2008 Mercedes-Benz C300: Maintenance Unfriendly
June 30, 2008
After driving the long-term 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 for a few days I looked down and saw the check engine light next to the gas gauge. My first thought (as always when I see this light) was, "Hmm, I hope it's nothing serious." So I drove with a notably lighter foot until I got home, then -- as instructed by the light -- I endeavored to check the engine.
But that's easier said than done, as the hood release on the C300 is literally hidden inside the dash. No, not under the dash -- inside. Perhaps it's a safety issue, as nobody wants their knee jamming into a release lever during a serious impact. Still, a little indication that it's down their, in the form of a "HOOD" label and/or arrow, would have been nice. As is, I spent several minutes searching and pawing the lower dash before finally getting out of the car, leaning way down and scanning the driver's footwell.
After (finally) opening the hood I looked for the oil dipstick to make sure the most vital of fluids was in the safe zone. Then I looked some more, and then -- just for fun -- I looked some more. Can you see the desired service point in this photo?
I'd almost given up when I happend to glance back at the middle of the firewall -- essentially the hardest part of the engine to reach (yes, even with the double-jointed hood). EUREKA! I spotted a sliver of yellow plastic and went in for a closer look. This location reminds me of the dipstick location in the Pontiac Solstice. Because that engine comes from the Cobalt, and was thrust into the Solstice during the car's development, you have to wedge your arm between the block and firewall to check the oil. Not sure what Mercedes' excuse is.
Upon inspection the oil level seemed fine (I think -- like our long-term BMW M3, the stick isn't very easy to read). I also checked the coolant and brake fluid levels -- all fine. Hmmm.
Then I went to put gas in it and, ironically, couldn't because the gas station's credit card reader was on the fritz. But I didn't discover this until pulling up to the pump and removing the gas cap. So I put the cap back on and drove away.
The light is no longer on.
Yes, I know this is the most common reason a "Check Engine" light comes on, but I think automakers should literally put a "Check Gas Cap" light in their cars so people can know when there's really a problem or not. BTW, the car had been driven over 100 miles without the light on after the previous fill up. And the cap seemed fully secure before I removed it.
I'm officially changing the term "idiot light" to "idiotic light."
Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 11,625 miles