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Barmaley 04-13-2019 09:43 PM

To "used" or "not to used" that is the question and Chinesium issue
Hello everyone,

There were many posts over last several years expressing elitist attitude toward Mercedes and its parts. I would like you to share your views about Mercedes reliability, parts and repairs.

First about reliability Mercedes as an apparatus. I bought my first Mercedes several years ago. I paid $25K for 2006 S500 4matic with 26K miles. My thinking was that it was a bargain to get a car which can yield another 250K Mi for that price. Previously I bought a new Chrysler Concord for the $24K and it started break apart at 60K Mi. with getting to miserable shape at 90KMI. I also bought two new Cadilac DTS, one at $56K in 2002 and one at $48K in 2003. They were beautiful cars initially but the first car developed electric problems by 98K Mi and 5 years old and the second one developed multiple parts failure at 110K Mi concidering replacing transmission at 85K Mi. Failures were of very different nature like rusted brake lines so I lost brakes on a highway to water pump, power steering pump etc. Thus, I decided that buying American was a bad investment. Then I heard about legendary Mercedes reliability. I friend of mine had and still has S-class car made in 1980s, which he bought used and now it is 660K Mi and still running. I decided to finally become a shrewd investor and bought S500. Men, how was I wrong about my expectation of MB reliability.

However, I fall in love with S-class cars and I realize that my perspiration about cars performance was wrong! I thought that DTS is an equal car to S-class at half the price since it is the same size, weight and color(all are black LOL) and same features or more (like night vision, GPS etc - remember - it was 15 years ago). Then I found that is it not size what matters :wink but the engineering. S-class and DTS were two different animals like a donkey and a horse. So, I decided to keep the car just for performance.
Since I am not a snob and I don't care about perception of my neighbors on my fleet, at cars I am always look for as economists say "utility". I have more important things in my life then spending time on my cars, I just "use them" which means I appreciate safety, comfort and least amount of maintenance. I calculated the cost of acquisition of a car, divided by miles to drive to the end of life (car Ė not mine) and based my decision on that. What I did not know that cost of ownership of a MB is way off of cost of acquisition. I replaced fan blower, air ride pump, airstrut, drive shaft, both front ball bearings, battery, 15 lightbulb replacement, CV axle, inner and outer rods on one side, the electronic thingy which is under the switch gear handle ($1200 part and 250 for labor at a dealer), air ride computer module $800 part which I fortunately bought on ebay for $18, main cylinder, belt and harmonic balancer. I also have leaking valve cover, I need a conductor place for transmission, I need to replace soon rest of airstruts and all suspension parts on the front which is not cheap proposition on 4matic.

After that long pre-history of my dealings with my car I would like to express my views about car repairs and the reason why I use used parts to fix my cars. And let me note that NEVER in my life I was using not OEM brand new parts only at a dealer for two Chryslers, Dodge Ram and Caddys. There are two main points to make here. First, I would like to pick up on "Chinesium" thesis. I don't believe that what is good for Toyota is not good for Mercedes. If you install a brake hose on a Ford F450 ( I have a 15000 LB bucket truck) you will use a Raybestos or Dorman hose made in China, I guess. I doubt that you will try to find a German hose for it. I guess the brake pressure inside the lines is going to be the same or more in Ford than in S-class. Why people buy Chinese rotors for Toyotas, Dodges and Lexus but can not do it for MB? I would agree that there are big number of shady companies in China who make crap. I guess Hamburg Mechanics is one of them. However, in the area of my expertise of LED lights and Solar panels for the last 10 years Chinese company made tremendous progress in technology. For instant when my team was in the process of designing an outdoor LED light fixtures with an idea to bring manufacturing of them to the USA, a Pennsylvania plant of a Swedish company which makes aluminum extrusion could not replicate a Chinese made prototype of a heat sink because of lack of ability at any of their 12 huge size plants all over in the USA. You also will not find any single company in the USA which can make a neodymium magnet. I visited 6 US based "manufacturers" to find out that they all buy them from China. One of the plants in Allentown PA which makes ceramic magnets for US military application and medical devices is capable to manufacture C1 type of magnets which is the worst one but their Chinesium suppliers can make up to C8 types. We are losing infrastructure in the USA and I would not be surprised if in 10 years Chinese will call US parts as "Americanisuim". To summarize I would thing that to judge ONLY by country of origin would be a mistake. I believe that there are companies in China which can produce good stuff.

