Mercedes service headaches

Ok, my family has always owned all American cars, as far back as I can remember, and we tend to keep cars for about 10 years. After having a re-occurring timing-belt issue on a particular Chevrolet, in 1999 we happened
upon a used 1997 E420. Bought it, our first "foreign" car, and still have it to this day. We keep our cars maintained very well, always hand-washing once a week, doing all oil changes (Mobil 1 synthetic) and things on time and at the MB dealer. However, in 2002, when the car was just five years young, the front-right shock tower rusted completely through and had to be re-welded and repaired for a cost of over $3000. Mercedes blamed it on the fact that Chicago uses salt on the roads in the winter!?! I couldn't believe it, as none of our previous cars ever had ANY rust problems. Anyway, after a battle with the dealer, they agreed to pay half of the repairs, although we were still unhappy. Just had the car in again last week for new tires, and when I get the car back, the driver's-side mirror glass is hanging from mirror housing. I notice this as soon as the porter pulled the car around. I get the service manager, and he says that I have no way of proving that it wasn't broken *before* I brought it in for the tires. They want me to pay over $500 for a new mirror, which *they* broke! After an hour of arguements, we settled on me paying half of the mirror cost, which was just under $200. So, I have to bring the car back in because they had to order the parts. So, come back in, they fix the mirror, and the porter pulls the car around for me. Normally, they come in and give me the keys. This time, he pulled it outside and left it running! So, I leave, and as soon as I take the key out of the ignition, it falls apart! The button and the spring that pop the key out of the remote were missing! So, AGAIN, I go back to have them fix it, and they claim that it wasn't broken when they had it! Seems funny that the porter wouldn't bring me the keys (first time that's EVER happened), and since no parts fell out of the key onto the floormats, it's obvious someone knew it was broken before they started my car and drove it around for me. After another hour of arguing, they agreed to buy me a new key. Back in 1999, my father was so impressed with my E-class, that he ordered a brand-new, 2000 E430 4matic. The car is now four years old, and has barely 20,000 miles. This car is driven 2-3 times a week, for about 15-20 miles each trip. So, low mileage, but the trips are long enough to heat up the engine/oil. Because of Mercedes "Flexible Service Program", they wouldn't service the car when we wanted to change the oil, not even after 5000 miles. Now, the car is our of warranty, so we took it in the day after Thanksgiving for an oil change (brought our own Mobil 1 as usual). After dropping it off, we get a call saying that we need a fuel filter, spark plugs, and a new "hub" for the 4matic system. Total cost? Over $1500!!! For a car that only has 20,000 miles on it??? According to the Mercedes tech, "they've been having some problems with the 4matic systems." If Mercedes is having the problems, then why are the customers forced to pay for it? My father is so furious about this, he is going to trade the car and buy a new Lexus LS430. He had planned on driving the E430 for 200,000 miles or more, but not with costs like this at just 20,000 miles. In 2001, we bought a Toyota Sequoia to replace an aging 1992 Suburban, and my sister just bought a Honda Pilot. True, these aren't exciting cars, but the Sequoia hasn't had a single problem and it has 80,000 miles on it already. I know Mercedes are more complex than most American cars, and most Japanese cars. I know that German cars in general possess an unexplainable soul when you drive them, compared to most cars. Has anyone else made the switch to a Lexus or Infiniti or Acura? Are you happy, or do you miss the driving pleasure of a MB/BMW/Audi/Porsche? Mercedes slogan of "Like No Other" seems easy to make fun of with our recent experiences with their service department. No wonder they are doing away in 2005 with their "free maintenance" program - it's costing them too much money. Finally, does anyone know who we should contact at Mercedes? It seems like SOMEONE in the company would want to know how their service departments are costing them customers. Randy Chicago, IL
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Has anyone else made the

