Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor - 2 Years On

It's been an interesting experience for me. In my youth I was always underneath my cars, always covered in oil, always taking wheels on and off, doing my own repairs and servicing. And then along came newer cars that didn't need such interventions and which needed stamps in the service book. And I got lazy, and cars got complex.

So I fell out of the habit of lying on painful concrete in all weathers trying to loosen recalcitrant bolts. But needs must, and I have no budget for running the Merc, so it's down to me again. Question is... after all this time, do I really want to do it any more?
There have been a few problems with the car, but nothing major to report. In the two years I've only done maybe 6,000 miles. But most of those miles have been with the top down, and the complicated and expensive to repair roof mechanism is working just fine. I have lubricated all the joints, and I'm keeping on top of hydraulic fluid levels, but it just works. When you think the car is 18 years old, it's quite remarkable.

It's passed 2 MOTs in my tenure now, with no advisories. Both years I did prepare, I had all the wheels off and made sure the suspension was nice and clean and rust free. The exhaust needed a couple of replacement brackets having rusted away, but there's no blowing and it sounds very sporty on the road. The engine I keep very clean and tidy, you could eat your dinner off it.

I recently cleaned the MAF, which is an easy job and has made the car run more smoothly - at least I think it hasm could be psychological! I've fitted a new alarm, buying what I understand to be the very last replacement unit in the country, sorry everyone else! I've had a go at stopping the corrosion on the alloys, whether my efforts succeed is debatable, we'll see. They really could do with refurbishing, but maybe another day.

Interior trim is an issue, both door cards need removing and refitting, a common problem apparently, the clips breaking off too easily. All the electrics are working fine, the transmission is good, cruise control works, no problems at all. Discovered that checking your transmission fluid levels is a work of art, involving buying a special dipstick and only measuring the level when the engine is good and hot and all gears have been used, bizarre faff it is too.

So, it all sounds good, doesn't it... I'll move on to the bad news. It leaks. I don't know how, but the roof drips water onto the front seats whatever steps I've taken to stop it. I now park up and leave two rags on the front seats (the one that gets it depends on the slope the car is on!) which stop the water getting under the seat. Little thing but annoying, and I've lubricated the seals and everything looks fine. Don't understand it.

And then there's the big problem, the paintwork. The previous owner clearly had an issue with the top lacquer coat, so he had it removed... well that's what he told me when I was viewing the car - but I just filtered this info out of our chat, as I was falling busy in love at the time. Turns out he had the lacquer coat partially removed from some panels - but not all. Two years on and I've got a two tone car. I can actually make it look great if I buff up the unprotected panels and apply a top coat of wax, but it only last a few weeks before the bad panels go bad again. So - it needs a respray. Outside my budget. I'll have to live with it!

I was quite lucky recently to notice an oil leak, which, it turned out, was coming from the crankshaft oil seal. It looked a little tricky removing all the drive belts and getting at the seal, so the car had its first trip to a garage, and it went well, cost £150 including new belts. I should really have done it myself, that is the idea with the car, keep costs low, but I chickened out.

So... what's it like to drive? An interesting question. Having had the car for two years, I have to admit I've spent more time 'interacting' with it in my drive rather than on the road! When I do drive it, it's normally with the top down, and I'm never in a hurry under those circumstances. So, the 195bhp has as yet remained fairly unused. I have to admit I drive my boring Focus diesel far more quickly. I have put my foot down on occasion, and it responds well, the auto box is smooth and changes at the right time, and you can get a real lick on. And those wide tyres (wider at the back than the front actually) give masses of grip. Maybe I should book a track day with it.

I've been on a few long journeys, and they've been great fun. The heater is fantastic, even in the depths of winter it's feasible to drive top down. Top up it's quite quiet, though I must admit the creaking and rattles from the roof when up are a bit annoying. I can't seem to find the source of the noise, I think it just is all of it, there's a lot of mechanism back there for the clever old roof.

So, what have I learned in two years? Well, looking at the odometer - the main thing would be, that I should be using it more!

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