After Action Report: car buying

Well, those of you who have been following the saga of the Mercedes from Hell will be happy to know that the piece of shit is gone. History. Sayonnara.

No, I didn’t drive it into a lake or into the Potomac, although I seriously considered it. The Redhead persuaded me not to do that, lest I get arrested or something. He’s a smart kid, that one. But we did trade that thing in for another… JEEP!


Why a Jeep? Because it’s a Jeep, DUH! An awesome, sturdy workhorse that runs and runs and runs. Plus it’s infinitely cool, and can drive up an icy hill (or in and out of a muddy swamp – something the hunk of junk Mercedes just couldn’t handle.

When we last left that rancid piece of crap, it needed new rotors, it had leaky seals, and worn rear spring link bushings. I decided to get the most pressing things done first, so I had new rotors put on it, as well as a new rear tire. I was going to fix the other stuff with subsequent paychecks.

And then… in April… the Redhead’s “service engine” light came on. You ever get that feeling of dread when you take your car to the mechanic? Like you know you’re about to get heinous news that will force you to decide between buying groceries and fixing your car that week? Yeah, I had that feeling. And sure nuff…

…the Mercedes dealership told the Redhead he needed two new fuel pumps at a cost of $1200. Well… I’d had enough. It wasn’t going to happen. I told him to get that car out of there and never look back. He did, but not before I was forced to pay a $135 fee for them having done nothing at all other than look at the vehicle and keep it overnight, because even though the place closes at 8pm, apparently the service shop people left earlier and didn’t specify if they had finished putting the car back together).

I then called Benz Elite, which is the most awesome automotive shop I think I’ve ever had to deal with. They took a look at the hunk of junk and told us it did need new fuel pumps, because the sensors went bad on the old ones, but it definitely wouldn’t cost $1200! That was welcome news. But at this point, I’d just kind of had it. I told the Redhead that if one more bloody thing goes wrong with this car, it was going away. Far away. And then I made the appointment to get the fuel pumps replaced.

On the morning of our appointment at Benz Elite, the Redhead got into the car, turned the key in the ignition… attempted to turn the key in the ignition… tried and tried again to turn the key in the ignition… But nothing happened. The key wouldn’t turn. I called Benz Elite and explained the situation. They said it was either the key, or the electronic ignition switch, but they couldn’t determine which until they saw the car. Enter the towing company, dispatched by my insurance company.

The Benz from hell was towed to Benz Elite, where they determined that the electronic ignition switch was bad. They called to see how quickly the supplier would get the part. They were told that they will no longer be selling electronic keys or ignition switches to private shops – just Mercedes service centers.  Seriously. Not even kidding. Mercedes will get their money one way or another, apparently.

So………. off we went to the nearest Mercedes service center. I think my anger was fairly palpable, because when the service guy told me it would cost $1200 to repair that ignition switch, and another $260 to replace the key, I just about lost it.  Needless to say, I did not pay that much.

After that fiasco of a morning, the Redhead and I headed to the gym, where he asked me, “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, isn’t it?”


When we got home, I handed him the keys to my Jeep Wrangler, and told him to practice driving it. He already knew how to drive a stick, but he just needed to get more proficient on hills. Within the hour, he came back and declared that he was confiscating the Jeep for good! Apparently, the kid likes driving it. And he drove it, and drove it, and drove it, and now it is his.

Know why?


And because the Mercedes from hell has been traded in for another JEEP! And that Jeep is mine!

So what have I learned from this fiasco?

1 – Deal with a reputable dealer. I got the Jeep from an Acura dealership that happened to have the vehicle on its lot. I told them how much I wanted to spend. They worked with me, and I got a very fair deal. They also gave me a repair record of everything they did to this car before they sold it.

2 – If the dealer won’t let you take the car to another mechanic, run away. The Acura place let me have the car overnight, encouraged me to drive it around and allowed me to take it to the mechanic of my choice. I also had another buddy, whom I trust implicitly, and who knows way more about cars than most people, look at it as well.

