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  #1  
Old 09-30-2013, 09:42 PM
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Location: Portland, OR
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Check Engine Electronics. Help!!!

I made what has turned out to be a bad purchase decision (a 1998 E320 with about 140,000 miles that seemed to be in very good shape). I didn't realize how expensive these cars are to maintain, especially for someone who doesn't know anything about cars (did not own a car for many years when I lived in Chicago).

I've only had the car for two months. Two weeks ago I took it in to get an oil change and checkup. They recommended a brake system flush and replacing the front and rear flex discs, both of which I did. They said the rear lower outer control arm bushings had broken boots which would need to be replaced in the future but not urgent. They said the car was otherwise in great shape, which was good because I now have about $700 in the car since I bought it. Since then I've only put about 200 easy miles on it and it seemed to be working fine until yesterday.

Last night I was going up a hill and the transmission seemed to slip and the "check engine electronics" light came on. I was shocked by this since it seemed to be doing well and had gotten a clean bill of health so recently.

Is there any place I can go that will read the computer codes for a relatively cheap price? I'm outside Portland, Oregon. My first thought was to go back to the mechanic that did the work but I wouldn't mind getting a second opinion.

Also, if the transmission is shot, does the car have any value at all as a salvage? I can already see this is going to be too expensive for me and am just trying to figure out the best way out of this situation. Many thanks for any advice.

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  #2  
Old 09-30-2013, 11:51 PM
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My first reaction is that oil change/brake fluid flush and flex discs is about a $400 job at a dealer. So you might want to shop around if there are other MB shops in the area. As you have already figured out, a luxury car is more expensive to maintain especially if you can't or don't want to do some of the work yourself.

Having said that, the W210 (your chassis) is a reliable, safe car that gets good mileage and is enjoyable to drive.

The codes involved with the transmission are proprietary to MB. You need to find an independent MB mechanic or a dealer to have the car scanned. The good news is that the 5sp electronic transmission you have is very strong and was used in V8 and V12 engines. The car does have a 'limp home mode' which is designed to reduce performance if the computer thinks the transmission is close to being damaged.

The CEL (Check Engine Light) can come on for a variety of reasons.You can buy inexpensive OBD scanner on line but they are generally limited to emission control device problems such as O2 sensors, etc. which may be your problem. Some people have posted that Autozone will do an OBD scan for free. So if you have a store locally you could check.
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  #3  
Old 10-01-2013, 01:00 AM
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[QUOTE=RichardM98;3215774]My first reaction is that oil change/brake fluid flush and flex discs is about a $400 job at a dealer. So you might want to shop around if there are other MB shops in the area. As you have already figured out, a luxury car is more expensive to maintain especially if you can't or don't want to do some of the work yourself.

Having said that, the W210 (your chassis) is a reliable, safe car that gets good mileage and is enjoyable to drive.





Hey, thanks for your thoughts. The price did seem high to me as well, but as I don't know cars and am new to this relatively expensive area, I was OK with it. This place is conveniently located and has good reviews. I'm very alarmed that they said the car was in "great shape" and now it seems to have major problems in only 2 weeks with very, very little driving and nothing that should have caused any issues. It has not gone into "limp" mode yet. Is it normal for a shop to give a car a complete bill of health and then the transmission go out of nowhere? It does have 142K miles so I know anything can happen but it's disappointing.

I'm torn between taking it back there and seeing if they'll work with me since they just hit me for $640 in repairs, and taking it elsewhere to get another opinion. I'm hoping they might be willing to do the computer scan for free since the repairs were done so recently at their shop.

In any case, I've found out the hard way that you're right. These cars are a back breaker. I don't have the time, or the aptitude, to develop any repair expertise. Somehow I thought buying a luxury used car would actually lead to fewer maintenance issues. Which is why I paid up for what seemed like a really nice car but is now one of the worst financial decisions of my life. I'm now close to $6,000 in the car and would gladly sell it for $2500 just to get out of this mess. I won't put much more money into it now so it's probably going to end up with Kars for Kids or some other charity. Live and learn.

Thanks for the AutoZone suggestion. The nearest one is pretty far from me and I'm not sure I want to take the car that far in its current condition. Sounds like they often can't help with Mercedes codes anyway.
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  #4  
Old 10-01-2013, 06:33 AM
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Many parts stores will do an OBD scan for free. It might find your problem, or it might not, but since it's free, there's no reason not to. If that doesn't locate the problem, you'll need to find a place with the proprietary Mercedes software to do a scan. The standard diagnostic fee for this should run in the ballpark of ninety bucks, though some might offer it as a free or cheap service to get you in the door. Call around. There are lots of Benzes in Portland and I would expect there to be some competition among them to get new customers.

