1997 Mercedes SL 320 Soft Top Convertible - 2 questions


Asked by Apr 22, 2016 at 04:52 PM about the 1997 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class SL 320

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Question #1

Our Mercedes has been garaged for a few
months without driving or warming up. We
couldn't keep battery charged, but once
battery charged we drove it 7 miles to our
mechanic and car never would shift past
1st gear.  We've never had transmission
problems. We didn't let it warm up before
we headed out.  Could dead battery cause this transmission problem.  
Never had transmission problem before?

Question #2

(see Picture attached)---Our soft top will not operate.  We noticed an oily
residue behind back right tire.  Is this hydraulic fluid from the soft top
operating system?  What is the process for replacing fluid/and or seeing if
broken.  Is the hydraulic fluid found under the spare tire in trunk, in this
year model?

Any comments/suggestions welcomed.

Submitted by:

Jacqueline (Larrybc's wife)

14 Answers


Question II Answer SOAKED trunk area fortunately below the trunk area likely a smelly mess took weeks to remove stench--girlfriend wouldn't ride in car for a month...Be sure and do ALL the cylinders! What did your mechanic diagnose causing the battery parasitic draw and the transmission NO shift first only? Battery was load tested and good?


does your Benz have the automatic transmission that can also be manually shifted? Most MB's have that feature. Its easy to hit the lever and then get it stuck in manual mode. I've done it by accident on my SL. Just push the lever to automatic mode. No guarantee, but that is likely your problem. If you can't get it to shift in manual OR automatic mode then you likely have another issue.

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Question I Answer check your battery. Really ! if its bad and under 12.6 volts and lacks amps it will create error codes in the PCM and cause shifting (stuck in 1st or 2nd) problems. Scan with MB Star C4 for your error codes then clear ALL codes... don't just attempt to disconnect battery NEG connection to clear PCM. If this doesn't work, then the problem could be with the transmission control module. Sometimes the transmission leaks fluid on the module and ruins it. Usually the battery that causes this issue....Probability the same suggestion your mechanic gave..

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Husband drove Benz over to mechanic yes, we have automatic transmission with manual, but I doubt he was driving it in manual. Re: Battery was shot per mechanic. Once we drove that 7 miles & turned off engine. It wouldn't restart.


1. Did you notice any check engine light (CEL) and/or any other warning messages displayed when you were driving to your mechanic? Sometimes when the battery dies or is ultimately bad as previous stated, trouble codes present themselves when the car is jumpstarted. In this case you need to have the codes read from the OBD II port The MB Star of most any generation will read and clear codes, but there are several other code scanners that will do the same for the engine and transmission. The one AutoZone has will NOT clear these codes. Once codes from the Transmission Control module (TCM) are cleared, you can see if this will allow the transmission to shift properly. Might just need to have the transmission fluid power flushed and filter changed. These vehicles require being started at least once a week to keep battery charged, or to keep a "tickle" charger on the battery to keep it charged. Best thing is to always plan to take it out and/or take it to work at least once a week to keep things lubricated etc. The worst thing you can do is NOT drive it. 2. The hydraulic pump and fluid plastic reservoir/canister are located beneath the spare tire compartment, and ultimately underneath an attached metal cover, secured by 10mm nuts. Loosen nuts and remove cover. Then you can examine the pump or reservoir/canister to see if there is evidence of a leak from either. Hope this provides some helpful information!

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Also, mechanic was going to check transmission fluid etc. our mechanic is very busy, so we haven't heard back from him or called to see what's going on. Does anyone have any ideas about the picture of the fluid leak? Would that leak behind the right rear tire be the place hydraulic fluid for convertible top would leak? There was no leaky mess in the trunk at all. Thanks guys for your answers.


The fluid could be from a rear brake line and/or connection that is leaking. It is possible that if you have the rear leveling suspension it could have a leak in the hydraulic line.


Yes, the check engine light was on. When & if we get this repaired easily, it will definitely be driven. Our mechanic has a super dooper code reader. I'll print out these answers & let my husband pass it on to our mechanic. Great advice & thanks so much again!!!


So, you don't think that leak had anything to do with the convertible top not working?


Not saying that, but since you said the trunk area was clear of any fluid being leaked, I was just giving other possible things to explore to find the reason for the leak so you can cross things off. Here is a diagram of you car's hydraulic roof systems to help track down possible issues. Hope it can help as well!

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Thank You DLGuy so much !!! Diagrams/visuals are always good. You have so knowledge, were/are u a mechanic? My husband knows very little about cars & birthing babies. I know very little also, but I'm eager to ask questions & learn. Thanks From Larry & I. Have a good weekend!

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I'll let everyone know how this turns out, hopefully, we won't have to take out a loan.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

You're VERY welcome! Always glad to help when I can. I'm just a car-guy hobbiest who has a few Mercedes and have learned along the way how to diagnose and fix things after being taken advantage of by the dealerships, who just want to replace EVERYTHING, rather than find the cause. Sometimes replacing everything is necessary, but not often, Please mark wherever you've found helpful as helpful :-D Thx

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

As a follow up to 300SDLGUy - absolutely true about driving a Benz. They were made to be driven. A Benz going a 200k or more miles is not unusual. But, these are finicky cars and they require to be driven. The more they are driven - the better they run. Ask any MB service advisor and they will tell you the most expensive repairs occur with the cars that are driven the least. An S or SL Class is a good example. People who buy these cars generally do the least amount of driving. Suspension or Hardtop issues are often the first to occur because of not being used. Get your MB fixed and then drive and enjoy it. LOL

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