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  #1  
Old 03-20-2002, 02:17 AM
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Best year for Diesel Mercedes??

Hello,
You were all so helpful a while back..I almost bought a 72 mercedes and I'm glad I didn't (it was way overpriced)...and I lost my job. But things are picking up and I still have my heart set on a Mercedes Diesel (I hear they last forever etc.)
I'm looking for a used Mercedes....Any suggestions for a good year or a year that I shoud avoid for diesles..I of couse like the style of the older models....Linda
Also when the style of the body changed?
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  #2  
Old 03-20-2002, 03:41 AM
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As far as chassis types, I think you can't go wrong with a well-maintained W116, W123, or the first couple years of W126 cars. This would include the late 70s/early 80s 300SD, 300D, 300TD (wagon), 300CD (2-door coupe), etc.

Look here for lots of great pictures of different models/chassis type, etc.: http://www.dhc.net/~pmhack/mercedes/MODELS.HTM

The 116/123/early126 cars have the bullet-proof 5-cylinder all-iron diesel, with turbocharger (except pre-82 300D/TD. Turbo is very desirable for much better power), and the suspension/transmission/etc. are all very well done.

I'd avoid some of the later diesels with the aluminum head...It easily warps or cracks when overheated. Also I'm not crazy about the later cars with 6-cyl. diesels, and I've heard MANY horror stories about the 350 SDL, so I'd stay away from that for sure.

Before I make any of you 240D guys mad, let me add this....
240Ds are also excellent cars, and possibly even MORE durable, but with the 4-cylinder diesel they can be unbearably slow, especially with an automatic transmission.

I hope this is helpful information...I'm sure I won't be the only one to chime in with advice and preferences.

Mike
__________________
_____
1979 300 SD
350,000 miles
_____
1982 300D-gone---sold to a buddy
_____
1985 300TD
270,000 miles
_____
1994 E320
not my favorite, but the wife wanted it

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Last edited by mikemover; 03-20-2002 at 03:49 AM.
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  #3  
Old 03-20-2002, 11:52 AM
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Mike's advice is very good. I would add that you want to see records of regular maintenance (esp. engine oil/filter changes, trans. oil/filter changes, and valve adjustments) and have a pre-purchase inspection done by a competent shop to spot something that could slip by your inspection.

If you are patient and spend some time looking around you may find a low mileage diesel with regular maintenance at a good price.

Good Luck!
Tom
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  #4  
Old 03-20-2002, 05:56 PM
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This is my response to an e-mail with some further questions from Linda. I wanted to post it here as well, for the benefit of anyone else who may be following this. It's just more general information, so I hope Linda won't mind.

Original message:

Hello Linda,

I'm not sure exactly what year they started with the aluminum heads, but I think it was mid-late 80s on the W126 chassis cars, such as the 300SD. Any 300SD from 78-83 or 84 will be all iron, I'm sure, as well as any 300D or TD...there may be an exception, but I don't think they ever put the aluminum heads in those cars. They are all VERY sturdy cars if well maintained. The six cylinder, which can be found in certain late 80s/early 90s models, is a good engine as well, and offers slightly better performance, but is not the "workhorse" of durability and ease of maintenance that the 5-cyl. is. My personal favorites, for a lot of reasons, are the 78-79 300SD, and the 82-85 300D or TD.

Concerning mileage, with diesels actual mileage is not as significant as diligent maintenance. Try to find a car with good maintenance records, receipts, etc. Preferably done by a MB dealer, or reputable independent shop. If the person was a do-it-yourselfer, like many of us on the shopforum are, I'd ask a LOT of questions, look at their other cars if possible, etc. Some folks are competent to do their own maintenance, some are not. Records of regular oil changes, filter changes, etc. are indications that the owner took pride in his/her car and did the maintenance neccessary to give the car a nice, long lifespan.

Another member on the shopforum is fond of saying, "There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes!" Buy the nicest, best example of whatever model you choose, that you can afford. Rescuing a poorly maintained car will be far more expensive, in the long term, than buying a nicely cared for car in the first place. Often a visual inspection gives a lot of clues as well...If the car looks questionable cosmetically, such as lots of small dings/scrapes in the paint, missing trim, ragged interior, excessively dirty engine, etc...that is often an indicator that they were equally carefree with maintaining the engine. There are always exceptions, but that's a good place to start.

