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Expensive damage to Mercedes 300 4Matics from dead leaves

How can you avoid expensive damage to your car from dead leaves stuck in the windshield well when you have to park your car under trees? My neighbor had a $3500 repair bill when leaves clogged the well below the windshield wipers of his Mercedes C-Class. He now keeps a rolled-up beach towel there throughout the fall. I’m afraid it will get soaked and cause its own damage. In apartment where we live, several of us have the same model car and we have assigned parking under big trees. Thanks!

Drive A Car That Isn’t A Repair / Maintenance Headache. If You Can’t Afford $3500 To Clean Out The Debris Then You Can’t Afford To Drive A C-Class Mercedes Benz.


This is truly easy.

Whether you have a Mercedes C-Class, or a Toyota Yaris, or a Honda Accord, or a Plymouth Belvedere, or a Nash Ambassador, all you have to do is to clean the leaves from the area below the windshield wipers every couple of days.

In fact, that is what I always did during the period before I had a garage. Because I was willing to do this every couple of days, I never had any problems resulting from the material that drops from trees.

A car owner does not need to have any mechanical skills whatsoever in order to do this. All that he/she needs is the determination to keep his/her car clean, and to do a bit of hands-on labor on a regular basis. Is that so difficult?

However, if someone is too lazy to periodically clean leaves, acorns, bugs, and God-only-knows-what-else from the area of the air intake for the HVAC system, than perhaps the only solution is to pay inflated dealership prices for the damage that is incurred by allowing this crud to accumulate.

If you also have an MB C-Class, I just saved you $3,500.

Thank you for your answer. After reading it and the response from “CSA,” I think you both think you’re dealing with a spoiled brat who needs a come-uppance. As it happens, I DO clean the leaves out every day and I am not lazy. I was hoping to find out how to protect / cover the area without hurting the car. The grill below the wipers has openings large enough that smaller but still-damaging particles could still get in. I keep had my last two cars for 11 and 9 years respectively and am just trying to do the same with this one.

So, this $40k to $60k car is so badly designed that tree debris enters the HVAC intake very easily?
That is distressing to hear.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to suggest other than cleaning the HVAC intake area several times per day, or perhaps keeping a waterproof tarpaulin over that area of the car.

A number of cars have issues like this and I have no suggestion other than possibly jury-rigging some fine black screen in there. Surely this could be done so it would look visually acceptable anyway; assuming someone even looks down in there.

We used to a have a gentleman who owned a Subaru and with whom we used to go round and round with about once a month over something like this. He would park his Subaru under a tree with Mung beans on it, the dried bean shells would fall and enter the grill around the wipers, and then work their way into the blower motor.

Needless to say the blower motor would rattle those beans like marbles in a can and he always insisted that warranty pay for it. They gave him a freebie, at my expense, the first time and he insisted that he was going to continue to park there. At that point, it’s out of our hands.

My neighbor had a $3500 repair bill when leaves clogged the well below the windshield wipers

Something is not right.  Even a MB should not end up with $3500 in damage from this.  I suspect there is more to the story, or someone is being taken for a ride. 

OK lets assume that was legit. How about putting a screen under the grill to keep this stuff out. It should not be all that difficult to do it.

BTW exactly what was done for all that money?

Have you tried to use a car cover? Leaves can’t enter the cowl area if the car is covered. It would also save the paint from bird poop damage.

Again, thanks. Really. I will get a small waterproof tarp. I’m writing back to you in appreciation and also since I don’t want to give the car a bad reputation it doesn’t deserve; it may be beautifully designed in this regard. I don’t know. I can’t speak to what my neighbor did or didn’t do before he had his problem and he has a much older model. I’m just glad he gave me a heads up. I like the car at the moment, but since I have to keep it a long time so I want to be smart about it. That’s all. I honestly don’t know if debris easily enters the HVAC intake – maybe, maybe not. I thought someone might know. I’m trying to learn (without being slammed) and this is the first time in my life I’ve ever sought online help. I simply noticed the hole sizes and it occurred to me that MAYBE it could. Anyway, thanks for your input. I’m less worried than when I started thanks to you, since I have always been good about keeping the windshield well clean, on both this and nd the car I had before it, also a Mercedes, and reliable for until late in its 11th high-mileage year.

