Engine Cooling System Overhaul – Part 2

At the end of my last update – Engine Cooling System Overhaul – Part 1 – you may remember that all my hard work had been thwarted by a tiny little pinhole in the radiator. Finally it is time to address that and finally tick off this part of the restoration as complete.

But first up, I picked up a set of part worn tyres from my local tyre centre, too long has this car been sat still with nothing but rotten rubber the only thing separating the rims from the ground!


It might not have been the most crucial job at this time but easy wins are good for motivation, and to paraphrase my wife – “it makes it look like we have a car on the drive, instead of a rusty old skip”.

Back to the main purpose of this update, a new radiator. A bit of research suggested that Nissens radiators are a good cost effective replacement and are close to OEM quality, at a fraction of the price of a genuine new Mercedes item, so that much was easy.

What was tricky was sourcing a pair of new automatic transmission fluid hoses – these are the two ~6 inch long hoses that connect in to the bottom of the radiator of W123’s with automatic transmission. Searching online for these only brought back results from the USA and although not expensive, shipping costs and delivery time is more than I am used to, but they were necessary so what can you do?

A couple of weeks after ordering a pair of these hoses listed on ebay, I get an update from the seller apologising that they only had one left in stock, despite having long since been notified that they had been dispatched, but it’s OK, they were refunding me half the cost. [Roll eyes]

There is not much I can do with just one hose and I was reluctant to order another from the states with the long shipping time, so back to the search. Anyone looking for parts in the UK will probably have come across the many different yet strangely similar online parts companies, and despite having .co.uk websites they all seem to ship from warehouses in Germany. This is not necessarily a bad thing, my previous parts has come from one of these companies and the service has been fine, with delivery much quicker than from the states at least! The trouble is when searching under my model of vehicle, it seems these hoses do not exist, the same problem that originally set me off looking further afield. So I started looking at older models that used the same M115 engine, looking for the same hoses but this time for a W115 and jackpot. Turns out there must be a error int the database the parts dealers use and these hoses are in fact readily available in Europe.

Shiny new radiator
ATF coolant hoses

The image above shows the two new ATF hoses, compared to the one that finally arrived from the USA. They don’t have the additional protection, but neither did the original Mercedes hoses, so that is good enough for me.

With the old radiator out I gave the area a clean and noted a few more areas of rust. Another problem for another day!


Here is the original radiator next to the new one, can you spot the leak?


I had actually attempted a solder repair of the original radiator previously, just as a quick and easy fix. But the aluminium waterways were so brittle that it continued to split and it was quickly obvious that I was wasting my time.


But this earlier removal of the radiator did highlight the fact that the ATF hoses needed replacing, something I may not have known until now and would have thrown another spanner in the works when it came to fitting the new radiator.

The rotating nuts on the original hoses were completely seized and removing meant twisting the hoses to the point that they became damaged, they were never going to be re-usable so cutting them was the easiest way to getting them off.

New ATF hoses installed

There we have the new radiator in place and the new ATF hoses reinstated. Then it was time for a brew while I handed the car over to my chief jubilee clip doer-upper for final connection of the water hoses.


And there we have it, job done.


I am pleased to report that finally the overhaul of the coolant system is complete.

While I was at it, I fitted a new fuel hose to the fuel tank outlet and connected up the fuel lines in the engine bay, no more running the engine from a petrol can wedged behind the headlight.

And as if by magic, having a fully functioning coolant system the engine no longer cuts out when it reaches running temperate, fancy that!

Next up I think will be to check over the braking system and then there shouldn’t be much stopping me from getting it back on the road.


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Engine Cooling System Overhaul – Part 1

It has been a long time since my last blog post, nearly three months! Back in December last year I got the engine running, briefly, until a burning drive belt highlighted a seized water pump!

Fast forward a few weeks and I set about removing the water pump. Removing the radiator to thermostat hose and peering into the thermostat housing suggested that things may be a little worse than I expected.

With both the water pump and thermostat housing off of the engine it was evident that the years of non-use had taken their toll. Certainly the water pump and thermostat would need to be replaced, hopefully the housings could be saved, but with the amount of crud that was evidently sitting in the cooling system flushing out the engine block would be on the jobs list too.

