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My rattling Mercedes

Dear Car Talk,

I own a 91 Mercedes, model 190E which is just perfect for a retired single woman. As you probably already assume this car has 141,000 miles with an automatic transmission and I have had it in the various mechanic shops in my small town. I tried to remain with one mechanic or another, for continuity sake, but always find there is something haywire with the repairs done to it. After one of the repairs jobs which included the replacement of the torques converter, rear main and transmission seals to include the O-rings, the car wouldn’t shift from first gear. They kept it for 5 weeks during this repair. I had to rent a car for transportation during this period. I took the car back and they kept it for another three weeks. When the car was returned to me it had a shuddering noise when in drive at idle. If I shift to neutral gear the noise and shuddering stops. I didn’t take it back after that I was so discouraged about the change in the operation of my vehicle. I depend on these mechanics and just feel they are taking advantage. I have taken the car to several mechanics and cannot find anyone that can identify the problem. So I am hoping you have some suggestions on what is causing it the rock and roll of this car.

Thanks for your input.

Linda B

This is very difficult without seeing/driving the car. Have you posted this on a Mercedes 190 forum?

You can click on ‘Mechanics Files’ at the top of this page, see if there are any recommended mechanics in your area.

Now for what I do know: this is a 25 year old German car, you have not found any good mechanics, and it’s causing you lots of problems. My suggestion: sell it and get something much newer, preferably not German.

Since you like it so much, try the Mechanics Files first to find someone near you that specializes in Mercedes Benz, or at least European vehicles. If someone there is as old as you or me, they should have a good understanding of your 190E. MB will make parts for their cars for a very long time. You really need a mechanic that understands them. If you can’t find a mechanic that suits your needs nearby, look a little farther afield, like within 50 miles of home. As a last result, you could sell it and buy a more modern car, maybe another Benz if you like them a lot. By now you must be aware that they aren’t the most reliable cars around, but you understand the quirks. If they don’t bother you, enjoy another MB. But only if you can’t find a specialist for your 190E.

Actually, there is a former MB mechanic that frequents this board. Maybe he could be of help.

That would also be my recommendation.
I know that many people think that a Mercedes-Benz will “last forever”, but that leads to the inevitable question:
At what cost?


2 things come to mind, and they may or may not be the cause of the problem(s)

shift linkage bushings . . . believe it or not, these can be a bear to replace on the 190, more difficult, versus the 300E. That is because of the transmission design, and because there is very little clearance between the transmission and the tunnel. If the bushings are toast, I wouldn’t necessarily count on being able to get the shift lever into all of the positions correctly

I mentioned the bushings, because it’s not 100% clear to me, if the shifting problem is resolved or not. And “wouldn’t shift from first gear” isn’t worded clearly enough for me. Does that mean it will move, but won’t upshift out of first? Or do you mean you can’t get the shift lever out of park?
transmission mount. If it’s collapsed, and I wouldn’t doubt it, given the age, there’s a good chance you’ll have a vibration/shudder. And it will be in “drive” position only, not in neutral or park. However . . . there’s a good chance the motor mounts are also collapsed, again, due to age. I’ve seen situations where only the trans mount was replaced, but the motor mounts were not, and the vibration wasn’t resolved until those were also replaced. sometimes it’s enough to replace only the trans mount. But that only works if the motor mounts are still in reasonable shape

I’m not sure why, but on some of those older Benzes, they are less forgiving of collapsed mounts, versus some other vehicles on the road. The trans mount is solid rubber, but I believe the motor mounts are hydraulic

I do agree with the others, though . . . keeping this vehicle on the road doesn’t make much financial sense. It requires premium fuel, there are safer, more modern, roomier, and more economical vehicles available. Perhaps this vehicle has sentimental value. I hope it’s not rusty . . .

another thing . . . if you keep this car, I suggest you find another shop. This one doesn’t strike me as being very efficient. i’d sure like to hear the reason why they kept the car as long as they did. Unless they’re super swamped, and they’re the only shop in town, there is no excuse, IMO. I suspect they’re perhaps incompetent, inexperienced, or maybe they’re just plain lousy with time management. Perhaps they also take on more work than they can realistically handle, but I suspect the main reason is one of those others I mentioned :frowning:


You make a good point about the failure to shift from first gear. I could have been more clear. The shift lever does move into position and when in gear the transmission did not upshift out of first and thus had no power. What you have relayed about the transmission and motor mounts makes sense. I really like this car and if the cost isn’t too high I would invest the money. Can you give me a guesstimate on how much that might be? I just had the alternator and belt tensioner replaced and other than this rattling I would like to keep this car. However…
Currently I have noticed when parked at a small incline position the gear shift doesn’t quite hold and seems to catch only after it a ratchets down a couple of notches. To be safe I also use the hand brake (which is kind of weak too and is touchy). Would you say this is due to the bad mounts or a transmission problem or other? Sigh…
You have indicated you think this is a lost cause. But I can’t really afford a car payment now. I live about 50 miles from Woodland Hills, CA. can you recommend a good shop there with a good reputation?
Desert Rose

Isn’t Woodland Hills just outside LA? What town is closest to you?

I live about 50 miles north east of Woodland Hills which is north of LA.

Ok. I’ve used Yelp to help find mechanics in areas new to me. Here’s a search in your area, you can click on the various shops and read the reviews to find one that’s highly rated and a good match for your 190:,34.52545094823527,-118.80958557128906,34.24211638223904

Move the map if it’s too far south, but there’s not much north of you, as you well know!

