Getting a shop to fix my car

JHZR2

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I bought a 1991 Mercedes 350SD diesel some years ago. Nice car, low miles, everything worked great. Very clean.

It had a known “rodbender“ engine, and I knew that the HG was slightly seeping oil. I knew the right job was to proactively do the HG.

I called a shop that I had trusted very much with older European cars, including MB diesels, some 20 years ago. This was back in late 2019 mind you. He knew the issue, gave me a good cost, I took it there to get the job. Seems simple right? But now it’s 2022. Yeah covid. Yeah machining, yeah some issues. No good excuses.

It has been one thing or another since then. He got the engine together, found a leak, pulled the head. Replaced parts, got a misfire. Pulled the head at least once more…. Ive lost confidence, and here we are in 2022. Every time it’s a cordial call, but no real action.

I don’t need the car. It’s one of many in my collection. I’m sure it’s sitting out, which isn’t great for it…. The R-12 Ac worked perfectly before, who knows if it does now.

I stupidly told him at the start that there was no rush. I felt like this may result in a few months time, but no big deal given my use profile, and the collection of vehicles I have. I would stop by occasionally, call occasionally, be patient a lot. I even gave a bit of money to cover his costs if the car takes a while. Again, I trusted this guy….

So now what? I had trusted before, he had done great work on various much older MB diesels and my BMW. Now I’ve lost all trust.

I want the car fixed. If I just go get it, I’ll have some parts and a ripped apart engine, or in best case a vehicle thate doesn’t work well. I’d surely need to tow and be back .xx

Supposedly now the car has a misfire at idle. Could be a world of things. I don’t know bad it is, or if it would be able to revert to ssdrivable with misfire relatively quick. Beyond just going and getting it back, I could pull and take to another shop and elk be close to ground one. I could go there once a week or more to birddog it…. I could call daily. I could write or sue. But if I sue, I’d get a car that is a pile of parts. If I dont get things done right, it will be a mess. I suspect that damage was done in changing the head thickness and thus the prechamber stick out into the cylinders. Maybe something better or worse.

I want the car, I want it repaired.

What’s the best bet to ask them and forcefully get an outcome, with a quality job that the shop will actually do, given that when things get serious, likely the parts will just get pushed back and they won’t complete.

Yes, stupid me for not being more forceful a year or more ago. I have every excuse of my own in that regard. But I want my car back. Any recommendations for how to do it?
 
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You need to go and sit down with him. “What is really a problem with misfire? Tell me whatever it is! Can you fix it? If not, fine. If yes, what date? I don’t want to go legal route! It is going to be bad for you and I don’t have time for that, but will do it in the end.”

He has to understand that this is past car issue. It is now principle issue.
 

BlueOvalFitter

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You need to go and sit down with him. “What is really a problem with misfire? Tell me whatever it is! Can you fix it? If not, fine. If yes, what date? I don’t want to go legal route! It is going to be bad for you and I don’t have time for that, but will do it in the end.”

He has to understand that this is past car issue. It is now principle issue.
^^^This^^^
BTW, why don't you try a less expensive hobby like I just recently started. Swiss Army Knives. (J/K)
What other cars are in your collection? Any 60's or early 70's muscle cars?
 
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Completely trusting this mechanic and allowing him to "take his time" is OP's first error..
The mechanic knows OP doesn't need this car as it's just another one from his collection.
The mechanic uses this as a reason to not place any urgency on completing the job.

I agree with what's been said above. OP needs to be blunt with his mechanic and state an anticipated completion date.
Once this can be confirmed, both parties need to keep in contact and work together to get it completed, otherwise it's down to legal action - despite how unfavorable this might appear.
 
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I bought a 1991 Mercedes 350SD diesel some years ago. Nice car, low miles, everything worked great. Very clean.

It had a known “rodbender“ engine, and I knew that the HG was slightly seeping oil. I knew the right job was to proactively do the HG.

I called a shop that I had trusted very much with older European cars, including MB diesels, some 20 years ago. This was back in late 2019 mind you. He knew the issue, gave me a good cost, I took it there to get the job. Seems simple right? But now it’s 2022. Yeah covid. Yeah machining, yeah some issues. No good excuses.

It has been one thing or another since then. He got the engine together, found a leak, pulled the head. Replaced parts, got a misfire. Pulled the head at least once more…. Ive lost confidence, and here we are in 2022. Every time it’s a cordial call, but no real action.

