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.