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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am normally on the Gelaendewagen forum, own three Mercedes vehicles, having driven MB for 28 years or so.

My current concern is that on my 190E 2.3 with 94,000 ceareful miles, has begun to leave some foamy and oily substance in the coolant tank. The auto has never run hot, has had one water pump replacement, has had semi-annual coolant changes with MB coolant. I first noticed this foam last year, but noted that it was only a very modest amount, and actually thought it was related to the waterpump lubication I had installed - mostly to assure that the ph value would be neutral and reduce the chances of head electrolsis.

So, is this a sign of a failing head gasket? There is no noticable loss of oil and no water in the oil. I have flushed the overflow tank, and within 1,000 miles or so, there reappears more of this white foam. About 1/4 inch at the top of the tank fluid level.

I would appreciate anyone's thoughts about this.

Are failed headgaskets a problem with the 2.3 engine?

Again, the car runs fine, gets great mileage, and suffers no other symptoms whatsoever. I have even followed for over 100 miles as someone else drove - and watched for other signs of failing head gasket, i.e. exhaust emissions. Also, no white or blue smoke upon starting.

Thanks to anyone for your thoughts or insights.

Tom
 

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Tom,

I am a new 190E, 2.3 Owner but have some experience with other cars (Bentley, Jeep...


Tom,

I am a new 190E, 2.3 Owner but have some experience with other cars (Bentley, Jeep, RX7 T2, Porsche, etc., so here's a few comments:

1-A seriously "Blown" Headgasket will allow the Compression to either pump Coolant into the Oil, turning it (oil) a mud color, or will pump the compression back into the Cooling System and over pressurize it causing either the Coolant blow out of the Overflow Tank or to actually blow it up (the Overflow Tank).

2-A mildly "Leaky" Headgasket will usually be caused by a recent Overheating where the Head/Block pull away from each other and causes a small void. Still you would get some Coolant Loss or other signs of Coolant/Oil going into the wrong areas other than just some "foaming". Also, you may get some Coolant smelling white vapor smoke coming out of the Exhaust.

3-If it were a Turbo model, you could be getting some cross contamination at the Oil/Coolant Lines at the Turbo Bearing, but that's not the case here.

3-Since you had already drained the Cooling System and replaced the Coolant, and then the Foaming came back, (otherwise it could have just been a contaminated Bottle that the Coolant or Water was in), the first thing that I would do is check all of the Spark Plugs to see if and are discolored with a slight "rusting". That would point right away to one Cylinder having a Headgasket leak. (The carbon on Plugs is naturally going to be Dark Brown but if "rusted" it will look like a corrosive Rust on the Plug Housing).

4-The easiest thing to do would be to take the car to any repair shop, (doesn't have to be a Mercedes shop), and have them to a Hydrocarbon Test on the Coolant. It's easy for them to do and costs about $65.00. Since you probably want to eliminate the Grease that you used for the Water Pump from triggering a Positive, I would probably replace all of the Coolant one more time, with special attention to cleaning out the Overflow Tank. Then run the car for a month, then take it for the Hydrocarbon Test.

Hope that this helps...

Sam ('86 109E 2.3 with some AMG stuff)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you sam

sam,

Thank you for the very thorough analysis. I have never encountered something like this without the other symptoms you noted. I have watched for those other odd signs without seeing, smelling, feeling (performance), anything. The engine oil is very clean and clear, with no hint of water/coolant. I did use Amsoil (20-50) during the summer months and considered that this might have been related since synthetic oils tend to find small fisures and passages through which dino oils will not generally pass. But, even when I switched back recently to the normal diet of 20-50 Castrol things are the same - about a 1/4 inch of white foam - does not seem to increase.

As I reflect further about this, I have been driving diesel MB vehicles for the past 15 years. These are steel head and block engines. The 190E is the first gasoline powered MB I have owned for a long while, with the last gasoline powered ones dating back to the W114 and W115 series. I bought this 190 from a friend and naturally, changed all the fluids in the first few months. I switched the car back to MB antifreeze/corrosion control coolant. I just read the container and checked the feel and look of the fluid as compared to American name brand coolants. It has a very different texture (I think), feeling more slippery in nature.

I am now thinking that this "foam" business may be normal - that would be nice...

I think I will consult with a MB tech and consider the hydrocarbon test. Thank you again for you help.


I will let you know what I discover and best of luck with your 190E!


Tom
 

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overheating with funny tan / brown foam?

Hello Tom,

My 190e has the exact same symptoms. Did you ever come to a conclusion as to what the problem was? I've fluched and replaced the coolant six times now and I am still running into this gunk.

Please let me know what it turned out to be.

JP
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
JP

Well, I went to my mechanic who does the things I do not care to do myself. He looked at it and said my head gasket was leaking. I told him that I had no other symptoms - not one.

He said, that will be 1200$US.

I went to another place yesterday, and they suggested that we re-torque the head. I will try that first. They will check the plugs, although I have already done that and see nothing unusual there.