I don’t need the car. It’s one of many in my collection. I’m sure it’s sitting out, which isn’t great for it…. The R-12 Ac worked perfectly before, who knows if it does now.

I stupidly told him at the start that there was no rush. I felt like this may result in a few months time, but no big deal given my use profile, and the collection of vehicles I have. I would stop by occasionally, call occasionally, be patient a lot. I even gave a bit of money to cover his costs if the car takes a while. Again, I trusted this guy….

So now what? I had trusted before, he had done great work on various much older MB diesels and my BMW. Now I’ve lost all trust.

I want the car fixed. If I just go get it, I’ll have some parts and a ripped apart engine, or in best case a vehicle thate doesn’t work well. I’d surely need to tow and be back .xx

Supposedly now the car has a misfire at idle. Could be a world of things. I don’t know bad it is, or if it would be able to revert to ssdrivable with misfire relatively quick. Beyond just going and getting it back, I could pull and take to another shop and elk be close to ground one. I could go there once a week or more to birddog it…. I could call daily. I could write or sue. But if I sue, I’d get a car that is a pile of parts. If I dont get things done right, it will be a mess. I suspect that damage was done in changing the head thickness and thus the prechamber stick out into the cylinders. Maybe something better or worse.

I want the car, I want it repaired.

What’s the best bet to ask them and forcefully get an outcome, with a quality job that the shop will actually do, given that when things get serious, likely the parts will just get pushed back and they won’t complete.

Yes, stupid me for not being more forceful a year or more ago. I have every excuse of my own in that regard. But I want my car back. Any recommendations for how to do it?
Any idea how much was taken off the head when it was resurfaced, did they use the original thickness HG?
 
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If I just go get it, I’ll have some parts and a ripped apart engine, or in best case a vehicle thate doesn’t work well.
So what's its current state? Ripped apart or put together and doesn't work well? How much would he charge for the work already done? Should be just for the parts at cost plus and minimal labor if he did the work himself. If it's together, you need a compression test to see if the miss is from a mechanical issue or fuel injection problem.
 
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I stupidly told him at the start that there was no rush.

Since I have done the same thing, I won't say it was stupid. But I have noticed whenever I've told someone that, I regretted it every time. Without intending to, we have given them permission to push us to the back of the line as they see fit.

Have a serious sit down with him. Tell him things have changed during this process and you need the car back. You've been gracious, but the grace period has expired. He needs to have a clear understanding of this. And it may cost you money. He likely won't appreciate your change in attitude, even if you are civil about it.

Best of luck.
 
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Ask if it's a lack of free time to work on it. If it is, ask him to hand it over with explanation to a MB dealer shop to finish the repair.

Offer to sell it to him as-is, and buy another hobby car. In the long run that may be cheaper and more fun.
 
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Fixing up cars can be a labor of love; a lotta headaches. As others have posted, let the shop know how you feel.
The past is gone; focus a path with him going forward and stick to it. Otherwise move on.

Good luck @JHZR2
 

JHZR2

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You need to go and sit down with him. “What is really a problem with misfire? Tell me whatever it is! Can you fix it? If not, fine. If yes, what date? I don’t want to go legal route! It is going to be bad for you and I don’t have time for that, but will do it in the end.”

He has to understand that this is past car issue. It is now principle issue.
Completely trusting this mechanic and allowing him to "take his time" is OP's first error..
The mechanic knows OP doesn't need this car as it's just another one from his collection.
The mechanic uses this as a reason to not place any urgency on completing the job.

I agree with what's been said above. OP needs to be blunt with his mechanic and state an anticipated completion date.
Once this can be confirmed, both parties need to keep in contact and work together to get it completed, otherwise it's down to legal action - despite how unfavorable this might appear.

It’s in my plan to go chase down the situation. Maybe even tomorrow if I can fit it in my schedule. Have the actual discussion.

Honestly it didn’t matter a ton. Covid happened, nobody was driving. I’ve been overly busy with life, kids, work. But I do really like the car and would like it back.

Part of why I posted this is because I’m not really clear on what is the legal action? If I brought in a working car, and now it’s less working, that is worth something.
Action if I get back a non functioning car means one thing. A functioning car, even with a working engine is another.

