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New E350 Estate on Snow / Ice

Discussion in 'Engine, Drivetrain, Fuel and Exhaust' started by jouxplan, Nov 29, 2010.

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  1. jouxplan

    jouxplan New Member

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    E350 Sport Estate 2010
    Hello, this is my first post so apologies if this has been asked before - I have looked but could not quite find the same question anywhere.

    I have an E350 Sport Estate (diesal), 2010. It has a 'C' and an 'S' and an 'M' mode. I have been trying both the C and the M modes in the current slippery conditions, and am struggling for traction and control in both.

    I know I should turn off the ESP when starting. But I have also been trying to start the car in 2nd gear, by using the M button. Except it does not seem to let me do this: it always starts in 1st!

    Similarly, I have tried to select a lower gear earlier via the M button, when for example trying to go up a slippery hill. Again, the engine often seems to stay in the gear it is already in (say 3rd) when I want it to go into 4th. Is this simply because there is some kind of limiter, stopping me from selecting a gear that is too low?

    In short, should I drive using the C, or the M? Frankly, both are scaring me to death :Oops:

    Finally, I have heard it said that a very simple solution is to place heavy bags of sand into the boot. Is this true?

    Many thanks!
     
  2. Thincat

    Thincat Senior Member

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    Welcome to the wonderful world of Mercedes winter handling. I can't comment on the use of the auto box as my car is manual but Mercedes don't work very well in slippery conditions unless you have appropriate tyres - preferably winter tyres. The combination of RWD and wide tyres make traction a problem. Adding weight to the boot might help (a bit) and lowering the tyre pressures slightly does give more traction but the bottom line is that Mercs don't work in snow unless you have special tyres.
     
  3. Mic

    Mic Senior Member

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    Hello and welcome

    Mic

    PS I do not think the ''winter driving'' modes necessarily ''skip'' first gear.....merely change the ratios to allow a more gently driving style giving more grip and traction.....will change up sooner but you are still required to drive to the conditions.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  4. Blobcat

    Blobcat Moderator

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    C starts off in second gear in my W211, I don't know if they've changed it for the W212. As per above they aren't good in snow or ice, wide tyres, lots of power and clever electronics that keep you safe generally mean the car doesn't think it safe enough to move so it doesn't. If you have to drive a lot then I would seriously look at winter tyres. Mytyres will supply steel wheels and tyres, I've just picked up some second hand wheels for our Caravelle and am in the process of ordering some Nokian tyres to go on them. Only issue is that the price has gone up since Friday.
     
  5. Matt45

    Matt45 Senior Member

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    Mine's the same as Blobcat. In 'C' it pulls away in 2nd gear and also changes up sooner making it a little more agreable in slippy conditions. I think as long as you are smooth with any gear changes you should have no problems. safe driving.
     
  6. drmw

    drmw Moderator

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    Hi - C is Comfort, S Sport & M Manual (which you aleady know) When it's slippy, you should use C - slower & gentler shifts & (on mine anyway) throttle response.

    ESP stops wheels spinning by stopping power going to the wheel in question. Under non extreme conditions, you should not switch it off, as it will then allow the wheel with least resistance to the road to spin and as you don't have a limited slip differential, you'll sit there spinning a wheel going nowhere.

    Only switch it off if the car senses both wheels trying to spin, so cuts power altogether & the car remains stationary - sometimes (rarely) you need to simply take control by switching it off and persevering (gently) until a wheel gains some grip, but then switch back on.

    In snow you simply have to do everything more gently - accelerating, braking & steering. There is so much nonsense cited about MB being the worst cars in snow - they are no different to any other reasonably powerful front engine rear wheel drive with wide tyres.

    I have to negotiate a gentle slope to get to the main road from my house. The road is never treated & the snow packs down harder & harder, then freezes, so it is like the proverbial ice rink.

    My car has very wide tyres, about 500 bhp but so far I've not had any real problem. I have it in the equivalent of C and let it drive itself virtually on tickover, with only the very, very gentlest of throttle. It's slow, it's boring, it annoys the prat behind as he slides towards the kerb having thought if he took a run at it he'd make it (rarely works) but it gets me up the hill.

