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Old 12-01-2018, 01:21 PM
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sixto sixto is offline
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 20,787
Early 2.5s had wear issues with the timing chain and cam sprocket. Nothing replacement won’t fix.

IMO, all 60x engines need a head gasket replacement at some point. Reasonable DIY job that doesn’t require special tools. You can get by with tools from any auto part store. Chains typically last forever (except for early 2.5s) so I wouldn’t change it just because.

From ‘90 turbo wastegates are controlled by vacuum and electronics for which there isn’t much diagnostic information. If emissions inspections and your conscience allow, swap the vacuum actuator a pressure actuator at the first sign of low power.

Most if not all US 603.96s (3 liter) came with a trap oxidizer that a recall replaced with an oxidation catalyst. The recall might still be active. There is no further coverage if the cat clogs. Some hollow the cat or replace with a straight pipe, again where inspection and conscience allow.

603.96s came with a #14 casting aluminum head that can develop cracks if overheated. Many survive without issue. Someone recently installed one from a wrecking yard and is racking up uneventful miles. I wouldn’t reinstall a #14 head if I had the head off. I’d just factor a possible $1500 repair featuring a later casting head (used parts) into the purchase of a car with a #14 head.

Some 603.97s (3.5 liter) suffer bent rods (see my avatar). IMO EGR bakes oil vapors into carbon on the exhaust valves which force the front edges of the pistons lower. The symptoms are oil consumption and smoke, same as a head gasket failure. You have to measure piston protrusion with the head off to confirm. Rods bent this way won’t strand you. Consumption and smoke will eventually become unbearable. One solution is to retrofit a 3 liter block. Less torque, more willing to rev, not a bad deal. Again, I’d factor $1500 (used parts) into the purchase. .97s came with #17 casting heads which survive overheating better.

Turbos are nice but I wouldn’t dismiss a 95-97 E300. They’re not likely to impress off the line but rev like a Honda... relatively. There are other reasons to prefer a ‘95 124 over earlier 124s. The 606’s only vices are leaky fuel fittings and failed intake manifold actuators. Repairs are simple but time consuming. Oh, and glow plugs breaking in the head. If you’re getting a premium car rather than a fixer upper, make the purchase contingent on replacement of the plugs by a shop of your choice.

Diesels from ‘97 have a 5-speed automatic which to me is a huge improvement on the highway. It’s a more robust box and easier to rebuild at home. Not easy but there’s less to do by experience and feel than with the 4-speed boxes. And being electronically controlled, you need access to SDS or generic equipment with ‘personality’ to reset codes. Disconnecting the battery won’t do it. Bus as you move beyond 124s, more and more of the rest of the car needs SDS for diagnosis, even repair. Dealers typically charge $150 or an hour of shop time to rear and clear codes.

All that said, I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my highway time in a sorted 78-85 300SD. I hate doing valve jobs but that’s the 617’s only bad habit. And seats of that vintage don’t hold up well to time.

98 E320s sedan and wagon
02 C320 wagon

Last edited by sixto; 12-01-2018 at 01:34 PM.
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