Second point is about using used parts. I remember that sometime ago I contemplated on dilemma of either fixing my car with all new genuine parts and put another 100K Mi on it or put used parts and sell it. Somebody here accused me that it was an unethical proposition to sell a car with use parts since it is not fair to a new owner. I am open to learn your guys opinion I want to and can afford not to be ethical. However, my logic is: I sell A USED CAR. If I pull a blower, a control arm, an airstrut or even a rotor and pads (which I will not do) it is perfectly fine, unless I mislead a customer telling her something that "I just put new brakes or struts". Can someone explain why it is perfectly fine to use the same caliper on a donor car and it is not OK to install in on another car?
And finally: MB OE parts are overpriced. A control arm CAN NOT COST $1200!!!! It is nonsense!!! Front brake pads replacement can not cost $750 at a dealer. Do I have $750 to pay to a dealer to replace my pads? I do, but that is where I learned to buy $70 pads on Amazon and replace them at about 45 minutes myself. Before Mercedes I never touched my cars and was considering using dealers for repairs. Fortunately, S-class is designed well and it is very easy to work on compare to DTS. Hence I do my repairs (and I frankly enjoy it) why donít use practically free used parts since I have about a dozen of yards where I can pull parts and every month I have about 15 cars to choose where I get a part.
Can we get to a consensus that occasionally it is OK to use Chinesiums and occasionally it is OK to use used parts either for yourself or for sale?

Barmaley 04-13-2019 10:00 PM


I forgot to list an instrument cluster and truck struts in the list of repairs.

Huachipato 04-13-2019 11:01 PM

We each have our path. Mine was learning by tearing into an old '69 Mustang Mach 1. It was in really rough shape when I got it and was"drivable" when I sold it. Seller never let me test drive it and I learned it had no brakes when I was just trying to move it forward a few feet. But to your point, I wanted a new bumper and the genuine part was proceed sky high, but the knock off was less than half the price. This was not a car that would win any prizes, so I had no issue putting knock off parts on that car.

Unlike you though, I've had good luck with American cars - especially with my '04 Cobra (Terminator). I knew I was going to keep it for a while so I started looking for parts that would be good, but practical in the long run. For example, getting AutoZone Gold brake pads - pay once and free pads for life after that. I think I've been through 5 sets. Did the same for the alternator (brick and mortar purchase with lifetime warranty). Engine has been solid and truly the soul of this car.

With the MB, I got to say the W220 from an outsider point of view is terrible. I didn't fully understand the struts issues and PSE pump and air suspension. I got a used PSE on eBay and put a heat sink into it, and it has been working alright. Based on price I did take a risk on a Chinesium strut and it has worked fine so far. Also brick and mortar alternator and brake pads with lifetime warranty. I had to use a mechanic a few times while I learned this car, but have slowly gaining the needed understanding to do most of my own work. MBs are well thought out designs and love how easy they are to work on. I do have to mention that I did swap the transmission mount last year with what I thought was the best available on Rock Auto, it was a dream at first but it not working as well as expected now - so I know some parts are not as good as others.

I think part of the issue is a perspective of those who are first time owners and those who just recently purchased these cars for a song. It's hard to explain, but the Cobra will get OE or better on parts that fail (exception on wear and tear items though). With the MB my thought process is what will reliably keep the car on the road. I'm not looking for the cheapest parts available, but will risk on used or Chinesium parts where it may make sense to do so.