At any rate, thank you very much.

I agree, get a car cover. They are available at any auto parts store. A cover is easy to put on and off and you can keep it in the trunk. You need to use it in the spring when all the pollen and gunk is coming off the trees, and again in the fall when the leaves are falling. In the summer and winter you won’t need it and you can store it in a closet.

I have seen inexpensive plastic windshield covers that are held on with magnets to keep snow and ice off the windshield.Just put it a little lower down to cover the cowl.

What Is The Car’s Model - Year ? Which Model C - Class Merdedes Is This ?
I’m actually just curious. I don’t think It Matters At This Point.

I looked up Mercedes Benz Technical Service Bulletins written for MB Technicians to address customer concerns and randomly chose a 2008 C-350 just to see if there was any mention of problems / complaints for C-Class cars. Up popped a March, 2009 rather nonspecific (to models and years covered) that addressed problems with snow entering the the air intake of the climate system in vehicles operated in severe winter conditions and causing problems including damage to the blower motor or water leaks inside the vehicle.

Here’s the thing: Mercedes Benz has made available a revised cowl for certain of these vehicles that has a “fine mesh screen.”

The 2 page bulletin has part numbers (two different cowls) and application information, instructions for technicians including photos dealing with windshield washer nozzles on certain vehicles, etcetera.

The labor time listed is around an hour, but don’t quote that. It’s up to the dealer.

At any rate, you can make an appointment with your Mercedes Service Manager and see if the individual would be kind enough to sit down with you and see if any bulletin / bulletins apply to your make and model and whether it’s the opinion of these experts that the improved cowl would help with your situation. Snow, leaves . . . what’s the difference ?


There’s not a lot of detail about what needed to be repaired to validate the $3500 price tag but let me offer one instance of my own experience to perhaps shed some light on how this can happen.

I bought a well used '91 Grand Am and it provided many years of good service. It was always stored outside and in several locations was subjected to tree debris. I am very diligent about keeping the cowl areas clean whenever leaves, acorns or pine needles rain down upon my cars.

The organic debris did not pose any threat to the HVAC system. The plastic screening over the cowl and a raised metallic snorkel kept almost all of it out of the ducting.

The effect of a small number of errant leaves and needles over time getting past the screening (and my diligence at removing them) actually caused a significant problem due to the design of the cowl drainage system.

At one point, the passenger side carpet became soaked after a heavy rain and I investigated all the usual suspects. What I found was completely unexpected and very difficult to remedy. The cowl drainage was designed to shed off either side and a central drain was incorporated about 1/2 way down the firewall, kind of like a flattened end of a funnel about 3" long and 1/2" wide. This “funnel” became obstructed by organic debris over time and held water against the firewall. Eventually, this rusted a hole in the firewall and along the seam, allowing water to enter the cabin in copius amounts.

Fixing the breach was not easy. It would require major disassembly of the dash and some serious surgery to the firewall sheetmetal. I tried a variety of sealing techniques first without much success. Like pouring various sealant formations through the drain in a vain attempt to close the leaks. I was near the point of doing the surgery when the Quad 4 blew a headgasket and that was the last straw.

The point is, I can see how even a diligent leaf cleaner could end up having something major like this occur and actually, to have a professional repair it, would be very expensive.

THANK YOU, CSA! This is actively helpful, especially welcome after your first response, which really smarted. I have a 2009 Mercedes C300 4-Matic S (high mileage already and which I bought with 4000 miles on it, but well-cared for and destined to be mine through 2020.) The person who has the parking spot next to me has a 2008 Mercedes C300 4-Matic. I don’t know what version the man who had all the damage who gave us the warning has: it’s fair bit older. (I know the original C-class cars had problems.) I will absolutely make go to the dealer and figure out which option my neighbor and I should each use, and I may also get the magnetic windshield cover, too. We get plenty of snow here. We both absolutely have to do preventive maintenance, for our pocketbooks, because it’s the right thing to do to take care of things, and for so we don’t screw up the resources we took the planet to get these cars. I think the cover would be too hard to put on and take off every day – I’m no kid and fairly small; and my neighbor is a fair bit older than I am, so the cover would be tough for her to manage, too.