My 1974 Mercedes-Benz is a mystery machine to me. Working under the hood of my 1965 Ford F100 I learned a lot. But I didn’t learn enough to prepare me for the Benz. It has a much smaller engine, less barrels of carburetor, and yet it’s far more complex. My problem today, however, isn’t a complex one but it’s one I never would’ve figured out on my own.
The weather in California has been dreadful this summer. Unusually high temperatures are the norm now so as my Benz has been running hotter than usual, I chalked it up to the outside air. Until the other day, that is.
Driving up to Redondo Beach to record the Hooniverse Podcast, my car began running hot. Not overheating but far hotter than I’d like. As the drive continued, the car also started running rough. There was stuttering and a general sense that my journey was ready to cut itself short. I reached my destination, said some swears, and went into record the show. After it was over, the car had cooled off and the drive home started off normally enough.
On the highway, the temp again began to rise. This was a delightfully cool evening and I was simply driving down the road with little traffic in front of me. Yet I had to crank the heat to keep the temp in check on the higher side of the gauge. Once I got off the freeway, the rough engine issues returned. I made it home and parked the car for the night.
Today I went out to start my car (after not driving it for one full day) to run to the store and then shoot a bit of video. The Benz wouldn’t start. It would get nearly there but never quite catch. So in my head, I assumed the thermostat is bad and that’s causing the heating issue. That in turn messed with the carburetor and/or the timing, which is why I now can’t start my car.
So I had it towed to a nearby shop. My car’s been there before and the mechanic said to come over as soon as was convenient. When I arrived, the mechanic picked his head up from out of the engine bay of a lovely BMW 1600. We walked over to my Benz, where Kevin lifted the hood and mentioned this sounded similar to a problem he had with an old Audi 100 back in the day.
He fiddled with the points, which looked to be in bad shape, and adjusted a screw in the distributor. The Benz fired to life and idled smoothly. Because of course it did. We both laughed, and he went in to order fresh points.
We’re going to keep an eye on the heating issue and see if its related to the junky old points. If not, it may be time to go through the cooling system but for now I’m happy to see that this is something simple. At least simple for the mechanic.
I never would’ve thought to look at the points.