It could be that the engine idle speed is too low and that is what is causing the roughness in gear at idle.
A low idle could be caused by any one of a number of things. You might eyeball the tachometer RPMs both when the engine is idling in gear and when idling in neutral. They should be about the same.

Your car is also fitted with CIS (condolences…) fuel injection and that is a can of worms all by itself. The low idle (assuming for a moment…) could be caused by a vacuum leak. CIS F.I. systems are NOT tolerant at all of any vacuum leaks so a cracked or loose vacuum hose, injector seals, or even the engine oil dipstick not being fully inserted can cause a problem like this.


OK4450 above makes a good point, the shuddering while idling in D could be the CIS is a little clogged up. I’ve got a lot of experience unclogging clogged up Bosche k-Jetronic fuel distributors, so I know that’s definitely a possible explanation for the shuddering. I’m sort of surprised CIS would have been installed in a 1991 car though. VW pretty much eliminated it from the Rabbit/Golf line in the early 80’s, in favor of electronic fuel injection. One thing about CIS, it’s fairly easy to take it apart and give it a thorough cleaning up. So that might be worth a try.

OK, are you sure a 1991 has CIS? I’d have never guessed that, I mean my Corolla of similar vintage has electronic fuel injection.

One more point OP, if your car didn’t shudder in D at idle before, but does now, and all that was changed was the torque converter and some associated seals, I’d guess rather than a CIS problem one of these two things went wrong somehow

  • The new torque converter is no good. Or was incorrectly installed.
  • The transmission isn’t setting properly in its mounts, and so is misaligned with the engine and with the transmission shifting mechanism.

I expect you already know this, but you should only deal with shops that specialize in Mercedes or at least only in German cars. If the shop you are using works on Toyotas, GM, Ford … might be a good idea to find another shop, a Mercedes specialist shop. Or if there isn’t one in your area, a Mercedes dealership shop.

Still out of luck? Desperate? If I wanted to find one of the very best shops in the LA area I’d use the one Hot Rod magazine uses. I think I recall the owner of the LA shop owner’s name is Sanchez there. Ok, here it is

" Southern California Ford rescue specialist, Mark Sanchez’s Advanced Engineering West (AEW)."

I can’t guarantee this shop even works on Mercedes, but if they do, definitely consider them.

I am 100% certain OP’s 190E has CIS . . . all 190Es had it, from the very first, to the very last, which was the 1993 model year, BTW

Benz kept it far longer than some other manufacturers

That said, I think some british cars used it even longer :frowning2:

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“Practical Classics” (a car restoration magazine) features a lot of older British cars in the articles, and you can pretty much predict when the article’s prose goes on to say "and since this car uses the older Bosch CIS injection system the owner is planning on scheduling some extra time " …lol

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I don’t know which used what but I believe CIS was used up until at least the mid 90s on some Euro cars.

VW actually used it until the mid/late 80s but around 1985 the control pressure regulator was eliminated and the function was controlled electronically in the fuel distributor.

I know that I’ve seen quite a few Benz 190s at the Pull A Part yard and they all have CIS on them.

As I said, every 190E ever sold had CIS

I believe the Germans called it K-Jetronic, and the later version was KE-Jetronic

I was thinking that when VW changed to electronic fuel injection in the 80’s for their Rabbit Golf line – I thought it was 1983 that happened – but whever it happened I thought that term meant it used electronically pulsed fuel injectors. Are you saying OK that those Rabbits didn’t have what we now think of as electronic fuel injection with solenoid-pulsed injectors with the fuel flow determined by pulse width , but that the injectors were continuous flow & didn’t have any solenoids and the fuel flow rate was determined by an electronic pressure regulator? hmmm … well, what tended to clog up in my old Rabbit was the plunger in the fuel distributor, so if that got elimated, it should have made for a more robust system anyway. Still the electronic solenoid version with the constant high pressure input seems more forgiving if a little grit makes it past the fuel filter.

My '83 (and I’m pretty sure the '84) Rabbit had the CIS K-Jetronic. So '85 was the earliest for electronic injection Rabbits, I think.

The VWs used CIS up through about 1988 or so. The VW Transporters used electrical solenoid type fuel injectors with the AFC fuel injection.

George, the control pressure regulator I mentioned is not the fuel distributor plunger or the fuel system pressure regulator in the side of the fuel distributor.
It’s commonly called the warm-up regulator and was mounted separately from the fuel distributor with a 2 wire plug and 2 fuel lines.
I (vaguely) recall that 1984 or so was about the last year of the control pressure regulator being a separate unit and in '85 (?) it became an integral part of the fuel distributor.

The control pressure (or warm-up…) regulator’s job was to aid in engine performance during engine warm-up time. This is what the little POS looks like. It’s mounted on the front center of the engine block on the earlier Rabbits.

The warm-up regulator was the most pain in the neck part of CIS systems.

I remember my late 70’s Rabbit having a control pressure regulator that was a separate gadget from the fuel distributor, but as far as I can recall it was never a problem source. I have no idea what happened to my manuals for that car. Otherwise I’d look it up for old times sake. I used the Bentley or Benton? factory service manual and John Muir’s How to Keep It Alive manual. Maybe I gave the manuals to the new owner.

Benz also used that hunk of junk through the 1985 model year

I believe with the 1986 model year . . . KE-jetronic . . . they did away with that beast, and as you said “it became an integral part of the fuel distributor.”