Mercedes-Benz is now warning owners of almost 1 million of its vehicles to stop driving them immediately until the automaker can correct a defect that could cause the brakes to fail. About 300,000 of the cars are in the U.S.
Mercedes issued the initial order last month. The recall applies to some, but not all, examples of the:
Mercedes is not aware of any crashes or injuries related to the defect. Engineers found it when a customer outside the U.S. reported soft brake pedal feel, which triggered an investigation.
It’s very difficult for owners to determine whether their car is part of the recall. We urge concerned owners to call Mercedes at 888-548-8514, with your car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) in hand, to ask if your car is included. The VIN can be found on the dashboard on the driver’s side and also on the door sill of the driver’s side.
Mercedes dealers will arrange to tow the cars in for repairs and provide alternative transportation while the cars are in the shop.
A Tiny Domino Tipping Over Others
The problem is tiny but an excellent illustration of how minor problems in a machine as complex as a modern car can cascade into something bigger.
Most of today’s cars have a device called a brake booster. This is a tiny device that helps translate the pressure of your foot against the brake pedal into much more powerful pressure to brake the car.
On some trim levels of some Mercedes SUVs, it’s covered in a rubber sleeve for purely aesthetic reasons.
That sleeve, Mercedes says, can trap moisture in the booster, causing corrosion. Corrosion can cause a vacuum leak and a loss of braking pressure. That means the driver might suddenly have to press much harder on the brakes than usual to get them to function.
In extreme cases, Mercedes says, “it might be possible that a strong or hard braking application may cause mechanical damage in the brake booster, whereby the connection between the brake pedal and brake system may fail.”
A rubber cover, placed for purely aesthetic reasons on a part no one sees unless they climb under the car and look for it, can cause brake failure years after production.
A Simple Fix
Mercedes says owners might notice soft brake pedal feel or hear a hissing sound on braking as the problem develops. But they might notice nothing until it’s too late and the car doesn’t brake properly – hence the stop-driving order.
Dealers will fix it by – you guessed it – removing the rubber sleeve. They’ll inspect the brake booster and replace any corroded parts.
Many cars are subject to safety recall at some point in their lifespan, and the fix is always free. Automakers attempt to contact every owner to notify them, but inevitably, some slip through the cracks. Find out if your car has ever been recalled at our recall center.