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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi members,

I have owned many Mercs over time, including two W123s, a W201, three W210s, a W211, and W221. I am considering purchasing a 1986 300E that has 47,xxx on the clock and is all original from the original owner. It has all paperwork including the window sticker and maintenance history. Garage kept all its life, no bodywork, paintwork, and zero rust. It is blue with MB Tex, and is a very smooth vehicle. I believe the last time it was driven was November 1998.

Although I am familiar with some of the older vehicles, I was wondering is there is anything specific I need to look at on this car considering it has been stored most of its life. I am aware of the wiring harness issues later, but does the 1986 have anything specific that could be problematic? I will likely be driving it home to inspect it in the next couple of days and was hoping the W124 experts could chime in and give any advice.

Thank you.
 

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W124
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Yes no wiring harness issues to worry about with an '86. Of course with all 124s, the transmission doesn't go past 150k usually and its hard to say if one with low miles but plenty of time on it has suffered. They have a few plastic parts in there that cause failures. See how long it takes to engage drive and reverse after selecting it and of course watch for sloppy shifts.

There is a mod to the oil spray bar on top of the cylinder head. Its a simple mod to do (attach a small metal bar under one of the cam carrier securing bolts) but it would be nice to see if the history shows that mod being done. Try to get the local dealer to run a Vehicle Master Inquiry on the car - it will show all the work done through dealers over the years.

Timing case covers leak on the passenger side and head gaskets leak oil at the back by the number 6 cylinder under the exhaust manifold. Look for these as well as any tell-tale coolant weeping from the weep hole on the bottom of the housing for the water pump shaft.

There are lots of other little things to look for and there is a thread in the DIY sticky on Buyer's Guide type info. Good luck. With those low miles and if the condition matches up, it should be a great car.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for the reply. I know the owners well, and back when I got my driver license and was into Corvettes, IROC-Z's, Trans Am's, and Grand Nationals, I would not have given this car a second look as it wasn't "fast." I had to follow the owner's son about 120 miles one way, and he said "just take Mom's car if you want. She said it needed to be driven." So I agreed, and 10 miles down the road I realized that was the best made, best driving car I had ever been in, and vowed to have one one day. I credit this car without a doubt what sparked my interest in the brand, and told them if they ever decided to sell it to please give me first shot. And here we are 28 years later and I have that chance.

It is a car that I would certainly not want to daily drive, as it is one of few that year and that condition and mileage.

I can vouch for the car being everything I mentioned. The 1990 W201 190E 2.6 had a rough idle at cold start and this seems to be fairly common, and I am sure the gas is old in it as well. Is there a fix for the cold start issue that you know of?

Thanks!
 

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89 300E; 00 E320
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The ac needs to get cold or you will want to pull a vacuum for 30 minutes. If you have to remove the dash to replace an evaporator it will be a pain. Replace all the fuses.

Make sure the differential can be checked and fluid added if needed; making sure top fill plug can be turned before removing the drain plug. Replace that fluid if you buy it; along with fuel, trans, oil, brake fluid, coolant, washer fluid, fuel filter, oil filter trans filter and gasket. Air filter

You could chase a cold start for years but there are parts that will help including fuel distributor. New distributor cap, rotor, wires, plugs, coil, fuel accumulator. OVP/overload protection relay. Injectors, seals, eha. Clean and oil throttle linkage with trans fluid, clean if dirty, those links just pop up.

What are we up to now, well, that should get you started. New tires of course, maybe some suspension parts, Ok, 2,000-3,500 parts alone. Not counting the AC. hope it cools or at least holds vacuum pressure. I daily drive my 89, and just replace parts like this all the time. If you have to do the waterpump you will have to remove the whole front from radiator to pulleys to tensioner. Couple of days if you have not done that before. So look for leaks, could be a big first job.

Every bit of this has been done to mine over the years and it usually does not all hit at once, but then again it was never sitting for 20 years either. I probably would not buy one that had been unless it was just exceptional. No rust and garaged is an excellent start. Hope you get it, fix it up and daily drive it.
 

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1990 Benz 300E 2.6 (mine) ; 1994 E320 Wagon (wife's) ; 1993 300CE Cabrio, needs some TLC
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7,111 Posts
another critical part that should be visually inspected is the flex disks on the drive shaft. these rubber disks age and crack, and if they let go when you're driving, can do serious damage.
 