I don’t really want to sue the guy. He was a trustworthy mechanic and did well by me many times when I was much younger, half a life/20 years ago.

Since I have done the same thing, I won't say it was stupid. But I have noticed whenever I've told someone that, I regretted it every time. Without intending to, we have given them permission to push us to the back of the line as they see fit.

Have a serious sit down with him. Tell him things have changed during this process and you need the car back. You've been gracious, but the grace period has expired. He needs to have a clear understanding of this. And it may cost you money. He likely won't appreciate your change in attitude, even if you are civil about it.

Best of luck.

Yeah that’s just it. I thought I was doing him and I a favor by letting it take a bit longer. But it’s just gotten out of hand. Sure I should have tracked it much closer too… never let it go this far/long. But it’s on me for saying to take his time.

I agree on the “things have changed” tact. This needs to get in the line and done.

I suspect he is mid-late 70s at this point still doing work. And always busy, tons of cars… so…
 
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JHZR2

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Ask if it's a lack of free time to work on it. If it is, ask him to hand it over with explanation to a MB dealer shop to finish the repair.

Offer to sell it to him as-is, and buy another hobby car. In the long run that may be cheaper and more fun.
Sending to a dealer would probably result in the replacement of an engine. Which is probably a $20k affair. Engine ran great but I wouldn’t want the liability if I was a dealer.

Selling it could be an option. I see some, none as low mileage and fine functioning for the price I paid… and they would have the liability of the rod bender engine issues known in that model. The market has increased, so this would result in a $5-6k for a lousy one to fix up, or $12-20k for a nice one still with possibly more miles than mine, that I’d still be keeping eyes on for at least a HG.

I wouldn’t know how to value mine in a taken apart state.
 

JHZR2

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So what's its current state? Ripped apart or put together and doesn't work well? How much would he charge for the work already done? Should be just for the parts at cost plus and minimal labor if he did the work himself. If it's together, you need a compression test to see if the miss is from a mechanical issue or fuel injection problem.
I need to get that. As I recall he did the work then found an oil leak. So he opened it again, next time got a misfire at idle. He thought it might be from a valve not sealing (the head got all the seals and seats replaced).

He said maybe it was because when they put grease in the bores to prevent corrosion while the engine was open and head work was being done… like some grease was left behind and burned and got somewhere. Not sure how plausible that really is….

I think he said one cylinder had low compression but he was going to send the head to be tested. Because there were no issues when I dropped it off, and it worked the first time (the oil leak time). I think that was the reason why valve seats and whatnot came up.

But it is also likely that the engine sat outdoors at his shop (covered, coated, etc. - the guy isn’t a hack) with the hood closed for some time. I guess that could have corroded the bores or introduced dirt.

So right now the head could be off post check, pre-check, still together waiting on some activities. I knows. I need to find out.

If it runs and just misfires at least I could drive it on a trailer to take elsewhere or even DIY. I don’t have time for DIY, but I have a much different garage and space availability situation now than when I took the car there.

Any idea how much was taken off the head when it was resurfaced, did they use the original thickness HG?
To be honest I don’t know. The head wasn’t warped or damaged. So hopefully it was minimal. I didn’t know nearly as much about all this then as now. Having gone through my OM602 prechamber debacle, I see how much can be messed up. Obviously they had to remove the prechambers to clean the head to take a new HG, so then what if one didn’t seal? Or any number of other issues.

I know if they took material off, there are prechamber shims. I’d assume that was all verified. Sure hope something else didn’t happen (prechamber to piston damage).

Does the head need to be gone over with a machine every time it’s removed even if it was only driven a few miles?

Should I be concerned about head bolts, or even t&c after (if) I get a working vehicle back?
 

OVERKILL

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I agree with @edyvw I think you need to go have a sit down with him and talk about the current situation, why it has taken this long, what needs to be addressed and explain that while you didn't need it yesterday, this is well past the point of reasonable.

Ultimately, this has the best chance of you lighting a fire under him without him getting angry and the highest likelihood of you being made whole at the least cost.
 

JTK

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I'd try to get this guy to finish the job if possible. To me that's the lesser of two evils than dropping it as is onto another shop, who's likely going to have to start from scratch, etc.

Then again, maybe that's what needs to be done?!?

Tough one either way.
 

