of scraping would presumably be involved, but that's your problem.

On the plus side, our Shed has a nearly full MOT and a nice set of alloys. At ยฃ1295 or less this looks like a bargey bargain for somebody. Worth buying surely if only for the fun of keeping it until September 2028 and then bunging in a Mobilo-life claim for rusty wings.


Here's the ad

Search for a Mercedes E-Class here

Author
Discussion

PSB1967

Original Poster:

68 posts

106 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
Amazing find. More luxury per £ than Primani Silk bedding. Great shedding and article. Thanks PH!

C.MW

214 posts

19 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
I really like the E class of this generation. It is by far the best looking E class since the turn of the century. Restrained ane elegant with no sporty looking BS attached to it and you know from the way it drives that these don't even try to do an impression of a sports sedan, which I think is a plus for any luxobarge.

The Mad Monk

6,352 posts

67 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
I used to have the estate version with a diesel engine. Served me well. Sold it at 215,000 miles.

alorotom

7,488 posts

137 months

Friday 30th August 2019
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Very Q and looks well over budget to joe bloggs

SidewaysSi

6,476 posts

184 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
Love these cars! The ad isn't exactly dripping with detail is it ?

KTF

8,564 posts

100 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
As an aside, are there any websites detailing why the MB quality went downhill during this period?

AC43

7,488 posts

158 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
I had one of them in that colour - it was a 2005 E500 7 seater estate bought to replace a 1999 AMG C43 Estate.

It didn't weigh much more that the C43 had similar power and torque so went well.

What made it better was the big step up in quality, kit & refinement over the C Class plus the fact that it had the 7 speed box and air suspension. The latter is particularly noticeable when it's loaded to the gunwales and on a blast down through France. Keeps the whole thing level and remarkably taught.

Ran it for 5 years and took it from 95k to 145k. No rust and only a few non-maintenance items to sort - a boot lock, the Airmatic pump and a crank pulley. Plus the inevitable crank sensor(s). Mine was build about the time they supposedly sorted the wiring loom and I didn't have any major electrical issues. It would throw up random warning messages sometimes but they woud vanish as soon as they'd appeared.

Anyway, I think E's are the sweetspot of the MB range. Traditionally at least, it was always the volume seller in the range with a massive R&D spent. They were built to do a million miles as taxis as well as to be the ultimate family load lugger. I only sold mine to get a newer (212) 500. Last Saturday I jumped out in London having done 500 miles in 8.5 hours. 4 up, bootful of luggage, 4 bikes on the roof and it didn't even break into a sweat.

They're great cars and that shed gives a hell of a lot for peanuts.


stuckmojo

2,040 posts

138 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
KTF said:
As an aside, are there any websites detailing why the MB quality went downhill during this period?
Actually, that's a good question. I would enjoy an article on stuff like that.

Augustus Windsock

1,918 posts

105 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
“In reality of course you'd have about as much chance of getting somewhere with your local M-B dealer as Shed would have with the village postmistress, unless you could somehow prove that the car's body was perforated due to corrosion 'from the inside out'. Good luck with that.”
Exactly
My godfather had one and, hey pesto, as Peppa Pig would say, the dreaded ferrous oxide reared it’s crusty head.
Now said godfather did very low mileage and cared for the MB like his child, having it serviced ‘every’ year and not bi-annually. He also ensured that the rust inspection was completed.
When the rust appeared he popped to his supplying dealership who rejected his claim on the spot, with the usual mantra of it was rust from the outside in
Any fool could see that was total hollyhocks and as he pointed out, the annual inspection had discovered nothing 2 months previously.
My godfather was then in his 60’s, having retired from a high-up position in Lloyd’s Bank and was nobodies fool, yet they attempted to confound him at every turn
Eventually his patience expired and in his own inimitable style he parked the MB on the road outside the supplying dealership with a big sign in the window advising that the MB anti-corrosion was worth diddly-squat
His east-end sense of humour meant that heplaced a plastic dog turd on the rear shelf next to a toy bucket containing rust
Needless to say the Main Stealer didn’t see the funny side and sent letters threatening court action
My dear old godfather took great pleasure in returning them in the same envelope with a post-it note saying he would enjoy meeting them in court
Too and bottom he wasn’t sued, but they didn’t fix his car, and so he part-ex’d it against a new car from a competitor.
Shame really. Well it was for MB as he was just looking at replacing his W211 with a new S class.
Their loss, etc etc...
(Sorry for the long tale but thought it might bring a smile)

AC43

7,488 posts

158 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
KTF said:
As an aside, are there any websites detailing why the MB quality went downhill during this period?
The quality issues coincided with MB's purchase of Chrysler (1998).

Some people blamed cost cutting or the fact that MB took their eye off the ball.

Another issue was (apparently) the move to water based paint at the time.

One of mine was a affected (a 1999 C Class) but my 2000 C Class was fine. As were my subsequent E Classes. The previous generation E Classes were also badly affected as were most of the other contemporary models.

