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Old 06-18-2003, 02:43 PM
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Location: SF Bay Area, CA
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Warning about radiator hot-tanking

Pulled the rad from an '83 380SL this weekend. Clogged with scale because the PO and his mechs couldn't be bothered to read the manual and use DISTILLED WATER for coolant changes.

I ran it down to the nearby rad shop. They were supposed to close one pinhole leak and rod it out, and nothing more.

This rad is one of the ones with an integral trans cooler; I dropped the unit off with the trans ports closed off with foil caps and wire, to keep foreign matter out.

The wankers couldn't remember my instructions, and they tossed the rad into the hot tank with the rest of the day's work, after having pulled the foil caps off.

It came back to me dribbling greenish Bob-knows-what out of the side tanks *and* out of the trans cooler ports. Lovely. Wonderful. Great to know that Americans are as quick on the uptake as we always have been.

Anyway, there have been posts here in the past about keeping Mercedes ATF rigorously free from exposure to coolant. Apparently even microscopic amounts of coolant can cause rapid clutch face wear. Several members go so far as to use a dedicated funnel for ATF adds, in order to eliminate the risk of using one that has had coolant poured through it in the past.

Needless to say, the mixture of old coolant and other garbage inside of a hot tank is probably *not* what one wants to send back upstream into the trans when re-installing a tanked radiator!

I am going to rigorously flush the trans section of this unit with acetone and alcohol and distilled water, and bone-dry it, before it goes back in the car.

I recommend that anyone planning a radiator service exercise equal care. Frankly, I should have assumed the usual modern lack of professional competence on the front end, and put on threaded caps with threadlocker to the trans cooler ports so as to keep the shop guys out of there.

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Old 06-18-2003, 03:04 PM
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Location: SoCal
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If any of this charm came across at the shop, I too would be worried at what might have been run through the ports. You've dissed the previous owner, his car's techs, the radiator shop, and all Americans in general. Assuming they didn't intentionally try to dissolve it, there are plenty of solvents you can run through to clean it out, of course.

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Old 06-18-2003, 09:17 PM
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This topic's drifting from tech, but I'll have to leave it to the moderators to relocate it if they deem necessary.

You've dissed the previous owner, his car's techs, the radiator shop, and all Americans in general.
To which I can only reply, sequentially: with reason, with reason, with reason, and, well, okay, on the last of the four, my figuring that every single one of my fellow Americans is a thumbfingered idiot *is* a stretch, and it's unfair, and you're correct to chafe me about it.

However, I will say three things about the general run of incompetence in America.

The first is that it is very rare these days for me to have dealings with any sort of ordinary person practicing a trade, and then to come away from it with any sort of favorable impression. Auto work is just a subset of that. And no, it's not because I treat such people dismissively; I extend to them the same level of personal respect and courtesy that I'd expect were I doing their jobs.

This negative assessment includes tradesmen whose work I didn't contract for myself, and which I am merely surveying forensically after it has failed badly.

A friend of mine, a homeowner, has a bunch of shorted wiring from an inept electrician, a flooded yard from a plumber who cut corners installing her irrigation hookups, and HVAC ducting falling loose because the heating man didn't use proper duct mounts.

None of those were fly-by-night con artists; they were all apparently reputable, licensed and bonded professionals. But their work was junk.

Or, for an automotive example, when I pulled out the radiator, I found that the back face of the A/C condensor was trashed, with large areas of bent fins. This area is normally protected by the presence of the radiator. The most plausible way for those fins to get bent up is from someone ineptly removing, or clumsily reinstalling the rad, and bashing it into the condensor with considerable force. And then not fixing their error.

Am I incorrect in calling that unprofessional?

I don't find every encounter with a tradesman unpleasant. In the last couple of months, I have had two that were a positive joy. One was a machinist repairing a part that I had munged through inattention and fatigue, another was an electrician diagnosing a weird intermittent that eluded me.

Both guys had tools I don't have. But more to the point, both of them used those tools with exceptional discipline and skill, and both did a far better job than I could have done, even if I had access to the same kit.

Both were timely, followed instructions to the letter, stopped to ask questions where necessary, and indicated at the end of the job that they would stand by it if any trouble developed. And both of them charged me top dollar, and I was utterly delighted to pay it.

Second comment I have is that it's not just the classic trades. I am a software engineer by training, and you would not believe some of the incredibly crappy slipshod work I have seen passed off in that field. I have acquaintances who work in other professional capacities -- medicine, for instance -- and they tell stories of incompetence that would keep you awake late at night.

Third comment is that although I as an American have some license to complain about how things work in this country, I have heard similar things from foreigners.

A couple of years ago, long before I had a Benz in the household, I was in Germany and out drinking, and I met a young Daimler electrical engineer (this was in the good old days before they turned into the conglomerated monster of DaimlerChryslerFreightlinerWhoKnowsWhat AG).

He had just been on detached duty working in the field with MBUSA trying to slipstream a fix for some electronics that had gone out in poor shape. But the experience of six months Stateside working with Americans had shaken him.

His comment was: "America! (long pause) America. (long pause) Does anyone in your country ever read the printed instructions?"

Apparently the bulletins from his department regarding the bad circuit boards had been read and complied with faithfully everywhere in the global Daimler empire except for, you guessed it, the USA.

And to judge from what I read in the comments section here about horrible experiences with contemporary Mercedes dealer service departments, things have only gotten worse since then.

