Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Maintenance...

I finally repaired my windshield washer reservoir! Which is great, except that we're in a drought right now and it has rained twice in the last two months, so I don't really even need windshield wipers, much less washer fluid. Nevertheless, the silicone gasket stuff worked.

Details: I pulled out the pump motor and squirted some sealant around the flat surface that sits against the rubber grommet. I also put a decent bead of sealant around the top and outside of the rubber grommet to ensure that everything seals up correctly. I let it cure for a couple of days before I tested it with some tap water in the reservoir (no point spilling washer fluid out). Success, no leaks, and the pump still works, although one of the nozzles on the hood appears to be clogged as its just leaking out as I activate the washer pump.

My fuel injector return lines finally came in the mail, about a week later than I expected. I did receive a little surprise when I got them. I ordered a set of Viton hoses to replace the injector return lines on my Mercedes (a kit from and expected to get five hoses (its a five cylinder) and a plug for the last injector. What I received was about 5 foot of hose and a small piece of hose with a metal clamp on the end sealing it off as the plug.
Personally, I don't mind cutting my own hose lengths while I'm replacing these, but when you order something listed as a kit, you expect some effort to be put into it. This was just a single length of hose. I should also mention that Viton hose is not cheap either. The stuff I got was 1/8" I.D. hose and was about $20 for the kit and another $10 for shipping. $30 isn't a lot of money, but this is a very small amount of product for $30.
I thought about sending an email to voice this unhappy opinion, but when I checked out the price of 5 feet of hose this size on their website, I realized they didn't actually add any to the cost, so at least they didn't rip me off with their "kit".
I have noticed my fuel mileage increasing since the fuel line replacement so thats a plus. Currently, I get about 23-24 mpg. This is almost entirely "city" driving which is not really stop-and-go traffic, but all sub-highway speeds on back roads to work. I hope to go on some kind of trip in it to test out the highway mileage I get out of it. Right now, I just can't justify extra driving with it since diesel fuel is so expensive.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fall Maintenance

Just thought I would go over a quick checklist of some items that I'm working on today to get my car ready for the Fall (and winter) months. This morning was the first cold day since I bought my car so it got me thinking about getting ready for winter.

I noticed yesterday that a front tire looked low on air. I checked it today and sure enough they are all low on air. 25psi on three and 20psi on one. I'll be filling them up right as I leave work today. Also, I figured I should get around to fixing my windshield washer reservoir.

When I bought the car, I noticed it was out of washer fluid, so I bought a gallon from Wal-mart, and filled it up. Next day, no washer fluid...did I forget to fill it up I thought? Nope, when you fill it up, it just runs out with almost no resistance. It seems the grommet around the pump is shot (stupid 23 year old rubber), and won't hold water anymore. I thought about possible fixes, including a new grommet, but have decided that the easiest fix will be to use some gasket sealant compound and just make a fresh seal around the pump. I'll note whether this works or not.
Anyone else got a way to fix this quickly, easily, and inexpensively?

One thing I haven't really thought about is that diesel fuel can gel in the winter. This shouldn't be a problem with my car considering this far south (west Georgia) we rarely get sub-zero temperatures, but it is something to keep in mind.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tiny fuel lines

As I just mentioned, my injector return lines are seriously bleeding fuel now, thanks to more fuel getting to the engine through some new filters. However, I have visited 4 different auto parts stores to find some 1/8" I.D. (inside diameter) fuel line to replace it with. No one has it, and all I get is confused looks.
I shouldn't say no one, because Advance Auto does have 1/8" fuel hose (for chainsaws) in 2' sections ($1 a foot) that I tried. It technically works, but it worked practically work. For one thing, its clear PVC hose that will probably not last too long against diesel fuel, and also it won't actually go onto the hose fittings. The hose is too thin and flimsy to fit over the barbs on the hose attachment points. I got one section on with that and its working, but I think that I will go with a solution designed for this purpose.

The best (and cheapest) source I have found for these hoses is online. is a biodiesel/veg oil conversion website that carries hoses and other misc. parts for these Mercedes.
They have a specific kit for this replacement ($30 shipped) and its also biodiesel resistant so if I ever decide to start pouring soybean oil into the tank, it won't eat these hoses up (just all the other hoses). Okay, so I'm not converting my car to biodiesel, or veg oil, but I'm not ruling it out especially if diesel fuel keeps creeping up in price.

When I bought this car (5 months or so ago), diesel was cheaper than regular unleaded here at the local truck stops. Now, its more than premium unleaded. This is very annoying. Hopefully I will get that extra fuel mileage I've been hoping for once I have all this maintenance taken care of.

