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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-06-2016, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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Vehicle: About a dozen 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991 sedans, wagons, and 4Matics; drivers, projects, and parts
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This is getting old...

The transmission in my signal red 1988 300E died 5 or 6 years ago and I replaced it with a supposedly good trans from a 1988 300E parts car. It worked and continues to work but the car hasn't been driven very much. It's teh car that my daughter bent the driver's door past 90 degrees open while backing up with the door open. It took a while to recover from that unhappy event.

The method of failure was fluid boiling out the filler tube from (I assume) clutch disc slipping. I had just completed a 60 mile highway run and pulled onto a secondary road. Drive for a mile or so and suddenly no drive. That's when I noticed the stink and smokescreen behind me.

Failure #2 was in my daily driver smoke silver 1988 300TE. On the highway and lots of smoke with fluid boiling out the filler tube. Again, I replaced the bad trans with a used one, this time a known good genuine MBZ factory rebuilt unit with maybe 60k miles on it.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a clean 1988 300E with 156k miles. Bad trans. No reverse. No 3rd gear. No 4th gear. I replaced the trans with a supposedly good unit from a 1988 300TE parts car. Crossed my fingers and went for a drive -- it seems to be a good trans.

Fast forward to this morning when my wife took the TE to work. I got a phone call and she told me that the car was spewing smoke "from everywhere" and she pulled over. I went to her rescue and found -- wait for it -- the trans had overheated and pushed fluid out the filler tube. This was the genuine MBZ factory rebuilt unit I had pulled from a donor car so I was more than a little bit disappointed. Looking at receipts for that donor car, however, I see that the rebuilt trans was installed in December of 2002, about 14 years ago. How long should a transmission last?

My point is that any or all of the used units that I installed in my cars are questionable. They could last 2 weeks, 6 months, or 5 years. But I'll be replacing them and they're not cheap at about $2k my price and then I have to find the time to install them.

Swapping a 124 trans isn't particularly hard but it's not how I'd choose to spend my weekend. I'm thinking that I need to either a) learn how to rebuild a 722.320 box or b) throw in the towel regarding 124s. Using cars that are almost 30 years old as daily drivers doesn't suit most people but I kind of like it. Finding the time that is necessary to keep them going is something altogether different.

To compound my aggravation I've been learning that the quality parts previously available for our 124s seem to be disappearing. The thread on the Behr fan clutch is an example. I got stung by that one, expecting the new Behr unit I bought to last the 18 years that the old one did. Nope. It locked up after about 2 years. The beautiful green 91 300E I bought in Tampa and drove back to PA is currently down due to accessory belt noise. I thought it was the alternator but I think it's the a/c compressor bearing. I thought I'd replace the idler pulleys and fan bearing bracket at the same time. From what I've seen online the freakin' fan bearing bracket is only available as a rebuilt part! What?

It seems that the quality parts availability for our 124 is far, far, far from what it was 8 or 10 years ago. Which I guess is no surprise from a market standpoint but I was ready to drive these things until I died. I can't do it if only shitty aftermarket parts are available.

It's time to make some tough choices.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-06-2016, 05:02 PM
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With your skill level I think it would make sense to set yourself up to rebuild your transmissions. Let's face it, the guys who do this for a living aren't exactly PhD's right?

Yes its an unknown area and there might not be much written on the subject but how bad could it be?

As for parts, yes you have to be more careful now when buying parts because the hinternet has driven parts prices down so far that many sites sell junk. I have had good experience with FCP Groton. They will tell you who their part is made by and many times have a couple of choices. They also will source OEM parts too if that's the way you want to go and since they are near you and me, UPS Ground shipping usually means you have the part the next day or in two days from them.

I know you have some serious adversity there with your cars now tied up with transmission issues, but your original decision to run W124s was a solid decision and there is nothing better. Just look at the stories people tell about the newer cars and see how complex they have gotten to be. I mean have you ever had to change a battery in a W210 or both batteries (yeah two) in a W211? its just freaking stupid.