It is not uncommon to see the 5-cyl. diesel cars with 200,000 or 350,000 or even over 500,000+ miles on them, but still running strong and looking great! My 79 300SD has 245,000 miles right now, but runs like new, looks great, starts easily, almost no smoke, etc...It's all in how well it's been cared for. Incidentally, my car came with NO maintenance records (previous owner says he lost them), but I could tell from the overall excellent condition of the car, mechanically and cosmetically, that it had been cared for. Mercedes actually offers free award badges to put on the grille of your car when you reach certain milestones of mileage...I have a 500,000km badge on my car right now.

Certain things to look out for:

Excessive smoke, either on start-up, or while driving. Expect an older engine to smoke a little, but large amounts of smoke can indicate numerous problems.

When the engine is cold, does it start easily after waiting for the glow light to go out? If not, that could indicate bad glow plugs or relay, low compression, valves out of adjustment, etc...

Does the heat and air conditioning work? These are notorious problem areas for Mercedes of any kind, and can be a very expensive repair if everything is not working properly, so check that out thoroughly.

On a car with over 120-150,000 miles, have the suspension checked out, front and back. This is usually about the time that such things as bushings, ball joints, shocks, etc. will start to wear out, and if they have not already been replaced, you will experience premature tire wear, sloppier handling, harsher ride quality, all of which will only get worse over time. These items can add up to an expensive fix as well. That being said, even a Mercedes with a worn suspension still handles better than most cars of the same age. My SD needs over $1,000 worth of front-end work done right now, but it still drives wonderfully, with the excessive front tire wear being the only real annoyance right now.

Do the power locks work properly? Does the engine shut off immediately when you turn the key off? Is the brake pedal solid, but not excessively hard to push? Any of these things malfunctioning can indicate vacuum system leaks, which often can be pretty cheap to fix, but a pain in the butt to diagnose.

RUST. Avoid a car with any significant rust. Rust is car-cancer. Once it starts, it is difficult if not impossible to stop. Cars that have lived in northern climates are often very bad. Check under the carpet mats and in the trunk for water. If the car has leaky windows/trunk/etc., then if it's not already rusty, it will be.

Also, look for obvious things like coolant leaks, dried/worn hoses and belts, oil leaks--any old diesel will leak a little oil, but it shouldn't be all over the place.

Well, that's about all I can think of now.
Good luck, and feel free to write again if you have any other questions.


Mike
__________________
_____
1979 300 SD
350,000 miles
_____
1982 300D-gone---sold to a buddy
_____
1985 300TD
270,000 miles
_____
1994 E320
not my favorite, but the wife wanted it

www.myspace.com/mikemover
www.myspace.com/openskystudio
www.myspace.com/speedxband
www.myspace.com/openskyseparators
www.myspace.com/doubledrivemusic

Last edited by mikemover; 03-20-2002 at 06:02 PM.
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  #5  
Old 03-20-2002, 08:01 PM
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To add to Mike's excellent post, 5 cylinder Diesels were available in the US through the 1985 model year. These would include the (W123) 300D sedan, 300CD coupe and 300TD wagon as well as the (W116 and W126) 300SD sedan. I'm not sure if the coupe was available through 85.

The 300D sedan got a turbocharger in 82, the wagon got a turbocharger in 81. I think the coupe got a turbocharger in 82. The 300SD was avilable in the W116 body style (think 450SEL) from 78 - 80 and in the W126 body style (think 500SEL) from 81 - 85. All SDs are turbocharged.

Everything to this point has iron cylinder heads. Everything below has aluminum cylinder heads. One good thing about the aluminum cylinder head engines is that they have hydraulic valve adjusters that don't require periodic adjustment. A valve adjustment is otherwise required every 15,000 miles. It can be done at home or for around $100 at a shop.

3.0l 6 cylinder cars were available in 86 and 87. Basically you have a choice of the (W124) 300D sedan and 300TD wagon and the (W126) 300SDL. I'm not sure if the 300D and 300TD were available both years.

The 190D was available with a 2.2l 4 cylinder and 2.5l 5 cylinder. The 5 cylinder was available with and without a turbocharger. Manual transmission was only offered in the US in the 190 series.

MB Diesels were again available in the US from 90 - 99 with maybe a lapse in 94. Those cars are much quieter and much more sophisticated, but [I suppose] prone to more problems and as yet a good one for less than $10,000 is a rare find.