Also, my fuel treatment experiment is officially over. I tried Startron fungicide and Marvel Mystery Oil in it for about four tanks and didn't see much in the way of mileage increase. However, I think the startron might have loosened some stuff up and caused the fuel filter to get clogged.
Maybe, just maybe I'll see a large fuel mileage jump with this next tank of fuel now that the filters are new, and the injector return lines aren't spilling $3.11/gallon out all over my engine.

More Maintenance

Yesterday I changed my fuel filters. Yes, two of them. If you own one of these cars, this is no surprise to you, but for me, this is a little different. One looks like an oil filter, the other is a typical plastic inline fuel filter. Apparently, the inline filter was really clogged. It was also installed backwards. Don't know who put it in, but they didn't a good job of it. It uses about 8" of fuel line to connect it to the primer pump, and that seemed to be in bad shape, so I bought a foot of high pressure fuel hose to replace it. Inspection of the hose after it was off

I can really see a difference in engine performance now. Hopefully I will get a good increase in fuel economy since I don't have to stomp on it to accelerate anymore. However, I tend to have a lead foot, so I need to try and be conservative with the throttle. Stupid diesel is over $3 a gallon right now.

Today I took a nice long ride down the interstate (I-20 towards Atlanta) and noticed a much smoother ride with no problem at all getting up to cruising speed (you know "70"). The only downside to this new found power is that the injection return lines now pour fuel out beside the injectors. Before, they only slowly leached fuel out, but the increase in fuel has them working full time now. Time to order a replacement set.

This is a really easy repair item, and only took me about 30 minutes including cleanup time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm still around

Wow, two months since my last post. Work has been keeping busy, mostly I just haven't had the desire to update this blog any.

Right now I am in the middle of an experiment to improve the power and fuel economy of my diesel engine. Originally, I was using Lucas upper cylinder lubricant in the fuel when I would fill the tank, but I am trying Marvel Mystery Oil (as a fuel treatment) for a few tanks to see how the mileage and power change.
I have also purchased a bottle of Startron fuel treatment (I'll post a link to the site later) to add to my fuel to treat any algae that might be growing in my tank. I can bet there is at least a little of in there with it being a 23 year old car. Startron is supposed to break down the algae as it kills and not just kill it and let it fall to the bottom of the tank to clog the filter.
So far, I haven't noticed much improvement in mileage, but the car does feel more responsive. Acceleration is definitely improved, so thats probably why I haven't seen much of an improvement in mileage as I usually have my foot in the accelerator when I start out.

I am planning on posting some pictures of the recent projects I have been working on. One is just kinda simple, replacing some dash lights and brightening them up. The other is a little more involved and will require a little more work to get everything posted. It has to do with the stereo and getting the best sound out of it.
Stay tuned, hopefully not two months later.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Test for picture upload

This isn't really a post, but I wanted to check to see if I could upload pics from Picasa to my blog. Hopefully, this will work.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Routine Maintenance

First oil change on my Mercedes. Routine stuff but I thought I would put it up here and explain any differences or special things I noticed while I did this.

Not a whole lot different than changing any other cars oil. I have always changed my own oil in my vehicles, so it wasn't a new experience, but this was my first diesel engine oil change. It was also my first cartridge type filter change (e.g. Not a spin-on type filter). I did notice that diesel oil is REALLY black.

The Oil:
I bought Mobil Delvac 15w-40. It was the same price as the Shell Rotella, and only a dollar more (per gallon) than the other diesel oils. I was surprised to see the capacity listing for my engine as 7.9 US quarts of oil. That's a lot of oil. Thankfully, its not $5 per quart like the synthetic I used to put in my Jetta. I got two gallons for $10.99 each, and the filter was a STP one (the only one AutoZone had in stock) for $10 or so. The salesman was a little disappointed that the filter cost that much (thinking maybe I would go somewhere else for it I guess), but I didn't think much of it, since I haven't used the cheaper filters ($4 Frams) in a long time. He also tried to offer me an oil change special they were having on STP filters and Valvoline oil ($13 or so for the package). I asked him if it applied to two gallons of diesel oil?, he said "No", didn't think so.
Following the directions in my Haynes manual turned out to be useful. The method it lists allowed the oil filter housing to drain completely of oil leaving the filter completely empty (no drips at least). Nice feature since you have to pull it out from the top at the back of the engine compartment. I was really dreading this part of the oil change, but is was surprisingly clean. Not nearly as messy of a filter change as my Jetta.
If I had not dropped the drain plug into the catch pan, then this would have been my cleanest oil change ever, but I did, and my entire right hand was black for the next hour.

Total Cost for this oil change: $34
Not bad considering its twice as much oil as most gasoline engines. I could probably lower the cost of this oil change if I bought a couple of filters online, but I can handle $34 a few times a year.
My Jetta cost me $35 when the oil was on sale and $45 every other time (on average).