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tusabes 04-13-2019 11:18 PM

There is no hard and fast rule , some reputable brand names of parts are now sourcing from China so as long as the quality control is there , those Chinese parts are ok. I just bought Bosch spark plugs and they are made in China .

But parts like URO or Hamburg Tecnic are not ok

Also plenty of used parts /whether from eBay or local junkyard are fine . Interior parts , many electrical parts , even things like a transmission are fine to buy used . No sense putting a 0 mile rebuilt transmission in a car with 150,000 miles, especially if you only plan to keep the car a bit longer . I replaced my 190k mile s430 transmission with one from a 84k mile wrecked car . It only cost $300 and served me well for tens of thousands of miles until the body and interior of my car started looking worn out .

However I wouldn’t buy something like a used abc pump or hose as they are at end of life and ready to fail

Lastly a couple of the members here are professional mechanics and they will not install usedf parts on customer cars because they want to minimize warranty returns where they are expected to redo the labor for free

So again there is no hard and fast rule as it depends on what part and what brand whether Chinese or used parts are ok .

Dave2302 04-14-2019 01:31 AM


I know I run a Garage, but this is what I'd do to my own Car, and also how I advise Customers ;)

Do not forget there are Mercedes Remanufactured Parts and a few other good Remans out there, (Air Compressors, Struts etc)

Used Parts (Do not remove from the same area as any crash damage)............................

Any Electronic Modules and certain Sensors, (NOT CRANK SENSOR)
Trim Pieces
Major Assemblies, (Diff, Trans and Engine),
Body Panels and Glass
Locks and Handles
Wiring Looms
Lamp Units
Fuel Tank
Steering Rack, (after careful assessment for play and weeps)
Hub Carriers, (but Change Wheel Bearings also Lower Swivel on 4Matic)
Bare Sub-Frames
Wheel Rims (but check very carefully for cracks and out of true, do not use weld repaired rims)

New Parts (all OE or OEM not cheap Factor / EBay budget rubbish etc).........................

Any Hoses or Pipework (OE or OEM)
Brake Calipers (OE or OEM)
Suspension Arms, Bushes, Swivels (OE or OEM)
Bearings (OE or OEM)
Water Pumps (OE or OEM)
Air Flow Meter (OE or OEM)
ABS Sensors OE only
Lambda 02 Sensors OE Only
Tyres (proper decent Brands, not hop sing lotus flower or ding ding poppadiddlediddledom)

Chinesium .......................

Anything that is genuine MB OE
Head Units, Stereo Equipment etc, (the worst it will do is blow a fuse)

Not an exhaustive list, but hopefully yourself and any others who need to can get the picture :wink


Deplore 04-14-2019 02:02 AM

As Tusabes said, its all in QA. Lots of manufacturers have moved their productions into China, and they have multiple layers of QA during productions, post production, and pre delivery. That's how they are able to weed out the chinese factories who like to play fast and loose with material composition and/or loose tolerance.

However, as it often happens, the chinese are very good at IP theft, and it's not uncommon for the same factory to run a third or fourth shift producing the same exact parts as the original parts on the original factory line/assembly line, only this time using the leftover reject materials that didn't meet the QA. Hell, they might even take the QA rejects and turn around and sell it anyway, but under a different name.

Then in this case, the nature of the game becomes "How much is my time worth?" German cars being germans cars, some jobs that used to be piss easy on other manufacturers are suddenly 3-4 hours long...sometimes more. Motor mounts on a W220, for instance, are a 2-3 hour job. More if you're unfamiliar and doing it on the floor. This same job on a Altima, or Camry, or hell a F150 is a cake. Often I can do those in 30 minutes flat, that's including pulling the car in my stall, time taken to pull my tools, and tooling about.

So then, chinese MM on W220 don't make much sense. Do you really like torturing yourself every year, or every 10-20k to change the MM because it collapsed again?

