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Repair or scrap 1999 mercedes E320

I love my 1999 Mercedes E320 4-matic. it has 213K miles and we have recently invested $1.5k in minor rust eradication on the body. Now we have a serious noise that may be drive train related. Once the dealer gives me the (bad) news how much is reasonable to invest to keep this car another few years? or do I quit and purchase another car now?

I would suggest finding a shop that specializes in MB or knows them quite well. MB dealers are very pricey for a variety of reasons.

Get a quote from an independent and go from there.

Get a few diagnoses of the noise. If you think it’s the transmision get an opinion for a transmission specialist. After you have several well explained opinions (including costs), decide if the work is worth it. I’d pay for it. You just had a lot of body work done, so you must want to keep the car.

I do really love the car but I wonder at what point I’m sinking money into a lost cause. There is really nothing out there I want to drive instead, but I worry that I’m spendng a lot a car that is nolonger worth anything, except to me.

Just curious here but could you describe the noise you’re hearing along with any other symptoms?
It sounds like you’re expecting the worst and the problem could be very minor in nature.

As a tech I’ve seen a lot of vehicles in which the owners have expected something dire or had spent hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars on a vehicle in an attempt to cure a problem which turned out to be a 20 dollar fix. In one case it was over a grand. The problem on this particular one was simply a 25 cent fuse melting internally and making and breaking contact on a random basis.

Sounds as if it coming from rear–and it is a fwap fwap fwap WHEN I AM COASTING. It disappears when I accelerate or break (firmly). It is noticable only at 40 mph or less, and the fwap rate slows when I slow down. I took it to my tire guys who were stumped and suggested it could be a drive train problem–they did not see anything obvious on the lift. Not a bearing or tire problem.
I am wondering if ti is drive train, how expensive might this be?? thousands?? i replaced the rear shocks a while back and that was thousands! I have always ried to keepthis car in tip top shape and have made the necessary repairs along the way–maily because i really love the car. thanks for yor thoughts.

I’m leaning towards a driveshaft problem. A problem in thia area may not be visible at all. There are any one of several things it could be. While I did not research these items to see if they’re specific to your vehicle it will give you a general idea of what the problem could be. Note the driveshaft support bearing, flex disc, and driveshaft bushing.
At 213k miles any of those items are a distinct possibility.

I would not rely too much on a tire shop to diagnose and repair a problem like this. If you do not want to give up blood to the Benz dealer you might have a good independent shop that specializes in European cars take a look at this or even a shop that specializes in driveline repair. In the yellow pages the latter is often listed in the “driveline” section rather than the “automobile parts and service” section.

Hope some of that helps anyway. :slight_smile:

I would wait to find out the result of the dealers inspection and cost estimate but I drive a 1994 bmw 530 with 170k and i would not trade that car for a new caddy so i would spend 5k± on your car no problem!The way i look at it if i am not spending more on maint than it would cost to lease a new on i spend the money on a old paid for car

thanks so much for your ideas–this is really helpful.

somehow my first reply got lost–but anyway, I really appreciate that you understand my dilemma. I just needed to hear from someone else (objective) that even an expensive fix on this car is probably better than getting a new one. BTW I drove a "95 BMW 525 which was my all time favorite car to drive–I had to part with it because I needed 4WD which I got with the 4-matic. I still dream of that car sometimes, but the new BMW’s are so over the top with electronics now I am not as enthused. This is why I so badly want to stick wit this car. maybe in a few years (when I hit 300K hopefully) there will be good Benz or BMW that will give me that “wish-to-own-it” feeling again.

Dear wbp:

It appears you have a very emotional relationship with your car. That has its good points, but unlike a spouse, you have to be prepared to say goodbye when it is economically sensible!

As recommended by others, you should get at least one quote from a good Mercedes-knowledgeable independent garage. The repair will not be cheap, since the 4 Matic is a technically sophisticated system. A dealer fix will most likely mean and extensive rebuild which will exceed the value of the car. You state that you NEEDED 4WD, and got rid of the BMW. It’s understandable that you needed better traction, since any BMW 2WD is a diaster traction-wise. But do you really need 4WD? Do you live in snow covered mountain country or in Alaska? About 95% of Americans who have 4WD DON’'T NEED IT!! Most front wheel drive cars with good winter tires are light years better on traction than your BMW was.

In 1999 the 4-Matic was really advanced. Since that time many less expensive cars have come on the market that are as good as the 4-Matic. If repairs are not economical to make, this group will gladly recommend at least 5-6 vehicles that I’m sure you will like.

Your first step is to get a realistic repair estimate, pass it by us, and then decide on a course of action.

We know it’s hard to part with an old friend, but there has been significant progress in the last 19 years in car and tire design.

I would appreciate seeing your list. It seems I am constantly looking at what could possibley replace this beloved vehicle. I need 4wd–we go to Canada to ski most weekends, and some of the roads we must travel are un paved or barely paved. Summer there can be muddy too. We live in a snowy part of MA and need to be able to get through most anything. This car has never failed us. (well once we ended up in a ditch but that was breaking not accelerating).
I am getting the dealer to look at the car today. I will let you know as soon as I hear the diagnosis.
If we do go with somethig new, I am partial to German cars as opposed to Japanese. I would consider BMW, Audi or Benz as MY first choices but these cars are not getting as good milage as i already get on the E320 (23/26). I sort of want to wait for the next generation of either hybrid or deisel (with 4wd) and I will not drive an SUV. Price is really not a big issue as O am willing to spend $50-60K to get what I want–I just want more than any car can give me right now. I want better milage then I currently get, and I want as much comfort (the E3320 is hard to beat there) if I am going to buy a new car. I really appreciate your thoughts on a new car as I may have to face that music.

