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Keep or Let go - 1998 Mercedes C43

Let’s start with, this is an emotional thing and I am aware that repairs are needed / I am going to have to put in the work. Major questions, how much is too much and is the car worth it (like is this a car rare or am I just holding that perception)

I had the car in NYC and after going to a MB dealership for some parts I was told it needed $4-5k in work. At that time I took it off the road and put it in storage (also without that work I could not get my state sticker). I then moved to LA and brought the car.

When I took it to a mechanic recently, he said there was too much rust…more exactly he said getting the bolts off could be a problem and was worried that the costs will jump (I trust the mechanic overall due to long standing relationships).

Here are the questions:

  1. From research I have seen that mechanics in this region (LA/Cali) are not used to seeing this much rust - where a mechanic in the northeast and in the rust belt deal with this more often. Is it likely he is just not used to this or should this be a major concern (There are some trouble areas on individual parts and I am ignoring any rust on the body which is there but not huge - just thinking about the chassis and don’t see and “real” damage when I went under the car).

  2. This too me is the bigger question and ties to my emotional connection (and assumes the chassis is okay): I would hate to see this car go and get fixed by someone else as I think it is rare enough to hold on to. Am I wrong? Is a C43 a car worth working on over time?

What else do you need to know and would love some opinions: hold on to the car or should i move on?


For starters, I worked at a Los Angeles area Benz dealer for several years, and I’m familiar with your car

But as you said, we don’t see much rust in the area . . . unless the car is a “transplant”

Why don’t you tell us what these $4-5K of repairs are supposed to be?

“he said getting the bolts off could be a problem”

What bolts?

Exactly what is the mechanic trying to remove, replace, repair, etc.?

A C43 was fairly uncommon. It’s not yet worth a ton of money, but it is a future collectible. It’s the kind of car that Hemmings will be mentioning in a few years

The car is not that rare and the 4 doors kill the collectible value. In 50 years it may increase in value but most of us can’t wait that long. Sell it and start shopping for something else. I attend a lot of vehicle auctions in the southeast and old Mercedes rarely get bid on…if at all.


Perhaps bolts are not the right term and I can’t help too much to that question, but I think if you see the listing below of repairs you will understand what my mechanic is trying to get at.

Part cost quote - repair description
$192 - Gasket(s), Valve Cover - Replace
(?) - Battery replacement

It has a few things going for it from a collectibility standpoint:

  1. The C43 is the first model fully assembled at AMG.
  2. It is fully competitive with the BMW M3
  3. It was only made for 3 years, and only 4200 units were produced

Depending on how long you want to keep it, it could be worth more than you paid for it. You would have to hold onto it for a while and restore it to realize any gain. That especially includes all the rust. Monetarily, it probably isn’t worth it, but if you are crazy for the car and don’t plan to use it as a daily driver, you might consider it.


Thanks for the update

FYI . . . there’s no real reason to go to a Benz dealer for these repairs

If it were my car, and I wanted to keep it going

I would buy a cheap chinese radiator from one of those mom and pop shops
Aftermarket water pump and thermostat
aftermarket coolant hoses
aftermarket belt and tensioner
aftermarket brake hoses
the guide bushing you SHOULD get from the dealer, though. It’s a VERY easy repair

I don’t know how bad the power steering leaks really are. I would not replace the box just yet. The pump, however, is pretty easy

FYI . . . there is a seal between the power steering reservoir and the pump. This seal goes flat and leaks. MANY guys see a leak and mistakenly think the pump is leaking, when in fact it’s only that cheap seal. It’s also a very easy repair

As for the AC compressor, legally a shop should not just charge it up, if the can see that a component is leaking. that is no longer legal

The brake hoses, belt, tensioner, water pump, radiator and hoses would be a priority for me

I would keep an eye on the power steering fluid level. I wouldn’t be surprised if the leak isn’t even that bad

I would leave those valve cover gaskets alone . . . unless they’re leaking onto the hot exhaust manifold, causing smoking or a fire

The guide bushing is such an easy and cheap repair. Just go for it. One important thing to note . . . do NOT replace the guide bushing when the transmission fluid is hot. Trust me on this. What could happen is that you will neither be able to remove it, nor replace it. You will distort the electrical conductor plate within the transmission. And that will cost you a few hundred bucks to replace.

