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Old 04-28-2001, 01:24 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Joliet Illinois
Posts: 309
I found a 1988 260E with 128K miles that appears to be in excellent shape and very well maintained. I'm a long time Volvo owner/maintainerer and not very familiar with Mercedes Benz. I have a couple concerns I need help with before I decide to buy the car:

1. The automatic trans. shifter is marked 2-3-D which to me indicates it is a 4 speed automatic but the car shifts as if it's a 3 speed. The engine appears to shift two times from a standing stop and revs 3500 rpm at 75 mph which seems high to me, like its not going into top gear. If I pull the shifter from D to 3 however, the trans. will downshift to a lower gear.

Is it normal for a Mercedes to rev this high or might there be something wrong with the trans.

2. There is a small oil leak on the upper right front of the engine that may be coming from the top of the timing cover or front of the head gasket. Does anyone know if the leak indicates a major problem or if it's something relatively minor. I have read other posts about Mercedes Benz oil leaks and some people just accept them as normal.

3. The price is $7,000 and the car is in excellent shape with no rust or dents and except for the above, runs like new. Is there anything else, like known trouble spots, I should check for?

John Plut
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Old 04-28-2001, 04:08 PM
David C Klasse's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Mission Hills in the City of San Diego
Posts: 2,352
I will help you with what I can.
I believe (I am pretty sure this would apply to your car), that it will start in second gear, unless put into kick-down. And yes, the Revs are normal. My 1995 C-class is the same way. The transmission sounds fine to me.
As for the oil leak, it could be the head gasket, but I am not sure if this was a problem on that car...
Others will provide more valuable input I'm sure, but for now, I think your transmission is just fine! Good luck.
2006 E350 w/ 155k miles (Daily Driver)

1993 300E 3.2L Sedan w/ close to about 300k miles
2003 E500 Brilliant Silver (Had 217k miles when totalled!)
1989 300E with 289,000 miles (had for <1 yr while in HI)
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Old 04-28-2001, 06:09 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Baton Rouge
Posts: 485
oil leak at engine

They have some head gasket problems (oil leaks).The most common leak is the upper and lower timing cover. Everytime I do one I use the silicone used in the ford recall campaign. It is a gray silicone made by permatex I believe . I do this on all 103 and 104 engines. They usually last for at least 5-6 years with no leak. There is no gasket between both timing covers and the block. The only rubber seal is between the upper timing cover and lower.
euro 287
Mercedes Technician 7 Years (retired to Hyundai)
2000 Dodge Durango
98 Mazda truck
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Old 04-29-2001, 09:03 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Joliet Illinois
Posts: 309

Thanks for you help. I never would have guessed the car is supposed to start in second gear but that explains it. I think I can deal with the oil leaks. I'm really excited about getting my first Mercedes and will probably be posting more questions in the future.
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Old 05-02-2001, 06:44 PM
Posts: n/a

Since the transmission and oil leak issues have been addressed above, I'd like to add another comment.

M103 engines built prior to April of 1989 all have valve guides that wear much more rapidly than the valve guides that superceded them. They typically wear out between 80,000 and 10,000 miles, and sometimes sooner.

I would verify that this vehicle has had a valve job already. If it has not, you should budget $1500.00 or so to have this done. If the vehicle has not had a valve job, I wouldn't even hesitate to do it before starting to drive the car on a regular basis. You don't want to have to deal with the consequences of a car that burns oil over time: stuck rings on pistons, clogged catalytic converter, etc.

We are an independent Mercedes-Benz service center, and we sell pre-owened Mercedes-Benz as well. Just today, we sold an immaculate 1988 260E with 125,000 miles on it. We just did a valve job on it, and the guides were very worn. This car had had the valve stem seals replaced at 49,000 miles. We also did a 30k service, rear muffler, center resonator, rear differential mount bushings, upper and lower rear control arms, and we converted the AC to R134, installing a new receiver/drier in the process. The wood in the car was in next to new condition as well. We sold this car for $8995 with a 3 month/3600 mile powertrain warranty.

My sense is that $7000 is about the right money for an immaculate 1988 260E with 120-140k that has NOT yet had a valve job.

Also, don't let anyone tell you that doing valve stem seals alone will do the trick. Not with 120,000 miles on an 88. This would be doing nothing more than putting a Band Aid on a wound that needed stitches.

Incidentally, my daily driver is a 1988 300E with 239,000 miles. It had a valve job at 130,000 miles, and 109,000 miles later, it does not burn a drop of oil. Note: the new valve guides are much better than the old ones! I am hoping to make it to 300,000 before I need to do another valve job.

Just my $.02. Good luck.

Ed Bardzik
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Old 05-02-2001, 08:15 PM
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Driver, Mercedes-Benz
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Malaysia
Posts: 1,645
My opinions of a 260E is not favourable as I have seen the condition of my Dad's, my colleagues, and one of my friends - whom all had problems with the tranny, steering, and basically, the engine itself. Its powerful when first delivered from the showroom. Through the years, it has become pretty much tame and lame.

Perhaps its prejudicial that the 260Es around me behave all pretty much the same. Or is it me?
... Kerry

126 tailed by a 203, 129 leading the pack.
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