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W201 Moderator
89 190E2.6- 5-speed Manual, 95 E320 Sportsline-sold, 2001 E320 4matic Wagon-sold
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I can vouch for the car being everything I mentioned. The 1990 W201 190E 2.6 had a rough idle at cold start and this seems to be fairly common, and I am sure the gas is old in it as well. Is there a fix for the cold start issue that you know of?
Are you asking for the 86 W124 or the 90 W201.
My car runs very well at cold and idles well. It is a '89 M103 / W201. What is your issue?
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #7
Are you asking for the 86 W124 or the 90 W201.
My car runs very well at cold and idles well. It is a '89 M103 / W201. What is your issue?
It is for the 1986 300E. I will drive it for a few days and put it on the rack at at my local MB dealer (I know them very well and they let me change my own oil there). I will check for the flex discs (bringing back W123 memories there!) and go over what everyone suggested. The A/C may in fact get cold as I have not tried it.

The only unusual thing I noticed was the gauges (I noticed the fuel guage un particular) that jumped a little at idle, and stopped when slightly revved. The plan is to put insurance on it and let me check it out.

I will post photos of it when I get a chance. It still has the A DAIMLER-BENZ product sticker on the windshield that has not faded or have a distressed look.
 

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W124
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The fuses oxidize in their holders, so clean them before you drive the car, and replace them with copper tipped fuses when you do your first maintenance. They are cheap. I still don't know which car you have the cold start issue with but I guess it doesn't matter because they are both M103s. The first thing to do is baseline the ignition system which means new plugs, wires, cap, rotor and dust shield. You might think this is overkill but the only way to satisfy yourself (and us) that you don't have an electrical issue is to have all the consumable ignition components replaced. After that, fuel pressure needs to be validated as being sufficient prior to cold start. Anything else is shooting in the dark without a little diagnostics.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #9
I hope to review these items of concern as soon as I am able to look at the vehicle more and drive it. The old fuel is a concern for me, however. I will look in WIS for information regarding fuel pressure, etc.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #10
Since this is obviously an OBD 1 vehicle, can the banana connectors and HHT provide any information, or was the manufacturing date before HHT was adopted?
 

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89 300E; 00 E320
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you may be able to get some blink codes for your SRS and your AC system. Look at the connector and see which numbered slot has copper connection. Here is a link to post with code reader info:
 

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W201 Moderator
89 190E2.6- 5-speed Manual, 95 E320 Sportsline-sold, 2001 E320 4matic Wagon-sold
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Rough idle at cold start is probably the least of your issues and can be remedied by various diagnostics.
All arrows are pointing in the direction of fuel related issues with such a low mileage car that sat for many years.
As many suggested, you will need to check out and clean out all the dried up fuel deposits first. Some can be thru fuel system cleaners, some by replacements components, etc., etc.

Your Fuel gauge for example. If it is jumpy, it most likely has gunk on the sensor wires and needs to be cleaned carefully. I had to with mine but then again mine is at ~200K miles. And yes, the fuel tank / sediment-filter certainly needs to be cleaned and the Fuel distributor checked out for pressure as well as injectors spray pattern.

After everything is sorted out, it sounds like it will be a lovely car to drive

- Cheers!
 

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1990 Benz 300E 2.6 (mine) ; 1994 E320 Wagon (wife's) ; 1993 300CE Cabrio, needs some TLC
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Since this is obviously an OBD 1 vehicle, can the banana connectors and HHT provide any information, or was the manufacturing date before HHT was adopted?
this is an 'obd 0' vehicle. there's some primitive CIS-E diagnostics available in the form of the duty cycle of an AC signal present on a round connector near the ignition EZK module... and that duty cycle can be used when the engine is idling to determine if the lambda (o2 sensor loop) is operating in range.

i resurrected a low mileage 1990 300E 2.6 which had been parked many years, after fixing all sorts of other stuff (EHA, complete fresh ignition system, new 02 sensor, etc) the thing that fixed a random stumbling idle and stall problem was the fuel injector seals and new injectors.
 

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All RHD: 1982 280GE LWB (UK), 2001 SLK230 (JDM), 2014 B250-AMG (JDM), 2006 B170 (JDM)
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You probably know this, but the 1986 300E was the subject of ten years of development before it was released (in North America) as a 1986 model year. The 300 was the first Mercedes I ever bought because before then Mercedes made cars that were solid as, but also as exciting as a middle-aged burgermeister. I first bought a 1997 300D new from the dealer where the key criteria was the ability to fit a mid-range IBM AS/400 computer in the trunk. Except for a few niggles the first week, it never had any warranty work done - nothing ever broke. When the 5-year lease expired and I was turning it back in, the dealer had a 1986 300E in almost new condition, and they let me lease that one for another five years before selling it to me.