The second shop, I have know them too for 11 years or more, and they only want 800$US to do the head job if needed. This does not include the timing change, but does include a head re-work. New exhaust valves would be more if needed. The car has 93,000 on it and runs extremely well.

So, the mystery continues but I feel I need to find out what is causing this before I take off on a long trip with this vehicle.

Thanks for your question. I will post what I discover.

Tom
 

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hold the hot water on that gasket replacement!

I've just been recommended to only retorque the head but to check and replace if necessary the Oil Cooler whick is located just under the Oil filter. both the oil and water pass through this unit and are only seperated by a gasket which rusts through. Sounds to be the culprit!, Will check and get back to you.

JP
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
JP,

This sounds interesting as an alternative theory. I will take a look at this area...


JP,

This sounds interesting as an alternative theory. I will take a look at this area too. This might be one of those times to actually talk with the dealer.

Thanks for the tip! Let me know what you find out.

Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Head gasket

My mechanic called me today, and after inspecting the external areas of the engine, determined that I have a small headgasket leak on the intake manifold side of the engine. It appears to be coolant. So, the search is over, and it seems to be the gasket. I looked at it myself and feel this is the case.

The hoped for problem, noted in the last two postings here, seems to relate to the diesel engine - perhpas the 250 or 2.2 diesel, wherein the oil cooler has passages that come very close to the coolant liquid, and when a crucial gasket fails near the oilfilter housing, causing the symptoms noted.

So, while I am into the head removal process, I plan to replace the present double roller timing chain, and the four exhaust valves and valve seals. The head will be check for true. Also, will check the tops of the pistons, and the cylinder walls for pitting, scoring, or other signs of distress. This car is worth the work, since the body, other mechanicals, and interior are perfect, and frankly, this seems to be an occasional problem with mercedes gas engines. I have had this happen twice in 28 years of ownership of various Mecedes autos. Never on a diesel, always with a gasoline engined MB. I think the alloy head on a cast iron block arrangement is a bad idea, or there should be a periodic re-torqing specification offered - maybe?

Hope this helps others to dignosis their signs and symptoms of trouble. Better to not let things go too long since bigger troubles could develop with delay.

Tom
 

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Update

The Head gasket on my 2.3 is now replaced, as is the manifold and all related head things. The valves were declared "like new" and cylinder walls showed no wear at all. Credit = frequent oil changes (Castrol 20-50 -the climate here allows for heavier oil weight).

I had them replace the timing chain since while the head is off, I may as well create some peace of mind. That little task led to the evaluation of the chain rails. They showed a bit of wear and the mechanic thought it would be a good idea to replace them. They reported that the front cover and pan must come off, and they likely did need to do so. However, imagine my surprise when I visted the patient (my perfect black 190E) and the engine is out of the car. They found that to replace the rails and related items for the chain, they had to take the engine out completely. This offered a chance to check the oil pump and all related crankcase items. All things there were found to be in like-new condition; And, it was a wise move since the chain tensioner had reached its limit, and the chain was due for replacement.

So, the moral of this story is, the chain, even though it is a double roller chain in the 2.3, should be changed at 100,000 miles. The mechanic said that this engine showed no other wear whatsoever, but the chain was due. Mileage 97,000.

I generally drive diesels since I think they are generally better built and last longer. However, I have always replaced the timing chain around 90,000 miles. In my Gelaendewagen 300 diesel, I have plans to do it sooner since if runs faster and turns more revs per mile than my autos.

I hope this advice helps others avoid the heartbreak of a chain failure. This happened to me many years ago, but did not harm anything important. I would have destroyed the engine, though, if it had failed at speed.

Best wishes of the season.
 

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Post Script

Finally, today the car is finished. Head reworked, new gaskets as described, new double-roller timing chain, rails, and tensioner, fluids, etc. Total bill was $1,660.00. Considering that the engine had to come out of the car to redo the timing chain and rails, and the bottom end was evaluated, and the head checked and true-up, this is not too bad.

I took the car to Seattle tonight and it performed just fine. The new timing chain seems to improve the engine performance a bit. New trip will be 350 miles and will see if that goes well. Checked the fluid levels and everything seem fine. Coolant is clear.
 

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Happy Ending

Tom, glad you had a happy ending to this thread! We have a '93 190 E and have logged 94,000 miles. I guess its time to get this timing chain replaced! We also use Castrol 20/W 50 which is what I've used since the early 80's. I think it is great.
 

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Yes, this is a lot cheaper than a new long block.

Hi Ed. (Nice to see you on this forum as well. I think those Gelaendewagen T-shirts would be great!)

Some days I think I have too many Mercedes vehicles. This is actually the "worst" thing that has ever happened to any of my MB vehicles in 27 years, and my mechanic said that this is normal on many of the 90's alloy head and iron block cars or all types. He suggests changing the thermostat to the cooler one as well, and feels these vehicle run extremely hot. I have no idea if this changes the emission quality, and may be a problem in certain areas. It does not seem to change the operation at all, other than lowering the operating temp. by about 15 or more degrees F cooler.

Tom
 
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