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SL500 Oddities

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I bought a 2003 SL500 on auction a few months back, and in general, I'm very pleased. But this is one of the weirdest cars I've owned, and I'm not sure if I just got a funky unit, or if they're all this way. I've been a Jaguar guy for the last 40 years, only owning one MBZ (2000 E320) along the way, so I'm not sure if what I'm seeing is normal or not.

1. I was told by the selling dealer that the hydraulic pump for the suspension was recently replaced. I see that it has a MBZ label on it. The car rides fine, but it seems that, when you park it, the pressure bleeds and raises the right front corner of the car. It's pretty much imperceptible, but almost every time I start the car, remove the parking brake, and start moving, the right-front corner drops down. So weird. Anyone experience this?

2. The car mercifully has Distronic adaptive cruise. But it turns itself off all the time with an 'External Fault' notice. There are no Distronic codes logged in the OBD system. Anyone have any idea why this is happening? It's quite regular.

3. I'm pretty disappointed with the amount of brittle plastic on the car; same is true of my 2007 Jaguar XK, but still. Lots of tiny bits of plastic on the bodywork (e.g. the flaps that cover the holes where the roof supports come up) have broken away; I can't imagine these are replaceable for reasonable cost.

Between the color (Aegean Sea Blue), the Distronic adaptive cruise (when it works), and the head unit retrofit by the prior owner that gave me CarPlay and rear-view camera, I must say that there's a lot to love about the car. But these items (esp. Distronic) are irritants. Any idea what I can do about them?

Thanks,
Doug
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I would say what you are describing is not the normal running condition for an SL.

SL are very complex cars, and are “over engineered,” and need to be properly maintained.
I suggest you have the vehicle checked out by a knowledgeable mechanic, either at an
independent shop specializing in Mercedes, or a competent MB dealer.
 

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Hi, Doug. I have a 2005 SL600. Regarding #1, the ABC system is as complex as a lunar lander. It took my MB dealership 3 months to iron out the issues with the system (left side sag) - parts on back order, etc., etc. I directed the tech, with whom I got to know real well during that time, to do whatever it takes to repair the issue. On each visit to the shop, I was granted access to the tech and my SL, which was on a lift more than on the ground, and on several visits, I witnessed testing. This cultivation of a relationship between the dealership and tech and myself went a long way to establish my trust in them. Bottom line: The repaired ABC system operates as intended with no further issues. My advice regarding this issue: Unless you have the proper tools and skill, I recommend leaving this one to the experts. Regarding #2, my car does not have that option. Regarding #3, it is very disappointing that MB used poor quality materials in such a high cost vehicle. I've experienced the dreaded "brittle plastic syndrome" and have resorted to unique fixes of minor bits to keep otherwise major components operable. If you are so inclined, go on You tube and search for fixes in which you are interested. Many fixes do not require the skill of a MB tech. Good luck. Hope this helps.
 

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95 SL600
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1 the front abc valve block needs to be rebuilt or replaced.
2 no idea
3 yes brittle and expensive to replace, if you can even get the parts now. Very bad plastic.
Save your money for ABC repairs and front end suspension components, motor mounts, and convertible top repairs.
 

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2005 SL500
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93 Posts
You can repair the plastic by using some Weld-on ABS liquid cement.
 

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Silver 2005 SL500
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2. The car mercifully has Distronic adaptive cruise. But it turns itself off all the time with an 'External Fault' notice. There are no Distronic codes logged in the OBD system. Anyone have any idea why this is happening? It's quite regular.
What OBDII reader are you using?

Most cheaper units will not read the codes other than the ECU. Get it scanned with STAR SDS, or buy a dedicated code scanner specifically for Mercedes.

Only the best will read the distronic, so highly recommend using STAR SDS.
 

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'03 SL500's Tanzanite Blue, Aegean Blue, Mars Red, Alabaster White '11 S550 Flint Gray
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The ABC issue is related to the control valve. It either has internal leaks (not repairable) or it is leaking past the o-rings. I would start by rebuilding the valve block, but you might need to replace the control valve. Individual valves are not available, so you either have to replace it with a used one or replace the entire valve block with the new style block.

Euro plastics of this era are terrible. The EU is usually ahead of the US on banning certain substances. Often times things are banned before good alternatives are available and I suspect that is what happened in this case.
 

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2005 SL 500 R230
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When you park it, the pressure bleeds and raises the right front corner of the car.

Could what you are experiencing be not the front raising, but the rear dropping? The rear can sag on one side, giving the impression that the front has lifted. With the transmission in neutral and your foot off the brake, the car will level. As mentioned, probably an easy fix with a rebuild kit.

The ABC system is as complex as a lunar lander.

It's true that the ABC relies on sensors around the vehicle and a very complex control system, but those components rarely give trouble, and the ones that do wear are either surprisingly inexpensive from various sources, or not hugely expensive. Rebuilt pumps are available, the valve blocks can be rebuilt for peanuts and rebuilt struts aren't too much, all relative to the original cost. If you can do the work yourself then it's really not hard or expensive to maintain.
 

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2005 SL500
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Oddest thing so far for me is the washer reservoir. Fill it with orange Rainex fluid, leaks out all over the floor. Fill it with plain old blue fluid, leaks out all over the floor. Fill it with water, no leaks. ¯\(ツ)
That means your O-rings and or seals at the pump are failing.
 

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I'd heard and experienced the Rain-X product being magically able to leak out of the windshield washer reservoir while other brands don't. I use Rain-X product that you wipe all over the windshield, but other brands of washer fluid. Actually, I never use the washer function because I don't want to get washer fluid all over the car's paint. My R230s never go out in the rain, anyhow; only my GL450 SUV and my S-Class W221 go out in the rain, the other cars stay in the garage when it's wet out there. I buy nice, new wipers so they'll look good, then they never get to see raindrops. LoL
 

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CURRENT: 2011 SL550 FORMER: C300, ML350, CLK550 Cabriolet, C240, ML320, 300TD
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I use only genuine MBZ OE washer fluid. Not because I think it's anything special, but because it comes concentrated in small vials so I can keep them on hand without taking up much space in the garage.
 
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