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Old 09-01-2004, 10:49 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ocala Florida
Posts: 112
Bought 1st MB, Trouble shoot Door Locks

I just bought my first MB. It is a 1988 300E with 124K on it. Had mechanic look it over and other than small things in great shape. The front door locks work but the back door ones move down a little but that's it. I know they work on a vacum and I can hear the pump running either under back seat or in trunk. The gas door locks as well but not the trunk lid. From the manual all the locks should lock when you use the front door key locks. Can anyone give me an idea the best way to trouble shoot this problem and get it fixed.

Thanks for your help in advance.

88 300E
95 Volvo 850 Turbo 115K

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Old 09-02-2004, 12:11 AM
AlexTheSeal's Avatar
Addicted to torque
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Warren, OR
Posts: 248
Diagnosing a vacuum problem is kind of like finding an electrical short circuit - you use the process of elimination, testing parts of the system and ruling out known-good parts until you find the part that HAS to be the problem. You almost answered your own question when you said the front doors lock but not the backs. If some of the actuators work but not others then the problem is somewhere "downstream," close to the ones that don't work.

You need a MityVac (essential Mercedes DIY tool), which you can get at Sears among other places. Start at the pump under the back seat (push in the two orange clips at the front of the cushion and pull up hard, then dig through the padding and soundproofing underneath on the right side until you find the pump). Use the MityVac to pull vacuum on the lines coming off it and see if the locks move. If not then the pump is probably fine (since you can hear it) and the problem is either in the lock actuators themselves or in the lines between here and there. The lines give trouble mostly where they flex in the doorjambs - when you open the doors, you can see from the inside a black bellows like a bendy straw, inside of which is the vacuum line (and some wires for the windows that don't like bending either, but that's another story).

If you've narrowed it down at this point to the lines or the lock actuators, you'll have to pull off the door panels (not hard, see this thread for help) and test the actuators directly by hooking the MityVac right up to them. They have a bellows of their own that can crack with age and use. Actually that is most likely to be the problem, from my experience. A new actuator is $15 or so. While you're inside the door is a good time to grease the window regulator and replace bulbs in the window switch and puddle lamp if you're anal about having all the lights in the car work (like I am).

I've never had to mess with the trunk actuator and I'm not near my W124 CD right now to look it up, but I think it's behind a panel in the rear of the trunk (i.e. between the taillights). Test procedure will be basically the same.

Hope this helps. Troubleshooting the vacuum systems if you're new to M-B's is at first weird and counterintuitive, but you'll get used to it quickly. Unfortunately these cars are at an age where the plastic and rubber in the vacuum lines and related components dry out and crack, and fail at the drop of a hat. It's not life-threatening, but it can be annoying.

AlexTheSeal: hack mechanic, inadvertent drifting champ, builder of infernal devices, professional epistemologist

'87 300D Turbo, roadtrip mileage champ (for sale!)
'92 Isuzu Trooper, mudder extraordinaire (for sale!)
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