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 new econobox.
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 owner’s 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 that’s what it takes to do so, I will. Not at the dealership that gets $210 per hour but at a fine independent shop I’ve found. I had been most apprehensive about all the electronics and all the electric motors, but the frequent service doesn’t 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?
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. I’ve 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, I’d do it! At least there isn’t a timing belt to replace!
Today’s 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! I’m 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. You’re correct about the motors and mechanisms — a good reason to keep up with lubrication and attentive observations, especially on the convertible top. Whenever a mechanism runs slowly, groans or squeaks, it’s important to get right to the cause before more damage is done.
What’s odd is there’s no mention of renewing engine coolant. I’d 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. I’d 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!
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, Calif. Readers can contact him by email at email@example.com. Personal replies are attempted. An archive of past columns and additional consumer automotive information can be found at www.bradsautoadvice.com.