Monday, May 29, 2017
Have seen this problem before?
Have you seen this problem before?
A dear friend of mine, who trusts me implicitly, brought his 2013 Mercedes Sprinter to the shop for repairs. It was a weird, weird problem.
After an extended drive, usually after an hours’ worth of driving, the vehicle would go into limp-home mode and would only move at a speed of up to 5 mph.
This in not something we see with your typical Asian car problem!
If he sat there for an hour or so, it may clear itself and would continue to drive okay for another hour or so of freeway driving. As he was going from Ventura, Ca. to the southern border with Oregon, this became quite an ordeal. He was also short on time as he had a deadline to meet. He made it to Oregon, but not on time. This made the trip completely fruitless as he was there about a day late.
He made it back to Ventura but had to wait 6 times on the side of the road for the engine, transmission or whatever to cool and the systems to reset.
When he dropped his vehicle at my shop, he mentioned he had been told by a friend that it might a transmission problem. And that I should consider that.
We scanned the engine for codes or any data that may prove to be helpful. None! No codes and no available data that could offer a path to repair. We checked the amount and quality of the transmission fluid as he thought it may be related to that system. All okay.
Given the mileage on his vehicle, I suggested he take it to the dealer as it may be covered under warranty. Lo and behold, it was! But not before they had to tear down the power train management system apart. The owner had to agree to a quote of $9000 before they decided "miraculously" that it was covered under warranty.
Let me start by saying that if I had the vehicle as long as the dealer had it, my friend would have thought of me as incompetent, ignorant, perhaps even uncaring.
The local Mercedes dealer had the vehicle 37 days. Yes! 37 long days.
All this happened at a time when my friend was in the process of buying another $65K vehicle from the same dealer. They had a huge incentive to do right by this guy!
Their service department was blowing all the challenging work the sales team had worked for.
Mercedes corporate got involved and they called their super-duper diagnostician. During the diagnostic process, it appears they took the wrong path at least three separate times as my friend told me they had called to revise the quote over and over. What started as a $500 initial diagnostic quote, soon escalated to as much as $9000. And every time they thought they had it, they had to admit they were "not correct" once more. Whatever they had replaced had not solved the problem.
The answer ended up being an electrical glitch inside the torque converter. Whatever the specific problem was, it would leave no trace. Once they replaced the torque converter, the vehicle would no longer go into limp-home mode.
I was relieved it had not been us who kept the vehicle so many days. I know my friend would have had a tough time accepting a bill for all that labor time and parts he would have been liable for. In the end, he was happy to have his vehicle back from the dealer and all the work having been done under warranty.
In electrical and electronics, there are no cookie cutter problems, especially on complex European vehicles such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes. No shop or tech is immune from spending a large amount of time testing only to come up empty handed. That Mercedes tech learned a lot from its exchange with that vehicle. My feelings are that, in the end, the dealer decided to eat the repair to salvage the sale my friend was already in the middle of.
I know of countless times we invested several hours of diagnostic time only to charge little or nothing because we didn't want to exceed the initial diagnostic quote. The knowledge gained from tough diagnostic problems benefits us all - our tech and the shop - unfortunately at a great cost.
Hopefully we can make it up in volume!