3 – As the State Police officer, who is in charge of the inspection stations in the area told me: don’t deal with any of these shady dealers who open up used car lots and who have their buddies do any work that’s needed.

4 – Mercedes sucks! It may be a tank. It may be safe. It may be a luxury car that’s very pretty, but anytime anything goes wrong with it, expect at least a $1000 repair! Screw that. Plus, a Mercedes that a dealer tells you is in near “mint” condition can literally fall apart mere weeks after you drive it off the lot.  Take it to your mechanic. If he won’t let you and tries to assure you that the car is great, see #2.

I did a lot of stupid things when getting this car. I stupidly assumed that the Mercedes would last and last and last (aided oh-so-helpfully by the dealer who assured me what kind of good deal I was getting). I stupidly assumed that him taking the car to HIS mechanic was sufficient, and that taking the car to MY mechanic would be superfluous. I stupidly bought the damn Mercedes, because I wanted the Redhead to be safe and happy, and because it really did appear to be a good deal. Right up until it wasn’t. I stupidly trusted the dealer, who postured himself to be extremely knowledgeable about cars.

I will not make that mistake again.

Because JEEP!


21 responses

  1. Some time ago, we had a Jeep (made when Jeep was owned by Chrysler) and it was OK. Considering, however, the reputation of Fiat (Fix It Again Tony) for “quality”, I’d be afraid to buy anything with the name “Jeep” on it.

    There are some really poor players in the auto manufacturing world anymore but, all considered, I lean towards Ford now mainly because of their refusal to suck at the gubmint teat as did GM and Chrysler.

    Bottom line – take care of your auto and it will take care of you. They don’t like being ignored.


  2. “I also had another buddy, whom I trust implicitly, and who knows way more about cars than most people, look at it as well.” Thanks for the endorsement luv but it’s still gonna cost you a couple of bacon burgers, fries and beer for services rendered. 🙂


    1. Well, hey! Hurry up and pass your friggin’ botany final! :-p


  3. Frank, Jeep went through a stage where the parent company forced them to make crap. Think HD when they were owned by AMF.


    1. I remember that well – after a rebuild and replacing many parts, my ’78 Superglide was dependable as it should have been to begin with.
      I’ll always have a hard time trusting Fiat, though. Seen too much over the years. Perhaps their higher-dollar stuff is OK but …
      I would like to get a 500 shell and see how big of an engine I could stuff in it (and not have it fly).


  4. Hate to tell you this but I had the nearly identical experience with a Jeep Grand Cherokee that I bought for my daughter and her fiancé when they returned from Japan. It’s now sitting in my driveway with a spun bearing on the camshaft, leaking front and rear seals, an A/C that won’t work–even after spending $700 to “fix” it, a dead battery and a power steering unit that needs complete replacement! BTW, Nicki, I got an e-mail today saying that my signed copy of “Freehold” will be delivered tomorrow!


    1. Woo hoo on Freehold!! I saw Mike last weekend so he gave me my copy.

      As for the Jeep, Wranglers are just superior creatures. LOL!!!


  5. O_o time to check my email for updates for the book.

    i bought my 99 dakota just after my 2nd deployment since i needed a 4 wheel vehicle and i wanted a small pickup.

    i didnt know squat about cars and it was my first vehicle. hell i got my lincence during R&R in my first deployment.

    grew up poor so never learned how to drive and first garrison you could hitch a ride with battle buddies.

    my SSG bought his car from that dealer and another squadmate was going there so i went too.

    told the dealer i wanted a pick up for $6k.
    first they told me they didnt have any trucks for that price range but during my squadmates credit check and so on proccess, they showed me my truck for $6.7k and 120k miles

    they asked me if i wanted to test drive it and i said nope. i didnt know what to look for and the only vehicles i drove was humvee and my harley for a few months before winter and second deployment.

    paid in full with deployment money and drove off. looking back that was pretty stupid but she has never left me stranded and taught me alot about minor maintence since i work on her as a hobby.

    replaced front suspension, power steering, brake replacement, learned how to make that stupid needle stop in proper gear on the dash. next goal is a/c refrigant, replace tranny filter myself

    found out in texas that it didnt have a/c during ETS move. washington state didnt need it.