Also do not let any shop tell you that 722.9 fluid is required to top off the transmission. 722.6 is what your car calls for and it’s cheaper than 722.9. 722.9 is backwards compatible, but an unnecessary expense

How often have you had that transmission serviced?

Did you ever replace the spark plugs and wires

I suspect the only item where rust might be an issue is the power steering gearbox, and like I said, I kind of doubt it’s worth doing it

Can you post some pictures of these bad/leaking components?

The C43 goes for $6000 or so on Ebay, you’re not going to make a lot of money. The rust is a MAJOR killer on value. So do what you want based on how you like the car. Don’t expect to make money on all the work you’ll need to do.

Can you post a photo of the rust?
That’s the one thing that cannot be fixed unless you have a really, really, really deep wallet. Everything else will be expensive on this car, but unless you have dramatic resources body rot could cause your emotional attachment to bankrupt you.

As regards the inspectors in CA being not used to seeing rust and therefor not judging it the same way an inspector from the Northeast would, that doesn’t really matter. If CA inspectors won’t pass the car, it matters not what northeast inspectors would do.

Look, you’re in California now. There are fan clubs for cars like yours, and the people that love those cars know far more than any dealership about the particular needs of the model. Go into Google and search “Mercedes C43 forum” and you’ll get lots of leads. Then join up with one or two and post your questions there.


California doesn’t have safety inspections, “only” smog inspections :smiley:


With all due respect, I think we’ve given pretty decent advice so far

No need to give up on us just yet

I think you’re selling us a bit short . . . after all, there are a bunch of mechanics on this website, some of them even worked at Benz dealership and are familiar with OP’s car :astonished:

But the fact is that any competent and experienced mechanic could give good advice, even more so if pictures were provided

I’m in agreement with db4690 as usual. The first thing I would clear up is the rust issue and just how bad the rust is. It makes no sense to spend money on mechanical repairs if the chassis is about to crumble into dust.

As to the comment by wentwest I will add this. DB4690 obviously knows Benzes.
The problem with going onto a make specific site and getting advice from someone who loves the car in question and does some of their own repairs while not being a pro technician does not mean for one second they’re as proficient as they may claim to be.
“Know far more than any dealership…”? I have to respectfully disagree with that statement.

Some years ago a Subaru owner on this forum was irritated with me when I told him that his rough idle did not and could not have anything to do with a bad ring/pinion gearset (car stationary at idle)
This guy went onto several Subaru forums and ripped me apart to the “forum experts” about what a loser I am and that I didn’t know crap about the subject.
Worse; the “Subaru forum experts” were in full agreement with this guy that I was clueless.

@db4690 and @“the same mountainbike” - Wish I had taken some photos as it is at the mechanic now. If they will lift it again I will take some photos. And @“the same mountainbike” - it wasn’t the inspectors that cautioned it was the mechanic - his point was less about ability to drive, rather dumping too much money into the car…but interesting to know that they only check smog here.

@wentwest understand your point - just have trusted this site and ideally not looking for someone with the same emotional attachment - but I will be checking out those forums and meetups.

Thank you for all the comments!! I will go from here but if I can get some pics I will put them up.

If I were you…and i had an attachment to this vee-hickle…as you do… I would Roll up my sleeves…grab a manual…and start wrenching. If you like the car now you will have a full on romance with her once you know how to work on her. You will bond with the machine and it will overpower any aprehension you may have that you cannot do the work yourself.

