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We just bought a 300 TE 4 Matic, with 147,000 miles. We paid a couple grand for it. The body and interior is in great shape (especially for being in Alaska). Everything worked fine initially except for the 4 matic, which we were told was not uncommon. A month or so after we bought it, we started having trouble starting it on really cold mornings. We took it to the shop and were told that the fuel distributor had a valve that was sticking, and that in time it will eventually go out. The new part from the dealer is ridiculously expensive, and about 100-150 bucks used on ebay (with a 60 day warranty). The labor, we were told, would be a couple hundred bucks. The mechanic told us that we could continue to drive it, and that eventually it just wouldn't start anymore. At the moment, it's starting fine. We're not familiar with Mercedes and haven't talked to anyone who has owned this model. It seemed like a decent price, and the car seemed to be a perfect second car for my wife and our two small children. The research we did initially on the internet was very positive...excellent safety rating, owners who had the same model with over 250,000 miles on their cars and still going strong, etc. We're not sure how much we should put into this car, and if the distributor is a very common issue. My wife and I are both mechanically illiterate, aside from checking fluids. Not having the 4 matic is sort of a pain, since there's now snow on the ground, but the car is very solid and has been driving surprisingly well so far this winter. We would appreciate any feedback on this car in general, anyone who has had issues with the fuel distributor, other common issues that we can expect to deal with, etc. Thank you.
 

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About a dozen 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991 sedans, wagons, 4Matics and 1 coupe
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First to the specific issues you mention:
1) the 4Matic version of the 124 was quite a bit more expensive than the RWD version of the same car and is a great asset for those who live in climates where it gets used regularly. The 4Matic system is also a big pain in the butt because it is very complicated and it takes up a lot of space under the car, making service of nearby components difficult and sometimes horrible. I bought a 90 4Matic wagon last year as a parts car (for body and interior parts) and put it up on a lift to see just how ugly things were underneath. It's ugly. For example, the drive axle for the front RH wheel passes through the engine oil pan. The 4Matic system is also problematic in that a key component, the viscous coupling in the transfer case, is the weak link in the system and you can't get it from anyone except Mercedes Benz. The coupling typically lasts about 80k miles and then you pay about $3000 to replace it. Who knows when your was done and how long the car has been driven in its current state. Is the lever under hood in the "test" position? This allows a 4Matic car with problems to be driven in RWD mode.

2)As for the hard starting, either I don't agree with the diagnosis you're getting or you're reporting the diagnosis incorrectly/incompletely. The fuel injection system in the early 124s is nearly stone age simple (for an electronic fuel injection system). To greatly simplify things, the coolant temp sensor (when the engine is cold) or oxygen sensor (when the engine is warmed up) give the computer the info it needs to inject the correct amount of fuel.

Aside: don't get freaked out by the term "fuel distributor" and picture things spinning around and squirting bursts of fuel down the right pipe to the right cylinder at the right time. It's not that complicated. What's happening is that fuel under steady pressure from a pump is delivered to the fuel distributor and the computer controls an EHA valve to bleed off some/most of that fuel to control pressure inside the distributor. Then this fuel under regulated pressure is supplied simultaneously to all the cylinders all the time via steel tubes and the fuel injectors (which are just atomizing nozzles with a built-in check valve).

Presumeably your car is not starting becasue it is not getting a rich enough mixture when it is very cold. This could be because the EHA valve is bad (not a rampant problem but our cars are pretty old) but I doubt it. Regardless, a new Bosch EHA valve is available for a few hundred bucks via online suppliers and it takes literally 5 minutes to change it. The hardest part is removing the air cleaner to get at it.

More likely is a problem with the cold start injector, an electrically actuated spray nozzle designed to add the extra fuel required during cold starts. Think of it as a choke. Cold start injector operation is triggered by a temp switch screwed into the cylinder head and a relay (that handles several other functions too). This is the fuel pump relay located under a cover behind the battery.

I don't have time to write more (2 pre-schoolers of my own who are tearing the house apart right now) but i will say this. You need to a)read a lot and figure out how these cars work so you can fix it yourself b)find a *knowledgable* Mercedes repair shop locally who won't use the "diagnosis by replacing of expensive parts" method at your (great) expense or c)sell the car to someone who *does* know how to fix it.

There is absolutely, positively, no freakin' way I would *ever* be able to afford to drive my 124s if I had to pay someone else to do repairs and maintenance.
To most generic shops the Mercedes hood ornament is equivalent to a flashing neon sign reading "I can bend this guy over my desk and stick it to him while I empty his wallet."

They are *great* cars that will last 250k miles and beyond but they must be maintained and much, much damage can be (has been) done to them when entrusted to the local "we-fix-em-all" shop.
 

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2008 E350 4M, 2016 Audi Allroad, 2019 Audi Q5
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Labor on replacing the fuel distributor a couple hundred bucks? Gotta be kidding me...
What the heck are they doing? They better be replacing the head gasket with the extra time they have.

A fuel distributor removal + replacement is 1hour at the very most...

How do they know the FD has a sticking valve? Sounds like BS to me. Did they flow rate each port? If they did not, they are simply looking to steal your money.

Cold start issues are more related to the EHA and engine temperature sensor. If you want to save yourself a lot of money and get your hands a little dirty these engines are very easy to work with.
 

