Mercedes-Benz Ponton Oils

Ferdinand Hros / Caracas, Venezuela

This is a question and answer about which oils to use in the Mercedes-Benz Ponton (1953-1962) vehicles.

> Hello International Ponton Owners Group (IPOG),
> I need to change the transmission oil in my Ponton, and 
> need advice. Which one is better?
> 01) Automatic transmission oil (clear red color)?
> 02) Regular 20W-50W engine oil?
> It looks like the old oil was automatic transmission oil.
> What is specified in the factory manual?
> I appreciate your advice.
> Regards,
> Andy Hidayat
> Florida

Dear Andy,

The Mercedes-Benz Service Manual Model 190 (SM-1207-000) states and recommends the following lubricants, and in modern actual equivalents:

Gear Box (Transmission)
Any Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) oil, that complies with GM Dexron III specifications, hence the red color (the color is a dye, be aware that certain manufacturers color other types of oil for certain specific purposes, as is the case with the Mobil Delvac MX SAE 15w-40 diesel oil). What is the reason Mercedes-Benz used ATF oil in their gearboxes for many years? Well, many other manufactures, still use it today. Certain components used inside the gearbox, as is the case with the synchros which are bronze alloyed components, do not stand up well in the presence of conventional gear oils that are additivated with "extreme pressure" (EP) additives, if that oil is used these components will become pitted and corroded. What an irony, as the ATF oil was originally developed to increase friction between the automatic transmission discs and to lubricate, as well, the other components in the gearbox. In my Mercedes-Benz 220a manual M-B recommends Texamatic fluid (a Texaco brand still used in many countries as is the case in Venezuela, I sell them for use in older Ford and GM cars and many others). In the USA, Texaco Havoline has an equivalent, or a Mobil 222 ATF is well suited. Remember it must meet Dexron III specifications. Never use a multi-grade oil in a gearbox. You could use a SAE 50 motor oil, but use the Dexron III. Quantity to be used: approximately 1½ qt.

Rear End (Differential)
Any good quality 80W-90 will work properly. You could use a Synthetic, but after 50 years it will not make any difference, the mineral oil will suit well. Maybe you are asking, "Why not use the same ATF in the differential, they use gears as well." Interesting, but that is not the case. In the differential, you have hypoid gears and they require EP (extreme pressure) oils, and you do not have bronze pieces inside the differential case. Quantity to be used: approximately 2 ¼ qt.

Steering Box and Water Pump
The same 80W-90 EP gearbox and differential oil.

Well, 50+ years ago the API quality was HD (Heavy Duty) and the oils recommended were mono-grades or multi-grades (remember multi-grades were introduced in the 1950s as was the Texaco Havoline Motor Oil SAE 10W-30). Today use, as always, a good quality multi-grade that is suited to your environment temperatures: 10W-30, 10W-40, 20W-50. Buy a good API SL or SM classification. Do not try to save on oils. A cheap oil is an under additivated oil, a good oil will stand up to many adverse conditions and will protect your beloved treasure.

My Mercedes-Benz Type 220SE Ponton coupé (bought new in 1960 by my father) made more than 300,000 miles before its first engine overhaul. The secret? A good quality engine and periodic oil changes.

Feel free to ask any questions regarding lubrication as I co-own a Texaco distributorship and sell as well other brands: Shell, Mobil, Castrol, etc., and have been involved with oils for a while.

Best Regards,

Ferdinand Hros
1955 Mercedes-Benz Type 220a Ponton sedan
1960 Mercedes-Benz Type 220SE Ponton coupé
(both still in restoration status)
Caracas, Venezuela

Created: January 28, 2008 / Jeff Miller

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