How expensive is too expensive for you? I always anticipate having to put a few hundred into any used car purchase, and that's with me doing most of the work. If you're paying someone else to wrench for you, that almost always costs more.
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  #5  
Old 10-01-2013, 05:10 PM
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A lot of used car sellers are in the habit of cleaning the engine bay before selling to give a car that new look. That is usually a bad thing especially when they get certain electronic components wet - things that shouldn't ever get wet such as the mass air flow sensor - in my case. When I bought the 99 that item had got wet and the dealer had to replace.

As for the transmission, if that car is otherwise in good shape, I'd fix it. The 210 is the best car I've ever owned - and if mine didn't have any rust, I'd keep fixing it till doomsday. Unfortunately, Minnesota winters take a toll on the 210 body. Lots of them rusted out here.

You have a really good car at a reasonable price - and you'd buy a new one --supposedly trouble free for almost 10 times the money. On the other hand, if you want a cheap car under warranty, buy a KIA.
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  #6  
Old 10-01-2013, 06:42 PM
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Thanks for the input guys, I do appreciate it.

It turned out to be the EGR valve. Diagnosis plus replacement was $370. So now I have $1000 in repairs in this thing, plus $5300 to buy it. I know, TMI, but since it's an anonymous forum, why not vent about my stupidity. Also need a new set of tires if I'm going to keep the car which will run around $500 I guess. Recommended repairs today were also fixing the boots on the lower outer control bushings (400) and sealing a leak in the rear differential (600). Do those prices seem really high? They said those aren't urgent repairs and the car probably had at least several thousand miles before they would become urgent. Also said "other than that it's in good shape for a car with 142000 miles." I do trust this shop which is worthwhile even if their prices are on the high side.

I'm headed to a Toyota dealer in the next week to see if they'll give me $2000 or more as a trade in on a new Toyota which is what I obviously should have bought in the first place. The E320 seemed really nice when I test drove it at the dealer but it's turned out to be a lemon. It's one of those things where you get to a place where you have enough money invested in something that you can't back out and go deeper and deeper and I can't afford to do that.

Given my lack of time and ability to do repairs, I can't believe how dumb I was to buy a used car. Reminds me of "The Money Pit" when Tom Hanks is talking to the guy who says "Mister, did you really BUY this house?"
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  #7  
Old 10-01-2013, 07:54 PM
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Before things get too far out of control, can you pay CASH for a new car? If not, can you finance for 2 years? If you are planning on a 7 year car loan you are beyond help as near the end of the loan you will be putting money into a car that isn't paid off. . . Don't substitute a actual bad decision for one you have made and perceived to be bad.

Next, was the car a private sale or dealer sale?

Did you get it checked out by a non seller mechanic _prior_ to purchase?

When you post repair prices, post _specific_ line items ( each part, labor, shop frees, tax ) , a general price doesn't mean much.

Where was the specific location of the rear end leak?

Lower outer bushing boots as in rear of car?

"" Also said "other than that it's in good shape for a car with 142000 miles." I do trust this shop which is worthwhile even if their prices are on the high side. ""

Why would you walk away from a car that is apparently decent condition?
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  #8  
Old 10-01-2013, 09:40 PM
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That new Toyota will be reliable and have a warranty, but it will cost you thousands of dollars each year in depreciation, and it will drive like a Toyota.
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  #9  
Old 10-01-2013, 10:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 97 SL320 View Post
Before things get too far out of control, can you pay CASH for a new car? If not, can you finance for 2 years? If you are planning on a 7 year car loan you are beyond help as near the end of the loan you will be putting money into a car that isn't paid off. . . Don't substitute a actual bad decision for one you have made and perceived to be bad.

Next, was the car a private sale or dealer sale?

Did you get it checked out by a non seller mechanic _prior_ to purchase?

When you post repair prices, post _specific_ line items ( each part, labor, shop frees, tax ) , a general price doesn't mean much.

Where was the specific location of the rear end leak?

Lower outer bushing boots as in rear of car?

"" Also said "other than that it's in good shape for a car with 142000 miles." I do trust this shop which is worthwhile even if their prices are on the high side. ""

Why would you walk away from a car that is apparently decent condition?