Resorting to using a blow torch to free the old pump from the housing, what I found wasn’t pretty. The pumps wasn’t actually seized as such, but locked solid by a thick crust of corroded aluminium and steel and old solidified antifreeze.

But with a good overnight soak in petrol and a clean out with wire bushes the housing was looking pretty good.


And with a bit of help from spud, the new pump was fitted.

The thermostat was a bit more straight forward. Once the housing was opened up and cleaned out, the new thermostat went in and reassembled. Some gaskets were made up to save the wait on delivery of oem parts.

While I was at it, the battery tray was heavily corroded, and with a new battery ready to go in it made sense to tidy this up now. After removing the rust with a wire brush and them some rust remover gel I found that the tray had completely rotted through in the back right corner. Not enough to affect the integrity of the tray so replacement of this goes to the end of the list!

Finally it was time to re-fit the pump and thermostat, connect up the hoses, fit the new alternator/water-pump drive belt, put back the fan and see if this time starting her up would be a bit more successful.

Water pump and thermostat housing back in place.
New water pump.
Pulleys and belts reinstated.

And here it is, starting straight up. This makes me happy!

With everything back together end the engine running well, I added some coolant flush and left it running to do it’s thing. A couple of issues then made themselves known.

Firstly, once the engine got to temperature it began to struggle and eventually stalled. This was remedied with a carefully placed screwdriver wedged into the throttle linkage. This may not be a suitable long term solution!

And secondly there was this.


So it looks like a new radiator is in order, and I need to investigate the idling issue. But otherwise I would say this has been some good progress!

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It’s alive!

I must definitely have been on the nice list this year because Santa has been very good to me! Being one of those “I have no idea what is going on” kind of days between Christmas and New Year it was an ideal time for a bit of tinkering.

Spud wanted to help, or at least play with the shiny new tools, so we set about removing the front and rear bumper brackets.

By this point spud was starting to get a bit cold and went back indoors, meaning I could start getting on with the job I really had in mind, checking the condition of the fuel tank, fuel pump and fuel lines and draining out the old fuel.
At this point my dad came to visit, keen to get his hand dirty, so we jacked up the rear of the car and removed the fuel tank cover panel.

I had intended to remove the tank to check for damage, rust or any sediment, but all was in such good condition I decided that I would be wasting my time, so I just drained the remaining old petrol and moved to the engine bay to check out the fuel pump and flexible fuel lines.

The old braided lines had turned brittle and needed replacing so a quick trip to my local motor factors and I had a replacement length.

We made much better progress than expected and we began to think about trying to fire the engine up, but first I needed to find a battery. Borrowing the battery out of my dads car should do the trick, and also ensure that he doesn’t try to run away should things not go to plan.
With the temporary battery connected we opened up the air box to check the condition of the filter and to make sure there was no debris that could get sucked into the engine. Good job we checked as there was a lot of foam that had deteriated and become crumbly.

On the first attempt of starting the engine it turned over and fuel was pumping, but no joy. I removed the plugs and they were rather dirty so gave them a clean with a wire brush. A quick test showed that they were sparking so back in they went ready for another go.

There were the first sounds of an engine wanting to run, but still no luck. By this point the borrowed battery was starting to falter so we brought in my daily driver to jump start. The additional voltage from an already running car had to help too. And with one turn of a key she fired up!

And then there was smoke!

So it may not have run for very long, but I wan’t expecting to even be attempting to get the engine started yet so I am happy even just to get a glimpse of life.
As for the cause of the smoke, it appears that the water pump is seized up and the belt was rubbing on the static pulley.

I was wondering what the next job should be, I think I found it!

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A few interesting adornments

During my last poke around the car (aka Pass the Jenolite!), I came across a few original accessories, namely the original owners manual and service record, the original first aid kit and the tool kit. Sure they may be of little use now, but I was surprised to see everything intact in a 40 year old car and it’s nice to have a few original bits like this to help tell the story of the cars history.

First up I found the owners manual, along with maintenance booklet and other documentation in the glove box. Included in this lot is also a manual for the tape deck, which like it may have been original fitment, I had thought that the original unit should have been a Becker.

