"W201 and the Love Hate Relationship" - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-28-2009, 01:37 PM Thread Starter
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Date registered: Jul 2009
Vehicle: 1984 190E 2.3 engine Automatic, 2002 C240 2.6 Automatic
Location: Asheville NC USA
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"W201 and the Love Hate Relationship"

My 1984 190E have been joined at the hip since 2007. I bought it from a drag queen. The interior was covered with makeup and glitter. A bit of scrubbing brought the interior back to life.

I saw the car sitting on the road near my home about a year before I purchased it. It was never moved. One day, the city put a tow-away sticker on it. I saw this, and decided to ask around about who the owner was. I was told by the first person I asked, and I bought it from him. He told me that he had owned it for about a year, and that he couldn't keep it up anymore. He replaced the windshield, and had the ignition switch rewired, and a new radio installed, and a few other things. He had given up trying, and just parked it.

Believe it or not, I drove the thing home. I live just 2 blocks from the seller.

I set out doing general D-I-Y stuff: Oil changes, filters, fluids, antifreeze, thermostat, new battery, radio antenna, serpentine belt...
Oh, the belt... Someone had installed the belt around the outside of all of the pulleys and just tightened them alltogether. The water pump was in this mess somehow. The belt squealed constantly. I installed a new belt the way that the MB manual suggested. Instant squeal stop!


The first part to break was the belt tensioner. Replaced it and went on.
Then, the power steering pump pulley started wobbling. The threads on the pump shaft mounting flange were totally stripped out. Replaced the pump with a used doner item, and found a correct pulley thru the MB dealer... used.

Got this all fixed and started driving it.

I gotta say it, this is the best handling car I have ever driven. It feels alot bigger than it really is, and is squeak and rattle free.

Then, the water pump began to seep at the weep hole. Bought a pump, and replaced it on a Saturday.

Then, the belt tensioner adjuster bolt disintegrated. Threads were non-existant on the adjuster bolt itself. Ordered a new one from MB. Installed it the next weekend.

Then, the alternator died. Regulator and brushes. Got a regulator from my doner car, and it had a new set of brushes on it already. Fixed it.

I was visiting my folks one afternoon, when the car suddenly backfired, and died. Turned out to be a bad distributor rotor, which was real easy. Problem is, that when the old rotor fell apart, it scraped up the inside of the distributor cap. So, I replaced it, too, and found that my wires were rotton while I had them off. Found out how much 4 plugwires cost for a Mercedes. After the shock, I bought and installed them.

Drove the car for awhile. Liked the way it runs and handles.

Car tranny stops shifting properly. Vacuum modulator. Bought it and had a friend replace it for me, as I dont have jack stands, or ramps available to me. Fixed that one, and while we had it up, he replaced the brake pads and emergency brake shoes. Now it stops as good as it drives!

I went to stop the car one day in a parking lot. Turned off the switch, and the entire lock assembly came out of the wheel lock assembly. Towed it home.

Got a used lock assembly from a doner car, installed MY lock in it, reinstalled it, along with a new ignition switch to replace the rigged switch that the drag queen had done that required me to turn the ignition switch to 'on' and press a switch installed under the dashboard to run the starter! I bet it took longer to find where to connect that pushbutton switch to the harness than it took to replace the lock assembly itself.

Driving down the road one day, and watched my temp gauge start bouncing allover the place from hot to cold, and jumping around. Found several wires on the engine harness that had been nicked and damaged by someone in the past. Went through all harness wiring and repaired all damaged insulation. Bouncing gauge syndrome stopped. Drove the car for a few months and enjoyed that MB quality.

Then, the replaced radio died. I never liked it, and since I own few CD's, decided to replace it with an original. One afternoon, the previous owner rode by in his car to see how the work was going on the Benz, and dropped off the original Becker 612 Grand Prix with a cassette deck! He had found it in some junk, and was wondering if I might want it. Sweet!!

Installed the radio. Fortunately, the original plugs and wiring was not severely damaged behind the radio, and I had it working in about 2 hours.

Driving the car with an original radio really makes the OEM Benz speakers talk like they've never talked before, and I dont mean loudness. The sound is much more full and rich than when the other radio was installed.

Was driving down the road one day, hit a bump, and the radio died. It turned right back on with no problems, and continued to play just fine.

Took a couple of overnight trips to visit friends. The car behaved like a dream. I dont get tired driving this car for 6-8 hours like I do my other car, a 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado.

I was driving home from work one night, crossed a railroad track, and the radio died, and never came on again.

I am an old TV repairman by trade, and I decided to troubleshoot the radio. Found several bad connections behind the button control PCB that were easily fixed. I know 20+ years will break things. Now it works.

Next, the odometer dies. Doner car has a good speedometer assembly that indicates 140 mph. Now, it's in the car. Replaced all instrument lamps while I had it all apart with OEM numbers. Looks really nice at night now.

Heater motor starts squealing. Cant stand that, and replaced the motor itself. When I raised the garage door to start working on the car sitting outside, a hand-truck fell out of the garage and hit the fog light lens on the drivers side! Also, it broke the fog light reflector assembly. I finally found a used headlight assembly, and bought 2 new headlight surrounds from the dealer. This makes the whole front of the car look new and modern again! Also, I got the heater motor going, and all is well there.