JHZR2

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I agree with @edyvw I think you need to go have a sit down with him and talk about the current situation, why it has taken this long, what needs to be addressed and explain that while you didn't need it yesterday, this is well past the point of reasonable.

Ultimately, this has the best chance of you lighting a fire under him without him getting angry and the highest likelihood of you being made whole at the least cost.
I'd try to get this guy to finish the job if possible. To me that's the lesser of two evils than dropping it as is onto another shop, who's likely going to have to start from scratch, etc.

Then again, maybe that's what needs to be done?!?

Tough one either way.

I’m hoping he can finish the job. I don’t hold any animosity to him.

But the other side is I’m kind of looking for what the approach is if I have to take legal action. The guy is probably 75. He has some help but from what I can see not much. He has (had?) a great shop. Bosch certified not just for fuel injection but other stuff. He figured out the ABS issue on my E30 BMW for example. But that was literally 20 years ago.

So if I have to sue him either to light a fire, or to actually get a working car back, what is my recourse? Value of the repair at the dealer? New engine? Value of a similar car now (because the one I saw for sale currently is asking $20k). Is “being made whole” getting a functional car with working engine? I’d think so as that’s what I left it with.
 
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Does the head need to be gone over with a machine every time it’s removed even if it was only driven a few miles?

Should I be concerned about head bolts, or even t&c after (if) I get a working vehicle back?
No the head only needs to be be resurfaced if it is not flat when cleaned off and checked with a straight edge. If it has been resurfaced MB may have a 1.97 or IIRC a 1.85 HG vs the original 1.74 depending on how much was taken removed which would negate using pre chamber shims.
The head bolts are TTY and MB has a max length spec, generally anything more than 2mm over new go in the bin.

You can find more info in the HG from the MB dealer, as shown in this example here there are a few.




602&603TorqueSequence.jpg
 

JHZR2

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No the head only needs to be be resurfaced if it is not flat when cleaned off and checked with a straight edge. If it has been resurfaced MB may have a 1.97 or IIRC a 1.85 HG vs the original 1.74 depending on how much was taken removed which would negate using pre chamber shims.
The head bolts are TTY and MB has a max length spec, generally anything more than 2mm over new go in the bin.

You can find more info in the HG from the MB dealer, as shown in this example here there are a few.
Thanks. The head didn’t need to be resurfaced, but it has been removed multiple times now.

I went to the shop in person today, talked to the owner who is the person I’ve always dealt with through the years.

He was very gracious, he feels bad, he said that he has had issues and has had to step away from it a few times in frustration. And he’s busy in a big shop with one helper. I get it, the job is now costing him money. He recognizes that I brought a perfectly running car with a seeping (inboard to the coolant) HG, and now it’s a severely misfiring engine.

He says it shakes violently at idle, and says it’s #2 cylinder. The oval bores from bent rods were supposedly #1 or #6.

He said he took the head off a second time because of misfire. He drove it, and it is smooth and strong on the highway, but shakes at idle. His suspicion was a leaking valve, and he said that when he sent the head back to the machine shop, they found a slight leak on one of the valves (?). The seats were replaced the first time. So apparently that is on them. But after
Putting it back on, it still misfires on #2.

He said he has swapped injectors, and loosened each one, the one that doesn’t change for the worse when the fuel line is loosened is #2.

I asked if it could be fuel related, or perhaps timing related from when the chain came off. He didn’t think so. I’m not so sure I’m convinced. He thinks it maybe in the piston, though he isn’t sure how/why, and acknowledges that it wasn’t this way when I brought the car there (and i think this wasn’t an issue the first time the head went back on, when there was oil leaking).

The plan is that he’s going to do a leak down test this week hopefully, and get back to me by Friday. I might go back down on Friday PM when done with work…

If the leak down test shows cyl #2 is losing compression, that would indicate a ring that got damaged or a cylinder that got scored, right? If it is tight, then it has to be fuel… right? My money is on a fuel related issue. Bad delivery valve? Bad prime? Damaged injector somehow?
 
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bravo on you for a civilized sit-down. I much prefer that everyone gets to keep their dignity in a respectful discussion. And, you catch more flies with honey. I’d much rather work with him than sever a relationship. I hope you two can work something out.

if he can’t fix it, I would ask him, within his capability, what he recommends to close this out. if he’s over his head and can’t admit it, you don’t really want him keeping it out of shame.
 
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