Adventures with ETS and ESP on Snow - Advice/explanation wanted


Feb 16, 2009
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Cheltenham, Glos.
Your Mercedes
I bought a ML 430 in October '08. I learnt to drive in 1955 on a Land Rover and have driven and owned various 4-wheel drives since then. I have never owned a vehicle with the sophistication of the ML430 as all the others have had the two gear lever manual shift.

The drive at my house is very steep and when we had snow this winter I set off at very low speed as I have done previously in my Mitsubishi Pajero. I had great difficulty stopping the ML430 and I concluded that the greater weight was causing it to skid. Anyway, I made it down to the road which had been treated and went on my way to walk the dogs. On return, I was not to be defeated so I set off up the drive and she climbed like a homesick angel. Even when I deliberately spun the wheels (the ML430 has a lot of power) it recovered and continued the climb.

Dismissing the first descent as imagination, I set off again to take my wife shopping. This time the descent was even more hairy so I said a few uncomplimentary things about German cars and left the ML430 at the bottom of the drive until the snow melted.

My son drives a Jeep Patriot that has a similar transmission though with manual gearshift. When I discussed my adventures with him he dismissed my criticism (probably a senior moment) and said that if it had traction going up it had traction going down.

I did what I should have done before and read the handbook. It says that I should select "Low Range" restrict the automatic transmission to first gear and keep the revs down. The handbook also states that the ABS program is changed when "Low Range" is selected.

QUESTION: Was the ABS preventing the wheels from locking so I was not skidding? The handbook also says that the ABS does not operate below approximately 5 mph. I am pretty sure that I was below 5 mph though I did not look at the speedometer. Does anyone know enough about the Mercedes ABS/ETS/ESP to tell me what was happening? I cannot comment on pedal thumping or the amber warning light until it snows next winter

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