I've got 2 spare sets: the first is as bad as yours and will be used for welding practice. The second set has no rust and will be going on the car after painting.
My advice: get a rust free replacement set but repair the ones off the car.
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same symptoms here
I know this is an old thread, but the symptoms described above best describe my experience a couple of hours ago.
My 1995 M104 E280 has been on an extended break as I hadn't taken it out for about 8 days.
So I fired her up, and for the first time in a year of ownership, it...
if you're working on an M104:
for the oil filter end -short 6mm hex (and a ring spanner for added leverage)
for the water pump end - 6mm ball headed hex key (long)
plus lots of patience. It's a tight fit, I know
Seating the plunger correctly into the tensioner body will allow the clip to engage with it's retaining groove in the tensioner body. this will happen when the spring pushes the plunger all the way in...