MB spec fluids, redux - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-18-2009, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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MB spec fluids, redux

While chasing down Kajtek1's homebrew ATF dipstick for a 722.6 tranny, I came across a testy thread about MB fluids. There were those that took the position that MB's are a breed apart and we'd better use what MB sez or we'll have exploding cars all over the place. And there those (Kajtek1) who said that they found little difference in using other quality fluids, so why spend the outrageous amounts of money on fluids that appear to be no different than MB fluids in service.

I just gotta throw in my $.02.

When I first bought my '97 C280 new, I assumed the position in front of the MBZ altar to preserve my warranty. But after I blew through 50K miles and started doing my own work, I began using other fluids than MB recommended products.

The 7500 mile oil change interval on a hot running engine was a joke, thought up by the MBZ Engine Division Job Security Commission. So I reasoned that if I was changing oil at 3-4K intervals, I could use Walmart oil and that's what I have used. The oil filters used to be Purolator cheapos because the premium Purolators cost 4 bucks more and by Purolator's admission were the same part. Pep Boys moved out of town taking my oil filters with them, but NAPA still supplys me. When I change engine coolant, I use NAPA brand.
When I inquired of MBZ about the ATF change intervals and was told that it's a "lifetime" fluid. I thought Cool! But I painfully discovered that it meant zilch because when the "lifetime" of the oil was up my transmission coughed some sort of valve body that cost $1400 to fix and MBZ Dealer said that the transmissions were only good for about 150K. That was at 140K miles. I wasn't spending $5K for a new one so I said fix it. I talked to transmission mechanics and they all said 50K intervals max. I use an ATF by Febi. The last change (295K)shows ZERO metal in the filter and the tranny is smooth as silk.
I replaced the water pump with an aftermarket part at 229K, the aftermarket AC compressor @ 240K. I did my own valve job at 256K, (local automotive machine shop) only because the head gasket blew. At the time I was still getting 25-27mpg @ 75mph and burning no oil. The car has 295K now and runs like a top, leaks some oil, but burns none.
Over the life (not done yet) of the car I've saved a ton of money by buying aftermarket parts and fluids. I've come to the conclusion that the MB is a well designed piece of machinery and a well designed machine doesn't implode because of the oil level being a millimeter or two off ideal (my wife has over filled it and run it off the dipstick) or its oil coming from Walmart, or its oil filter coming from Purolator, via India, or it's water pump coming from China. When car manufacturers ($) and enthusiasts (status) get into the discussion, the sky starts falling. But as long as the bean counters at MBZ recognize the economies of OEM contractors in this competitive global world, we (car buyers) can be relatively assured of lots of compatibility and competitive pricing from the aftermarket. And my experience is a good car doesn't blow up if reasonable quality stuff is fed to it or bolted to it.

Your mileage may vary

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-18-2009, 07:58 PM
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Your mileage won't be as much as you want, either.

The USA is filled with oil change geniuses like you, and that's why Mercedes, VW, BMW, etc. REDUCE the recommended oil change intervals for vehicles they sell in the USA. Yes, Mercedes running the specified (this means required, not "recommended") motor oil are scheduled at around 19K miles for oil changes everywhere else. You'll note that all three of these manufacturers publish their own motor oil specifications, and since you're so good at concluding things you might conclude there are plenty of oils out there not good enough.

Not only are you wasting oil, but you're in fact damaging your engine with premature oil changes, as you're maintaining the oil closer to its initial high detergency state, which is designed to taper off with miles--too much detergent equals excessive wear.

Your high school shop class level knowledge on the subject parallels quite nicely with a bankrupt industry, i.e. that here in the USA and NOT the one in Germany.

But, you are still welcome to the 21st century if you can handle it.

Kent Christensen
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2009, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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Kent, take a chill pill.

I was just writing about my own experience and what seems to work for me based upon my experience. I view these forums as just that...a forum. Of ideas, theory, what works, what doesn't, explanations of accepted practise, etc. Don't care a hoot whether someone does what I do or not. And if someone says I'm all wet, I'll take it under consideration.