    Diesels have lots of torque at very low revs so at risk of repetition, stay off the gas!!

    Weight over the driving wheels does help but sandbags is maybe a step too far - I keep my tank topped up in snowy weather & that seems to be quite adequate, but obviously road & weather conditions can call for extreme measures!

    Finally, (hopefully this doesn't all come across as patronising), find yourself an empty car park when it's snowy and spend some time learning the car, get it to slide (great fun :D:D) and find out how easy it is to control if you use a feather rather than the leaden boot!!
     
  7. Blobcat

    Blobcat Moderator

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    I was doing that with the girls in the Caravelle on Saturday morning they thought it very funny doing 360' spins :p
     
  8. drmw

    drmw Moderator

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    It's HUGE fun!

    Mind you, a couple of months ago when the weather was nice, I came to the office carpark on a Saturday (totally private, barriers etc) and demonstrated (with ESP switched off) to a pal who hadn't been in mine before how to do doughnuts and big power slides - and that was even better (a bit more expensive on the rubber though!)
     
  9. Parrot of Doom

    Parrot of Doom Senior Member

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    You can have as many gear modes as you like, but if the rubber on the tyres won't grip when cold, that's that.

    Three solutions:

    1. Buy winter tyres. Cost, about £600-£800 if you use steelies, or second-hand alloys
    2. Buy some snow chains. Cost, about £50, downside is you have to remove them once on clear tarmac.
    3. Buy some snow socks. Cost, about £50, you can drive on tarmac with these but not far. This is the option I've gone for.
     
  10. drmw

    drmw Moderator

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    Fourth solution - be gentle on all the pedals
     
  11. OP
    jouxplan

    jouxplan New Member

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    Thank you all!

    Hello and many thanks to you all for these very helpful replies!

    I'll keep it in C then and carry on being gentle as hell. Reserve the M for engine braking if needed. And turn of the ESP sparingly :D

    This is my third Mercedes - my first was a C180 saloon classic 2003, then an E220 avante garde estate and now my pride and joy, the new E350 sports estate. I had trouble with the previous ones in snow, but certainly the new 'beast' (as beautiful a car as it is in gorgeous white!), is proving much harder to control :Oops:

    Patronising? Not at all! However I fear I am too frightened to put my £45K estate into deliberate spins, unless I am in the middle of a disused airfield! It would end in tears.

    Thank you, all!
     
  12. Blobcat

    Blobcat Moderator

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    I like to know how the car (and I) will react in all situations so when possible I test it out. I feel with my right foot how much grip I have as I then know how much or how little braking I have available.
     
  13. jberks

    jberks Senior Member

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    Its very true that mercs are bad in slippery conditions but having driven through last winter commuting 50 miles each way and set off again this morning in a blizzard (leaving a snow tyred Freelander parked in the garage) , yes it was sliding about a bit, but I've yet to get stuck anywhere. C mode, gentle on the throttle and if she's moving, don't push your luck. In almost all cases of people gettings stuck, you see them with the rear wheels spinning wildly. Far more people get stuck for lack of their own abiity than they do the car's. Not to say a merc will be good, but driven properly you'd be surprised what they are capable of.
    The other thing with rwd autos is to think what the rear wheels are doing. In low traction, possibly gioing downhill, you feel the speed picking up and instinctively release the throttle to compensate. However, this can cause the rear wheels to slow suddenly under engine braking with a similar effect to yanking on the handbrake. If you're coasting down a slippery slope and feel the back going, consider popping the shift into N and using the ABS instead. After realising this a few years back (following a particularly scary spin) this lesson has since saved me a few times.
    As for switching off ESP, unless it simply won't move, don't! And then as soon as you are moving, opo it back on again.
    ESP doesn't just stop wheelspin, it can often be the only thing between you and a ditch. I have had a few occasions where I've thought I was done for, only for the magic orange light to flash and everything to settle down.
     
