Apples & Lemons


I am a little upset today. My Mercedes is playing silly buggers with a reoccurring fault. Actually, its a reoccurring EML (Engine Management Light) which thus far has proved to be three separate sensor failures. I’ve decided to blog about this to help me make sense of it and hope that some cathartic magic happens.

I bought the car in November last year and for the first six months, everything was rosy. Then I experienced my first EML. I called Mercedes in a panic but they calmly said that if the light is yellow and the vehicle has experienced no loss of power, then it should be fine. I was only mildly reassured when they finished the conversation with ‘but if you could get it to us at your earliest convenience.’ This is easier said than done and when I think back, this was probably the first major rift in my love affair with Mercedes. My local dealership is twenty miles away. It’s no simple thing for me to just book it in. I either have to hang around for what can be an undetermined amount of time, or I can accept a courtesy car to continue my day. You’re probably thinking courtesy car, right? Well, the problem there is that they often don’t have one available for several weeks. For example, upon first reporting my EML problem to my local dealership, the earliest they could supply me with a courtesy car was nearly three weeks later. When you are already anxious about the EML, then three weeks is a long time. What would happen if something catastrophic occurred in the engine? Would I be blamed for continuing to drive it? The other issue is that in driving off with the courtesy car I am accepting that I will be driving back with it to the dealership in the near future. This means more time wasted travelling between work or home and the dealership.

On this first occurrence of the dreaded EML, it just so happened to coincide with the car’s service. I wasn’t prepared to wait for a courtesy car and so I was presented with some other options:

  1. Mercedes would pay a taxi to take me anywhere I would like to go. I could go home (which would be a forty-mile round trip) if I wanted to.
  2. I could sit and wait for an undermined amount of time. They knew how long the service would be (2 hours if you’re wondering), but at this point, they did not know the cause of the EML. It was suspected to be a sensor problem though and the nice and friendly customer service man further suspected that it could be fixed/replaced while the service was being carried out.

I opted for option 1. A taxi duly arrived and took me into town where I gorged on a fry-up and did a little shopping. Once the car was finished being serviced (and hopefully repaired), the nice customer service man called me on my mobile and asked me where I would like to be collected by the taxi. I must admit, I thought this was terrific and I arrived back at the dealership fully believing that I had been well looked after.

What’s more, the EML was no longer illuminated. Oh, the EML was due to a failure of the Mass Air flow Sensor and was replaced. Win! To add a little sugar on top I am happy to report that it was also all covered under my warranty and service plan. I had nothing further to pay whatsoever.

I drove off into the sunset happy that Mercedes was the brand for me and grateful for having ditched BMW for them.

However, the dreaded EML returned within a matter of weeks. I can’t describe enough how much this pissed me off. Already I was envisaging the palaver I would have to endure in identifying a day in which I could get back down to Mercedes. Word to the wise, before you call, identify the dates you can do beforehand. There is nothing more irritating (presumably for both parties) than when you come to actually book a date and you spend several minutes scrolling through your phone’s calendar while the other side is on hold. I have the added stress that my wife likes to control our family calendar. If something appears within that she has not pre-authorised, then I can be confident that within minutes of adding the event to the dairy, my phone will ring. I’ll have to explain why I have allocated some of my time to something I have given no notice for. Sigh.

Anyway, the day before I was due back at Mercedes, wouldn’t you just know it, the bloody EML switched itself off. I called up and spoke with Mercedes to ask if I still needed to attend and was informed that no, providing there is no degradation in performance then I could continue with my day.

The day of the cancelled appointment came and went. The very next day, guess what? Yep, the fucking EML came back on.

Back on the phone to Mercedes. Yes, of course, they will see me again. No, a courtesy car is not available for the next few weeks.

I contacted another dealership, this time in Norwich. It is pretty much equidistant, just the opposite direction to most other aspects of my life. Sigh. They can, at least, supply a courtesy car in a few days time. Okay then, at least some positive news there. I book and drop the car off at the appointed time. They have the car for most of the day and discover that firstly my air filter is blocked with what looks like half a hedge and that my NOX sensor has failed as a result. The sensor is replaced under warranty, but I am made to pay for the new air filter. £45… poof. Gone. I won’t mention the fact that the car had only recently had a service and so you’d think the air filter should be fine?

Anyway, I drive home again with everything seemingly fixed.

The very next day the fucking EML is back again. An angry phone call to Mercedes follows and the car is once again booked into Mercedes Norwich.

Upon arriving at Mercedes I am struck dumb by an indifferent customer representative telling me that no courtesy car is available for me, despite my having booked one. I am shown to the waiting area with assurances that my car will be seen at once. Why don’t I help myself to some complimentary coffee and a biscuit? It just so happens that I had brought my laptop with me. Whether this was a premonition I honestly can’t say, but I sat in the waiting room of Mercedes Norwich, slurping coffee and finger smashing the keyboard drafting this blog post. I was mad, believe me. I still am, but that’s because I am armed with the knowledge of what happened next.

Indifferent man approached to say that they have identified the problem. This time its an oxygen sensor failure and would you believe it, they don’t have any in stock. They can get one in tomorrow apparently. So, guess what I’m doing tomorrow? Frothing at the mouth as I sit in Mercedes Norwich waiting room I suspect.

I can’t describe how hacked off I am right now. I’m about ready to hand them the keys and walk away, but that won’t help. I’m tied into a finance agreement so really they’ve got me by the balls. That said, here is a list of possible actions I am actively considering right now:

  1. Pay off the outstanding finance, sell the car privately and switch brands.
  2. Sell the car to a company who buy cars under finance. I’ll take an almighty hit in the pocket as they won’t give me a shadow of what it’s worth, but it’ll be gone and I can burn the Mercedes emblem in a bin in my garden.
  3. Pay off half the finance and hand the keys back. (I think this is possible but requires a little more investigation.) I won’t owe anything more, but I won’t have a car either or any money to buy another one with.
  4. Do nothing. Suck it up, wait and see. It’s entirely possible that the replacement oxygen sensor will do the job and I could have a few years happy motoring ahead of me.
  5. Kick-off and demand compensation. The car is after all under warranty and really, I shouldn’t be experiencing these problems. This is a definite contender and if I was possessed with the kind of fighting spirit I anticipate will be required (because I doubt Mercedes will accept this anything other than normal) I might go for it. Alas, can I afford to spend weeks battling with Mercedes over this? Do I want to go to court over it? Would I win if I did? A quick read through the Consumer Rights Act suggests the power will be in their hands. I would have to prove problems existed from day one, which they didn’t. They have to be seen to be attempting to fix the problems, which they are. I can’t, in all honesty, contemplate court just because I’m angry. An angry claimant is a poor claimant in my view.

Chances are I’ll do nothing, except that the way of the world is sometimes plain unfair and quietly move on once this agreement is over. At this point in time, I believe my love affair with Mercedes has come to an end. Divorce proceedings are on the horizon. It just remains to be seen how messy it’s going to be.

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