October night drive to Palm Beach

Over the last couple of months I have been doing a monthly night drive with a few friends in the Mercedes Club.   This month was the first time it was an official event.   When they were unofficial we did drives such as the Old Pacific Highway, the Old Northern Road and down to Bulli.   This time we did a night drive to Palm Beach.   Turn out was pretty good given it had been pouring with rain for the last week.   We had 9 cars show up to the drive.

Night drive to Palm Beach

I took my 560SEC this time.   As well as my car, there was another 560SEC in Nautical Blue (but with a grey update interior), a Silver 450SLC, a concours condition W116 280SE with only 100,000km on the clock, a W108 280SE 3.5, a rare A124 E320 that belonged to a new member.   Representing the modern models was an SL500, an E-Class cabriolet and an SL500.    Not only is the A124 a rare car in its own right, but in Australia the 320 is particularly rare.  Most A124 models seem to be the E220.   I’ve driven an E220 sedan and I found the model very sluggish.   The same cannot be said for the E320.

The starting point was Shelly beach car park and the route took us up the coast past Manly, Freshwater, Dee Why, Collaroy, Narrabeen and other beaches until we hit Palm Beach.   At night the bends on Barrenjoey road are not as busy as during the day and can be quite fun event at legal speeds.

Night drive to Palm BeachThe weather was perfect for our night drive to Palm Beach.  Not a hint of rain and cool weather.   It was quite pleasant driving the 560SEC with the windows down and the heated seats on.    I’m still happy with my monovalve replacement, but am thinking of perhaps trying to modify the setup so the valve does not open when the car is off.   It means a blast of hot air after a quick restart, and a foggy windscreen.

The attendance today bodes well for future night drives with the Club.    We have already planned a night drive for November.   We also plan to keep them going for 2021.

W126 power rear seat top trim

An obvious issue on my 560SEL was how the rear seat was mounted.   There was an obvious gap between the parcel shelf and the rear seat.   The 560SEL came standard with a W126 power rear seat.   This either standard or optional on other W126 LWB models.   It seemed clear that when the self-leveling rear suspension was removed, the trim was not put back correctly.

On a car without the power rear seat, the backrest is fixed into position so there is no need for an additional trim piece.   On a car with the W126 power rear seat, there is a L-Shaped trim piece that keeps everything looking neat as the seat moves.   When the seat is reclined, the seat bottom moves out and the angle of the seat back changes.   The L-Shaped trim piece is hinged on the parcel shelf so it can move with the seat.   On my car, it was in the down position when the seat was installed.  This can be seen in the rather unsightly gap shown in the picture below.

W126 power rear seatWhen I was investigating why my power rear set is not working, I removed the seat bottom, but never needed to remove the backrest.   It was going to have to come out to fix this trim though.    There are three 10mm bolts that hold the backrest to the W126 power rear seat frame.   Once they are removed, the seat must be lifted up to allow the metal hooks to clear the frame.  It can then come forward.   The photo below shows the frame and the trim piece pushed up so the seat can be put back in.

W126 power rear seat removed

I found removal of the seat much easier than the re-installation.   It is probably quite easy with an assistant, but I found it hard to make sure the trim was up, and the seat hooked onto the frame properly.    After I got the frame on, the seat was sitting 1cm too high.   I tried 3-4 times to get it to position properly.   In the end, I found the remains of some rubber grommets stuck on two of the hooks in the seat back.   I think they probably go into the holes in the frame, but over time they had warped and were not stuck on the hooks, preventing them from engaging properly.   It is also important to make sure the seatbelts are not caught.

Once I had those rubber pieces removed, I was able to finally get the bolt holes to line up properly.   As my seat is not working, putting the seat bottom in is quite fiddly.  It is easy with a working W126 power rear seat, as you recline it to get access to the bolts.   Without the recline feature, you have to try and push them through tiny holes with the end of your fingers.   Its possible, but a real pain.

W126 power rear seat neater

The result of this job is the rear parcel shelf area looks much neater and back to how it should be.    A small thing, but something that I saw every time I went past the car.

M117 Fan clutch

The other day I was driving my 560SEL on a fairly hot (30C) day in heavy traffic.  The engine temperature got quite warm when sitting in traffic.   It was well over 100C in traffic, which would eventually cool down when I got moving.   The car didn’t overheat, but I did hear coolant boiling in the radiator hose after I finished the drive.