What? You’re going to the dealer today? As the longtime owner of 2 Mercedes my experience is that the dealer is way more expensive than a good independent shop. The independent shops I go to do excellent work. Try to find one in your area by talking to other Benz owners. On a related note, my 300E recently had drivetrain problems and the independent mechanic located a used component which saved me money and solved the problem.

DIAGNOSIS: from the dealer–turns out it was a stuck emergency brake caliper rubbing on the rear wheel. WHAT A RELIEF. So I do get to keep my baby a little longer. I know eventually I’ll have to give her up but I am happy this is no big deal–compared to what I was imagining. (drive train, transmission etc)
Note, for the record, I NEVER use the emergeny break but my husband does–he set it recently (in the garage of all places) and now, thinking back, this may have been the genesis of the noise! (how did the tire guys miss that??)
Well–thank you all for your support and good ideas. I still need to think about that replacement car (so I still hope to get your list of suggestions) as a “just in case”…hopefully I won’t have to cross that bridge for a few more years.
MANY MANY THANKS to all who responded to my question. This has been wonderful.

Glad it was such a cheap fix.

For the sake of the parking pawl in your transmission, you should be using the parking brake regularly. Regular use will probably keep the mechanism free of corrosion, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it sticking.

On second thought, I’m sure the car is ready for big, expensive problems any minute now. I strongly advise you to dump it immediately. Just give me the address where I can pick it up… ;0)

We spend a great deal of time in tthe wilderness as we belong to hiking and skiing groups. The best and most liked vehicle by far is the Subaru Legacy Outback with full time All Wheel Drive, a good engine and lots of ground clearance. Five of our club members have them. All these guys can afford a Mercedes, but avoid it because of price and very poor reliability! Mercedes reliability has gone downhill in the last 10 years and is now way below almost any Japanese car!!

My neighbor’s wife just bought herself and Acura MDX?, a superb AWD vehicle, which sells for about $40,000.

One vehicle not recommended is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s better than a Mercedes, but still unreliable. Most US designed AWDs are not recommended.

Having travelled in both New England and the mountains West, I have never visited a ski resort that was not accessible by PAVED roads. I found Maine roads and Quebec, New Brunswick roads not too much different.

If money is no object (within reason) and you MUST HAVE a 4WD German car, the only one I could recommend is the Audi Quattro; it is a good machine with reasonable reliablity, but extermely expensive to maintain.

Having owned your E320 for so long has perhaps made you unaware of the major changes that have taken place in the car industry. Hyundai, the upstart Korean company, now has better reliability than any US car maker. Mercedes, as stated, has fallen on hard times reliability-wise, as has Volvo, another former good car, now no longer recommended. Toyota and Honda, followed by Subaru and Mazda are the reliability leaders now.

Because of the drop of the US dollar against the EURO and British pound, all European cars are now very expensive to maintain and repair.

As others have advised you, please get another estimate from an independent shop for the E320 repairs. Then you can decide. As I mentioned, a Subaru Legacy Outback can be bought for $35,000 fully loaded, and will take you to Alaska in great comfort and security.

you wish–I have people standing in line to take this baby over when I call it quits. In the end, the car is worth it–at 9 years old and 213K miles it is still a pleasure to drive…NO MATTER WHAT CONSUMER REPORTS SAYS. Thanks for the advice about the e-brake–I was ready to blame my husband for causing the problem.

my husband had a 99 or 00 Forester but it was no match for the E320. We looked at the Outback when he got rid of the subaru (rust around the windshield was a problem way too soon) and he ended up with a Passat which we thought could be the perfect car. The comfort level of the is just not there…and we still take the MB everywhere, leaving the Passat to gather dust as the daily commuter car. The MB oulasted the Forester and may outlast the Passat…I guess I am too attached and will have to broaden my view when the time does finally come to replace it. Do you think they will ever make a 4WD deisel (like the MB Bluetek)?

Glad it’s something simple and it’s a bit odd that the guys looking at the car did not simply rotate the wheels by hand while the car is on the lift. Spinning the wheels should have been step 1 and the noise should have been noticeable.

And I totally agree with your line about “No matter what Consumer Reports says”. It’s absolutely ridiculous that CR bases their findings on a microsopic percentage of what car owners state without spending one minute investigating the story behind any complaint that may exist. Any organization that takes money from a group with a political agenda should not be fully trusted anyway.

In the same vein as Mercedes, SAABs are also routinely bashed as being rolling junk; generally by someone who has never even driven one. As an ex-SAAB tech and current SAAB owner I would disagree with that one also. The general misguided attitude is that your Benz should have been at the car crusher about 150k miles back.
The Asian cars have their share of problems and anyone who does not think so should simply go turn wrenches on them for say 10 years and then post back.

amen to that…and you speak from expeerience.