Originally, I was going to make this a multi-topic post, but it was getting long, so I'll add the other stuff later.
Coming Soon: Steering Box adjustment, Dash Light replacement

Monday, July 9, 2007

Quick Update

Well, I thought my A/C was gone when it strangely quit on me and switched to heat mode all of a sudden. I notice that it did this shortly after I was accelerating.

Apparently the transmission was trying to kick-down into a lower gear, but it didn't. This, in turn, blew the fuse that operates the climate control valve. This fuse also operates a host of other functions in the car, and yet, it is still only an 8A fuse.

Of course, the actual A/C fuse wasn't blown, but it does get hot (its the only 25A fuse). It has obvious signs of melting on both the housing and the fuse it self.

All this fuse blowing is starting to make me suspect that my 23 year old car has a few electrical problems with it. Nah, couldn't be.

On the positive side, though, I did fix my rear passenger window that quit working. Thanks to a "how-to" on this site. Thanks Karl.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Thoughts

Well, I was thinking the other day while driving (in my Benz) about the general condition of the car, and also about what I want to do on it in the future. While I was thinking I realized something. The car is mechanically very sound. Nothing major wrong with it, no safety issues, no reliability issues, really a great car.
The biggest mechanical issues with the car are pretty minor. One is the oil leak. The other is the waning climate control system.
The Oil Leak
Yeah, its a diesel; it leaks oil. That's what everyone tells me. I don't really mind the oil leak (its very minor), and it is in a non-critical part (the turbo drain tube), so why do I keep worrying about it? I guess its the black piece of cardboard in the garage that is protecting my concrete floor. It looks as if it is getting saturated, so I need to check underneath the cardboard soon to avoid a stained garage floor.
As far as fixing this, I tried last weekend. It didn't go so well. I got to the part, and saw the leak, but couldn't get much further. I think I need to take the turbo off to get the drain tube off, so the annoyance of the leak has not motivated me enough to go to all this trouble. I'm gonna change the oil soon anyway.
The A/C
The second mechanical issue is the A/C (or climate control). It blows cold air, sort of, except on really hot days, or if you try to adjust the temperature from anything other than "MIN". Now, this isn't a big deal, but I do enjoy a cold A/C on a hot day. I think that the issue with it stems from multiple problems with the entire climate control system.
One problem is a non-standard high pressure port. It's bigger than normal R134 high pressure ports and thus, will not take a standard cap to cover the port. I think it is leaking out of there. Result is I have to add a can of freon every two weeks or so.
Another problem is it just never gets really cold. I think my evaporator may be a little inefficient considering its age. I'll have to just live with this, cause I really don't want to take the dash out of the car right now.
Lastly, there is the lack of temperature adjustment. This is the smallest problem since I don't want it to get any warmer, just colder. Of course, at night when its 65F, it does get a little cool. I thinks its either the monovalve, or the control unit itself. Neither of these is particularly cheap, so I'll think about fixing this next year.
Yeah, its a good car. Am I complaining about small insignificant things? Yeah.
Are there other things wrong with it? Kinda, mostly cosmetic.
Am I gonna fix those? Probably not.

Do I still enjoy my new diesel? Definitely.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Project 1 Finished

I finally have a working 12V socket in my car now. I decided to use the 3-way power source and added a few custom options to it, along with some customized functionality using what was already built-in to it.

I added two more 12V sockets to my center console and changed the configuration so that it wasn't sticking straight up in the air (in front of the radio controls) when I plugged in an accessory, such as my cell phone charger.
Since I have no need for an ash tray, I completely removed it, and made the plugs face out instead of a hinged design as it was originally. The lack of room inside the area forced me to mount them in the way I did.
Here is what it looked like originally (sort of):Ok, I really just put the ash tray cover back on top of the finished project for the picture, and the color didn't quite work with the flash. On the plus side, though, you can see how I missed the wood color at the top, not too far off, but a good bit lighter than the original wood.

Originally, the power socket is on when the ignition is in position 2, (i.e. Run). So if I turn the car off, the power to this socket is cut. Not a big deal, but I don't like to charge my phone, then stop, then start again, etc. So I wanted one that would stay on even if I turned the car off. Not too difficult, but enough to get to do something different.

Finished Project
Well, this is what it came to look like when I finished.
If you notice the metal showing around the radio, that's just where I forgot to put the plastic trim back around the radio. The black line on the left is my cassette adapter cord running from my tape player to the back of the center console underneath the wood in the bottom of the picture. I have (since I made the picture) replaced the trim, and hid the cord behind the 12V socket wood.
Basically, the piece just fits in the space with friction, and the sockets themselves are held in place by hot glue, and a piece of wood wedging them against the main wood piece. I put a picture up later to explain it. The two black buttons operate the functions I added to the sockets.

The added functionality was really just a preference of mine for the needs I have. One is a plug that is tied to a constant 12V source (i.e. the battery). The second is to utilize the built-in battery/charging system monitoring lights that were on the donor unit.