One more thing. Two years ago I bought my W210 from a local family. It was an elderly lady's car and she bought it new in 2000. It was in the garage all the time, had 52k on it in 2014 (documented by MB) and was dealer serviced until she couldn't drive any more. Within six months I had a coil pack fail, a cat fail, and it developed a refrigerant leak. Right now it is throwing a code for a bad oil level sensor and you have to take the pan down to replace it. That's not the worst of it. The car was cosmetically flawless save for three or four chips in the paint on the leading edge of the car. We hardly drive the car but now it has at least a dozen chips down to the metal on the nose and hood and last week I found a rust bubble up on the roof near the leading edge of the sunroof. This is a car that was never driven in the winter and always garaged. The water borne paint they use now is junk so even corrosion resistance on the newer cars is nothing like on the W124s. No, there is no better series of car than the W140 and the W124 so you just need to get past the current situation with the transmissions because you have everything else under control. IMO.

'89 300E
'93 400E
'93 500E
'00 E320
'73 Alfa GTV
'77 308GTB
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-06-2016, 09:30 PM
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I thought of going the JY tranny route to save money, but with my baby grandson ever present, the time to swap them out and possibly repeatedly, just isn't in the cards. Plus, I had to bear the expense of a long tow one cold Thanksgiving for failure of a MAS and a alternator simultaneously. It serves me better to make a reliable car again, than to drive a crap shoot.

The part's quality issue is the pits. Buying from a dealer on everything is just not in the cards for many of us. Best example I can think of is the dist on the 103 engine. Find a Bosch dist discounted for $50, or from a dealer for over $300. The $50 one is made in Spain....where is the dealer OE dist made...who knows. The cheap ones carbon track...I'm on my second.

In answer to your tranny question...I'd save up and go the Sun Valley route for $1,700 and you install it. They give a generous guarantee and members here have had great luck with them. In my case, I'd have to have another car while I fooled around putting in their reman tranny. It makes more sense to give them the $500 for the install and keep me from working in the dirt. If I had facilities again, it would be a no-brainer.

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-07-2016, 02:37 AM
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Another option is a 5 speed swap. I know there was a 717.411 floating around CL within the past week. Thats what I did when the transmission failed in my 300TE.

I agree 100% on finding good quality parts lately and its one of the reasons I gave up on using an old Mercedes as a DD.

1977 MB 240D 4 speed 142K - Long term project car.
1991 MB 300TE 5 speed 271K - Back on the road!
2014 Honda CR-V 33K - Wife's DD
2015 Ford F150 5K - My DD

1979 MB 280E 90K - Sold
1983 MB 240D 238K - Scrapped
1984 MB 300D 347K? - Sold
1987 MB 300E 5 speed 258K - Scrapped
1993 MB 400E 130K - Sold
1995 MB E320 - Sold

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-07-2016, 05:56 AM
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Vehicle: '86 W123 200, OM617 non-turbo, bastard 5-speed; '95 W202 C250 Diesel, OM605 non-turbo, 5-spd man
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How about something like this? Then you can have a 5-spd auto

New 722.6 Gearbox in you old Car?
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W202 C250 Diesel, OM605 NA engine, 5-speed manual
1986 200, OM617 NA engine, 5-speed manual, rev counter

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-07-2016, 11:35 PM
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This is getting old...

Two transmissions spewing hot fluid from the filler tube seems too coincidental. There may have been a water leak in the system for any fluid to boil out the filler tube. What kind of fluid was used? Was it overfilled? Is there any part that the coolant cools for it to leak in?

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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-08-2016, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by mercron View Post
Two transmissions spewing hot fluid from the filler tube seems too coincidental. There may have been a water leak in the system for any fluid to boil out the filler tube. What kind of fluid was used? Was it overfilled? Is there any part that the coolant cools for it to leak in?

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Yes, there is a tranny coolant line that passes through the radiator. However, it becomes pretty apparent when the line through the radiator becomes violated and easy to test.

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