The Repair Saga Continues

My car, is a 96 Mercedes Benz E320 that I bought used, from eBay, a few years ago. The car has been practically bulletproof and has been super reliable. I am actually only the second person to own this car.

The first owner, was a plastic surgeon’s wife. She got a new one and no longer needed this one. She was meticulous with the maintenance and upkeep of the car. So much so, that when I bought the car, it looked like it was fresh off the new car lot.

I’m not so meticulous when it comes to maintenance and upkeep. Actually, maintenance and upkeep of any of my stuff is not a high priority item for me. To paraphrase Gabo, I don’t know if it’s out of “insolence or insolvency.” It just is what it is.

Like any old car, every so often, something breaks. Since she (her name is Hilda) is an old Mercedes, parts aren’t always cheap and readily available. For that matter, neither are mechanics that can work on her.

The most recent thing to break had something to do with the car’s engine cooling system. A few months ago, I noticed that the engine temperature would sometimes spike, specially at low speeds or in bumper to bumper traffic. After driving for a few minutes at highway speeds, the temp would drop back to normal and stay at normal levels for a few weeks. Then the cycle would repeat.

At first, I thought it was the thermostat, but quickly dismissed that thought since the temperature issues were intermittent. I figured that if it were the thermostat, it would just fail, period and the car would not cool off when I drove at freeway speeds. A few more weeks went by and by that point, the engine temperature issues were consistent and made the car practically undriveable.

By that point, I had convinced myself that it was the cooling fans and certainly not the thermostat.

Long story short, I don’t have the money to repair/replace the engine cooling fans in this car ($500+).

I explained the situation to a mechanic. He told me that it could just be a “relay” and that I should just replace that. The fan relay, is an $80+ part, but it seemed like an easy enough repair and it was a lot cheaper than replacing the electrical auxiliary fans or the engine fan clutch assembly or the entire cooling system.

Armed with the knowledge that it could be “just a fan relay,” I set off to find and replace it.

I couldn’t find the fan relay anywhere that I looked. Apparently, there are several variants of the relay, but none of them resembled anything that I found on the car.

I didn’t see it in the under hood fuse box, it wasn’t near the auxiliary fans, it wasn’t in the under the back seat fuse box. Looking on the various Benz forums, I found out that the fan relay is usually behind the “left” front wheel.

I ended up removing both front wheels and nothing back there looked like any version of the fan relay that I was looking for.

Frustrated, I mentioned my engine temperature troubles to a friend of mine who said: “Have you replaced the thermostat yet?” Apparently, thermostats can fail gradually and in the manner that I described.

I replaced the car’s thermostat, and here are the results:

Temperature readings before and after replacing the thermostat

The engine temperature issues are fixed, but now the A/C isn’t blowing cold. Ah, the joy, the rapture.

The moral of the story?

Other than I should really do something to fix how broke I am? It’s that I should follow my first instincts.

Also, I should probably pay better attention to my car since I can’t afford to buy another one.

Lastly, don’t take the car to that mechanic.


Rafael is an aviation geek, a consumer advocate, a dad, a multiple personality blogger, a photographer, politically opinionated, a videographer and many other things as well.