Help! Now I need a new engine?

My 18 year old son bought a 1993 Mercedes 300E in June 2008. Three weeks after the purchase we had to take it in to have a new head gasket put in and then after that was done the mechanic told us it needed a new wiring harness, after that it needed a new actuator. We finally got it back 4 days ago. He had it not 24 hours and was driving it on the freeway and it broke down and had to be towed back to the mechanic. Now they are telling us the timing belt broke and it needs a new engine! My question is this: After all the work that we’ve had done: New head gasket: $1980.00 Wiring harness $800-900 and Actuator $1800 plus labor the bill was $5198.00 should we have to pay for the new engine? After all, doesn’t the head gasket etc come with the new/rebuilt engine? We paid $3500 and still owe the balance for repairs. My thought is that we should not have to pay any more on the repair of the vehicle. What do you think? Or do you have any suggestions?

I think that something is fishy, but I don’t think you can prove it.

They had to remove the timing belt in order to replace the head gasket. Normally, mechanics replace every expendable they touch, especially when they are sticking you for $2k for a head gasket job. They do that because many customers will blame them and demand a free repair if anything in any way related to their repair fails in the short term after their repair.

Did they give you a detailed invoice? What parts did they replace for $2k? Furthermore, if the timing belt was two weeks away from failure, it would have looked bad when they held it in their hands. They would not have put it back in.

Two years ago I did my head gasket myself for $200 and a Saturday, and that included a new timing belt and several other new parts while I was in there.

The logical answer is that they messed up somewhere:

  1. They abused the timing belt and damaged it,
  2. They left something loose, like a tensioner bolt.
  3. They left something rubbing the timing belt.

Unfortunately, unless you were charged for a new timing belt on the original head gasket job, you are going to have a heck of a time proving that they messed up.

The prices you cite are really high. What actuator are you talking about?

If the body is good, you MAY want to invest in a junk yard engine, but you definitely want to stay away from that shop.

The first thing is that your son should never have purchased a 16 year old Benz. Age and mileage dictates it needs repairs and Benz repairs, as you have now discovered, are not cheap.

A head gasket “does not come with a new engine”. It’s not even in the same territory, the shop is not at fault, and you should not attempt to blame them for lack of diligence before buying the car.

The engine is likely repairable but the cylinder head will have to be removed (again) and a complete valve job performed along with replacing any damaged valves.
Pistons can be inspected for damage and odds are the lower end of the engine will be fine, but even that can be a coin flip.

The belt replacement interval is every 60k miles or else, and the else is what you’ve experienced.
You’re up the creek badly here with no cheap way out unfortunately. This is why any used car should be thoroughly inspected before the purchase; and especially a high end car like a Benz.

This is where I respectfully disagree. The belt does not have to come off; only removed from the camshaft sprocket and allowed to remain in place.
Visual inspection of a timing belt is not a valid one either because an aged belt that is about to break may appear fine visually right up to the nano-second that it breaks.

It’s possible the previous owner was looking at a large timing belt repair bill and did what many individuals do when confronted with spending a chunk of money on their car - they dump it off on an unsuspecting buyer who fails to inspect the car or verify answers to the right questions rather than dig into their own pocket.

Timing belt? If I’m not mistaken, these cars use timing chains, not belts, and they should last 500,000+ miles under normal operating conditions.

So, after you tell me that we made a mistake (I know that) what should we do…other than walk away from the car (which is not an option) should we go ahead with the repair and pay the ADDITIONAL $3200 that they are telling us for the engine (which by they way they aren’t billing us for labor) or negotiate with them to not pay anymore than the original repair bill of $5200?

When the OP says belt,I believe belt,I must make a rule for my self to check if it really has a belt.Good call Cal Learner. Don’t trust the OP’s version of the story,verify.

Sorry, what is an “OP”? He might have said timing chain…i sort of half listened after he told me $3200 more!!

You are the “OP” (original poster). You need to bring in a knowledgeable friend to help you on this, it’s big $$, hard for us to diagnose from afar. Do you have someone that knows cars you can talk to?

I found a 1993 300E discussion on a Mercedes-specific forum. Evidently the head gasket and wiring harness are known problems for this year.

Perhaps, you should try posting to this forum.

Ed B.

My '92 300E has a timing chain. The independent Mercedes shop told me a few years ago that these chains have NOT been a weakness in these engines. If the shop really said a timing belt broke then something is very fishy.

If the engine is toast I second the opinion of locating a used one from a junkyard.

Agree that this is sounding fishy - mechanic may be claiming a different part broke to cover faulty work on his part - would be very unusual for something else to break within 24 hours of major work, much more likely he did something wrong. Use the Car Talk mechanic finder to find a trustworthy mechanic, have them take a look.

If I understand the post correctly, you did not yet get a new engine, you got a head gasket, a wiring harness, and an acuator (vacuum actuator for the EGR valve perhaps???). And you’ve now been told it needs an engine due to a broken timing belt.

No disrespect intended, but it sounds like your son may have simply bought a 15 year old mercedes that was due for some serious work. And, as others have noted, mercedes parts and labor do not come cheap.

I know you’ve spent a small fortune on the car and it’s human nature not to want to walk away, but he may be better served to sell it as-is, being honest about the needed engine, hope someone knowledgable buys it as a project vehicle, and writes the balance off as the cost of an education. It sounds like there’s a good chance that he may have to keep shoveling money into this vehicle to keep it running.

I’m sincerely sorry for him, but that’s my honest opinion. Keeping this car may be folly.

Since the word “head” appears to be used in the singular (and I’m no Benz expert in spite of working a number of them) it sounds to me the car has a belted engine.

Even if it had a chain and the chain broke, what does that tell you? It tells you the engine is worn out also.

The OP and son are in a tough spot and it’s difficult to decide which way to go this. They’re into this car so deep now they will never see daylight and will be even deeper after more repairs.

Any engine option is a crap shoot. Install a used engine and who knows if it’s any good until started. Repair the existing cylinder head, file off any nicks in the tops of the pistons, and pray to the gods the lower end has survived.

The latter would be one of two things I would do if the car were mine. The second thing I would do if the car were mine would be to yank that overpriced Benz powertrain out and replace it with an SEFI Ford 5.0 w/AOD transmission.
(It’s been done several times but not by me)

The Gates site lists no timing belts for any of the engines offered in the '93 300E (2.8, 3.0, and 3.2) Where are our resident M-B experts Benzman and Craig58 when we need them?

I also thought that all Benz cars were chain operated but since a number of sites, including eBay, are offering belts and belt tensioners I assumed that possibly the smaller engine was belt operated.

Either way, if there is no misinterpretation here (mechanic said chain, OP said belt) and a chain broke this means the chain was more than likely worn out along with the rest of the engine; OR, maybe the head gasket diluted the engine oil bad enough to wash out the crankshaft bearings. Odds are a chain operated cam has an oil pressure sensitive chain tensioner and if oil pressure is weaker or lost because of washed out bearings the tensioner will retract and something is going to let loose.

A look at eBay shows a number of 2.6 engines (assuming this is the case) for a reasonable price. This could be the best option if one is available nearby.