£500 Chal­lenge

Mercedes-Benz S280


Thanks to the rapid re­sponse of CCW of­fice man­ager Leise En­right and the tyre-fit­ting skills of Tyres on the Drive, the S280 is now run­ning on four chunky Bridge­stone Poten­zas, ad­mit­tedly at a cost ex­ceed­ing our car’s pur­chase price. But that’s the down­side of run­ning a large lux­ury car. All I had to do at this stage was to wait for a rainy day to see how se­cure the S-Class felt again, and as­sess its brak­ing and sus­pen­sion.

With it be­ing Bri­tain in March I didn’t have to wait long. A trip to Northamp­ton re­vealed that our S280’s poise was al­most re­stored; it’s not a sport­ing drive but it should al­ways be safe and pre­dictable, and with the right ap­proach good A- and B-roads can be tack­led quickly. Some spir­ited driv­ing re­vealed the char­ac­ter of that M104 en­gine – baby of the range it may be, but I’m be­gin­ning to wish my SLK could share its straight six.

The driz­zle changed to mon­soon, how­ever – and dis­as­ter struck. The com­plex – and clearly bro­ken – ec­cen­tric sweep wipers weren’t clear­ing the wind­screen prop­erly as it was, but at high speed with a lot of wa­ter in rapid suc­ces­sion, the ir­ri­ta­tion with the con­stant ‘thunk’ from a mis­aligned set-up turned to frus­tra­tion and an­noy­ance as the wiper ex­tended and clouted its blade on the A-pil­lar. As I pulled over and man­u­ally re­tracted the arm in the rain, the mys­te­ri­ous pres­ence of mul­ti­ple S-class wiper mech­a­nisms in the boot now made per­fect sense.

Tak­ing the orig­i­nal mech­a­nism off, it didn’t take a foren­sic sci­en­tist to fig­ure out what had hap­pened – the tell-tale ‘Pilk­ing­ton’ logo in the lower near­side cor­ner of the glass, chewed and bro­ken plas­tic fix­tures and cracked scut­tle trim all pointed to a visit from a wind­screen fit­ter. As the S-class wiper mech­a­nisms do have a known weak­ness, it’s un­fair to sug­gest that this is what caused the fail­ure, but my guess is that a fit­ter has tried to re­move the wiper arms con­ven­tion­ally prior to proper re­moval of the mech­a­nism. To build a new mod­ule, I used a good mo­tor and gear­box that were in the boot, an­other mech­a­nism for the sec­ond wiper (the orig­i­nal had sheared a bolt), and trans­ferred over the rub­ber boot for the wiring loom. Mercedes con­nec­tors can be dis­man­tled to pin level, mak­ing this easy. Fi­nally I trans­ferred over the plas­tic cov­ers and wiper arm from the orig­i­nal mech­a­nism be­cause they were in bet­ter con­di­tion. The plas­tic scut­tle trim on the near­side is bro­ken in two places, so will have to be re­placed and a new set of screw-fit ex­panders will fas­ten it all cor­rectly. This is prob­a­bly go­ing to have to wait un­til the weather im­proves, when I’ll ad­dress some rust ev­i­dent on the wind­screen frame at the same time.

The re­placed wipers are per­fectly aligned. There are no more clonks and they clear the wind­screen cor­ner cor­rectly.

To cel­e­brate, there was only one place to go. Much has been said about the S280’s lack of per­for­mance, yet with new tyres and a ser­vice it is al­ready feel­ing more ca­pa­ble. It pays to think of it as a calm­ing, med­i­ta­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, so to as­sist with this, I took it to the Kel­marsh Bud­dhist Cen­tre. A cup of green tea in a café may not change the ag­gres­sive, crowded, Bri­tish roads and driv­ing at­ti­tudes, yet it is not the world around you that de­fines your stress level – it’s how you deal with it. Slow­ing down to match your av­er­age speed with closed win­dows and a clear wind­screen, and ac­cept­ing that we are all head­ing in the same di­rec­tion, the S-Class is a good place to wait out the un­avoid­able ef­fects of en­tropy and chaos work­ing in op­po­si­tion.

Even the most re­laxed of peo­ple would raise an eye­brow at the 3500rpm gear­ing for mo­tor­way speeds, though.

Our Mercedes seeks peace and in­ner calm out­side Kel­marsh Bud­dhist Cen­tre. All the pieces needed to make one good wiper mech­a­nism.

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