While the temperature itself is well within spec, given the day wasn’t really that hot compared to days in the mid 40s we get here in Sydney, I wanted to do something about it.   Additionally, the air conditioning doesn’t cool properly when the engine is at those sort of temperatures.   This is presumably due to the R134A gas not being as efficient as R12.

The first step was to replace the radiator cap as it is likely not holding pressure properly.    This is a simple fix.   I know the radiator works properly as the engine was running too cool in winter before I had the thermostat changed.   In hot weather the car has two systems to keep cool.   The first is the M117 fan clutch.    The second is the electric auxiliary fan.  The focus of this article is the fan clutch.

On older cars, the fan is connected directly to the water pump and spins at the same speed as the engine.   This wasteful as most of the time this much air flow is not needed.   The fan clutch assists here by allowing the fan to spin slower under normal circumstances.  However, when the temperature reaches a prescribed level the fan can spin faster.    It generally won’t spin at a 1:1 ratio but will be limited to a particular RPM that is efficient for max airflow.

My 560SEL is equipped with such a fan clutch, as are other W126 models.   When the engine is hot, you should be able to hear the fan roar when you rev the engine and I never heard this.   Additionally, if you turn the car off when the engine is very hot, it should be hard to spin the fan.   On my car it wasn’t.   As the M117 fan clutch in my car was the original unit, it seemed like a good idea to change it.

It is a very easy job.   The M117 fan clutch is held on by four 10mm bolts.   There is no need to remove the radiator or even the top radiator hose.  All that is required is to loosen the shroud so the fan assembly can be removed.

M117 fan clutch

Once the fan assembly is removed from the car there are four more 10mm bolts holding the fan to the clutch.  I used a rubber mallet to remove the old clutch from the fan.   The new one looks a bit smaller and doesn’t have the plastic protector like the old one.   It is made in China, so I hope it lasts 33 years and 328,000km like the old one did.

Original M117 fan clutch

The picture above shows the original M117 fan clutch, with the 1987 date on it.

Once the new clutch is installed then the installation is the reverse of the removal.   One trick I picked up on some forums was to put the lowest of the four bolts in first.   The fan assembly doesn’t attach through hole – there are cut outs.   This allows the fan assembly to slip onto the bolt to locate it before the others are installed.   The photo below shows the whole assembly removed before re-installation.

With no fanI have not been able to test the success of this job yet.   It was 15C and raining today.   This is probably the last cold snap before a hot summer, so I doubt it will be long.   I also need to test the operation of the electric auxiliary fan.

W126 Monovalve eliminator – part 4

I have now completed the installation of the Movovalve elimination kit on my 560SEC.   So far so good.  Most importantly, I don’t have heat when I don’t want it, but it is available when needed.   In the last installment, I completed the routing of the cooling hoses.    From there I installed the radiator and ensured the cooling system didn’t have any leaks.   The final step was to set up the vacuum solenoid so it could control the heater valve.

The very rough diagram below outlines how I adapted the kit for the W126.   Note the diagram is not to scale and in reality the vacuum lines do not have 90 degree bends.

There are a number of differences between the W126 and W123.  The two biggest are probably the inner firewall and multiple outputs for the heater core.   I have covered the coolants lines previously.   I also wanted to mount the vacuum solenoid inside the inner firewall.   In the end I installed it where the monovalve used to reside.   The movovalve elimination kit suggests putting a t-piece into the vacuum line for the climate control system.   The W126 is a big different in that it has one way valves in the firewall for the passenger compartment vacuum consumers.    Each vacuum valve provides 2-3 outputs for vacuum consumers.   Instead of cutting one of my lines, I just replaced a valve with two outputs with a new valve that has three outputs.     That way any vacuum leak should not affect other systems.

The photo below shows the new valve and the line I installed to the vacuum solenoid.   It is the new looking valve at the top.   The black vacuum hose connects to the solenoid located that the top centre of the photo.

Vacuum valve

Next step was to install the vacuum orifice line.   This line is essential according to the supplied instructions.    This is the clear line that can be seen in the bottom of the picture above.   One end of this line has a tiny hole that lets a small amount of vacuum bleed out.   This is poked through one of the firewall grommets.   It then links into a T-piece between the solenoid and the vacuum valve.    The diagram above shows how I have set it up.    It is shown in blue although the line is actually clear.

I decided to take the car for a test drive.    This had a surprising conclusion.   I assumed that when the vacuum lines were connected to the vacuum solenoid without power, the valve would be closed.   This is not the case.   The valve is actually open.   Still, it did prove that the valve works!   Once I disconnected the vacuum I could see the valve close.

