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Old 06-24-2010, 08:47 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 12
Question 1963 220Sb Crisis - Need Advice

Good Evening Everyone,
Let me start by saying that I am not a "car girl." In fact, I know very little about them. The problem is that I have a 1963 220Sb that I adore and need to take care of, and she's had a bit of an explosion. I will do my best to describe the series of events that led me to you.

1. After sitting in a slightly sloped driveway for several weeks, Dorothy was warmed up (15-20 minutes) before an attempt was made to move her forward. She has not had any "issues" in that department for years.

2. After moving about 2 inches there was a huge explosion sound followed by greyish-blueish smoke barreling out of her hood, and she promptly died.

3. A fearful and novice inspection of the hood revealed "splatter" (oily looking) covering everything.

4. After sitting for around 2 weeks, the splatter is gone (meaning that it was not oil??).

5. Following the advice of a MB veteran, an attempt was made to start her. The engine did "turn over" but she would not actually start. Neighbor men folk have said the following seemingly important thing: "There is no gas in the carburetors."

So, what should I do? Is she going to blow up again if I try to start her? Is she fixable? I have had Dorothy for 7 years, driven across the country with her... I don't know what to do! Any help would be MUCH appreciated.

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Old 06-24-2010, 08:52 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Soperton, Ga. USA
Posts: 13,577
My suggestion would be to find a good, local, independent Mercedes repair shop that can repair cars of this vintage and have him take a look at it. The only thing that I can think of that would cause an explosion and then the "splatter is gone" is gasoline and you don't want to mess around with that. Be glad that it still turns over.
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Old 06-24-2010, 09:11 PM
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Thank you very much for your timely response. I am a full-time college student (read: poor) and am worried that a mechanic will cost an arm and a leg. When I got Dorothy on the West coast and had to take her to the Doctor, what they called "minor" repairs totaled in around $1000. Do you think that there might be local people (rather than shops) capable of helping, or do you think that the problem is much too serious for that? I am in the Denver metropolitan area. Also, if you think maybe it is not so serious... I may not know cars, but for Dorothy I will learn. If there is something I can look at in her or take apart or something....?
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Old 06-24-2010, 09:53 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Soperton, Ga. USA
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Look under the hood as someone cranks the engine over and see if you see fluid pouring out anywhere. You may have a fuel hose that has come apart. If you are handy with wrenches you may start breaking lines loose to see if you are getting fuel to the engine. If you are not getting fuel to the engine then you will want to check out the fuel pump or in other words perform some basic troubleshooting procedures.
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Old 06-24-2010, 09:56 PM
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Location: rhode island
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I will try and help you, first raise the hood and smell ,do you smell gasoline if you smell alot you need to check for leaks just turn the switch on and don't try to crank it go look under the hood and look for a leak if you don't have any gasoline leaks we will move to step two, step two is pull a spark plug wire loose and hold it with a rag away from the engine but close to a metal part of the engine have someone turn the engine over to see if you get a spark jumping from the spark plug wire to the engine block if you have no spark at all you have and ignition problem, points have to be set right to have spark. I beleive your system has and electric fuel pump in the trunk you should be able to hear it run with the ignition switch only in the on position, , make sure you have no gasoline leaks under the hood before you do anything. if you see any wet spots that look like a leak make sure it,s not careful. for the engine to run properly you need fuel . and ignition, with what you are you are saying it sounds like the pump may have stoped working, turn the switch on and listen for the sound of fuel pump working.also if it back fired when you tried to move it you have problem most likely in the ignition system.
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Old 06-24-2010, 10:04 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2010
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Trouble-shooting Updates (So Far)

Thank you everyone so so much for your help. Here are the updates that I have so far based on your comments and advice:

1. When looking at the engine while Dorothy is trying to start, there are no visible leaks.

2. While she is trying to start, there is no smell of gas. I even smelled her butt to see if it was coming out of the other end.

3. My dad disconnected a hose looking thing (Fuel line?) that was about the diameter of a quarter, then my mom tapped on the gas. Out of the hose dribbled what was probably gas (meaning it's moving?). It was a very slight dribble.

I will try the spark plug thing, and see what else I can provide in response to your suggestions. Thank you again SO much!
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Old 06-24-2010, 11:09 PM
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Location: Vista, CA
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Probably couldn't hurt to post a picture of your engine bay. Someone on here might spot something amiss.

1979 240D with a 617 turbo diesel.
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Old 06-24-2010, 11:16 PM
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Where are you, roundabout? May well be somebody localish that could come advise.
I will add if there is much in the way of gas smell, have a fire extinguisher around or in the least a garden hose nearby.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:07 AM
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I would strongly advise against the garden hose, since gas sits on top of water, you're just splashing the fire around... But a fire extinguisher is good if there is a gas smell.