For today, they showed the following:

LABOR
$95 to diagnose check engine light, finding EGR Valve needing to be replaced.
Replace EGR Valve 47.50
Clean out EGR Tube 47.50
Hazardous Materials 5.10

PARTS
EGR Valve 1121400060 $165
Gasket, EGR Valve $5
Shop supplies $5.70


For the recommendations, not much detail. Just says "Rear lower outer control arm bushings have broken boots. Estimate $390." And "The rear differential has a slight leak and should be resealed. Estimate $600."


I cannot pay cash for a new car. I could finance it over 2 years, would prefer 3 but I could swing 2.

So this will reveal how badly I went about this process- I did not take the car to my own mechanic. I was referred to this dealer by a couple of close friends who had good experiences there. The dealer said his mechanic had examined the car and it was in excellent condition. Car was sold as is, no warranty. For all I know the dealer didn't know it needed all this work, but I have no recourse anyway and it certainly is my fault for not insisting on going to my own mechanic. Live and learn.

As far as why I would walk away from the car, it's because I didn't have a good appreciation of how expensive these cars are to maintain when you aren't doing any of the work yourself. If I had confidence that another couple thousand dollars would get me through two years, that would be one thing, but given what's cropped up in only 2 months I have no confidence in it at all. I feel like every day I'll be just waiting for the check engine light to come on and boom, another several hundred dollars. I know people that have been in this same situation with used cars and just got deeper and deeper since they were more invested in it as time went on.
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  #10  
Old 10-01-2013, 10:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nelbur View Post
That new Toyota will be reliable and have a warranty, but it will cost you thousands of dollars each year in depreciation, and it will drive like a Toyota.
Ha! Fair enough. Another possibility is a certified used that is under warranty and gets out from under some of that depreciation.
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  #11  
Old 10-01-2013, 11:12 PM
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Typically you have to get the car up to date due to some deferred maintenance.

Flex discs are fairly common at that mileage, and egr is a very minor repair. Give the car a chance.

Parts where just as expensive for my ford when I had it.
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  #12  
Old 10-02-2013, 01:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lorainfurniture View Post
Typically you have to get the car up to date due to some deferred maintenance.

Flex discs are fairly common at that mileage, and egr is a very minor repair. Give the car a chance.

Parts where just as expensive for my ford when I had it.
Thanks Eugene. I have not owned a car in a long, long time (lived in a city where I would just occasionally rent cars but generally didn't need one). The last used one I bought was a Toyota Avalon that had about 100K miles on it and went several years with virtually nothing in repairs. Guess that gave me unrealistic expectations. Luckily I don't drive much. If I could even get 20K miles out of this car it would take me close to 2 years.
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  #13  
Old 10-02-2013, 07:51 AM
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I agree that a used MB is not really for those reliant on the shop for everything. You might ask the original dealer if he can get you something newer or more reliable. Sure, he'll make a profit both ways, but it may be teh lowest cost to you. References and trust may mean something to him.
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:50 AM
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My bro has a 2002 E320 and its been virtually 100% reliable, he bought it almost 5 months ago and has driven it 7,500 miles. No repairs, only issue has been with a speaker in the passenger door sometimes not working. Also has 142k on it!
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  #15  
Old 10-02-2013, 01:40 PM
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Well, a guy can certainly get "exasperated" over continually repair a car. In this case I think you have a great car, but I have not seen it, much less checked it out. Certainly used cars have problems. All of them do, that is why they are on the market. I think you were a bit shoddy about prepurchase inspection, but that is past and lets go on from here. First of all, if you are going to sacrifice what a lot of people on this forum think is a great car, then why not try to make a deal here on the forum. We have a cars for sale listing column and if you want out fast and easy, list your "want out" price and it will probably be gone and that will give you additional cash for your Toyota. But if the car is really as nice as you say, and I think you are right, why not make a request for or from forum members in your area to help analyze the problems. Depending on where you live, there probably is good help close at hand to help you evaluate the problems you have and what might be expected ahead. They might refer you to a local shop that specializes in Mercedes for a lot less then the dealer. Largely the people on this forum avoid the dealer as much as possible. Parts, genuine Mercedes parts can be bought here on the forum for a fraction of what the dealer charges. Therefore we know that parts and labor at the right places are not exorbitant. Put out a call for help, tell us about where you are located, and I wil bet you will get good assistance.

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