The diesel was amazing for a diesel (quiet and powerful at a time when most sounded and drove like trucks), but the gasoline 300E was a truly great car. The fastest I ever got it up to (on US roads) was about 130 mph. After that it began to feel a bit floaty on the turnpike in the Pennsylvania mountains, so I never found out if it could hit the rated 155 mph.

Having driven across the USA five or six times in my life in Detroit iron without air conditioning, my final cross-country trip, this time with wife, daughter and dog, going East to West in the 300E was amazing - comfortable, quiet and as the speed limits became higher the further west we went, great fun. After ten hours of driving, I would get out of the car feeling relaxed. It was a brilliant car in every way. For a year after moving overseas I kept it stored in an FBO at Tucson Airport, but eventually realised I would not be coming back and had to part with it. But those are stories from long ago. I am sure other people will tell you there stories when you stop to fill up and someone wanders over and tells you their stories that for them are current events, but are now 1/3rd of a century ago.

The advice you will get on this forum will be about ageing - what happens when rubber hardens, what moving parts cause problems, but do remember, the decade of R&D that went into this car are a landmark that no longer is done. You have an exceptionally solid car, and it sounds like yours was a time capsule with many years of life left in it, or at least until they ban petroleum.

Congrats and enjoy.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #15
Rough idle at cold start is probably the least of your issues and can be remedied by various diagnostics.
All arrows are pointing in the direction of fuel related issues with such a low mileage car that sat for many years.
As many suggested, you will need to check out and clean out all the dried up fuel deposits first. Some can be thru fuel system cleaners, some by replacements components, etc., etc.

Your Fuel gauge for example. If it is jumpy, it most likely has gunk on the sensor wires and needs to be cleaned carefully. I had to with mine but then again mine is at ~200K miles. And yes, the fuel tank / sediment-filter certainly needs to be cleaned and the Fuel distributor checked out for pressure as well as injectors spray pattern.

After everything is sorted out, it sounds like it will be a lovely car to drive

- Cheers!
I recall it possibly doing this years ago, but have not been around the car until recently and when I started it last November, it probably had not been cranked in many months. So it is not surprising that it may stumble a little on cold start considering the varnish in the tank and how long it had been since it had been cranked.

I had a 1990 190E 2.6 that always suffered from the same issue - the entire time I had it the first start in the morning had to be complemented by pressing the accelerator to keep it running for 30 - 45 seconds, and then you could release the accelerator and it would idle slowly and albeit rough on its own. I checked for vacuum leaks, and had an independent shop look at it and found nothing unusual. They made some adjustments and it made the cold start slightly better but by no means did it go away.

That is the reason it stood out as possibly being a little difficult to diagnose based on the experience on the 190E.
 

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I worry about MBs that have been sitting a long time. They don’t take well to it. Worst 124 I ever owned was a 1998 with very low mileage that’s as been sitting. Everything was bad
 

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I worry about MBs that have been sitting a long time. They don’t take well to it. Worst 124 I ever owned was a 1998 with very low mileage that’s as been sitting. Everything was bad
Could be, but it seemed to have every problem this model is prone to. Oil leaks, electrical, etc, plus the exhaust and radiator. Put me off MB for decades. Traded it for a much more reliableToyota Land Cruiser that never gave me a single problem in 16 years. Have a 95 cabriolet now. Like it but it still has had more issues than it should. Nice cars but I would never call them reliable
 

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'95 E300 DIESEL, '91 600SEL, '92 600SEL
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Sounds like you'd be a much happier camper with a Toyota/Lexus then if you like yours cars with zero soul.

I have a Honda Accord diesel wagon. Great car, honest car (like MB used to be prior to 2000), but I would never consider it superior to a MB. My mom's Lexus LS is about as pleasant as having a root canal. Not my cup of tea at all.
 

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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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The worst thing about this car is the low mileage. These cars were engineered with the concrete notion that they were to be driven and driven often. Honestly, if I were to find a low mileage car exactly like mine, I'd consider it a part's car to feed into my DD.

Anything is sort-able, but not having been driven enough will send you down many a rabbit hole until you figure things out. You've come to a good place for all that.

Kevin
 
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