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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Guys,

Noob here with my first post my apologies if some of the questions are basic.

I was perusing the internet when I saw a cult following on these and how solid and built like a tank they were. And many claim that they would run forever. I wanted to find out if this holds true for both the gas and diesel versions. Trying to look for a reliable and comfortable sedan/stationwagon to add to the stable. I know the diesel probably gets better fuel economy, but do the gas models last just as long? I'll probably be looking for the 95 model years in hopes that issues were ironed out in the final year.

Also, I'm trying to find out all the different models. And which are more highly touted. In reading some of the posts, I'm getting lost through all the number numbers. Is there a reference page that breaks down all the different W124 models?

Thanks in advance.
 

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Let me welcome you, and be the first to thank you for being able to write decently.

Wow...'peruse'...I thought I was the only person who typed like that.

I have to admit, I like my '95 gasoline-engined car, though I'd have a diesel if I could have found one. Even with a city commute (Fort Worth), I get 22-24 MPG. Since I'm working further away than I was when I purchased the car, but with less traffic, I think I'm going to break 26 on this tank. It's 90% freeway, and traffic is pretty light most of the way...thankfully.

The diesel, while I love 'em, people who are selling them think they have the value of gold. Now, if gasoline goes back to $4.25/gallon, yeah, they're worth a bit more, but the gasoline engines last just as long, really (edit: i.e. longer than you probably want to look at it). I have 168K on mine, and I figure the engine is about broken in. The large oil pan, I think, has more to do with it than people realize.

There are a few things you MUST realize when shopping these cars. The later models used bio-degradable wiring harness insulation. Not a genius move, based on how long these machines last. Make certain it's been replaced. It's an age-thing, not distance.

Another problem which can be big $'s...the transmission has issues with engagement of reverse. If there is a hesitation, be wary. This is camoflauged by cold weather, i.e., the colder it is, the less noticable it is. Now, for example, even though my reverse hasn't worked for two years, when it's cold (transmission and ambient temp) it works almost like it should.

There is a plastic, again, genius, piston which engages the reverse clutch pack. Poor choice of materials, but if you don't require backing up, don't worry about it. I can push my car out of the garage with one foot and a decent 'oomph', and at work, the parking lot is sloped just enough I can usually get it to roll backward into a space.

There are issues with the A/C evaporater, the part inside the passenger compartment, developing leaks, but I've been lucky, there.

If you're shopping one with 150K miles on it, budget about a grand for front-end rebuilding/new struts & shocks. Trust me, it's worth it. I just did mine, myself, and the difference is amazing. I still have the OEM ball-joints/control arms, but they weren't worn enough to replace. The driver's side is obviously an MB replacement, but the passenger's side has no play, whatsoever, and the grease boots were unharmed.
 

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'91 C124 300CE, '06 W164 ML500, '00 BMW MCOUPE, '65 COBRA REPL.
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Start by reading this:

Mercedes-Benz W124 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

then read anything and everything on this site.

As Kelly mentioned, they are great cars but have issues such as potential transmission failures, mostly due to poor maintenance at some point.

The engine wiring harness WILL fail and will need replacement, hopefully it has been done already as they are $$$$.

The diesel will outlast a gas engine. It is the way the diesel engine works. Less revolutions, sturdier block and internals etc. This is true for any manufacturer and it is a fact, not an opinion.
But, the gas engines will last a very long time...
They are very nice cars to drive, better than any/most cars out there but they do require maintenance and that tends to cost a bit more.
If you do stuff yourself, you will save a bunch of money.

good luck
 

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'95 E300 DIESEL, '91 600SEL, '92 600SEL
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The W124s, compared to other cars overall, get an A-. They are very durable compared to the handful of weaknesses these cars have.

Getting a 95 does not guarantee that all issues are resolved. Prime example are the non-serviceable A-arm ball joints on the 94-95 models vs. the serviceable ball joints on the earlier models. There is also the headgasket issue on the twin cam M104 gasoline engine.

Maintenance history is more crucial than a odometer reading. If deciding between 2 1995 models, one with 60K undocumented and the other 245K with full history the choice is easy. Get the latter one. When it comes to durability in the W124, throw away every Consumer Reports and Kelly Blue book. They don't apply to these kind of cars.

If fuel mileage is of utmost importance with extreme durability and DIY simplicty, the 1995 E300 diesel is impossible to beat IMO. The hard part is finding one. I took 3 years to find mine with less than 50K on the clock and then restored it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks guys. Will try to continue on my research.

So far, the checklist to look for is:

New harness, rebuilt or serviced tranny, anything else?

I saw mention of head gaskets but can't recall if it was specifically the W124's.
 

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1993 300E, 2003 996 Turbo X50
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The M104s head gasket WILL leak, if it hasn't already. In my case, it has failed twice. Second round got 130k out of it before it started leaking again. If it's been done recently you should be good to go on that. On my old W140 S320 (same engine as my E320) my head gasket failed around 130k miles., seems to be the lifespan.
 

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People like the 124s because you can fix them. It takes 5 minutes to change the thermostat as opposed to 5 hours for an Audi.
 

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The diesel will outlast a gas engine. It is the way the diesel engine works. Less revolutions, sturdier block and internals etc. This is true for any manufacturer and it is a fact, not an opinion.
But, the gas engines will last a very long time...
Quite true. I was a bit simple, above.

It helps immensely when the fuel is also oily! Talk about great cylinder lubrication!

