Modern car technology fine until it goes wrong?

  TopCat® 14:20 21 Dec 2014

My son recently took possession of a brand new Mercedes E-class estate in Hull and is down with us for the holiday period.

He told me that two days after the car left the dealership its engine shut down on him on a busy dual carriageway up there. Fortunately he was positioned on the inside lane but was still subjected to some abuse from other motorists!

He then tried to push the car closer to the kerb but was horrified to find he couldn't turn the steering to do that - it was totally locked! Eventually he got the engine restarted but it was badly misfiring and he managed to get it back to the dealership. Turned out it was a malfunctioning fuel sensor that caused the shutdown - "just one of those things that can happen" said the manager!!

It seems that the modern trend is to fit electric power steering to cars now and not the previous time-served hydraulic system, which I personally favoured. To have a car's steering lock up like that when its engine dies is downright dangerous, especially if it blocking the way of other road users. What say you? TC.

Happy holidays folks!

  Pine Man 14:49 21 Dec 2014

Whether the power steering is hydraulic or electric, or a combination of both, it can still be used without the power. It will be very difficult indeed to steer but you definitely can.

Power steering is actually power assisted steering and you merely lose the assistance.

  LastChip 14:49 21 Dec 2014

Unquestionably, it is dangerous and frankly, I'm surprised the authorities have allowed this trend to continue.

While I'm not disbelieving your son, I wonder if the steering simply became excessively heavy (as lack of power assistance causes), or if indeed, it was locked.

I've had failure happen to me, but it was simply extremely heavy and that alone, was no fun. However, the faster you're going, the (relatively) lighter it is. But from a standstill, it's nigh on impossible to move.


  spuds 15:18 21 Dec 2014

You only need to see the BBC Watchdog program to see how some people are experiencing problems with new vehicles, and apparently some of the problems have become well known. Yet still no recalls.

With the last series of Watchdog, they were discussing the latest small Fiat that refuses to go up any steep inclines. It would seem that the problems originates from an EU directive, and how Fiat as at to 'adjust' the engine on that particular model.

  Forum Editor 15:46 21 Dec 2014

I drive a Mercedes, and I have to say I am slightly nervous about the plethora of electronic gizmos on the car. It alerts me when it thinks I am falling asleep because it continually monitors steering and what Mercedes call 'other driving habits'. It beeps at me and shows a red dashboard light when it senses that I am too close to the car in front. It knows when the lights should be on or off, and acts accordingly. It also continuously adapts the headlamp range according to what is in front or approaching from the opposite direction, using a camera at the top of the windscreen... the list goes on.

So far, so good - nothing has malfunctioned (said he, tempting fate), but if and when it does there will be absolutely nothing I can do about it.

The car also gets me from A to B pretty efficiently.

  TopCat® 15:55 21 Dec 2014

My son is 6ft 3ins tall and very strong yet he insists that, try as he might, he couldn't turn the steering one way or the other that day.

Admittedly, the car itself appears to be very heavy and I would suggest there should be some means, electronic or otherwise, to allow the steering to move with the engine stopped. TC.

  TopCat® 16:19 21 Dec 2014

Just to add. The car in question is outside my place and together with my son we tried to turn the steering wheel. We just couldn't move it beyond its free play scope, either way! Perhaps the FE could try it with his car, just to confirm what I say? TC.

  Forum Editor 16:33 21 Dec 2014


I'll give it a try later and let you know.

  bumpkin 20:25 21 Dec 2014

The steering can't just lock when the engine stops surely. The engine could stop when someone is doing 70mph.

  pavvi 21:38 21 Dec 2014

I also drive a Mercedes - a late 2010 E class. Mine has similar gizmos to FE's - I particularly like the adaptive Intelligent lighting system. For 8 months or more I have had problems with the engine on idle, but one of those infuriating intermittent faults that magically disappear when you take the car to a dealer. They eventually had the fault happen while they took the car for a week. They couldn't identify the fault as it didn't appear on the diagnostic check. My brother in law suggested it might be an injector problem, but the dealer said this would have shown up on the diagnostic checks.

As the car was approaching the end of its Approved Used Warranty, I pushed for a solution as I didn't want to be left with a lemon. They gave me assurances that whatever happened they would repair the fault after the end of the warranty, even though they wouldn't be able to recover the costs from Mercedes themselves. While I was away on my UK tour, they had the car in again, and changed all the injectors at their cost. At first this appeared to have solved everything, but the surging engine symptoms returned.

I reported this when I took the car in for its 80,000 mile interval service, and they hooked it up to the computer and for the first time an error message camera up on diagnostics. Turns out it's a sensor in the exhaust that's causing the engine to surge by changing the amount of fuel being injected.

So much is sealed away in engines now and sensors and computers are relied on almost exclusively now. Seems the modern computerised gizmos cause as many problems as the mechanical!

  Noldi 22:25 21 Dec 2014

I don't think that Mercedes has full steer by wire yet so you still have a mechanical connection from steering wheel to your front wheels. So your son or a fault activated the steering lock ? so it's down to the actual steering column lock if you can't turn the wheel.

I work in automotive R & D and the new described as electronic steering obviously has a electronic controls but these are to position the steering wheel, this means it has electric motors that you use to set your preferred position and this can be stored in a memory, also your comfy entry that moves wheel. The power assisted steering is controlled electronically through the hydraulic pump and this changes the feel you get in your different modes normal, sport or track etc, other electronic technology is the park assist but this still works through the electronics controlling the pump. The manufacturer I work for just needs the key to be in the car so no steering lock, if the car is locked you can still turn the steering wheel even though it does activate the alarm.


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