So after your somewhat testy response, I did a bit of googling about things you said. And I admit that I've got a dinosaurian attitude about oil and change interval based on what I read. Somewhere along the line I bought into the 3000 mi interval myth and never questioned it. So I'm going to go out longer on the next oil change to about 5K and do an oil analysis. If it comes back saying there's still life in the oil, then I'll push it out further to see where the tipping point is.

What is your source for the notion that initial detergency levels of fresh oil would cause excessive wear if maintained? I couldn't find anything to support that in a cursory search.

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2009, 01:12 PM
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Since my name was mentioned above, I have to clear my take on the subject.
I might THINK that SOME other fluids are as good as those sold at stealership, but having no way to test them I am buying MB fluid. Obviously not at the stealer, but still the same stuff.
Coming to motor oils, I consider the synthetics so affordable comparing to labor cost, that even my lawnmower is treated occasionally with synthetic.
Actually my older MB diesel is running on the oil 2 categories higher than required for the model. That is mostly due the fact, that older and newer generations synthetic oils cost the same in the place I am buying them. So for the same money, or even slightly more why not to go for the best?
Than doing unnecessary service is totally different issue.
I own older Detroit commercial diesel in my motorhome. The 1972 manual allows up to 100,000 oil changes intervals (with testing in the mean time) on dino oil.
Would love to see 21 Century update for it

Last edited by Kajtek1; 11-19-2009 at 01:16 PM.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2009, 02:25 PM
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Any new member who starts a fluid thread right off the bat is considered and treated as a terrorist.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2009, 05:11 PM
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I have had numerous oil analyses done on my Benz and I highly recommend Blackstone Labs in Indiana. FWIW, they will also test ATF which to some of us with the formerly declared "lifetime fills" is even more important. Like my Plymouth tech says: The fluids or oils are not as important as the proper changing intervals.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2009, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Musikmann View Post
I have had numerous oil analyses done on my Benz and I highly recommend Blackstone Labs in Indiana. FWIW, they will also test ATF which to some of us with the formerly declared "lifetime fills" is even more important. Like my Plymouth tech says: The fluids or oils are not as important as the proper changing intervals.
x2 on blackstone labs. do the lab test with the TBN check (Total Base number). It will indicate when the oil has begun loosing it's additives and needs changing in addition to looking for wear particles.

Test on my e420 recomended going from 5000 to 7500 miles on my next oil change. They indicated 7500 mile check would probaby indicate 10K oil change interval.

the same testing on my silverado Diesel also stretched me out to 10K intervals and the TBN was still very high, indicating even that was conservative.

While changing oil every 3K doesn't hurt anything other than you pocket book (assuming you recycle the oil), your really being very very conservative with modern oils and modern automotive engines.


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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-19-2009, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by deanyel View Post
Any new member who starts a fluid thread right off the bat is considered and treated as a terrorist.

OMG that is hilarious!

To the OP... there is nothing at all wrong with sharing your experience, but that isn't where you left it. Rather, you extrapolated from it as a suggested conclusion for others to follow. I'm honestly glad you have had good results, but the exception proves the rule, and applying the specific instance to the general is a common but basic violation of the rules of logic.

Each of us is free to maintain our vehicles as we see fit. But while you may have had good luck (and in some cases it sounds like you did some homework, because Febi does make an MB spec ATF), others who read and adopt your suggestions are unlikely to enjoy those results. Perhaps your driving habits have contributed, perhaps climate, perhaps a dozen other things.

But MB doesn't just pull specs out of thin air. I tend to think their engineers knew what they were doing when they identified certain formulations for use in various applications. That's not to say there may not be suitable substitutes, but since I have neither the time nor the money to conduct appropriate tests, I'll spend the few extra dollars to be sure I use fluids that meet MB specs.

Naturally you or anyone else is free to disagree, but I'll never have anyone questioning my advice because they have a spun main bearing and wondering if it was the oil they used.

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