2002 Mercedes C240 Questions


I bought my C240 from the dealer as a former loaner car in May of 2002. It’s been a great car except for a few minor things through the years.

Recently, a light came on the message panel that said “Brake Fluid: Visit Shop!” Naturally, this happened in the evening, when I was on my way to an event, the first of two I had to go to that night. I called my mechanic & he told me the next morning that the earliest he could fit me in was a few weeks hence. I’d only seen the light the one time and the brakes were working fine, so I made the appointment & drove very carefully. The closer it got to the time for my appointment, however, the more frequently it started coming on. The brakes still worked fine the whole time.

When my mechanic finally got the car, he called me in a very accusatory tone & told me that somebody had put the wrong kind of brake pads on it & the wrong kind of brake fluid in it, and that the fluid had fried my fluid sensor in the brakes. He recommended flushing the bad fluid out & replacing it with the right kind. I informed him that he was the only person who’d worked on the car, and that if any of that was done wrong, it’d had to have been him who did it! He backed off a little then, but said he’d get back to me as soon as the dealership got back to him on when he could get the parts to fix it. Oh, and by the way, he said, my battery was on its last legs, which was something I’d been wondering about, so I told him to go ahead & replace it. I think the previous one had been replaced by the dealer while the car was still under warranty.

The next day, when I had already had to get a rental car, he called & said that now the car was automatically putting on the brakes by itself as he was driving it! (My first thought was, “Well, then maybe it did its own brake job,” but I refrained from being too much of a smartypants with him.) He said he’d have it at least another day.

When I finally got my car back the following afternoon, he told me the only thing wrong had been a connectivity problem. Nothing appeared on the bill about their having flushed out any brake fluid, only replacing the battery. Most of the $505.76 bill was for diagnostic work.

My question is, was he being straight with me? And should I be looking at replacing this car in the near future? I’d bought it to keep for a very long time and still enjoy driving it very much, but I don’t want it to nickel & dime me to death. My first Honda started getting that way, then I finally got rid of it because I couldn’t get parts for it after 12 years; Mercedes is noted for always stocking parts for its cars. The work it needs so far has been cheaper than car payments would be. But this latest encounter with my mechanic, who’d always been pretty good until now, has me a bit concerned.

 I would be looking for a new mechanic. Too many things don't sound right.

Mr. Meehan is right again. I second looking for a new mechanic and agree with you in looking for a new car. With an aging Benz the nickel and dime repairs quickly add up to thousands of dollars. Too high-maintenance for my tastes.

Does the warning light literally say “Brake Fluid–Visit Shop”?

Yes, and it was in red, too! I kept thinking about what my father told me in my youth about if the oil light ever came on to pull over immediately and turn off the car to keep from burning up the engine, but the brakes continued working just fine and nothing smelled like it was burning. That was why what the mechanic told me about the sensor being bad made sense at first. Kind of amazed me that after he made such a fuss about the brake pads & fluid, he didn’t do anything to correct either one.

I’d ask him why he thought the car was “putting on the brakes by itself” What were the symptoms? Some Mercedes vehicles will partially apply the brakes to push the pads close to the rotors if the vehicle’s computer thinks a panic stop is imminent, but I don’t know if this feature was available in 2002, and I have no idea if this is what was happening, or how he would notice it, as it’s not really detectable by the driver I don’t think. If this is what was tricking him, he shouldn’t be working on Mercedes vehicles.

Long story short, I concur with getting a different mechanic.

It seems you’ve had the car awhile now. You bought it to last a long time, just how long a time is a long time in years?

As a 2002 model you have to figure on more repairs more frequently in the future than in the past. A new battery is no big deal. The brake fluid on a car with ABS brakes (which you have) should be flushed and changed with new fluid every 3 years, so perhaps this had something to do with the brake issue.

How much tolerance you have for repair bills and “down time” for repairs? The answer varies from person to person. You can start pricing equivalent cars now, to see if you are financially ready to sell this car in favor of a newer one.

Most of the time fixing an older car that is decent shape is less expensive than car payments on a new car. Major motor and/or transmission problems are often what prompts the question is it time to fix the car, sell it, or send it to the junkyard.

Oh, this guy’s a certified Mercedes mechanic, and that’s all he & his staff work on. He’s been servicing my car for years, ever since it went out of warranty, because he’s located much closer to me than the dealership. I’ve never had any problems with him before, and lots of other people use him on even their classic cars.

I don’t think mine has that braking feature. From what he said, the thing it was doing even baffled him. He didn’t go into detail about the connectivity issue, and I was in a hurry to get somewhere when I picked up the car, so didn’t ask. I suppose I should call him and inquire further.

I’d hoped to have it longer than I had my first new car, which was a Honda Prelude I drove for 12 years. My tolerance for repair bills & down time is getting less than it was before; I have good friends and, if I need to get more places than they can take me, can afford a rental for a few days right now, but who knows how long that could last in this economy? And the transmission has started making that “cards in the bicycle spokes” noise, quietly at first, but I hear it more distinctly now. The mechanic told me that noise was in the transmission, but that they’d have to take it apart to see what was causing it. I’m sure that wouldn’t be cheap.

If it is even a remote possibility, dump this car NOW!

I agree that selling the car might be a good option IF the noise is REALLY in the transmission. I’d seek a second opinion from your soon-to-be-found new mechanic. I would NOT suggest taking ANY car to a chain/franchise shop for transmission work.

As for your current shop, it is entirely probable that he has several technicians, some first rate, some second rate, and some that are too low to rate. HE probably only does the books and customer greeting, and no longer gets dirty, now that his shop’s reputation is established. Your car may have gotten the worst tech in the shop.

If the first two digits of your ZIP Code are 66 or 67, I’ll share info about the best Mercedes transmisson shop in the land.

He actually does do some of the work, and I only know of one other tech working for him. There’s a girl who works in his office who actually handles a lot of the customer interaction.
Regrettably, I’m not in either of those Zip areas. I guess the reason I’d posted my question on this forum was that this instance really surprised me with this mechanic; he’s always been very straight with me, and if there was a lot of work to do, he’s helped me prioritize it so that I could afford to have it done in the order of urgency. The dealer usually wouldn’t work with me like that, and wanted to do it all at once. Between my former good relationship with this shop and the number of other people who bring their cars to him, I just hated to think that he was trying to bamboozle me here…but that seems to be what most people are saying!

Perhaps his boat payment is past due. Since it’s December he’s upset because he’s not getting much good out of it right now.