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complicated modern cars

Subject: complicated modern cars
From: Eric Murray <>
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 2004 08:24:17 -0700
This weekend my wife and I were up in Tahoe where I was riding
the Markleeville Death Ride bicycle ride.  We took her Mercedes ML320
(yes, a yuppie pig SUV, she bought it during the boom, ok?  at least its
good for hauling bicycles and sleeping in).

Everything's fine until the morning after the event when I go
to start the car up to leave... turn the key, one ominous click and then
nothing.  Battery was totally flat.

After a couple fruitless attempts at jump starting (off pickup trucks with
big batteries), we had to get it towed to a battery shop that happened
to have the right sized (humongous) battery.  I think the old one had
shorted internally.  It'd been fine the night before.  We'd driven about
50 miles the night before and didn't leave any lights on.

What's wierd is that after all this, its almost impossible to put gas
into the tank.  When you fill it, it'll take a gallon or so then it
starts shutting off the pump's nozzle as though its full.  After that
you have to "top it off" with small dribbles of gas.  It takes a long
time to fill the tank this way!

These cars are so freaking complicated and everything is electrical.
You can't even lock the doors manually!  No juice means no door locks.
Can't shift out of park (into neutral for towing) without juice either.

I can imagine there's some sort of special tank vent that's open when the
car thinks you're filling the tank but closed the rest of the time (for
emissions?).  I've never run into that but my mechanical experience has
been with much simpler cars.  Or I could be wrong and it was a defective
hose at the first gas station we tried which somehow dumped gas into the
"wrong" part (it was puking gas all over and didn't shut off properly).
But I'm not really sure how that'd cause it either.

Any ideas?
(My wife's already got "next time, buy a simpler car that
can be serviced anywhere" so you don't need to tell me that)


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