The final step was to install the electrical connection.   The vacuum solenoid uses a more standard connection than the micro connection used by the monovalve.   The movovalve elimination kit provides the proper Mercedes electrical connections.   These require soldering.   The combination of the available space, only having two arms and my lack of soldering skill made this quite difficult.    I cheated and soldered the connections onto two short lengths of wire on the workbench and then crimped it to the wiring harness.


Monovalve elimination Kit

Back out for another test drive the car behaved exactly as it should.   Driving around normally with the climate control set around 20C, I had no intermittent heat.    Moving the temperature wheel to hot, and plenty of heat was available.    I omitted the auxilliary water pump so I have probably compromised my heat when the car is idling for prolonged periods of time.   However, I’ve never had any problem with any of the older models that do not have this feature in the warm Australian climate.

This installation has been more involved than I anticipated, but it would be much faster to do it again on another W126 V8.   I could have done it much faster by just mounting the valve on the outside of the firewall, but I wanted to make it a neater job since I plan to keep the car.   I also took the time to swap the radiator, coolant hoses, expansion tank, low pressure hoses, clean the cowl drains and install new seals and more.

Time will tell, but the Movovalve elimination kit seems like a good option for the W126.   Especially when the only monovalve available is the MTC unit.   I would also note that this installation was done in the way I decided to do it, and there are other simpler ways of doing  it.

Rear brake fluid leak on my 450SLC

I’ve used my 450SLC on a few spirited drives lately.    With the new injectors its been running really nicely.    However, on the way back from the most recent night drive, the pedal became really spongey on the way home.   Luckily it was late at night with few cars on the road so I was able to drive it home gently.

The next day I had a quick look under the car.  I noticed there was a lot of brake fluid on the drives side rear tyre.   Looks like I had a rear brake fluid leak on my 450SLC.

Rear brake fluid leak on my 450SLC

I was going to put the car up into the air and have a look, but it occurred to me that I had the lines and hoses replaced by a shop less than 12 months ago and it might be a better idea to take it back there and let them take a look.   Turns out it was as the rear brake fluid leak on my 450SLC was caused by a hole in one of the new brake lines.   The reason it had a hole was that the line was ever so slightly too short and when the suspension was on full travel it would nick the line and after some spirited driving and done so enough to create the hole.

They replaced the line at no charge and re-bled the system.  Once done, I was back to good breaks again on the 450SLC.   Pretty good customer service I think.  I still have a few more things to do on the 450SLC.   It feels like I have a bad transmission mount and I probably need a new fuel accumulator.   I have already purchased those parts.   The car also needs a pinion seal on the diff but I don’t think I will try that job myself.

Installing a W126 radiator

Today’s job was installing a W126 radiator into my 1987 560SEC.   I had previously sorted out the cooling hoses as part of my monovalve eliminator install.   I was just waiting on a few extra parts I had ordered to begin this job.

Firstly I decided to replace the coolant reservoir tank.  My current one is not leaking, but the plastic was quite discoloured and looked a bit white around the hose entry.  Genuine Mercedes coolant reservoirs are still quite inexpensive, and you never know how long that will continue.   Best to change it now.   I was already planning to replace the level sender as it never alerted me to my coolant leak.  It is a pretty simple job to move all the hardware over to the new tank.  Having a proper set of circlip pliers would have made changing the sender easier, but it wasn’t so bad with the a set of needle nose after the tank was out of the car.

Coolant reservoir

The old one will be useful as a temporary spare if I ever have a problem in the other W126s.   I also replaced the coolant hose between the tank at the bottom of the radiator.  I ended up having to cut this hose removing the old radiator as it was so rusty.

Coolant reservoir tank installed

It is easier to get the bottom radiator hose in place before installing the radiator.   I used a new hose here and new hose clamps.   I don’t know the age of the current one and hoses are not expensive and worth changing at the same time as the radiator.  The radiator slides in fairly easily, but the fan shroud must be in place first.

The clips that hold the radiator in place were a bit rusty so I purchased a new set.  I generally avoid Meyle parts unless there is no other alternative.   In my opinion they are poor quality.   I figured a simple clip would be fine, but I was proven wrong.   One of the clips snapped in two with just light pressure from my thumb.   The big challenge is that Meyle seem to be the only manufacturer of W126 transmission mounts that I can find.

