Looking to buy a w203 - Mercedes-Benz Forum
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#1 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 05:54 PM
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Looking to buy a w203

I see a lot of good prices near me on c230, c280, c240 models with around 75-80k miles for sale.
I drive a pos mitsubishi and recently noticed that c class has more room than my 2003 galant so can you guys tell me witch one to avoid? I read the forum but still hard to get which one motor or year has issues.

Do you think its worth buying a used c230 or 280?
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#2 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 08:23 PM
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I'd stay away from the V6 C230/C280 models as they can have balance shaft problems (search for it and you will find out the issue). The C240 is is the "luxury" model without the sport appearance package and lacks a little HP over the C230 Kompressor, but the engine is bulletproof. If you're going for performance and looks, the C230 Kompressor is the car to get. If you want to go 200K++ miles, then the C240 is it.

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#3 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by rudeney View Post
I'd stay away from the V6 C230/C280 models as they can have balance shaft problems (search for it and you will find out the issue). The C240 is is the "luxury" model without the sport appearance package and lacks a little HP over the C230 Kompressor, but the engine is bulletproof. If you're going for performance and looks, the C230 Kompressor is the car to get. If you want to go 200K++ miles, then the C240 is it.

So basically 2005 c240 would be the best bet? As it has a different engine. Do you know if c350 suffers from the same shaft problem?
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#4 (permalink) Old 05-19-2012, 07:52 AM
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Like I said, the C240 is bulletproof. Serious problems with the M112 2.6l engine are very, very rare. About the worst things that happen over time are leaky valve covers, cracked vacuum hoses, and bad idler/tensioner pulleys. Those are all fairly easy and inexpensive DIY's. The biggest complaint about the C240 is that it's slow compared more modern engines of comparable size and it doesn't get great MPG.

The supercharged engine used in the C230 Kompressor gets better MPG and offer better performance, but it requires more upkeep. Superchargers are good for about 100K miles, and after that, they are prone to trouble. Some may last longer, some may fail earlier, but a supercharger definitely will need to be repaired or replaced long before you (statistically) could expect any serious problems with an M112 engine. Replacing a supercharger is about a $2K DIY. Also, some of the early ones, using the M111 engine, were prone to timing chain problems. The later M273 engines are prone to wiring harness leaks that drown the ECU in oil and ruin it. Both are expensive repairs. But of course not every one has that problem. It's a small percentage, but enough that is causes problems as the vehicles age.

The 722.6 5-speed transmission that is found in all W203's (well, except the rare 6-speed manuals) is also very good. There are two concerns. One is a leaking pilot bushing seal on the electrical connector. It can wick oil into the TCU and ruin it. It can also leak oil on the ground. It's an inexpensive and fairly easy fix. Also, those transmissions were claimed "sealed for life", but they shouldn't be. They need regular fluid and filter changes. At one time, MBZ said do it at about 75K, but now, they "suggest" once at 39K, and many experts will tell you it's best to do it every 39K. My advice is when you get your car, do a fluid/filter change and replace the pilot bushing seal at the same time. It will cost around $250 at an indy shop, or you can DIY for a bit less (parts around $150, but that includes a one-time purchase of a dipstick for around $40).

When you get into the C280/C350 of MY2006/2007, that has the M272 engine which is prone to the balance shaft problems. It was probably sometime in the MY2007 production run that the problem was solved. the only way to know for sure is to check that the M272 engine serial number is higher than 468993. The easiest way to find the engine serial number is a lookup by VIN. Many of use here have access to EPC and can do that for you if you'll post the prospective vehicle's VIN. I'd avoid any MBZ with a serial number in the affected range. It may go for over 100K miles with no issues, or it might be like my CLK550's M273 engine and have problems at 30K miles. It's a $4K+ fix. Sometimes MBZ will provide out-of-warranty "goodwill" coverage, but often they do not, especially if it happens with higher mileage.

Finally, there are some other things to look out for in general on the W203. Up until sometime in the MY2004 production, they had bad radiators made by Valeo that allowed transmission fluid and coolant to mix. Make sure you don't have the Valeo - they replaced it with a Behr. Man y cars had them replaced under warranty. The easiest way to check is visually:

Valeo vs. Behr

This is not a bad DIY, but you do have to take a lot of "stuff" loose to get to it. My advice, if you have the Valeo and want to replace it yourself, do a transmission service at the same time since you will loose some fluid in the process.

One more thing that's annoying but not serious is that the antenna amp at the top of the rear windshield (under the stubby antenna) is prone to failure. Symptoms include poor FM radio reception and reduced range of the keyless remote locking feature. Some people have found that the module just pulls away from the glass and loses contact with the embedded antenna wires in the glass. The solution is to use something to keep it press back in place. Other have found the module just dies from heat. The real fix is an entire new rear glass with the module installed, and that's about $2K.