1. The constant voltage (i.e. always on) socket was accomplished by modifying the power bus that the unit uses. I ended up using the far left socket for this use because it looks different than the others (its actually a cigarette lighter, not just a power socket).
For safety's sake I added a 10A fuse to this, and also a switch to cut the power manually if I want to have this switch turned off at any time.

2. The monitor that came with this donor unit is simply 3 LED's (red, yellow, green) that light up according to battery voltage, or charging system status. Its a neat little function and I decided to keep it since I would have had 3 holes there had I removed it. The modification I made to it though was that it would only come on when I wanted it on. I accomplished this using a cheap momentary switch I got at Radio Shack and routed through the constant power supply line instead of the original ignition switch source line.

3. I also added a power indicator (that I scavenged from the power plug on the donor unit). Its just a red LED I glued in the bottom to indicate that there is power going to the two socket on the right. I added this mainly since the plugs that connect to the factory plugs is a little loose and I wanted a way to trouble shoot the system if it didn't work.

I like it. My brother was ragging me about it, but ended up liking it when I finished it. Right now, the constant power socket isn't actually functioning correctly because I am having trouble finding a place to run a dedicated 12V+ line in through the firewall. I did find that I could tap into the clock 12V line since it is fused with the cigarette lighter circuit, so it should hold the current.

I did route the cassette adapter behind the project, and replaced the radio trim so it looks really nice. I debated adding another coat of stain, but I already have it installed and it looks good enough that I don't want to change it.

Next up: Fixing that dang oil leak.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fixing what ails me.

So, I have a 23 year old car. Somethings going to be wrong with it. Right now, that's not much. However, I do want to perform a little maintenance on a couple of things, and do a little house cleaning on some other issues. The following are some issues I have already addressed. I just want to write them down so I don't forget.

Issue #1: Wipers don't work.

Solution: They actually do work, just not right when I got home with the car. Checked the fuse, looked good, didn't touch it. A day later, changed the fuse anyway (and cleaned the contacts) and wipers started working. Washer works too thankfully.
So, after this, I changed and cleaned every fuse connection. Except the ones for the headlights, because I ran out of 8A fuses.

Issue #2: A/C blows out hot air. (and I mean HOT)

Solution: Changed a fuse made it not as hot. Charged up the freon made it blow (semi) cold. My father-in-law (who will no doubt get a lot of mention in this blog) noticed that the cap for the high-side service port. I bought one and realized why its missing.
Even though it was converted to R134a freon, this service port is not correct, I think someone cheaped out on the changeover. I may have a local guy fix this for me since I don't have the right equipment to do this change.
Do I need to fix it? Maybe not, but I do apparently have a leak, since I have already added another can of freon (after only a month). So I think I will fix it.

Issue #3: Cigarette lighter is poorly designed. It blocks most of the radio functions when I plug in a car charger for my phone.

Solution: Ok, this one wasn't as easy to solve. So I made this my first project for my car. I will detail my solution and the design decisions I made in my next post. For now, I will just state my goals for this project and what I want to achieve.

Project 1: New cigarette lighter for console.
Goals: 1)Provide a socket that is "always on" for when I want to charge something when the ignition is not on.
2)Provide at least one extra socket that is switched to the ignition.
3)Make it look as good as the original.

General: The current ashtray rotates out from below the radio and is covered by a wood face to blend in with the rest of the dash. The factory outlet is tied to the ignition but only in position two, not one. It also comes with an ashtray (useless to me), so that can go. It should also be safe and not put too much of a load on any other in car system.

Stay tuned for the results of my first project. Here's a picture of how it looked when I started.

Monday, June 11, 2007

And here it is!!!

Ok, so I got some pictures of it the other day. Here are a few of the exterior. I will take some of the inside soon and get those up. Especially since I finished my first custom project on it.

This is the front.

One side,

And the other.

Monday, June 4, 2007

1984 Mercedes-Benz 300D

So, I used to own a VW Jetta. It was nice. A 2000 model, 5-speed, 2.0L 4 cylinder. Not a race car, but a good, reliable, fun car to drive. Well, I wrecked it, totaled it actually. Of course, that is only technical since I drove the thing home. Progressive, however, said it was totaled. So I had to find a new car.
After a couple of weeks of looking for something to drive I came upon the Benz. Not a speed demon, and not even really luxurious ride, but it is a Mercedes. The "D" in 300D stands for diesel. Yep, a diesel engine, with only 260,000 miles on it. I thought that was a great find, so I bought it.
So, now I have this car, and its running, and (mostly) everything works on it, but it is such a classic, and really deserves some custom attention. That's where this blog comes in. Here, I will record all of my exploring, and modding, and repairing that I do for/on my car.
Hope you enjoy, and leave a comment and tell me what you think about it (the car, the blog, whatever).