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2000 ML320 Transmission and side mirrors

My ML320, with 171,000 miles, has had regular maintenance since I bought it new. It started having acceleration problems yesterday, and the shop that has done the maintenance for at least 50,000 miles said the transmission fluid is filthy and there is a noise from a bearing that may be in the transmission. They say that replacing the fluid and filter will be about $500 which may not work especially if there is bearing problem. My questions: (1) Should I have expected them to check the transmission fluid without my asking them to do it in the last 50 k miles; (2) does anyone have an idea what a good rebuilt transmission and installation should cost; and (3) has anyone else found a solution for the incredibly fragile side mirrors that stick way out and break if they are barely tapped?

Checking the transmission fluid is your responsibility. A rebuilt transmission and installation woild cost "heap big dollars’. No comment about the mirrors!

The transmision fluid and should have been changed 3 times by this mileage for optimal life. It’s very understandable that the fluid is “filthy” (brown) at this mileage, even if it was not defective.

I’m at a loss why a reputable regularly shop servicing such an expensive car would not check the transmission fluid unless you told them only to change the oil as “regular maintenance”.

As mentioned, if the transmission needs an overhaul, budget about $5000-$7000, and have it done by a reputable independent transmission shop.

The regular checking, about every month or more, is of course your responsibility, as outlined in your OWNER’S manual.

That’s not true Doc.

The owners manual will tell them that their transmission is “sealed” and there is no dipstick in place in which to check if they wanted to.

The fluid is supposed to be checked every 15,000 miles when the service is performed. The tech has a temporary dipstick that is used, and then the cap is sealed again. The fluid is scheduled to be changed every other “A” service, or 60,000 miles.

If the vehicle is serviced at the MB dealer, or an Indy who knows MB’s, then this usually isn’t a problem. But if it’s serviced by someone not familiar with the protocols then the checking and service is ignored. I’ve seen MB’s come in with over 100k miles that still have the original factory seal, meaning no one has ever checked or serviced the fluid.

The factory says they seal the transmission to prevent someone from using something other than the factory spec ($$$) fluid. Fluid type IS critical, and they feel they’re protecting you from yourself. Someone will always try and add $2.40 per quart 7-11 fluid.

An aftermarket dip stick can be bought so the vehicle owner can check their own fluid levels. The dip stick is check only, and not designed to be left in the tube. The dipstick and a reseal kit run about $60. Kind of high for the ability to check between 15k mile services.

As for the OP, a transmission with ten years and 171,000 miles on it really owes you nothing. The best way to go is a factory re-manufacture from the dealer. It will be delivered on a pallet for around $2100, with another $1100 to remove and replace. It also comes with a no questions asked two year factory warranty good at any Mercedes dealer in North America.

So, a sealed transmission is sealed for fluid integrity, not sealed for life. It should be checked every 15k miles (anyway!) and fluid changed every 60k miles. Never put anything in except for factory spec fluid or you’ll void the warranty and be buying another tranny.

As for the mirrors, I’ve not run across many complaints on ML mirrors. I’ve seen some with paint scars that weren’t knocked of…

Benzman, I stand corrected! So a good independent shop would have to check the fluid level at those intervals, and report on the level and condition?

Some years back I was at an automotive conference and asked the GM transmission engineering chief why they got rid of the dipstick, and his answer was that it was less risky to leave it alone than have an unqualified person check it and put non-compliant fluid in.

The unfortunate result was that the fluid checks were normally ignored by owners and Jiffy Lube type shops and many transmissions failed prematurely. I had had 5 GM cars with dipsticks up to that point, and never had problems. I then decided that a GM vehicle without a dipstick would not be in my future.

Yeah, Dodnick, in 2001 a young man I know bought a Pontiac (equvilant to Chevy Cavalier). We suspected a transmission leak and he couldn’t even check it. I decided right then I would not have a car that I could not check the transmission.

Well, you two would be in a distinct minority. It’s been my experience that only 1 to 2 percent of American vehicle owners check their transmission fluid on a monthly basis. Not many more than that check their motor oil level more than that.

The average vehicle owner has their vehicle serviced on around a 3000 to 5000 mile schedule. Many extend that mileage out to 7500 to 10,000 miles. Even then, when it is serviced it may well be at Jiffy Lube or Wal-Mart. Other than those sometimes suspect services the hood never gets opened.

As we’ve seen, many people rely on the very inaccurate dash warning lights to warn them of low fluids. Many on this list wince at that kind of maintenance, but believe me, it’s much more common than you think.

When you buy a Mercedes the maintenance at the dealer can be much more expensive than at an Indy or express lube shop, so many go there instead for everything but warranty work. These non-dealer shops do not have the special tools, training of factory information at their fingertips so they do a plain old oil change. That is how seven year old Mercedes’ with 100k miles on them come to us with the original factory seal on the transmission tube.

Some people do religious maintenance at the dealer only. Other (rightfully) balk at the prices charged for routine work that can be done elsewhere for 50% of the cost. But the big checkups at 30k, 60k and so on should really be done at the dealer no matter what make you drive. It’s the only way to make sure that the vehicle/model specific maintenance is done correctly.

Take it to an independent transmission shop for service. Dont take it to a large chain shop. Theres nothing special about a Mercedes transmission. Any transmission shop can deal with it. As far as checking the fluid, you can actually buy a dip stick for your transmission on ebay. I have found them as little as $22.00. Its a great investment for any Mercedes owner. Go on ebay and do a search for “Transmission tools”, there should be several there.

Heres one: