C280 1994: wiring harness problem

My father delivered his '94 C280 (280.000km) to the dealer, to fix an oil leak. After the leak was fixed, the car wouldn't start. The cause was found quite easily: all insulation of the cables in the wiring harness
("kabelboom" in Dutch, in case somebody's looking for this keyword) was turned into powder! It was all cracked, exposing the copper wires.
Dealer never saw it before. We think he was honest.
Mercedes Customer Service Benelux thinks this is "normal" for a "car this old": the "rubber" of the door seals would also "get hard" after this many years. I asked them why the dealership never saw the problem before. No answer... Then the dealer told us that -to his surprise- the wiring harness (a 1000EUR part) was in stock at Mercedes Belgium, and according to him this would mean that the problem wasn't exceptional...
Then I searched Internet only to find out that about every (94-95) C280 owner in world gets confronted with this 'normal' problem...
For details, this is a good starting place: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id 564
Luc K
PS: my father ordered a new Toyota right away - the number of problems he had with the C280 is endless, this was just the drop that made the cup run over...
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Unfortunately a well known problem that's quite expensive to repair - lots of labor to remove and replace the harness. Some dealers have cited "smog" as a cause of the insulation's deterioration but it seems rather to be related to the new, more environmentally "correct," plastics used for the insulation.
I haven't heard of this problem on other brands - perhaps I need to listen harder!
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T.G. Lambach wrote:

Interestingly, an owner of a washing machine store told us that they have had exactly the same problem in washing machines (also made in Germany)...
When the arrogant customer service guy was telling me this was 'normal', I invited him to have a look at the wiring of my 13 year old Toyota Camry :-))
Luc K
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Luc Kumps wrote:

You can have a look at the wiring of my 18 year old MB as well. Looks like new. This is an exclusively early nineties problem IIRC.
Ximinez
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The Spanish Inquisition wrote:

Indeed, I know a lot of old MB's don't have any problem at all, that's why it's so stupid (and infuriating) to call this 'normal'... I found various years. It's at least years 94 and 95 (except late 95)...
Luc K
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Luc Kumps wrote:

I think it's a general tendency of dealers to downplay common problems or pretend that you're the only one plagued by them. They probably got away with that before the Internet...
Ximinez
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Volvo had this problem about 10 years ago, so MB should know better. As far as I know, Volvo never admitted to a problem, but I have fix quite a few of them.
Paul

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I have the problem on my '91 w140 (European) as well. But only on the part of the wires near the engine, i.e. the part exposed to higher temperatures.
I have seen the same on a '95 Ford Mondeo.
It is not seen on older cars (my 87 w201 for example, so probably it is due to new materials used in that period. Well, we don't now yet about newer models.
Jens
Paul McKechnie wrote:

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Jens wrote:

While reading through the different reports I found, it looked as if the first problems surfaced in Australia in 1999. The high temperatures seem to accelerate the process...
Luc K
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Perhaps a bad batch of wiring( a LARGE batch apparently). Maybe they ran low and went to radio shack...
Marty
PS this seems to be 94/95 model years?
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I had the same problem with my 1994 C280. After 5 years, the wiring harness was the cause of major problems with acceleration and cylinder firing. The dealer said it was due to Los Angeles smog. I looked at the service rep in the eye and said "yeah, right".

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RickyE wrote:

I think correleation between [average environment temperature] and [number of years elpased before problems occur] is higher than with [smog] and [number of years] :-))
Luc K
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Does anyone know - when you buy a new harness - whether it is made from better materials with longer expected life?
Jens
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