Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E Is Dead (For Now)

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Image for article titled Project 190E: My Poor Choices Leave Me With A (Hopefully Temporarily) Dead Car

Photo: Lalita Chemello

2021 had already ended in disappointment after news broke that Betty White had died. However, 2021 wasn’t quite done with me yet. The cruel old mistress had one other victim in mind to take before she permanently lost her job. That victim: My ‘89 Benz.

I can already hear fingers cracking as you warm ‘em up to obliterate me in the comments with your, “well, that’s what you get for purchasing an old Benz.” Yes, I get it. I purchased a Mercedes as a project car. I should have had my brain shame my starry eyes into believing it would be anything but a problem. But she’s here, and in my garage with wheels on wheels (I’ll explain later in this story), so for the rest of us, let me lament, and at least give you a more solid update on the condition.

Back to December 31.

Until the final day of the year of 2021, I had been enjoying tending to the smaller of necessary issues on my 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E like a coolant leak, checking and replacing relays, installing new headlamp bulbs, troubleshooting my failed wiper motor — the little stuff — before my work would eventually lead to tearing the engine apart. I also found some money (a whole seven dollars!), a lost screwdriver, and my dogs decided to hang out and think it’s now the new “ride” car.

Image for article titled Project 190E: My Poor Choices Leave Me With A (Hopefully Temporarily) Dead Car

Photo: Lalita Chemello

Image for article titled Project 190E: My Poor Choices Leave Me With A (Hopefully Temporarily) Dead Car

Photo: Lalita Chemello

Image for article titled Project 190E: My Poor Choices Leave Me With A (Hopefully Temporarily) Dead Car

Photo: Lalita Chemello

I honestly believed I had at least some good reason for my decision to start small. Up until that day, there hadn’t really been a solid reason to open her up. Sure, the engine is covered in oil (and it looks like it’s sprayed a bit, for a while), but she was running, and I could take her out for 25 minute drives and get her home with no issues. So with blind confidence, I felt maybe she was ready to take me into town and finally get that alignment I’d been waiting on.

No surprise to you, this drive was largely unsuccessful. Wait. Let me take that back. I did make it, without issue, to the shop where I had an appointment for the alignment. My first mistake was shutting off the car so it wouldn’t continue running and belching whatever it was putting into the air. I checked in, started her up, shifted to drive to pull her forward and she stalled.

Ok. Let’s try that again. Start. Shift. Stall. Start. Shift. Stall. Start. Start? Start? Start?

I was now holding up the line to get into the shop, so with the help of two mechanics, we pushed the Baby Benz into a parking spot so I could attempt to troubleshoot what was (or technically wasn’t) happening. Still new to diagnosing, I tried a few things on my own but called my husband (who actually took shop class in high school… smart guy) and talked through some other approaches over the phone.

One thing I hadn’t yet tried was starting the car in neutral. You see, the week prior, the car had stalled while I was backing the Benz into the garage. We found if we started the car in neutral and gave her a little gas, she sometimes would cooperate enough to go into reverse or drive and move the car. Figuring it might be a fuel issue or shift linkage, we would attend to it later, but it was working enough for now.

This was the fun little game I had to play to get her started. I rolled her back, shifted to neutral, and with any bit of karma and good juju I had put into the universe that day, used it to rev her up into starting, and then tried really hard not to stop my entire way home. This was me just slowing down really early to hopefully roll through lights as they turned green.

Ten miles later — just nine miles away from home — she took her last breath, and stalled while I was slowing to a light. No warning lights illuminated or blinked. There wasn’t much of a shudder. She just died. So, I put on the blinkers and opened my hood (which, is a universal thing you’re supposed to do when your car is dead on the road), and sat in the middle of the road about 50 feet from an intersection.

Two gentlemen stopped to help me push her backwards down the road, to turn into a plaza for a parking lot, so I wasn’t right there in the traffic/intersection. There I awaited the arrival of my husband with tools so we could maybe coax her back to life and take her home.

Nothing we tried worked. She would crank but not start and then just wouldn’t crank. We tested a few things before we gave in and towed her home. The whole adventure took a whopping three hours.

Our tow truck guy was gracious enough to unload the Benz straight into the garage, and that’s where she has sat since winter took hold. It’s just been too cold to try and attempt any work in the garage. And my garage is currently without the means to properly warm it so, here we are.

As far as my list of potential issues, it now includes the shift linkage and/or transmission, coolant leak (the one I patched up decided to flare back up after this adventure), potential head gasket issue and a potential fuel injection problem — and that’s just from what I’ve noticed nearly two months ago!

Luckily, temperatures are warming up a little in Michigan, so we’re getting the garage ready to be conducive to tearing this thing apart. Yesterday, we used the car dollies we purchased at Harbor Freight over the weekend and used them to move her to the other side of the garage so our springtime toys are a little easier to access. I explain more on the dollies and the move in this video:

Now to wait for Michigan to thaw out a little bit more, and with it, the garage and this poor car too.

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