    GOD i love youtube, its taught me everything i need to know so far.


  6. My daughter had a 2000 Cherokee(old style) that was ours before we sold it to her. She was rear-ended by a drunk driver on a country road. It flipped the Jeep end for end, and then rolled 180 degrees back onto the wheels when it landed on the driver’s side windshield during the flip. My wife and I saw the end result in our mirrors, and I honestly thought I was going to see broken and bloody bodies when we jumped out of our car.
    My daughter was banged up and bruised, and my three grandsons all walked away from the crash with just achy muscles. The only blood was when I stuck my arm in the broken driver’s window to make sure my daughter didn’t move until the EMTs got there.
    It totaled the Jeep, but the only broken window was the driver’s window, and the windshield was cracked through and through, but not broken. That Jeep saved four lives that day. The responding EMTs honestly thought, because of the extent of damage and the obvious violence of the crash, that they were responding to a head-on collision.
    I’d buy another Jeep in a heartbeat.


  7. Jesse in Rockville

    Good for you, first on dumping the benz… Lots of hype, but overly complicated, and grossly over priced to fix. Second, on the Jeep. I get a few in here, and for the most part robust and relaible. Lots of aftermarket support, especially for Wranglers. Our shop helper got Tboned a few blocks from here in his Grand Cherokee. When it spun around, it hit a third car. All 3 were totalled, but only the Jeep was capable of moving under its own power. It narrowed the Jeep by 18 inches or so, the transmission crossmember was so bent it almost hit the road. He walked away from it.


  8. I have 2 Wranglers. Wouldn’t trade them for anything else. My girlfriend was driving her original one when she was hit head on by an f-150. She walked away, the other driver died at the scene.
    Yes, they drive differently than a normal car, but that’s part of the fun.


    1. …and they get about 12 mpg with highway use.


    2. Mine gets about 18mpg. My girlfriend’s gets about 10mpg. Mine is stock. Her’s? Not so much.


  9. I have a Lincoln Towncar with a 5-liter engine. It has A/C, heated seats and all the bells and whistles. It gets 27 MPG on the highway and 23 mpg in city driving.


    1. I bet I have a bigger grin when I drive mine though.
      To each their own.


    2. Oh, and mine has all that but the heated seats. Didn’t need them in FL. Kind of miss them in TN, though.


    3. Look at you guys, comparing pen… I mean cars! LOL So cute! (Just kidding)



    4. Nah… I do have to say that out of all the vehicles I’ve owned, I do have the most fun with this one. I honestly wish I had bought one 20 years ago

      PS. If your son wants to communicate with kids his own age, about Jeeping, wrenching, high school, etc, there is a group on one of the main forums I can pass on. I’ve met some of them at Jeep gatherings. I was very surprised at their knowledge base. And, unlike a lot of adults, they won’t talk down to him when it comes to asking newb questions. Hell, they’ve taught me a few things.

      You have my info. Email me, and I’ll fill you in.



      1. I’ll see if he’s interested. Thanks! Right now, he doesn’t spend much time online. He has a girlfriend with whom he’s very smitten. 🙂 Between her, school and his job, he’s pretty much stopped online activities other than a random Tweet here and there. LOL


  10. 1996 Toyota Tacoma V-6 here. 241K miles, replaced the entire suspension (and gave it a mild lift) last fall at 236K. I bought it w/ 180K….. No rust, 2 timing chains, one set of front brake disks and pads, one set of tires. Otherwise all stock except the stereo….


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