In your humble opinions'

Here’s the story. About 8 months ago I needed to buy a new car. I have always wanted an older mercedes benz which can be troublesome when your income is more suited for a honda or a toyota. But it is awfully hard to consider those types of cars when you already have your heart set on something entirely different. To make a long story short, I managed to convince myself that it wouldn’t be too much of an expense keeping up the car as long as I found one that was well maintained. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with such a car. I thought I did, but I didn’t. So here’s where I’m at. The harsh reality of owning a benz has set in. There are quite a few things that need to be done in order for this car to be in tip top shape. I cannot afford to do these things at the present time so I am wondering what you insightful, venerable, humbly opinionated, cartalk advisors would suggest I do. The way I see it is I can choose to a: put the money into it and hope after that it’s solid for years to come… b; buy a different car and sell this one as is… or c: drive it till the wheels fall off whilst saving for my next new old car. ???

There are a couple of Mercedes mavens here who will undoubtedly offer you good advise, but you’ll need to give them more info: model, year, miles on the car, maintenance issues, and current problems, for starters.

It’s hard enough to solve problems on and make decisions about cars when they’re right there in the shop, surronded by thousands of $ worth of tools and diagnostic equipment, much less do it over an internet post. To be honest, you haven’t given any specific information whatever except that the vehicle in question is a Mercedes. Can we at least start w/ make, model, year, engine size, diesel: Y/N?; and mileage? I’m not

trying to be rude, but the OPer’s have got to at least try to anticipate questions posters may have. If not, then the entire post gets drawn out and probably will get neglected. Not trying to be rude, just a word to the wise.

We do really need to know something about the model, year, and condition of the car to give you a useful answer. What exactly is wrong with it, and what types of estimates have you been given to fix it? Also, who are you taking it to, dealer or independent shop? Finally, how much do you have invested at this point, both purchase and repair costs?

You haven’t told us the year or model of your Mercedes, so it’s hard to be precise. However, in my opinion you made a mistake buying a car you can’t afford. DON’T compound your mistake by spending MORE money. You can spend until you are broke and maybe not have a running, reliable, older Mercedes Benz.

You bought a car that’s meant for rich people. Are you rich? No, of course you aren’t. If you were, you wouldn’t be asking for advice, you’d just be writing large checks at the local Mercedes Benz dealership, and thinking nothing of it.

Dump this car before it bankrupts you. I’m SERIOUS!

If you can’t really afford to maintain an older Mercedes (well-maintained or otherwise), then you should not buy one. I know, it’s tempting. We all wish for that “dream car.” I’d love to have a Bentley Continental, but I can’t possibly afford one, unless I sold my house and my furniture, cashed out my 401k, and borrowed a few thousand dollars.

Tempting, however. I wonder if I could sleep comfortably in a Bentley Continental?


Thanks for the advice. It’s an 86 300e. Odometers broken, stopped at 170,264.
Issues at hand:
Transmission output seal, brake fluid renewal, pwr. steering reservoir seal, return hose and pressure hose leak, strut towers split, ball joint boots torn, control arm bushings weathered, warped front rotors, fan clutch inop., heater fan noisy, upper front cover, oil sender, possible head gasket, vacuum elements that control air flow through vents (5 out of 6 inop.)Convert AC back to R12, The pulley by the water pump is very squeaky and upon closer inspection, many things in that area are worn and could stand to be replaced. Plus, very minor cosmetic and less important details… I was told it is not unsafe, just costly to get it up to snuff.
Things I have already replaced:
Drive belt, Motor mounts, transmission mount, shifter bushings, front tie rod ends, differential bushings, Idler arm bushings

aaaah temptation. I fell for her wiley ways. What do you think of an already restored 69 VW fastback? Though that Bentley sounds nice…

Although I am NOT one of the Mercedes guys of whom I spoke, your detailed description leads me to believe that you don’t own a Mercedes but a rather a large hole into which you can shovel money until the cows come home, and still not have a working vehicle. It sounds pretty thoroughly used up, I’m afraid. I therefore vote for option “b”. Of course, you could go for option “c”, but that will probably buy about a block and a half travel distance.

OK, it sounds like you went to a dealer and got the whole list of issues required to make the car correct. Let’s try to prioritize this stuff a little and decide what your goals are. Are you planning on making this car perfect, or are you trying to turn it into a reliable daily driver? How much money are you really willing to spend on this car? How long are you planning on keeping it?