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Old 06-18-2003, 09:50 PM
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Old 06-19-2003, 11:27 AM
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Originally posted by seacoast_benz
Second comment I have is that it's not just the classic trades. I am a software engineer by training, and you would not believe some of the incredibly crappy slipshod work I have seen passed off in that field.
I have been a software engineer for 20 years now and I contend that it's amazing what does go into production despite the poor execution of code!

And some of it has wound up on my desk for repair. When it does, I look at the unbelievable lack of effort taken when written...then I see the author's name...who presently is the project manager, or some other executive position...
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Old 06-19-2003, 12:17 PM
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Incompetence is rampant around the world. I have enough stories to fill a book ( well, maybe several books ).
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Old 06-19-2003, 05:53 PM
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It is called "Peter's principal".
A person will be promoted up to is level of incompetence.

If you believe that you will never be promoted... then you are there.

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Old 06-25-2003, 07:44 PM
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My final factual followup:

I flushed the trans cooler section repeatedly with acetone, and you would not believe the hideous gunk that came out. Some was hot-tank rubbish left over from the radiator shop, some was probably baked varnished old ATF. I blew it clean with shop air after the last acetone wash.

In retrospect, I'm incredibly glad I did not just slap this rad back in the car without cleaning it up first. I also noticed that the shop had given a quick spray with a not very well adhering black paint, and that they had gotten the paint down inside both main necks.

Yech. No way. I took another hour and cleaned off the overspray carefully with aircraft stripper, making sure not to leave residue inside. I then pressure flushed the unit through the coolant section, after dry masking the trans cooler ports.

A huge amount of ugly stuff came out, much of it big flakes of mineral crust with a green Prestone tinge. Happy to have that gone.

End result: rad is back in, car runs a steady 85C on water alone. I am doing a few drive-and-drain cycles to get out as much of the loose mineral stuff as I can before adding coolant; there is a bit of it visible still in the reservoir after every drive.

Note that this rad was dosed with citric acid at MB-recommended concentrations, and the citric just didn't get the heavy scale accumulation inside the tubes. Sometimes tougher measures are needed. And again, all this could have been avoided with a proper choice of coolant and the use of distilled water by the PO.
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Old 06-25-2003, 08:26 PM
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I just wanted to give you a heads up that the radiator can become leaky after cleaning all the gunk out. Over time the radiator corrodes from the inside, thinning the metal, and the only thing keeping it from leaking are the corrosion deposits. You mentioned that one pinhole leak has already developed and needed repair.
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Old 06-25-2003, 09:27 PM
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Thanks, Kestas, I'll keep an eye on it.

There was actually more than one leak, but the shop pumped it up to a higher pressure than found in normal service to test -- 20 psi. At normal operating pressure, it seems tight.

The rad itself is a nice all-metal piece of work. No plastic necks on this thing! It's a shame that the PO let it get stuffed up.

And actually, I found two other radiator shops' tags brazed on to the rad when I pulled it out. Apparently the PO paid to have the rad cleaned out several times before, without ever inquiring into the root causes of the overheating issue. People. Sheesh.
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Old 06-26-2003, 12:44 AM
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Note that this rad was dosed with citric acid at MB-recommended concentrations, and the citric just didn't get the heavy scale accumulation inside the tubes.
What is the recommended vit. C concentration. Is it as good as Prestone super flush?
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Old 06-26-2003, 01:17 AM
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Take a deep breath!!!

But since you won't, can I have your SL when you die of a heart attack?????? Please?????

Just a joke!!! Don't get upset.

I get tired of incompetence also. But this is America and yes people do get to rise to there own level. If you can find a country where things are done better let us know.

You will probably find that the radiator will have to be replaced. It has probably been rusting from within. And more pinhole leaks will occur.

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Old 06-26-2003, 01:54 AM
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had my rad replaced for $300 installed.

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Old 06-26-2003, 03:42 AM
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In the first half of the last century something like 70 percent of the people in this country lived on small farms. A great deal of them learned to repair their own equiptment, build their own houses etc. I caught the last of the family farm culture growing up in farm country in centeral Ohio in the fifties, working on the neighbors farms I learned to weld, and to do general repair on every thing from cars to corn pickers.
I'm not sure of the exact percentage of people living on family farms now but it is very low.I think we all lost a great learning feild as well
as the spirt of those hard working independant people when we lost our family farms to the hudge corperate farms of today.........
William Rogers........
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Old 06-26-2003, 08:36 AM
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I enjoyed your post.

My GrandDad was a rancher and the smartest human I've ever known. He was very well read on so many subjects that it was uncanny. He could build or repair anything as well as a really deep understanding of veterinary medicine.

I don't claim to be near as broad and deep based as he was, but I do carry on the fix it or build it spirit that I got from him.

Recently some really bad hailstorms came through the Dallas area and a number of people that I work with lost their roof to hail damage. They were getting big checks from the insurance company. To several of them I suggested that they simply rent a roofing nailer, have the supplier put the shingles on the roof and several of us would pitch in and do the re-roof job ourselves.

To these guys it was as if I was suggesting that we spend the weekend building a "rocket ship to the moon." They thought that the only people capable of nailing shingles to a roof are "proffessional roofers." The funny thing is each one of these guys are some of the smartest and most accomplished real time software developers on the face of the planet.

As you say, the family farm population must make up less than 1% of the US population. But, show me a family farmer, and I'll show you someone who has never called a plumber, or an electrician, or a painter, etc.

I don't want anyone to think I am belittling folks for having things done. I'm only commenting on your accurate observation. The world's a changin'.

Have a great day,
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