But lets say....the antenna shark fin broke. URO sells that piece for what, $20? Our glorious mothership wants over $100 for what amounts to be a fancy molded plastic. And it takes all of 30 seconds to replace it. Maybe a whole two minutes if you're being distracted by your dog or something. At this point, even if the shark fin breaks every year, it's worth buying chinese because it's not a critical component, it doesn't rob you of your time, and even if you have to replace it every year, it'll take you 5 years before you break even if you had bought the OEM piece to begin with.

So in cases like this, you have to juggle between OEM, OE brand and chinese, calculate your time worth, the time taken to break even between chinese and OEM, and see where it lies. Problem with Mercedes, and other german cars in general, is that there are far too few aftermarket companies who produce parts that exceed OE quality. I am a few clicks away from finding couple companies who can and do produce hardened camshafts, lifters, lifter rods, additional oiling tubes for all those Chevy Vortec engines with AFM. Likewise, I can find dozens who sell parts to disable AFM permanently. Same story with Dodge and valve lifters, rockers and valve retainers for 3.7, 4.7 and 5.7 engines. This is not the case with MB, BMW, or others (Porsche is an exception, but that is a long story and I won't go into it). So very few aftermarket companies who actually design and sell parts that are beefed up compared to original....and we're back to the whole OEM vs OE vs aftermarket vs chinese argument.

Then we come to brakes. As a shop owner, and as a mechanic, I find it very difficult to justify saving a couple dollars on critical components. Sure, I can do it, save a couple dollars....but what if my family members took the car because whatever reasons, and then they crashed? Would that be my fault because I cheaped out on the lines? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but that thought will be on the back of my head. That's why I pushed so strongly in other thread, but like I said, it's ultimately your prerogative.

It's not like we can buy stainless steel brake lines for our cars.

Dave2302 04-14-2019 02:11 AM

/\ /\ /\ Absolutely +1 very well put :)

Kajtek1 04-14-2019 09:31 AM

First I see conflict in OP logic.
He says he buys the car observing expenses, yet he bought S class for his commute?.
Makes no sense to me.
Coming to parts cost, it takes evaluation like members previous noted.
Chinese make very good rubber parts and lately I bought W212 trunk wing from Taiwan (don't call it China) and it matched factory paint perfectly.
Than my other vehicle is Ford Truck.
When using internet MB dealers I am buying MB parts for good prices, Ford offers me 20 % discount at local dealerships. To date all comparable parts come more expensive for Ford, than for MB.
Installing used? Did you evaluate the part role? Buying used brake caliper is not the same what buying used brake pads.

Barmaley 04-14-2019 10:48 AM


Originally Posted by Kajtek1 (Post 17756226)
First I see conflict in OP logic.
He says he buys the car observing expenses, yet he bought S class for his commute?.
Makes no sense to me.

I guess the flow in my logic was taking for granted a wrong premise: I wrongfully thought that Mercedes makes reliable cars:crying. I thought that spending $25K on a car which can yield another 250K Mi is a better investment than two new ford. What I did not realized was that 250K additional miles on MB will cost me $30K more in repairs.

Now I know that utility is an Lexus 430LS Long which is very reliable. Unfortunately I don't like the way how it handles bumps on the road, also it is not as fun to drive as S500 4matic.

Kajtek1 04-14-2019 08:22 PM


Originally Posted by Barmaley (Post 17756288)
What I did not realized was that 250K additional miles on MB will cost me $30K more in repairs.

That can happen only when you don't do your homework and let mechanics milk you.
Sure it can go very fast from this point.
For me MB was the cheapest drive ever. Even cheaper than VW Jetta tdi I was driving years ago.
Newer models do have very expensive sensors + SCN coding, what changed economy quite a bit, but than I can drive 600 miles on $45 worth of fuel, so I am getting my money back.
You want to drive MB for cheap? >>> keep it as far from mechanics as you can.

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