This stuff isnt rocket science…most often it is your level of interest that propels you forward into the unknown mechanically. Now dont get me wrong…if we were discussing a full engine rebuild we need to have a sit down prior to disassebly and a major pow wow prior to reassembly…but for the ancillary stuff? You can handle it…I know you can…just from your interest in the vehicle.

The value of a machine is all subjective…Ive seen guys turn an engine, frame and a rusty B-Pillar back into a complete musclecar…when there really was no car left in any real sense of the word! WHY? It had sentimental value and no one can assess that value but you. Rust? Its stopped people before sure…but not all… I’m not a fan of rust…no one is…if its too far gone thata way…you need to figure out how much you can handle…some is doable…more rust than sheet…probably should not be dealt with…But guys do this all the time… Refer to my rusty B-Pillar story…these stories happen daily and are driving around now…at great effort and expense…but if you asked the guy who finished the project if he regretted what he did…I guarantee you wont find much in the way of regrets.

Take pictures…remove one thing at a time…go slow…and you will be surprised what you can handle. Remove/Reinstall…its not too difficult. You will save yourself massive amounts of cash and more importantly she will become your new mistress in a good way.

Thats how I’m thinking about this…especially when discussing one of the first AMG machines. Then again…this is coming from a Certifiable Gearhead, I develop deep relationships with mechanical things and sometimes logic is nowhere to be found in my endeavors…but do I find enjoyment ? You bet I do…otherwise I wouldn’t bother.


Forget the photos of the rust. Just tell us: Is the body rusty, or is the mechanic upset that the bolts are rusty?

If the body’s rusty… Well, get ready to spend some serious money to make it look good again. Unless your emotional attachment to it is extreme, I’d sell it… And be prepared to take a bath on it because you’re competing against a used car market where rust is almost unheard of.

If it’s just bolts on the power steering rack, etc, and the body is in good shape, then unless you plan to enter it at Pebble Beach, no one cares. Except, apparently, your mechanic, which made me chuckle. Back in NYC or here in MN where I am, a car without rusty bolts on the undercarriage is a true unicorn. You’ll never see one. Obviously your mechanic has never worked in a place that has winter. :wink: If he’s really nervous, tell him a guy from a rust state sent word to make a 50/50 mixture of acetone and ATF, and to squirt that on the bolts, then come back in 15 minutes with a breaker bar.

If shop labor rates are 100 dollars an hour the repairs may not be palatable because when it comes to northern rust cars I think a mechanic is foolish to even quote a price on some repairs.

The customer should be prepared to accept an open-ended estimate to the effect that it will be at least X dollars unless (fill in the blank…).

Rust is not much of an issue here in OK but I’ve gotten involved in some of those Rust Belt cars that ended up here and with many things on them they are simply not going to come apart without destroying something; or a lot of somethings.

Thats why Oxy Acetylene was invented :wink:


I’ve been away from that dealership for several years, but OP’s car is one that I remember

For the record, this was not the “first” factory AMG car. I believe that would have been the C36, which had a straight 6, which was sold here 1995-1997, I believe

The C36 was delivered ready for conversion. The C43 was the first one fully assembled at AMG. I don’t know if it makes any difference to buyers, but the C43 was hand assembled and the C36 was not. That’s what I meant by the comment.

OK, I get your point. I wasn’t try to be critical of the experts on this forum. I was starting from a point of view that the OP really wasn’t a gearhead, and that he was being told some kind of tall tale by the mechanic who wrote up the list of jobs that on page 1. That list just didn’t make a lot of sense to me, with a mixture of needs based on some pretty flimsy evidence and a comment about rust that needed a lot more detail.

What I was hoping was that he would find a group or individual near him who would be able to help him figure out what needed to be done, and what was urgent versus what could wait. To me situations like this one are much better handled by someone knowledgeable who can actually look at the car and see what’s going on. I don’t know anything about the mechanic that saw the car, but that list was pretty superficial.