The move to galvanised shells ( which the SOTW will have) seemed to sort the whole thing at a stroke.

sinbaddio

1,521 posts

126 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
stuckmojo said:
KTF said:
As an aside, are there any websites detailing why the MB quality went downhill during this period?
Actually, that's a good question. I would enjoy an article on stuff like that.
This one's a decent read - not specifically about build quality but how MB took their eye off their core offering whilst going for world domination:

https://www.autoevolution.com/news/the-rise-and-fa...

ianwayne

2,636 posts

218 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
I had a 2001 CLK320 last summer and that had creeping rear wheel arch corrosion, as well as under the sill covers. Great drive though.

I did research on this and late 2002 / 2003 is the first year of galvanization of E class, so it 'should' be done but may not if it had been hanging around before being registered in 2003:

https://www.benzworld.org/threads/galvanising-of-m...

Fastchas

1,829 posts

71 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
AC43 said:
The quality issues coincided with MB's purchase of Chrysler (1998).

Some people blamed cost cutting or the fact that MB took their eye off the ball.

Another issue was (apparently) the move to water based paint at the time.

One of mine was a affected (a 1999 C Class) but my 2000 C Class was fine. As were my subsequent E Classes. The previous generation E Classes were also badly affected as were most of the other contemporary models.

The move to galvanised shells ( which the SOTW will have) seemed to sort the whole thing at a stroke.
Didn't Audi famously move to galvanised shells in the 80's? I seem to remember their 90 or 100 model being galv'd.
Why wouldn't every other manufacturer follow suit, it obs benefits against rust.

rallycross

10,622 posts

187 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
It looks good to me an impressive car for shed money.

I’ve a 2005 C class estate which is a rotten as anything with holes in the bottom of the wing and doors absolutely poor quality cars to rot through at that age (it had bad rust at 10 yrs old).

tiptreegeek

21 posts

68 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
My 2006 CLK has no rust issues anywhere at almost 130,000 miles!
However my previous Mercedes - a 2000 vintage CL500 was covered in scabs on the steel & alloy panels also at 13 years old (and only 75,000 miles when I PX'ed the bugger) even after remediation work by the previous owner at only 6 years old.
Mind you my 2002 E46 330Ci was not exactly perfect either - rot in front wings, below boot lid & starting on the rear arches with only just over 100,000 miles on the clock so its not just Mercs!

edwheels

176 posts

96 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
Good shed - a lot of car for money and every other positive cliché... Looks subtle, non-modified (big plus!) and if rust hasn't started after 16 years, hopefully it won't be an issue over the next few either. I actually like the straight-to-the-point advert - reminds me of the classifieds in the local paper, pre-internet days with about 20 words and just the facts.

Treat it to a day of deep cleaning and polishing and if you still like it and it looks like it hasn't any issues, stick an age hiding plate on it, and most people will think you have a posh Mercedes that set you back a fair bit as they still look pretty up-to-date.

Worth a go at this price.




Plate spinner

13,993 posts

150 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
I like it, nice shed with a decent engine.

AdamAJP

136 posts

127 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
That is a lot of barge for the cash and pretty depreciation proof although bills may be expected as any car of this age. Nice safe family transport I'd have thought (5 start Euro NCAP and lots of metal infront/behind you). Wondering if there are any preventative coatings that would extend the lifetime of the bodywork - I have used come of the Gtechniq ones (last for years) and Autoglym Extra Gloss Protection (last 6months+) ones in the past.

Happily I can report that a non-perforation warranty claim (for common boot lid rust) on my 2008 registered (57 plate) E60 based Alpina was honoured recently. Even chucked in some (expensive) new alpina badges. Pretty close to the 12 years they will do so for. Using the above coatings to hopefully prevent any reoccurrance. Was coming from the rear plate light surround. I take some comfort in the fact that the bonnet and front wings are aluminium (for the long term).

Wonder if anytone has had similar success on the MB warranty? 30 years is quite a term...

B'stard Child

19,352 posts

196 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
stuckmojo said:
KTF said:
As an aside, are there any websites detailing why the MB quality went downhill during this period?
Actually, that's a good question. I would enjoy an article on stuff like that.
I've always blamed the quality deterioration on the company no longer being run by engineers but by bean counters

Up to that point the company built a product and then priced it accordingly

After that point the company planned a new model and then the build was reduced in cost (by cheaper materials finishes etc) to reach a price point.

My SLK from 2001 has bloody rust everywhere but mechanically it's excellent - currently looking for a newer SLK (without rust) to transplant the engine into biggrin

BFleming

1,766 posts

93 months

Friday 30th August 2019
quotequote all
The last paragraph of the article, referring to the Airmatic suspension... does this car actually have it? It failed its MOT in 2008 at 55,000 for 'Nearside Rear coil spring fractured' - so I'm thinking the Airmatic guff is just that. If you notice it lower, it'll just be a broken spring - and there's plenty of W211's with broken springs. AFAIK Airmatic was optional - some did, most didn't.