The service manual makes for some interesting reading. Fully stamped by a Mercedes specialist garage for every year since it’s production in 1980 up to 2002. You can see in 2002 the recorded mileage is 54,792 miles, the car has only done another ~1000 miles since then and looking at the average mileage covered each year it is likely the car has been sitting for around 16 years.

Next up is the original first aid kit, complete with all the original intact and in it’s packaging. Not of any use now, I expect the contents are a little way past their expiry dates! But still, a nice thing to have.

And finally, in the boot along with the spare wheel and jack was the original tool kit in a roll bag. It gives an idea of how much more capable the average car owner was back then, these days you are lucky if a new car comes with a can of tire weld, a 12v compressor and a phone number for a recovery service!

All quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things I guess, but they put a smile on my face none the less.

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Pass the Jenolite!

(Other rust treatment products are available…..)

Today I spent a bit of time poking around the car in more depth than I had up until now, looking for as many areas of rust as I can find to try and get an idea of how much work there is to do.

First job was to whip off the bumpers to see what was lurking behind, lucky for me, spud is a willing apprentice.

There is a bit more rust around than I had originally thought, some superficial which can be easily treated and repaired, but other areas where the rot is well set in and will need cutting out and new steel welded back in. If anyone has any recommendation of suppliers of good quality patch panels, preferably in the UK /EU I would really appreciate it if you could let me know in the comments!

I did also find some water inside the car. Some puddling on the floor pan and bubbling paint, passenger rear side. I suspect this has been going for a little while.
And also some within the boot, but other than a little water the inside of the boot is in really god condition. I think this water got in during the pressure wash I gave it last week through the loose fitting aerial.

I can see me getting through a fair bit of this in the coming months!

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So the car has been sitting on my drive for a week now and this weekend to force a bit of initial progress I decided to give it a quick wash down with the pressure washer, mainly to try and get the moss out of any crevices that would hold water and lead to further rusting. I say I cleaned it, I roped in my daughter to do the hard work.

What I had assumed was rust spots all over the bonnet, roof and left side on closer inspection turned out to be lichen and other than a few stubborn spots comes off with the pressure washer. The photos below show a spot on the roof which I still need to finish and the bonnet which has been jet washed.

It actually came up pretty well, the paint is heavily oxidised but I am hopeful that it will polish up OK. I might give a spot a go just out of curiosity, other than that any more work on the bodywork will be limited to dealing with rust spots until after the mechanics have been addressed. But it would be good result if the car can be made to look respectable with some local touch ups making a full respray much less of a pressing issue.

And a couple of shots of the interior, I don’t think that this is going to need much more than a wipe over with a damp cloth!

At some point someone has changed over the stereo. I believe this unit is a Pioneer KE-5000 which was actually released in 1979, so is at least of the correct era.

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The old lady gets a new home

First post, how exciting!

Welcome to the very beginning of my restoration project of this 1980 Mercedes W123 230E.

When I was offered this car I was told some of it’s history and shown some pictures. The car looked good, externally the paintwork was looking in bad shape but the car appeared solid, the interior was incredibly tidy for it’s age and despite being described as non-running, having only 55k miles on the clock I thought that there couldn’t be much that could be wrong and was probably just down to being unused for circa ten years.

Excited by the prospect of having found a hidden gem I went to go and collect with some help, there didn’t seem much point in viewing it first, just jump in feet first and make it work I thought! A couple of the tyres had rotted through and it took a bit of dragging to get it on the trailer, but a couple of hours later it was sitting proudly on my drive.

In the back of my mind I have an idea of a jobs list/priorities, and it goes something like this.

  1. Good clean and removal of moss to halt any rot, and get some rust remover on the spots where it has already started.
  2. Remove fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel pump, clean and flush through.
  3. New battery
  4. Get the engine running. Hopefully the above will be all it needs, the engine turns over so nothing is seized and the oil still looks good, though will be changed.
  5. Brake checks, strip down/replace as required.
  6. New tyres all round. At this point it should hopefully be derivable.
  7. Fit rear seat belts.
  8. Bodywork (a small heading that I think will expand to cover an awful lot of work)
  9. Interior tidy up.

All subject to what surprises I find along the way of course………

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