I too faced the problem of disintegrating insulation on the wiring harness. It was not a big fire hazard, though, since all engine sensor and control stuff was fused. However, a shorted harness could take out the engine computer for Mercedes Benz repair.
It is surprising that Mercedes is having problems like this. We've seen Mercedes singled out in a number of Made by Monkeys only to be followed up with comments telling similar stories. When I was young Mercedes had a great reputation. What did that change?
As much as it embarrases me, I totally agree with your conclusion... In my defense, I had put the new plugs in less than 4000 miles prior, and I assumed that the $10 each spark plugs would still have a lot of life left in them... But you are very right, I should have spent some time diagnosing the car rather than make an assumption based on a gut feeling...
That's what happens when you assume, you make an ass out of U and Me...
It also doesn't help that replacing the spark plugs in the 400E is much more involved than most cars... You have to remove several covers in order to get at the plugs, and I also didn't want to mess with the wires any more than I had to since the NGK wire set cost over $260 at RockAuto.com, which is one of the cheapest car parts sites around... But that's definitely an excuse; not a reason...
Oh, well. The car has 225,000 miles on it, and it runs perfectly now... :) It drives and feels exactly the same as it did when I drove it off the Mercedes dealer lot... Not a single squeak, rattle or any other annoying little thing... Except for the wear on the steering wheel leather, it drives exactly as it did 16 years ago. (I bought it slightly used... It was two years old and had 37,000 miles on it when I bought it)
225,000 miles, and other than maintenance I have only had to replace the engine wiring harness, an EGR valve, water pump, alternator and an oil pressure sensor and maybe three light bulbs... The headlights are still the ones that it came with...
So I can't complain about Mercedes... Parts are not cheap, but you really need to buy them so infrequently that it's really not an expensive car to own... I bought an even older Mercedes for my youngest kid's first car, a 1991 190E... It's another great car; I love the way they design things... The M103 inline 6 in the 190 has 7 main bearings and has a reputation for longevity that is almost unmatched... There are thousands of them in the Mercedes High Mileage club... I think the only model that outnumbers the 190E is the 240D, which is an exceptionally long lived vehicle. The longest lived 240D logged 2,858,307 miles... ( I have to admit, replacing the water pump in the 190E 2.6 is a real pain in the butt... Mostly that's because they shoehorned a straight six into a car originally designed for a straight four... The water pump does not bolt to the front of the engine, it's bolted to the side...)
Mercedes did have a number of electrical glitches over several years... And those problems can be infuriating, hence the bad rep that Mercedes is still trying to live down... But consider this; I have a neighbor that has a 1963 Mercedes and everything in that car still works. Do you think the power door locks in a Toyota would still work perfectly when the car was almost 50 years old? They might, but probably not... The power door lock mechanism's in the 400E are virtually identical to the 1963 Mercedes... As far as I know, no other carmaker on the planet does it like Mercedes does... Their solution is expensive to make, but it is by far the best in terms of log term reliability...
There is a heck of a difference between Bavaria, Swabia and the rest of Germany, culturally and ideally. Not saying the south is bad, but the people there are different. And that shows in the products from BMW and Mercedes as opposed to Opel and VW. It's Schickeria vs. Maloche.
It's a German thing. Last week my friends BMW oil filter started leaking and he discovered that the (complicated) oil-filter-adapter-bracket-gizmo that attaches the filter to the engine block gasket was the culprit. Why they could not just screw the oil filter directly to the engine block like everyone else in the world does is a puzzle.
BMW told him that he must have used the wrong wrench to remove the filter for an oil change and damaged the gasket. The last time I was at his house he had removed about 50 lbs of alternator, AC compressor stuff to replace the gasket.
God help you if you break it, the oil-filter-adapter-bracket-gizmo looks like a $500 replacement part.
Another friend with a Benz and I was marveling over the 23-moving-parts cup holders on his console. My Acura has a 1 moving part cup holder and a one (NON)
The 90's Mercs were when they accountants had more say for a while and they convinced the powers that be at Mercedes that the cars did not have to be built as well as the the previous models and that they would make more money by cheaping out. The earlier and later models are much better built as a result. Not sure what happen to those accountants but I hope it was suitable. If you think the caps were expensive try the ignition coils. Even the bads mercs are better than most.
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