Q: With my eyes wide
open, about 18 months ago I bought a like-new 2012 Mercedes-Benz
E350 convertible with 32,000 miles. Because of the wonders of
depreciation, this $68,000 beauty was mine for less than the cost of
I knew service and
parts would be expensive, but I was not prepared for the frequency
of these services. Oil changes are very reasonably required every
10,000 miles or year. However, did you ever hear of brake fluid
being replaced in a mild climate every 20,000 miles? Transmission
flush and change at 70,000 miles or spark plugs at 60,000 miles?
These are what the ownerís manual requires.
The car runs
beautifully, and the last year and a half and 28,000 miles have been
marvelous. Obviously, I want to keep enjoying it, and if thatís
what it takes to do so, I will. Not at the dealership that gets $210
per hour but at a fine independent shop Iíve found. I had been
most apprehensive about all the electronics and all the electric
motors, but the frequent service doesnít seem to be aimed at
preventing failure of these systems.
Should a modern auto
really require that much service, or is it a mere revenue generator?
A: This sounds like
quite a love affair! I looked through the maintenance schedule for
your E350 up through 150,000 miles, and other than the frequent
brake fluid replacement, wiper blade replacement and convertible top
inspection/lubrication recommendations, your car is not unusual in
other maintenance needs. Iíve always been a believer in brake
fluid renewing, perhaps every three or four years, to prevent
corrosion of expensive ABS/traction control components and to insure
safe braking. The 20,000 mile interval is strict. However,
considering the hydraulic control unit runs close to $3,000, Iíd
do it! At least there isnít a timing belt to replace!
Todayís cars and
light trucks require significantly less maintenance than those of
the past thanks to electronic fuel injection, distributorless
ignition, sealed wheel bearings and grease fittings, better
lubricants and so on. Cabin air filters are an example of additional
maintenance, but they can often be replaced by the vehicle owner
with a little elbow grease. Your combination dust and carbon filter
is fairly easily accessed from beneath the passenger side instrument
panel once the below-dashboard cover is removed. There are at least
a half dozen YouTube videos showing how.
Wow! $210 per hour
could hurt very quickly! Iím thinking your larger concern beyond
maintenance will be the cost of certain repairs that will be
inevitable on an aging vehicle with lots of bells and whistles and a
component-assembly parts replacement philosophy. Electronic parts
are typically pretty robust. Youíre correct about the motors and
mechanisms ó a good reason to keep up with lubrication and
attentive observations, especially on the convertible top. Whenever
a mechanism runs slowly, groans or squeaks, itís important to get
right to the cause before more damage is done.
Whatís odd is
thereís no mention of renewing engine coolant. Iíd certainly do
this, along with hoses, every four to five years to prevent costly
corrosion damage to engine parts ($3,000 cylinder heads, among other
engine parts, plus oodles of labor!) and heater core (10 hours labor
to replace) and to reduce the chances of an over-heat catastrophe.
Iíd also renew the fuel filter early (rather than at 150,000
miles) to help the fuel pumps (about $1,200 for all three) live a
happy life. And a rear differential fluid change at five years might
encourage long life from the $4,000 differential assembly!