The Resurrection of a 1990 300se - Part IV
This is the final installment about bringing this car back to life.
I started driving the car with partial tanks of gas. I ran two small size bottles of Techron through the engine, mixed with 12 gallons each time. She ran well, idled well and behaved well. Over the course of the first 1000 miles certain things became clear. First and most urgently, the car needed motor and transmission mounts. Second, the front end was going to have to be rebuilt. She drove and rode well up to 50 mph but after that it was subject to vibration. Visually, it did not appear as if anything was going to break, but it was not safe for highway speeds. In commuting to work, I put about 700 miles a month on a car. So after six weeks, I had gained more confidence in the car. I do not remember when I first had enough trust in the car to fill the tank completely full. At about $80.00 a fill up, I did not want that kind of money sitting in a broken down Mercedes!
In mid-September, the notice came that the emission test had to be completed by mid-October. There was no point in postponing the inevitable, so I went down early on a September Saturday and passed the test with room to spare. In fact the readings fell within the parameters of a car that was 9 years newer. Now I began to feel much better about the prospects for the car. Once the 1000 miles was under my belt in late October, I went ahead and ordered and installed new genuine MB mounts, new spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor, and changed the oil and filter. After this work was done, there was a noticeable difference in the feel of the car. It was at this point that I felt she was worthy of further investment.
The car definitely needed to have front suspension work. Another indy MB mechanic was recommended to me as being great with front end work and I met with him and discussed my car. After I told him about all the work that I had done to the car, he seemed to appreciate my efforts. As he was looking over the front end, he invited me under the lift and we looked at the car together front to back. This gave both of us a chance to look at the shocks, flex disks, drive train, and rear end. He showed me that the front end was indeed in need of complete overhaul, what had been done in the past, and what had not been repaired when it should have been. He said that everything else looked good and that if I wanted to renew the rear suspension mounts and bushings in the spring as a DIY that would be up to me. I left the car with him for a couple of days and when I picked her up and drove her home she was a new car. It felt nearly as good as my e350 in terms of being solid and having the Mercedes feel. I had no idea that a bad front end could mimic so many other things. With new mounts and the front end renewed, what I thought was loose in the rear suspension went away. This is not to say that the rear suspension is not in need of maintenance, because I am sure it is. It is just that fixing the front took care of most of what I was hearing and feeling in the suspension during my daily commute to work.
With the suspension fixed, I replace the old tires that came on the car with new Michelins. Since that time, she has continued to perform without fault. On Valentine’s Day the odometer rolled over 186,000 miles. At that point, she received an oil change and a new voltage regulator, after an inspection found the old one close to the end of its life. What does the future hold? Vacuum system renewal is an ongoing endeavor. Soon, I will change the power steering fluid and filter. I need to troubleshoot the cruise control and take corrective action. I have a fuel filter and that will be changed when I take inventory of what I might renew in the rear end. Of course, I will be ready to do the head again with the valves this time as the need occurs. The car is not perfect. She likes to be warmed up about 5 minutes for smoother shifting when it’s cold. At times, the idle can be a little inconsistent, but only I would notice. The seats show their age. The finish is good…though I would call it a 20 foot car. Yes, I have spent a good sum of money on Gerty but, I would do it again. It has all been good training for my next W126, whenever that may be.