The Nissens radiator that I have purchased does not have a drain plug like the IMI did.   I think the Behr radiators do, but I could not get one of those.   Other than that, installing a w126 radiator is the same regardless of brand.

Installing a w126 radiatorThe top hose is easy to install once the radiator is in place.  I also used a new one here.    While I was at it, I also replaced the clip that holds the small hose to the coolant reservoir tank against the front of the car near the headlight.

When I removed the radiator, the transmission cooler hoses were very crusty and I ended up cutting them.   They looked original and it was definitely worth replacing them.   The new hoses from Mercedes have metal spring protectors as they hang down quite low.


Installing a w126 radiator - Transmission cooler hoses

It is so much nicer installing new parts that screw together easily like those hoses than all the time it took to remove the rusty hoses and hose clamps.   Once these final hoses were installed it was now time to fill the coolant.  I used Penrite coolant, which is also to Mercedes spec.

At first all was well and I could see no coolant leaks.    However, after revving the engine a bit to get the water pump going and manually actuating the heater valve by sucking on the vacuum hose I started to get a bad leak from the heater hoses.   The puddle of coolant joined the puddle of transmission fluid under the car.   For some reason if I don’t use the SEC for about a month it dumps a big puddle of transmission fluid on the ground.   Its dry and then all of a sudden lake superior appears.   A problem to solve another time.

After removing and repositioning the hose clamp the leak seems to have stopped.  I have re-filled the reservoir and will check if it has gone down at all tomorrow.

SpillageIf the car is now working properly without coolant leaks, the next step is to take it for a test drive to make sure everything working properly, and I am getting cold A/C.   As I have not yet installed the solenoid, the heater valve should remain shut and I should have no coolant flowing through the heater core.   Overall, installing a W126 radiator is pretty simple.   More simple than removing one that has been there for a while.

500 posts on classicjalopy.com

The most recent post about the W126 cowl covers was the 500th post on this website.  I started the site in May of 2013 when I was doing a lot of work on my Citroen DS.   I had recently purchased the car and was fixing some of the problems with the car, installing a new radio and later re-upholstering it.   At that time I never thought it would still be going 7 years later and with over 500 posts.

At the time, I wasn’t really concerned with how many views I got as I really created the site more for my own records.  Some of these jobs take me quite a while to do, and it can be invaluable to go back and review some things that I have done before.   A great example was when I crashed the Citroen and took apart the rear of the car.   It was over a year before I had it back together and I am not sure I could have done it without the notes and photos I took for this website.

Some people prefer forums and social media, and while these have their advantages, I’ve seen too many times content lost as forums come and go.   Social media is very transient so try finding something from last week let alone 7 years ago.

Over that seven years, the site has now grown to average about 100 visitors per day.      I only installed stats a couple of years after I started the site, but the 10 most popular posts on the site have been:

Of my own cars, The Citroen DS wins hands down in terms of the number of posts that have featured work on the car.

As well as work I have done to my own cars, I have also featured countless photos from car shows and museums, as well as various events I have attended.   In addition, there are articles that cover random subjects I have researched.   In going back to look at some of the older content on the site to create this post, some of the earliest posts are quite cursory and have poor photos.   Quality has slowly improved over time and there is room to improve further as I evolve the site.   I would like to try some more with video, although this is quite time consuming.

I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read the content of this site, particularly those who are regular readers and leave comments.  Hopefully you’ll still be around after the next 500 posts.

500 posts

Replacing W126 cowl covers

I had previously removed the W126 cowl covers to clean the drains.   Now they are clean and I have replaced the ABS module bracket, they were ready to be re-installed.

Before I did so, I had some new parts to install.   The first were the rubber boots that cover the windscreen wiper shafts.  On most W126 cars they are almost non existent.  On my 560SEC, I had the remains of one, and the other was completely gone.    The picture below shows the two new boots along with the remains of what was left on my car.

W126 Wiper shaft bootsSecond was the rubber seal that goes between the W126 Cowl covers and the windscreen.  These are normally cracked and perished.  The seal on my SEC wasn’t too bad, but it was covered with hairline cracks and no longer sitting flush against the glass as it had gone hard.   These are now available as reproduction parts.   I also purchased one for the 300SE and 560SEL as the postage was going to be about the cost of the seal if I only purchased one.

seal for W126 cowl drains

It is hard to see from the photo, but the one on the top is the new seal.   The old seal has many cracks as shown.