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'91 C124 300CE, '06 W164 ML500, '00 BMW MCOUPE, '65 COBRA REPL.
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As mentioned above, the mechanic might not be correct with the diagnosis.
The temperature sensor is the cheapest part ($15-20) and very easy to swap.
I would suggest you try this fix first as it is the cheapest. Do it yourself to save some $.
If you do go for it, make sure the engine is cold!!!!
Make sure you check the part # on yours first, as parts might look similar but MBZ changed them from model to model. Not sure if this pertains to this sensor.

The EHA is not too bad to get to. This is not as likely a cause as the temp. sensor.
It is located under the air cleaner. The air cleaner has to come off to replace this.
These are unfortunately expensive parts (in the low $200s) but they can be found very cheap used on ebay. This would be a way to check if this the problem. I would not recommend installing a used part, but it's up to you. Search for EHA.
Look what it looks like and where it is located.

As mentioned above, these are not Toyotas or Hondas that run for a long time without much maintenance. The MBZs require maintenance, but will run forever and are much superior cars to a $2,000 alternative.

Bummer about the 4matic....
Good luck and hope you figure this out.
 

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"Lemon" and "$2000 Mercedes" are indeed corollary concepts.
Ah...but "lemon" and "20 year old car" are mutually-exclusive.
 

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perhaps he is referecning the EHA not functioning properly...that would be the most likely culprit based on the mechanics sticking valve/fuel delivery issue..

I would want to spend some time diagnosing the cold start injector..if that's not firing properly that can cause hard starting, esp. in Alaska..!

Jonathan
 

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When I needed a new fuel distributor for my 87 300E, I bought one form a college student who was parting out his car after an accident, for $105.00 and replaced it myself using tubing wrenches, working slowly and carefully it took my about an hour and a half. Got all the fittings nice and tight, worked 100% Perfectly, never a leak, never a problem at all. Total cost: $105.00 plus about five dollars worth of gas to go get the part. That being said, if your car is starting and running fine, then I do not believe you need a fuel distributor.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
"Lemon" and "$2000 Mercedes" are indeed corollary concepts.
Thank you very much to everyone (ahem, almost everyone...the above post wasn't really necessary) who took the time to reply with helpful advice. I will keep you posted. I think my wife and I are going to be learning a lot about this car pretty soon. And I believe that, aside from this issue, it's a solid car that meets all our needs...even for $2000. It's warmer today, and is running fine...for now. Thanks again.
 

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Thank you very much to everyone (ahem, almost everyone...the above post wasn't really necessary) who took the time to reply with helpful advice. I will keep you posted. I think my wife and I are going to be learning a lot about this car pretty soon. And I believe that, aside from this issue, it's a solid car that meets all our needs...even for $2000. It's warmer today, and is running fine...for now. Thanks again.
I think you'll find older Mercedes are relatively kind to those new to mechanical items. Instead of being a car built of a few dozen 'systems' or assemblies, they're constructed of a slew of parts. Parts wear out, and you'd be shocked at was can still be purchased for a 20-30 year old car, at the dealer.

Go try that at the local Pontiac shop. Oh...wait...

One thing which might pay off well, and I don't know where in AK you are, but call the local salvage yards and look for a car similar to yours. Not all the pieces wear at the same rate, and I've come across real finds in cars which were discarded for no obvious reason. Like a rebuilt alternator, obviously not at all old, for $5. I didn't need it, yet, but purchased it, anyway, 'cause it's a wear item. Oh, look, a handful of relays. Do I need them? Not yet... It's a planning ahead sorta thing.

What was 'nice' was finding most MB's I found in salvage yards had over 300K miles on them, so most items had been replaced at least once, and it was probably junked because something failed which was the 'last straw'. The downside to this is it's safe to assume many other large items are going to be close to worn out. Engine, transmission (even if rebuilt once, I'd still hesitate), differential, things which do not normally wear out because the car doesn't last that long in the first place.

If you're in Fairbanks, there's not likely to be one laying about, but around Anchorage...y'never know. I can't see Dawson City having much in the way of salvage yards, either.

Y'might look up some in the US Pac NW online, or even in Vancouver. Vancouver is a really well-off town, and when I was there, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the general population's vehicle fleet was.

IMO, how much you should put into the car depends on what you find is wrong with it, how much you enjoy it, and think about what you can get for say, $5K (I'm assuming a scenario which requires throwing $3K into it to get it near-perfect, mechanically).

Can you get an AWD, very solidly-built wagon, in an area which puts a significant premium on AWD/4WD? Probably not, but you may be fine with a 15 year old Subie. There's always an '83 Grand Wagoneer, but you'll have to have a substantial fuel budget.

I think a large factor will be is, do you need the AWD capabilities? If so...well...we'll not go down that path, right now. Fortunately, you're in the right spot to find answers!

I wasn't trying to be nasty with my $2K cars can't be lemons post, but if it's lasted 20 years, it's not lemon-fresh, it just aged and has an unknown past. The previous owner(s) may have been completely clueless when it came to problems, and the solution for all of them was "turn up the radio" (so you can't hear the noise, anymore).

With low-dollar cars, especially luxury ones, you have to figure they're being sold at a low, low price because someone is fed up with fixing it. Being a gearhead is really helpful in this case, because you can score a car which was $60K, new, for next-to-nothing, yet keep it road-worthy for another 15 years. It's like the ultimate recycling.

I'm never going to drop $60K...or $80K, or even $40K on a brand-new car when, for a small percentage of this price, I can have the same vehicle, but 10-15 years later. Still the same car, just 'broken in'.

I've owned one new car...will not own another. Depreciation is painful to experience, first-hand.
 
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