What you have is a list of some potentially expensive stuff mixed in with some routine maintenance type items. I would start with “possible head gasket” and see if that is real or not. If you really need a head gasket, get a cost estimate (probably around $1000) and decide what you want to do. The “warped front rotors” are really a maintenance item (about $500) because they are recommended to be replaced with the brake pads anyway. I’m guessing you have another $1000 worth of suspension odds and ends on the list. While I agree that whoever hacked up the AC system should be shot, converting it back the the correct coolant (R-12) probably isn’t a priority and is fairly expensive. Most of the other stuff seems pretty minor but the total will be costly. I’m guessing they gave you an estimate of several $1000 to do everything.

If it was mine, I would find out about the head gasket and decide if I was willing to fix that. If so, I would take care of the brakes and any suspension issues that are really critical. Then I would start picking away at the little stuff. You are probably looking at $1500 to 2500 to take care of those initial items (just a guess). I would guess that you are looking at another $2000 to 3000 to make everything (more or less) correct. So the question becomes, are you willing to spend, maybe $5-6000 over the next few months/years to get this car where it should be?

If you do not want to start down that road, you are better of selling it to someone who is willing to spend some cash to make up for past neglect. If you do half these repairs, then try to sell it you will not get most of your money back. If you spend this money, make sure you are planning on keeping the car long enough to justify the expense (keeping in mind that routine maintenance/repair of a car this age will probably run in the $1-2000/year range). I’m not trying to scare you off, I have a significantly more money than this into my cars, but you do need to know what you are committing to once you spend more than the “book value” of the car.

One last comment, if you have estimates from a dealer try to get another estimate from a good independent benz shop. You may find the prices to be lower and they will probably do a better job prioritizing these items.

You have a lot of issues here and while this car could be acceptable to a DIYer it sounds like a money pit if you have to farm all of this stuff out.

Split ball joint boots probably means bad ball joints also. A “possible” head gasket problem and the one that really raises a red flag, strut towers “split”???, kind of leads me to agree with NYBo that this car is going to be a perpetual headache. My vote is for “b” also.
Throw the receipts in the seat and tell the potential new owner the car still “needs some stuff” as far as you know and leave it at that.

It’s really hard to tell from the description, but I suspect this list represents making the car close to “perfect,” not making it a “working vehicle.” I could probably find $5000 worth of repairs on just about any 20 year old car without trying too hard. The dealers’ default position is usually that you want the car “like new” or you wouldn’t have brought it to them.

Some of this stuff, like converting the AC system back to R-12, is the correct thing to do but is not really necessary if you just want something decent to drive (I spent about $1500 converting my AC system back to R-12 a few years ago). Other things, like a potential head gasket leak, need real attention if you are going to keep the car. Dealers tend to scare folks with a giant estimate to fix everything all at once, then they wonder why some people don’t like to go to the dealer for service.

My guess is that this car needs a few $1000 of immediate attention, followed by a couple $1000 per year until it’s “caught up” to where it should be. The only question is whether the OP wants to do that, or if she just wants to drive something that’s less of a hassle.

“strut towers “split”???”

That’s just the rubber piece on the upper strut support on a W124, they always crack with age and have to be replaced:

The possible head gasket issue is often an external oil leak on the engines, it’s pretty hard to tell exactly what’s leaking without getting into it. That would be my only real concern, everything else is just time and money that can be done a little at a time. I’m not sure how much effort I would put into a W124 either, but I do know some folks who have spent a small fortune preserving them. I just don’t know the OP’s goals, if she’s not looking for a hobby she should probably sell it to someone who is.

Ok, an insulator I could understand. I was taking her literally on the towers splitting and the first thing that came to mind was being eaten alive by rust.
The price on those mounts is not bad at all.

Wow, thanks for all the info. As you can probably tell, I had no idea what I was in for. At the time I bought the car I had a boyfriend who seemed pretty capable of doing a lot of this work with me. (Typical girl, huh?) On my own, I don’t know what’s up or down. I don’t even own the tools. So, life lesson learned. I should’ve looked a little closer before I leapt. Although I love this car I really don’t have the funds to keep it up. It’s a little sad to realize. I am planning on taking a shop class at the local college though, so next time maybe i’ll know a little better what i’m in for. Thanks again. You all helped me quite a bit.
On a lighter note, anyone want to buy a beautiful 86 mercedes benz 300e? :slight_smile:

Well, while I firmly condone taking the college class, I submit that you don’t NEED it per se. Especially w/ today’s helpful internet (like this board), there’s nothing stopping you from learning lots of stuff yourself. Lord knows I’m no “certified technician”, but I AM below the official poverty line- which pretty much meant I had to learn how to do stuff myself. -I’m sure that goes for a lot of people on the board- Over time, thats enabled me to get some pretty sweet rides with minor, easy to fix problems for practically no cost.