Car started idling badly. Made sure all molded hoses were in place, and replaced all of them. Bad idling continued, and I had my friend check it out. He finds several problems in the engine management systems, replaced the fuel pump and filter, and got it running right again. This also cured the hummm that I was hearing inside the car. The new pump is almost silent. This was on Wednesday of this week.

On Friday, I went to pick up the car after work. I get in, start it up, and it runs great. I go to put my foot on the brake to shift into reverse, and the pedal goes to the floor!! I find the brake fluid low in the master cylinder, and top it off. I get back into the car to pump the pedal a few times, and I start smelling antifreeze. Its the heater core. I pumped the pedal, but the pedal never came up enough for me to drive anywhere, so I decided to leave it at the shop. I went to lower the hood, and heard a POP sound. The gas cylinder for the hood assist blew the seal and soaked the underhood around it with oily goo!

I am currently hating this car. I thought it loved me as much as I loved it, since I was doing all of this maintenance and many needed oil changes regularly I wanted it to last. The dealer is on a first name basis with me now, and that is not good!

My best friend thinks the car is posessed. Should I have a need to worry?

The heater core is something I can do myself. That will save alot of $$$. The gas shock is nothing bad. The brake problem is kind of bad. The fluid leak is caused by the rear seal on the master cylinder, and has possibly ruined the vacuum booster too. More money More money More money!!!!!

Again, when it runs, its wonderful to drive, and when it dies, I suffer.

Thanks for reading all of this. You are a brave person.
I am not a drama person, but this car takes the cake!

Other Baby Benz owners tell me their cars are dependable. Are they bold faced liars, or is my baby a horrible posessed demon that means me harm as slowly as possible?

I am telling you all this with a sense of humor. I need it. I've spent more on this car than I have any car in my past. I started driving at 16, and am 52 years old now.

Asheville NC

Last edited by holmesuser01; 11-28-2009 at 02:25 PM. Reason: Clarification. Long-Winded post.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-28-2009, 01:44 PM
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It's a 25-year old car.

Rather than suffering depreciation, you pay for repairs.

Both are versions of "operating cost" and it's unavoidable.

It would have been minimized if car received factory-specified maintenance it's entire life, but they seldom do. Sound's like "pay me now or pay me later" and it is, but "pay" is the operative word and it continues constantly. Cost of doing business.

In terms of Mercedes, compare the cost to the benefits. Good thing the benefits are high, because the cost isn't low.

Kent Christensen
'07 GL320CDI
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-28-2009, 02:09 PM Thread Starter
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Date registered: Jul 2009
Vehicle: 1984 190E 2.3 engine Automatic, 2002 C240 2.6 Automatic
Location: Asheville NC USA
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Thanks for your reply. I was thinking along these lines, anyway. I forgot to add that my Oldsmobile and I have been together since it was a year old, in 1986. It has had very little problems over the years, and always nothing that I couldn't fix myself, other than when I have to lift the car off the ground...

I'm reasonably sure that this car will be running for a long time yet, and compared to making car payments, this car is pure economy.

This post is just to basically document what has happened, so far. It has stranded me away from home 2 times, and that is 2 times more than all my previous cars. My friends call it "The German Machine" and always ask about the never ending progress reports when they are around!
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-28-2009, 05:30 PM
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From the sound of the bulk of your problems, all the widgets that were tied together with the serpentine belt being wound the wrong way had all their spinning bits pulled out of whack and failed one after the other. The rest of the problems sound like maintenance neglect or the wearout of disposables. I suggested to a friend of mine who was debating jumping into the deep end of the MB owner's pool (he was going to buy a W220) that if he reckoned an occasional oil change, brake pads every 60k or so, and wiper blades every two years would keep him on the road he was badly and expensively mistaken.

One thing I've learned and would suggest to you is to stay AHEAD of problems. Routine maintenance per manufacturer recommendations is the surest way to keep the car on the road doing what it does best: eating miles effortlessly. People often ignore "minor" problems because repair is expensive if you aren't handy and knowledgable. Unfortunately, the minor problems morph into major ones and the dollar signs keep growing geometrically.

Mercedes automobiles are reliable and bullet-proof (most of them anyway) when they are kept up the way the factory recommends. Unfortunately, most American buyers think they are Fords or Chevrolets and will stand neglect, quarts-low oil pans, never changing tranny or diff fluids, running brake pads to the rivets, and so on. More unfortunately, the treat them that way.

Sorry your drag queen sold you a broke Benz. Most of the things you describe are the result of disuse or abuse. The small Benzes tend to be bought by wannabes who can barely scrape up the money for the down payment, never mind the cost of maintenance. Their second and third owners are looking for the hood star, but have no idea what they need to do to keep it on the road. The big Benzes tend to be better maintained through their ownership, and the big roadsters usually lead pampered lives, so they last. Also, the V-8 and 6-cylinder engines are very robust (mostly), so big miles before rebuilds are common. The fours are robust too, since they power many European models that don't make it here, but the 80's models were cobbled by smog restrictions here that weren't part of the Eurpoean ones.