Plus, diesel combustion blow-by doesn't contaminate oil like gasoline blow-by does.
 

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You have some of the most knowledgeable W124 owners in the world right here, backing up what we post with real life experiences.

I flirt with the notion of a diesel now and again, but until the legislation passes to properly price it as a fuel I can't make it work.

My 94 has about 190k and has been a daily driver, constantly in service, since the day it was sold. It came with a full set of records and I have since added mine. With proper maintenance there is no upper limit to what the gasser will get mileage wise. As stated before there's a 7 1/2 quart internal lubrication system coupled with a very stout crank and internals. I agree with the unsubstantiated claim that the W124s were the last of the hand-crafted mass produced Mercedes. Everything is designed to last a long time.

But, stuff wears out and a conscientious owner knows this and tries to stay ahead of parts as they reach their inevitable end-of-life. If you can be convinced that the car has been recently serviced and it comes with records, go for it.

I don't think the head gasket and evaporator and harness issues are all that important any more. These cars are now 16 years and older and by now (if it's been a daily driver and not a "garage queen") all of these things have been addressed.
 

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'95 E300 DIESEL, '91 600SEL, '92 600SEL
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Sorry, I missed this. Is there HG issues on the diesel models?
The W124 diesels do have a headgasket issue. It seems to occur mostly on the 5 cylinder OM602 models, and even a few of the OM603 6 cylinder models although the OM603 was plagued more by the notorious oxidizer trap failures leading to turbo and/or engine failures.

I have come to accept that these diesel headgasket issues can be virtually eliminated with proper turbo startup & shutdown procedures.

In other words, let the engine idle 1 minute prior to driving away and similarly allow at least 60 seconds of idling prior to shutting down the engine. This should prolong turbo & headgasket life immensely.

This does not apply to the 95 OM606 diesel as it does not have a turbo, but doing so will not hurt it in any way or any other engine for that matter.
 

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2008 E350 4M, 2016 Audi Allroad, 2019 Audi Q5
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Remember that these cars DO last forever, but don't confuse that with it being cheap.

I personally think the wagons are more comfortable and useful, but the sedans are fun too. The only thing that disappoints me is that the fuel tank is behind the rear seats so you cannot fold them down. Don't expect to be hauling anything in a W124 sedan...My wagon can haul anything though its amazing.

Don't get too caught up on the "year", there isn't drastic differences setting aside the change from the M103 to the M104 engine.

Transmission reverse bands, wiring harness and evaporator are the big items you NEED to know before purchasing the car. At an independent...reverse bands $2k, wiring harness $1k, evap $3-4k. Spend more for paper!
 

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'87 300TD/'90 300D/'94 Quattro/'89 Vanagon TDI/'01 EV Weekender VR6
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I'm not sure I'd say the diesels have headgasket issues; rather as they age, you'll more than likely want to swap out the original and replace it with an updated design. I just replaced the original (non-leaking) headgasket in my '90 300D, and it was holding up just great at 180k. I'm also not seeing the link between turbos and headgaskets. I fire up a diesel and then proceed to drive it like I stole it--you avoid unnecessary coking up of the pre-chambers that way. That's something you'll really want to do on a '95 E300D, which is prone to coking up the glowplugs to such an extent that they get stuck in the head and have to be drilled out.

The trap oxidizer issue has long ago been resolved, so I wouldn't worry about that. The '87 300D/TD OM603 engines are prone to developing head cracks, though most that are going to exhibit this trait will have done so by now.

I think the biggest issue with any of the 124 diesels is the vacuum pumps; these need to be inspected and replaced if there's any wear on the injection timer ramp or the roller bearing surface. When these little units let go, they can take out the engine.
 

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77 280E, 78 450SEL, 86 300E, 87 300E, 90 300E, 92 400E & 4 scooters
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And my $.02 (I have 4 W124's)

I prefer the M103 engine, life just doesn't get any more simple than that (other than a 2 stroke or deisel).

And I prefer the 1986-1990 model year, they have a proper glove box.

1990 model year is my favorite due to it's newer body styling trim, M103 & glove box.
 

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77 280E, 78 450SEL, 86 300E, 87 300E, 90 300E, 92 400E & 4 scooters
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correction, I have 5 W124's. Yeah, I'm a fan & an engineer.
 

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99 SLK230 Kompressor, 5 Speed Manual
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Yes, the W124 is a fabulous car, but it also is a complex one. There are many subsystems that can and do give trouble. They are wornderfully built, but not made of Kryptonite. Their most redeeming quality IMHO, is experienced when sitting in the drivers seat. They drive and handle wonderfully.

All that said and in addition to all the wisdom from the previous posters, when buying ANY used car it is important to carefully examine a candidate for purchase using the following top three criteria:

1. condition
2. Condition
3. CONDITION

Pay an experienced mechanic that knows these particular cars very well to inspect the car carefully.

Hope this helps.
 

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I bought my 95 E320 sedan a year ago with 202,000 on the clock. It's the best 2 grand I've spent on a car. It's got 210,000 now and I still love driving it. I have my wife driving it right now while I drive her Mazda wagon. I miss my Mercedes!!!! I replaced the thermostat in my driveway....5 minutes for the job is right on the money. The part only cost $22 from the dealer. I've had some trouble tracking down and sealing a couple of fluid leaks (tranny fluid and oil) but you're going to have those little issues with 200+ thousand miles. This is my first Mercedes and I fell in love on the test drive! Good luck on your hunt!
 
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