Now, I’m not advocating you keep the Mercedes, but IF you thought you could swing it, and you really do love that car, I say you park it and make it a project car. Something to learn on.
Granted, making a Mercedes a “first” mechanic car probably makes for a pretty steep learning curve, but I’m sure there’s lots of online “support groups” (i.e. forums) for mechanical advice and access to cheap(er) parts.

I donno. Just an idea. I’ve got this thing about self sufficiency.

Not to pick on you after the fact, but it is prudent to have this type of inspection done before you buy the car. A good pre-purchase inspection would cost a couple $100 and would have found most of these issues. It could be significantly worse, you could have ended up with a car that was not drivable (or sellable) because it needed a $4000 transmission or a $7000 engine. As it is, you just bought a car with a bunch of “deferred maintenance” from the previous owner. Unfortunately, all those little things do get expensive. If you want to get into more detail on your specific car (including it’s current value), talk to these guys:

Agreed! It sounds like you failed to have a trustworthy mechanic thoroughly check out this car before you bought it. Some of these items may be really necessary to keep the car going, while others will be “nice” to have for a near-perfect car. Finally, why do they want to change the A/C back to R-12? R-12 is the nasty ozone-eater, while its replacement, R-134, is less damaging. I don’t even know if you can legally convert it back (and R-12 is now very expensive).

“Finally, why do they want to change the A/C back to R-12? R-12 is the nasty ozone-eater, while its replacement, R-134, is less damaging. I don’t even know if you can legally convert it back (and R-12 is now very expensive).”

The short answer is that R-12 is correct for the car, I have R-12 in both mine. The real answer is the the AC systems in these cars have pretty small evaporators and condensers, R-134a is barely adequate if it’s above about 90F. Also, R-134a runs at higher pressures, which is a little harder on the compressors. I had R-134a in one of mine for a while, until the compressor seized (about $1500 to replace all the bits and pieces). It is now back to R-12, and it will stay that way indefinitely.

It’s perfectly legal to use R-12 if you follow the rules (recovery) and have a license to buy it. It only costs about $60/pound now (retail). Im practice, the required license can be obtained by taking an on-line open-book test for about $20, and just about anyone can buy R-12 (fairly cheap) on ebay anyway.

You say you love the car. Fix the head gasket, if it needs one. Take it to an independent Benz repair shop for an evaluation. Treat each repair as a couple-or-three car payments. Then go after the suspension issues around March. The brakes can wait. Warped rotors are annoying, but should not be much of a problem. After that, you might want to do the transmission seal. And keep track of transmission fluid. Refill it as needed. That will also give you an idea of how the failing seal effects the fluid level. You might decide to defer that repair to the fan clutch and heater blower motor. Eventually, you can get to the small stuff. Craig58 has around 300,000 miles on his Benz diesels. You should be able to get a lot more mileage out of your car, too. If you love it, stick with it. You will enjoy it even more when the repairs are done.

Actually, I just turned over 416K miles on one of them ('82 300D), but they are not cheap to maintain. IMO, they are worth the cost, but I probably average about $.30/mile (maybe $.15 for fuel and $.15 for everything else combined). Driving something that old is a hobby and does require a certain financial commitment. You really have to decide if you are willing to spend a couple of $1000 per year for whatever happens to need attention at the moment. Today, I would fix it if I liked the car, but 20 years ago I would have sold it because I couldn’t have afforded to maintain it properly.

On my car, I spent about $4000 putting in a transmission at about 250K miles (mostly due to past neglect), and I had a freak failure of a vacuum pump part that got caught in the timing chain and caused $2500 of engine damage a while ago. Two months ago, I paid about $700 in labor to have a $12 gasket replaced to get rid of a little oil drip. I’ve replace most of my AC system twice (about $1500 each time). I will eventually have to install a remanufactured engine (about $7000 plus labor). I’ve lost track of the $500 odds and ends that periodically crop up. I could never sell mine for what I have spent, but that’s not my goal. I enjoy driving it (more than the new ones) and am willing to pay for it.

These are very cool cars, but if have to worry about the expense they are hard to enjoy. I don’t want to be discouraging, but I would hate to see the OP put $5000 into it and end up having to sell it at a loss. She needs to make a realistic decision whether she really want to keep this car.