Sorry for the ramble. I hope this helps you.

"Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you."--John Steinbeck
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-28-2009, 09:49 PM
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I can tell from your writing that you're OCD. A sane person would have driven the car to the ground, tossed it to fate then gotten another car.... Maybe another W201
You're Oldsmobile, although by comparison to a Benz is piece of crap, lasted you with no problems is due to your attitude towards cars. Next time get a W201 that's in better shape to start with; there is nothing more expensive than a cheap Benz. I ought to know, and yes I suffer from OCD too
Just check out this thread, it has the highest post count in the W201 forum:
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-29-2009, 06:59 AM Thread Starter
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When I bought the Oldsmobile, it was the most luxurious car I had ever owned. I've always owned GM cars, and Ford trucks. All of my vehicles have been maintained regularly. Compared to the Benz, I agree with you that the Olds is junk. It's all plastic and cheaply assembled. It's also the last GM car I have bought, and is the last. The reason I bought it was that it was the last of the forward-facing engine front-wheel-drive design cars built from GM that was based on the 1966 Olds Toronado drivetrain. I also loved that LONG hood. It's still a mostly daily driver, especially with all the Benz problems. My Ford trucks have always been dependable. The current truck has over 180K on the odometer.

The Mercedes is the first car I've owned where I didnt know the history of the car in any way. The MB dealer told me it was sold new by them to someone in a nearby county, and my Benz repairman did some of the scheduled maintenance up to 1999. Then, it fell off the charts.

The previous owner bought it sight unseen off of Craigslist.org. He went and handed the owner the money and drove it away. He told me that he just wanted a Mercedes. Well, he got one.

I could never buy a car this way. Even with used cars I have owned, I took them to a trusted mechanic and had them checked out before my purchase was final.

When I offered $$$ to the owner for this car, I never expected him to agree to the price I offered. He told me later that he was just sick of spending money and beating a dead horse. When we met at the Notary to sign the title over to me, he said, "The curse is broken." I wanted to keep the car out of the crusher, which is where it was heading if I had not stepped in.

I now know that the radio alone cost him over $300 installed, and the windshield was around $450, not to mention what he paid for the push-button starter, and all of the other mess that was done... and I found out who in this town did all of that work, too... The previous owner had no mechanical abilities. I paid less than the cost of his radio for the entire car and actually drove it home... three blocks!

The best thing that has happened was the chance meeting with my mechanic. Another friend recommended him to me, and I liked what he had to say. Even with all of the problems I've had, he still thinks that my '84 is a very nice example of a first-year 190E. PLUS, he has a great collection of parts cars that I can use.

I'm feeling better about this car now that I have gotten some responses from you folks. Anything is better than what some of my friends are paying monthly for a klunker Kia or Hyundai. I have definitely paid less to operate this Benz than I would have paid in payments for a new car. When I bought my Olds, my payments were $250 a month, and I had it paid off in 3 years. (doubled many of the payments)

I really appreciate all that is being said here about this car. It's NOT to the selling point by far. The little motor runs like a top, and is running very smoothly now. We'll see what happens with the brakes this week!

Asheville NC

The attached pic is the car the day after I bought it in 4/07. The blue car behind it is the Olds. The Mercedes stayed in this spot for 2 months while I cleaned, scrubbed, washed, lubed, and fixed enough stuff to get it roadworthy.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 11-30-2009, 08:47 AM
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Lesson here, as often repeated, don't buy a car, Mercedes or not, without knowing the service history unless you really love surprises.

The corollary to this lesson is, try to buy a used luxury car, such as a Mercedes, with the fewest previous owners as possible. Each successive owner obtained the car for less money than the previous one and is statistically less likely to spend the requisite money to maintain it properly. The key exception is when you find a used car that is owned by an "enthusiast."
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-26-2011, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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It's 2011 now. I have just finished the biggest job I've done to this car: The replacement of the heater core.

It was a 7 hour job, done over 2 days. It was actually easier than the replacement of the heater core on my 1985 Oldsmobile... yep, I still have it, and the Ford truck, too.

I've also replaced the fuel distributor. THIS cured all of the stumbling, and idle problems.

When I started disassembling the dash, I removed 2 screws that held the center section... where the HVAC and radio are located... and the whole thing fell off. More bad previously done repairs. I found 2 cracked vacuum lines on the heater controls, and a wire that was kinked under a screw. Repaired all that I found wrong. The old heater core had a 1991 date code on it.

It's all back together, now. It doesent give me blasts of antifreeze smells now, all the vacuum controls are working, and the heater... well, the old one was packed with leaves and trash. Everything blows vastly better now. I found glitter and little plastic things that had fallen into the defrost openings, too. I cleaned the whole area under the dashboard... lots of cigarette ash everywhere... not mine, as I dont smoke.

I hope you readers can tell that I am really happy with the results here.
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Last edited by holmesuser01; 10-26-2011 at 05:08 PM.
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