I have owned a whole variety of US, Japanese and European cars. All things mechanical are money pits to a greater or lesser extent. The more complex and expensive they are the more likely to be expensive to run. Japanese cars are more reliable in my experience but not perfect and if chosen unwisely their depreciation can dwarf other costs.
Toyota/lexus have been very lucky for me but I can say that I have not been dissatisfied by any modern European car. The last truly unreliable car I owned was an MG Montego new in '84 but the least satisfying was an Audi90 Quattro. The BMW X5 was nothing like as reliable as the ML but nothing serious failed on either and the X5 was better built. My Jaguar Xk8 was faultless and lovely but I am most satisfied of all with my big Land Cruiser and so far with the Range Rover. Driving pleasure is a very personal thing.
Huw
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Both are built in the US, not in Europe, and I believe the ML has been a problem child for Mercedes, along with the A-class that failed the Swedish moose test and had to be recalled at a cost of billions.
Per http://lowdin.nu
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Which is why I mentioned them. Actually my ML was built in Austria but was to the same standard as US ones which means basically solid engineering but cheap plastic trim. Both of mine were post 2000 built, in fact the BMW was 03 build so there were no big problems.
along with the A-class that failed the Swedish

Yes but they were sorted and the car is an innovative design and very space efficient, even roomy. Again cheap plastic trim let it down somewhat. I would happily own and run one. I have driven one for a while and was reasonably impressed with it compared with other cars in its class.
Huw
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Unfortunately all dealers also suffer from poor service oriented management, people problems and greedy comission oriented service writers. Some dealers are of course better than others when it comes to doing service work. I would never go to a dealer for service other than warranty work or any work that required exotic diagnostic equipment. I always try to do my own maintenance and repairs whenever possible. At least this way the results will be up to be expectations without any surprises. Also it is worthwhile to check around for local shops that have experience with MB. I currently own drive two MB's a 1992 190e 2.6 and a 1995 SL320. I am extremely pleased with both cars. Other than normal maintence issues I have not had any real problems( except for an A.C. Evaporator problem that I repaired with sealer). Parts are not too expensive if you shop around. A lot of good sources on the Internet. I use Mr. Autoparts quite often. This source was mentioned by "Tiger" a few posts back and has great prices. I have friends that pledge allegiance to Lexus and BMW and Accura brands. Granted they are all nice cars, but I also notice that they have been brainwashed by the dealers to overmaintain their cars. They are all bringing their checkbooks when they get their cars out hock from the "Routine Maintenance" drill. The ripoff is not limited to the Luxury cars. I recently paid $325 to replace an 02 sensor on my 4WD Nissan Pathfinder. It was supposed to be under warranty, but guess what, not after 36000 miles. Of course they only told me that when I came to get the car. We also have a new 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe. Absolutely nothing is wrong with this car. Everything works, no dealer or repair issues whatever, even the headlights are aligned correctly, 28,000 miles running great and good economy. Go figure.......maybe the Koreans have it figured. If only they could make it quieter I would be a convert.
My two cents...excuse me " meine zwei pfennig" ( after all this is a MB group}
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Yikes!
I have a few MB's, and it has been an overall good experience. If I ever have any mojor problems with my dealer/service center, I contact the district manager. Call 1-800-FOR-MERC and ask to be put in touch with your district manager. They are usually very helpful and eager to satisfy.

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Toyota/Lexus bullds the highest quality cars in the world. If you can deal with the complete lack of personality on the road, and you don't want to have to futz with your car, toyota is the way to go IMO.
On the other hand, Mercedes cars have historically had a unique feeling on the road that makes them attractive to some of us. Generally European cars have had a better road feel then any others in my experience.
Unfortunately as the the world of car manufacturers collapse, it seems they might all become sterile homogenous examples. I drove a friends new Saab recently, and didn't have the heart to tell him he might has well have bought an oldsmobile on clearance.
Marty
PS The "we will pay half" thing is the oldest car dealer trick in the book. You are paying for the Whole repair believe me.
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