I almost wonder if it's something everyone is totally missing, like a massive failure of the master cyl and/or brake booster that got brake fluid everywhere. It looks oily but tends to dissipate quickly. It could have got in the wires or something that is interfering now with starting, or the massive vac leak could be preventing starting. Just throwing an out-of-the-box, I hope your engine isn't dead scenario out there.
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Old 06-25-2010, 11:01 AM
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I second the advice to post your location since there is a decent chance someone here is in your remote area. Plus, it's always interesting meeting someone and putting a face to a username.

My second piece of advice is to simply grab a bottle of starter fluid. Carefully read the directions on the can, and go from there. It will involve you spraying it into the carbs. Then, stand back and try to start the car. You may get a quick shot of fire coming out the the top of one of the carbs, so I repeat, stand back. It's not that uncommon. This tells you if it's a fuel problem. If the car runs for a few seconds or "just about does," you're having a fuel problem.

If the car doesn't seem to want to fire, or not run for at least a couple seconds, it's probably a spark problem. Grab a spare spark plug if you have one. It doesn't have to be the same as one in the car, but you also have the option of removing a plug from the engine if you need to. Pull off any one of the spark plug wires (I would recommend leaving the other 5 on so as to keep them straight) and connect it to the plug in your hand. While holding it by the rubber, touch the bottom of the plug to the engine block. You're doing this to ground out the connection. Have someone crank the engine. It's important to hold it by the end of the boot close to the wire so you don't risk getting a shock. If you see a bunch of sparks while cranking, you have good spark. I won't go into trying to tell if it's "good" or "bad" spark just yet.

To the other posters on this forum, yes there are other ways she could go about these tests but these are simple and revealing.

Give these two tests a try and report back. You only need gas and spark to make the car run, so one of those is missing (also air, but that's getting technical since there's obviously plenty of it around without the air box on the car).

Good luck.

Best Regards,


2000 Honda Accord V6 137k miles

1972 300SEL 4.5 98k miles

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Old 06-25-2010, 01:50 PM
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Location: rhode island
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send us your pictures and we will fix it from here
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Old 06-25-2010, 03:43 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 12

Hey Everyone! Thank you again so much for the help. If the photos are of the wrong stuff please let me know.

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Old 06-26-2010, 03:55 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Rancho PV, CA, USA
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Are you in South Africa, Alaska, Denmark or?
One of us might be close by and take a look.
1960 220 SE Coupe (Ponton)
1999 E320 Wagon
2007 E350
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Old 06-26-2010, 04:08 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: los angeles
Posts: 451
if the car ran for 20 minutes, and then stalled and "exploded", then i would suggest that the carbs (dr. obvious here) are perhaps stuck open or closed. as others have suggested, removing the air cleaner and checking out the "butterfly" valves (or whatever they're called) and hitting them with with starting fluid or some carb cleaner might make them more, uh, mobile. but, remember, they don't call it an internal "combustion" engine for nothing. there maybe some flaming - stand back.

(p.s. your prose style is intriguing - a la thomas mann or some other ironic german - are you a grad student in some writing program? )
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
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Old 06-27-2010, 05:02 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: brisbane,Qld.Australia
Posts: 2,066
Big Explosion Huh?

When that happens i Always Check the points in the distributor,
thats the brown bakelite thing with the plug wires coming out of it. The brown cap with the wires is clipped in place with two metal clips. Grab a screw driver (or similar) and pop the clips undone.
you should then see a little arm made from bakelite. that is the Rotor.
The rotor can be lifted off .
Lift it off and inspect it closely for any signs of cracking.
A burnt look about the center and the little metal end of the arm is normal but can be cleaned off with a nail file or buffing stick.
If you grab the fan and turn the engine clockwise the arm should move.
Move it (it will be tight so wrap a cloth around the fan blade so you can get a good grip.) so the arm points at a little notch in the edge of the distributor body.
There is only one notch (or should be) so you cant go wrong.
Now,the contact points are little arms under the rotor and are fastened to the distributor body inside.

Without going into how they work*, they should,when the rotor is pointed at that notch,have a gap between them.
No gap means no go .
The gap required is very small and a credit card thickness.
If you look at the image,the screw hole on the left holds the points in place,and the right screw is loosened to adjust the points to open or close them.
if you look carefully at the shaft that the rotor sits on, you will notice it has six lumps. These lumps push the points open and let them close as the shaft rotates.
When the lump is at it highest point against the points little rubbing piece,the points should open just enough to fit the credit card through. A little less may work better.
Your best bet is to buy a new set of points and search on line for a copy of the autobooks mercedes W111 220S owners workshop book. it was first published in 1975 but is an invaluable source of knowledge.
When the points get worn,the spark produced will happen at the wrong time,thus igniting the fuel in the intake. It exploded on you and blew the oil from the aircleaner. Thats the tin pot to right of the engine mounted on the inner fender.


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