  14. OP
    jouxplan

    jouxplan New Member

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    Hey, that is fantastic advice. Thank you. Funnily enough, on Saturday as I edged out of my drive (no throttle, just holding it back with the brake) (looks like that is where I went horribly wrong) and tried to make the left hand 90 degree turn onto my icy road, the car simply slid slightly sideways, locked up and would not turn. I was travelling about the same speed as an especially ill snail.

    I immediately took my foot off the brake tried to steer out, but still carried on towards the car on the other side of the road! My speed honestly must have been 0.01 mph! Again tried to gently brake and again carried on sliding. Then for some reason I thought to stuff the car into neutral. As soon as I did this the car rolled happily to a halt. Between you and me, I was pooping myself, if I am honest.

    Anyway, I then put it in reverse, and she rolled back, with me starting to turn the car. Then into forward gear (er, and braking slightly - oops) and again turning the wheel. She moved forwards, but refused to turn. She simply slid again! Ended up doing a four point turn, using reverse to actually turn, in effect. Once she was pointing the right way, I gingerly drove down the road to the sanctuary of the gritted road.

    Sounds to me like I inadvertently learned your lesson about neutral and ABS! Still, it would take a lot of faith and guts for me to pop it into neutral next time I am sliding down the long descent into my village!!!

    As you said, it is driver inability usually in these cases - I hold my hand up: I have much to learn methinks!
     
  15. brandwooddixon

    brandwooddixon Senior Member

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    Yes it takes a bit of learning to realise that your engine is still trying to turn those back wheels, even when at idle. as the braking system is front biased you'll lock up the front wheels long before the backs, unless you pop the gearbox into nuetral.
     
  16. Frontstep

    Frontstep Senior Member

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    Essentially you have bambi on ice drive fair and steady,
    and having had winter tyres demonstrated too me on a big nissan pick up I would say a set of those would be the best option.
     
  17. Thincat

    Thincat Senior Member

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    Oh yes they are. The power is irrelevant. Any - and I mean ANY - front wheel drive car will run rings round a Mercedes in snow. I'm used to driving in snow (living on Dartmoor) and I was amazed at how bad the Merc was - nothing had prepared me for how bad they are. Minis, Micras, Vectras, you name it, all had little trouble in light snow. The SLK wasn't going anywhere though up a tiny gradient. I've driven loads of cars, but the SLK is the worst. The salesmen where I worked all said the same thing - the Mercs don't work in snow, while the BMWs are not too bad.

    There's more to it than RWD and fat tyres IMO. I reckon it's the ESP. You can turn it off but it's only partially turned off - the pseudo-limited split differential cannot be turned off. I reckon (I could be wrong) that when one wheel starts spinning power is cut from the other wheel - that's what seems to happen anyway. So you've got 2 wheels driving and if one of them slips you have none. 4WD cars have a lockable differential to prevent this happening, don't they?

    I asked MB about this and they (helpfully) replied that if you drive the car in winter you need winter tyres. Thanks!
     
  18. oldsoldier

    oldsoldier Guest

    My Avon winter tyres were fitted a couple of weeks ago. I asked for 29psi and the foreman said "You need a higher pressure; another three pounds. It's a fallacy that lower pressure gives more grip." He drives a high power Mercedes and works for a top notch tyre company. That advice was a surprise but I've been out and about on awful surfaces and had no problems.
     
  19. Naraic

    Naraic Moderator

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    To be fair to drmw he did say no different to any other front engine rear drive car. He didn't mention front wheel drive.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2010
  20. drmw

    drmw Moderator

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    Every other car you mention is front wheel drive - I was writing about front engine rear wheel drive

    With a limited slip diff, neither wheel is allowed to spin independently - it's either both or none. With ESP - a halfway effect - if one wheel is spinning, power is cut to that wheel and all goes to the other - if both were spinning then no power at all. It's in the latter case that switching it off makes sense, otherwise leave it on because it's the nearest to an LSD you'll get
     

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