1998 SLK230 Restore Project
Diary of a madman...
So, I bought a 1998 SLK230 for $750...must need a lot of work, right? Well, not exactly, but it is 19 years old (20 if you go from the manufacture date). I actually won the lottery with this one, as it only had 48,224 actual miles on it when I got it, had never been wrecked, and had been serviced exclusively by Mercedes during the 8 years that the previous owner had it (he kept copies of all the service work, including the recall on lights and airbags). It sat idle for almost 2 years before I bought it, and needed a battery and K40 relay (thanks to this forum for helping me diagnose that issue) to get it running and home. I also had to power wash actual moss from the roof, hood, trunk, and passenger side, but luckily the paint underneath was in good condition. No rust anywhere that I have found as yet outside, under, inside, underhood, etc.). It ran like a champ on a 2,414 mile round trip from here in Boston to Nashville, TN, Emerald Isle, NC, and back...no issues at all.
So, what is there to restore? Starting on the inside, let's list the common SLK230 issues:
1. Dash and center console painted with latex goo in moldy apple grey - peeling, scratched, and tacky like a young child's hands after a birthday party.
2. Leather seat on the driver's side needs TLC due to wear, including the split seam down the middle (why?) of the center leather needing re-stitching...not torn, just the stitching gave way.
3. Drooping headliner material in factory "quarz" color, with headliner and back glass trim the color of clotted cream.
4. Dash and trim pieces cracked in numerous places, some visible through the spray-on goo and some not.
5. Had a factory phone installed with the control unit in the center dash and phone cradle in the armrest, while the ashtray/coin holder was missing the flip-down door.
6. Less common - the factory radio/cassette/weather band/6 disc CD head unit display is partially blacked out, but fully operational.
7. Paint has chips and a few scrapes that will need attention with touch-up paint, clearcoat, and polishing (or new paint job?).
8. Wheels - I love 'em, or rather, I would if the chrome weren't pitted and peeling off, and coated with grime and brake dust. Replace, re-chrome, media blast and hotcoat? Will deal with that when it's time for new tires. Ceramic brakes and slotted rotors (seems I saw a thread on that one here somewhere)?
I started with the headliner, taking out the old one along with all the plastic parts surrounding it and the back window. The plastic bits got cleaned, degreased, and painted with Valspar outdoor plastic paint in a semi-gloss black to match the center console and dash bits once I remove the goo. After removing the sagging vinyl material from the cardboard backing, I discovered a small amount of hydraulic fluid on the front center (leaking locking piston - trip to Harbor Freight for nitrile rubber O rings - now to find that thread on rebuilding them). I used a clamp and super absorbent paper towel to draw most of the fluid out of the cardboard along with a heat gun to flow it. Once it stopped spotting the paper towel, I sprayed it with brake cleaner to float the rest of the hydraulic fluid, then more paper towel and clamp. It removed enough oil to allow the adhesive to stick. New black leather-look perforated vinyl matching the center of the leather seats (pattern, distance between perforations, etc. match perfectly) sourced through Amazon will make the replacement headliner.
I started the goo (anthracite latex color coat) removal on the glove box, since it is easiest to remove. I took it apart to the shell and found some cracks, which I repaired from the inside with a plastic welding kit (also from Harbor Freight) and a broken screw stanchion which also got the plastic weld re-attachment. To remove the goo, I used a product recommended by Jen at my local Lowe's - Goo Gone Graffiti Remover. The product says "do not use on latex paint" and "surface safe". Since I want to remove latex paint, and the surface that I want is the black plastic of the dash/console parts, I figured I would give it a try. It bubbled the latex off the surface, which then came off with a plastic scraper. Another few squirts and a sponge removed the remainder from the textured surface and corners, etc. Soap and water clean-up and a wipe-down with ArmorAll, and the glove box looks the way I want the rest to look. Next on the agenda, removing the center console and dash to get them rejuvenated. So far, complete interior refresh for under $100 and will post pix on completion.