I hope I've covered the major issues. Keep in mind that in car forums, you generally hear about the worst problems. Few people just come here to tell everyone how wonderfully their car is performing, so it's normal to come away with the feeling that the cars have horrible issues. They really don't, but MBZ's are also not like Hondas and Toyotas that can go 10 years without a problem. The reason is their complexity. They are designed to perform at the top of the charts in all aspects. They are designed to last decades, but they require some extra care along the way. IME, I have found that they are fairly easy to work on. They use extra shrouds to keep things clean, and with few exceptions, components are easy to get to and remove. The longitudinal engine with RWD helps tremendously over FWD cars where things are jammed into the engine bay. Most maintenance parts are not horribly expensive, and in fact some things are downright cheap.

So yes, to answer your question, if I were looking to buy for long-term reliability, it would be a C240.

Good luck!

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#5 (permalink) Old 05-19-2012, 09:20 AM
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Thank you very much that was the best response I could have hoped for. Very informative. Thank you again.
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#6 (permalink) Old 05-19-2012, 10:41 PM
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Great repsonse Rudeney. Pretty comprehensive overview.

My 04 C240 has been rock solid. I bought it with 39K, currently at 87K and it's been just regular maintenance. i don't hesitate recomending a C240. Agree that it is a bit slow. If you can find an 04 or 05 model year, they are known to be the most reliable of the c240 run. Good luck on your search.

2004 C240 Wagon - H&R Street Performance Coilovers, 18" x 8" + 18" x 9.5" TSW Croft Wheels - Powder Coated SemiGloss Black, 28% Tint, Kleemann Stainless Muffler, Flat Badge, Clear head & fog lights, Factory Sirius.
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#7 (permalink) Old 05-20-2012, 07:21 AM
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Agree that rudeney did an excellent job of critiquing the C240. My two-cents: I ordered and a few weeks later received my 04 C240 4Matic wagon in summer 2003. I special ordered because I didn't want a sunroof (much more headroom without), and I wanted the orthopedic seats.

It's my 7th Benz since 1969 (yes, some I've kept longer than my current C240). The C240 has been my most reliable Benz. I do my own routine maintenance, and in almost 9 years had only two minor repairs, both less than $100. These repairs were the tranny seal and an A/C recharge.

Based on my long-term experience the C240 is rock solid in all respects.
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#8 (permalink) Old 05-20-2012, 02:54 PM
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Great summary Rudeney - terrific help to new purchasers.

Curious about your M111 timing chain comment as since I have been on this forum, I have read quite a lot about the M271 single chain from a couple of contributors (being inferior to the M111 reliability)

I'm assuming that the Benz engineers had a good think about this before designing the single chain set up but even so, it has prompted me to get my oil tested for iron etc.

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#9 (permalink) Old 05-20-2012, 06:31 PM
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There have been some issues with the M111 timing chain stretching and/or failing. It's not to the extent of the balance shaft issues, and there was no TSB, but it seems to be something you run across on the forums often enough to warrant a mention.

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#10 (permalink) Old 06-18-2012, 12:04 AM
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There are a number of M111 powered cars running around with 150K + miles, and over 200K miles, and no problems with timing chains or much of anything.

Supercharger DIY is NOT 2 grand.
I did mine for $350. It wasn't bad, but I was getting some hesitation...though maybe just a belt. I just didn't want to wait for it to break, so swapped it at 120K for troublefree future operation. After 100K they can go anytime.
Better to just do it in advance.

$600 for new SC of ebay, sold old one for 250.
+ some shipping charges, and a couple gaskets.
There is one for sale on ebay right now for 340.
Send it out for rebuild, and possible porting?
And sell your functioning old one to someone who wants to do the same thing.
It's an easy swap, no muss no fuss. Just the clip on the hose is tricky and the rest is just nuts and bolts on the outside of the engine.

I find the M111 to be a stout engine worth of being called Mercedes, which really doesn't mean shit these days.
The only engine related components I've replaced were a leaky exhaust gasket, the hose on the crankcase breather, a belt tensioner, and a pulley.
Thats it. And those are ancillary parts, not really even part of the engine.
I'm at 187K. SeaCoupe is far beyond that with around 220K MILES not KM.

The M112 and M111 series engines were both excellent, but I could never see the point of a more expensive 6 banger with less power that gets crappy mileage ie the 2.6L but it was around forever and it's strong well built as was the 3.2L.
All the new engines suck, just crap. Not worthy of being called mercedes.
Soft cams, soft balance shaft gears and the list goes on.

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ASP Pulley-Supercharger Muffler Deleted- NGK Copper BKR7E
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Last edited by C230 Sport Coup; 06-18-2012 at 12:16 AM.
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