The W126 cowl covers go on fairly easily.   I found it easier to put on the bigger one first, starting with the windscreen side to tuck it under the glass.   The seal shown above is just pushed onto the plastic cowl cover once it is in place.   The windscreen wiper seals just slip over the wiper shafts.

W126 cowl covers installed

There are supposed to be five clips holding the covers on to the inner firewall, but for some reason I only have two.  I forgot to order 3 more in my parts order.   I couldn’t find a new seal for the inner firewall, so I just re-used the original one.   It wasn’t too bad.

The windscreen wiper just go on in the reverse of how they are installed.   I made some marks on the windscreen before I removed them to align.  This can be seen in the photo above.   I have not yet tested the wipers, but I am confident they are in the right position.

My final parts for the cooling system should arrive next week so I should be able to put the car together and test all the work I have been doing.

Cleaning W126 cowl drains

As part of the installation of the Monovalve elimination kit, I needed to remove the ABS controller bracket.   The bracket was in the way of the coolant hoses.  I order to remove it, I needed to remove the W126 cowl drains cover.   This is great opportunity to inspect this area and clean it.   Cars that have parked outside often have debris here that causes rust.

W126 Cowl drainsIn order to remove the W126 cowl drains cover, the seals at the firewall and windscreen must first be removed.   In the photo above, I have removed the seal on the firewall but not the windscreen.   Once I removed the firewall seal I noticed that some light rust had started at the top of the firewall.   Both of these seals just slide off.

Next step is to remove the wipers.   As can be seen in the photo above, the end caps push up to reveal the nuts that old them onto the splined shafts.    Once the nuts are removed, the wiper arms must be in the upright position to remove them from the splined shafts.

W126 Cowl drains covers removed

Once I got the W126 cowl drains cover off, I was pleasantly surprised withe the condition the drain area.   Other than the  surface rust in the first photo the area is completely rust free.   All I needed to do was vacuum out some of the larger debris and use some rags to remove the smaller dirt.

Next step was to remove the surface rust on the firewall.    I started using a wire wheel on my drill to prepare the metal for some rust guard paint.   The wire wheel creates a lot of small dust so it is important to protect sensitive areas with some rags.

W126 cowl drains

Once the loose rust was removed I painted some rust guard on the affected areas.    This should stop the rust that is already there and prevent it from spreading further.

Rust Removed

The rust guard paint is black vs the original Nautical Blue.  Luckily I still had some of the touch up paint from when I fixed the stone chips.   I used some of that paint to cover the black rust guard.   This area will be covered by the seal, but it is supposed to be body coloured and I had the paint on hand.

W126 cowl drains

The car is now ready for the W126 cowl drains cover to be re-installed.  Before I can do it, I am waiting on a few parts to be delivered. This includes a new seal for near the windscreen and the rubber seals that go around the windscreen wiper shafts.

Jaguar E-Type Fuel Hoses

While I was replacing the fuel pump on my E-Type I noticed some hairline cracks in the fuel hoses.   This was obviously a problem waiting to happen so I ordered a new set to replace them.   It is probably cheaper to buy the raw hose and adapt the original fittings, but SNG Barratt sell a kit with new hoses complete with fittings that is much easier to fit.  Postage is quite slow at the moment, so it was a few weeks before I finally got the hoses.

The cracks opened up even more as I removed them, so it was definitely worth it.   There are two E-Type fuel hoses the back of the car, with banjo fittings at each end.   One from the tank to the pump and one from the pump to a hard line at the front of the car.   There is an additional hose from the hard line to the carbies but I was not replacing this one today.

E-Type fuel hosesThe E-Type fuel hoses are quite accessible once the lining is out of the boot.  I already had it out to do the fuel pump.   It is worth buying new crush washers when replacing these hoses.  I didn’t think to order them and should have.    One of them was in quite bad condition.   I tried Supercheap Auto but they don’t sell this sort of thing.    There is a new Bursons near me where a very helpful lady found the exact match I needed.

Jaguar E-Type fuel hosesOne of the is a bit longer than is necessary, but there is room for the slack.    Once I sorted out the crush washers, I had no leaks with the pump running and the car idling.    I will take the car for a short test drive in the next couple of days to make sure that there are no further leaks.

The fuel leaks have damaged the paint in the spare tyre well.   I don’t need it to look pretty as this area is not visible, but I will have the paint repaired so I don’t get rust here.     I am looking forward to a nice long drive in the car without fuel leaks now the weather is nice and lock downs are finished.