Sixto
91 300SE
81 300SD - 292K miles
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  #6  
Old 03-21-2002, 01:13 PM
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take your time!

Linda,
Take your time to find a good one. If you have to pay a bit more it will pay off in the long run. The concensious here seems to lean to the 240D with a manual transmission. Early 80's. Slow but steady; steady gets it!
Pull the floor mats and look for signs of water leakage, check the trunk also. Check the shocks for leakage. Every thing should work, though the cruise control commonly doesn't. Check my other posts about water leakage and fixes ( use the search ).
Finding and driving the right one will be a great pleasure and experience.

Good Luck
The Bern
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  #7  
Old 03-21-2002, 01:47 PM
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The Bern,

I'm curious to know how you determined that the consensus is for a 240D with manual transmission. Until you brought it up, no one recommened it. I'm not saying it's a bad car. I was very close to getting a 240D AT. Power and driveability weren't issues.

Sixto
91 300SE
81 300SD
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  #8  
Old 03-21-2002, 02:39 PM
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in approximate terms, what percentage of the 240d's were equipped with a manual transmission?
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  #9  
Old 03-21-2002, 02:53 PM
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Yes while this is with a gas powered car, it applies here. Look for one in good condition. I received a 85 500SEL for free. It wasn't in good condition. So far I have spent $3400 bringing it back up good mechanical condition. As far as cosmetic condition, it still has the rust and bad upholstery. So look for one that's been taken care of and in good condition.
Oh and stay away from the 350SD and the S350.
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  #10  
Old 03-21-2002, 03:12 PM
Jim B+
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My two cents...

I'd recommend an '83 240D.

This was the last year for the 240, so they came equipped with sunroofs and other extra goodies as standard. All have auto transmissions, I believe, but on the W123 cars, I think you will find the power curve acceptable, once you get used to it.

Parts for the older models are now getting scarce, but the 240 W123-body is still plentiful, easy to get parts and service for, and will not look dated for a long time.

A key...THE key...to keeping an MB diesel running forever is oil changes every 3,000 miles. Try and document how often your potential car has been serviced. Also, your oil pressure gauge should peg at the top or "3" mark when the engine is warmed up and running (not idling).

Best of luck.
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  #11  
Old 03-21-2002, 03:19 PM
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manual 83 240d

my 83 (build date - 2/83) 240d has is a manual.
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  #12  
Old 03-21-2002, 03:22 PM
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I have no productions figures to back my observations up but I would guess 10-20% of the 240D's in the USA are equipped with manual transmissions....

I have a 81 240D automatic and use it as a backup daily driver. I live in a state that does not have any hills and is at sea level and I can testify that when I drive the 240D I have to recalibrate the way I drive.
You need to leave much more space for merging and pulling out in traffic. Many people that drive 240D's on a daily basis are familiar with the "slingshot" method utilized to pass traffic on two lane roads. This method requires knowlege of the road being travelled, when you are approaching a passing zone you drop back a couple hundred yards and then use the space to accelerate the car to a safe passing speed while hoping the passing zone will be clear. If the passing zone is not clear you have to jump on the brakes and resume your place behind the slower driver...

I would not be comfortable driving the car in heavy city traffic or in high altitude areas. I have driven the stick version of a 240D and it is a substantial improvement over the automatic - but a stick 240D is still way below a non-turbo 300D with an automatic.
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  #13  
Old 03-21-2002, 03:25 PM
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Two things that will really be useful to know are how much you want to spend and what kind of driving you'll be doing. A 240D with any kind of transmission is more fun in Atlanta than San Francisco or Denver.

Sixto
91 300SE
81 300SD

Last edited by sixto; 03-21-2002 at 03:33 PM.
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  #14  
Old 03-21-2002, 03:33 PM
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My Favorite

My Favorite Diesel = 1976 240d with stickshift and sunroof
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  #15  
Old 03-22-2002, 09:43 PM
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240 concensus?

Sexto,
I only meant that it SEEMS there is a high % of positive comments for the 240D. I have only owned mine for about six months and it is the finest car I've ever owned. New or used.
My ex-wife's Volvo ('88-740GLE)with only 132,000 miles can't touch my 240 in quality or 'soundness'.

P.S. Be gentle with those Denver comments, I grew up in Boulder and am a devout Bronco, Avalanche, and Rockies fan.

The Bern
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Old 03-22-2002, 09:43 PM
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