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Old 06-07-2002, 12:07 PM
yosshimura's Avatar
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Location: Liberty City, FL
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M104 problems vs BMW problems

This is not to become a bmw vs mb issue! I am going to address to very specific models, not the worst from bmw and the best from mb!..... Two comparable products; 95 320E M104 and 96 BMW 328i (E36?) w/the I-6.

Here are my observations in my quest to buy my next car.

MB M104 issues.

1.Head gasket - could go at around 100K and every 100K going forward, about $1K
2. Wiring Harness -if not changed, that is another $800 blip on the Mercedes.
3. A/C evaporator - If not changed, there's 15-19 hrs of labor , another $1K-$1,500!.
4. Any misc vacume related issue (a/c vents, locks...) I probably have to pay the 15-19 hr labor to remove dash

BMW 328i issues.
1. Water pump has a plastic impeller(?), so have to change A water pump. Don't know costs on the beemer issues .
2. Radiator has a plastic filler neck on the radiator, about $300-$350 for a new radiator.

Those are the known problems I have read about on both cars I am looking at.

It seems that the MB is a more expensive car to own. NOTICE I didn't say maintain, as all the MB issues are expensive REPAIRS (faulty items). What's up with that?


Note the MB is my preference, but looking at it like this it sure doesn' make it look very attractive, I think

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Old 06-07-2002, 01:04 PM
Posts: n/a
If that BMW's water pump goes out when you are driving, and if you don't take immediate action, start pricing rebuilt 2.8 liter DOHC sixes, that's all I can say.

Maybe you should look at a 1992-1995 400E/E420. No head gasket issues on those cars and V-8 power. Just get one that has a new wiring harness, too.

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Old 06-07-2002, 01:11 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Central Oregon
Posts: 91
Stickshift or Auto

I hope the beemer is a stick.
Depending on driver skill/condition, the PO could have put some serious wear on the clutch, and replacing the plates is not a DIY-er project anymore.

I personally would not own a BMW without a stickshift
But in response to your question ........
Clutch replacement/repair is a cost factor in your decision that you will not have with the E320.
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Old 06-07-2002, 01:34 PM
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Thanks guys. On the bmw, I wish I could get it stick, but that is not likely, as I have seen few stick shift examples worth buying, all ragged out. Auto seems a safer bet.

The problem with the 400E is that the maintainance / parts are more money, no?...being V8, I am sure it is more expensive. Wait, the 320E is what I can afford too .

If you want to know what I really want it would be the 1995 E320 with NO problems / issues / annual worries on what is going next . I love the MB.

The water pump issue is a mute point, as that is one of the things that would be changed when I buy it due to the plastic impeller.
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Old 06-07-2002, 01:52 PM
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Find an E320 with a warranty to cover those EXACT items. Get it in writing.

A 1995 400E/E400 isn't that much more. I'd get it over a W124 E320. Again get a warranty.

:-) neil
1988 360TE AMG
1993 500E
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Old 06-07-2002, 02:24 PM
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Posts: 352
The M119 engine is a wonderful motor. Idle is quiet and once it gets above 4000 rpm, it really screams. I think only 1 person on this entire board has had a head gasket problem on this engine. The 400E will be really fast compared to the BMW because of the massive difference in power. The w124 Mercedes are virtually bullet proof. Also, there are many more mechanics that know W124 and M119 than BMW motors. Plus, the availabilty of parts are abundant. But, if you know an excellant BMW mechanic then you might not have any problems. I don't know anything about BMW auto transmissions but I doubt if it is as good as the Mercedes. On my 5 Mercedes, I have never had any transmission problems nor have I had to swap out the engine harness, evaporator or head gaskets. Dont dismiss the m104 motor, compared to the new V6 it sounds much better, smoother and idle is quiet (no ticking).

Finally, the Mercedes is an E, its competition is the 5. So expect less space, less luxury, less comfort in the 3.
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Old 06-07-2002, 04:11 PM
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Royaiii is right about the comfort level comparison. Plus - BMW and MB are very different cars if you ask me and shouldn't be compared side by side. The BMW should be compared to a Porsche more than a MB. Very different driving experiences. Your desicion should be driven (no pun) by what type of driving you want to do and what function the car is going to play in your household.
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Old 06-07-2002, 05:05 PM
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Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
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BMW has used ZF auto-boxes since G was a pup. And they're NOT very good units. Late model ones are better, but they have all kind of running problems, and life expectancy is barely 100,000 miles.

Also on the BMW, be wary of the timing belt, as a leaking water-pump will cause the belt to fatigue very quickly and snap.

The E36 can have rear suspension mounting point problems that result in the rear suspension coming loose from the car. More prevalent in hard-driven examples, but happens on others too.

I thik by 1996MY BMW solved the profile gasket problem, but don't quote me on it. And BMW will offer NO goodwill repairs on those cars. Yer on yer own.

The E36 3-series interior is smaller than the C-Class, especially in the rear. If you ever plan on carrying people back there, then you'll need a bigger car. I'm a proponent of small cars, but the E36 is really cramped back there, even in sedan form.

On the plus side, the 328 depreciates more, and as a used car is a better buy than the MB. A manny-tranny is available, but watch for abuse. Many 3-series cars are owned by club-footed street-racer wannabees.

BMW parts for routine maintenance are priced similar to MB, but true repair costs can be higher.

I like BMW and Mercedes, and consider both excellent choices.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 06-07-2002, 06:07 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
From 93 - 95 MB made wiring harnesses that were crap, they extended the warrantee to 100k. In 93 - 95 BMW made V8 motors that were crap; the cylinder walls fall apart. They too have extended the warrantee to 100k on these.

I suppose all manufacturers have their share of bad designs on new product. I think I would rather have the wiring risk than the cylinder risk. They are all nice cars and are all built to be indefinitely rebuildable. Both manufacturers fixed their problems so retrofitted vehicles no longer have those risks.
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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Old 06-11-2002, 09:27 AM
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Thanks for the info guys.... seems the three problems I first mentioned on the 300E - 320E are going to be there period, and will have to deal with unless I can negotiate an extended warranty from the dealer. No sence paying $1K-$2K for one of those warranties, I might as well spend the money on the repairs myself.

As for the bmw 328(not the 5 series ), it seems to have just minor problems comapared to the MB's. Someone mentioned "if the water pump goes out on the bmw...." well, if it goes out on any car in Florida, it will be toast ....that would be a preventive maintainance issue.

Why does the MB seem so inferior in quality than the 328? I always thought MB was the best built car, period, but having to put $1K++ anually doesnt sound like a good car. As for the head gasket, for example, I have never had to change a head gasket on an american car at 100K miles. How can the crappy american cars not have that problem, yet MB did? Crappy engineering?
And the 328 is a lower level car vs the E class?? I was reading a consumer car guide book from 1995, and they were NOT recommending the E class back then neither. It said unreliable..... Yet they were recommending the 328....guess they knew something back then.

Ideas? thanks
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Old 06-11-2002, 10:54 AM
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Damn yosshimura, those are some great questions, and ones that I have been wondering about myself! Would somebody with some good technical knowledge care to put in their .02? I'm a bit discouraged by the potential problems my recently purchased 1997 E320 (M104) can have (head gasket, window regulators, 722.6 trans problems).
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Old 06-11-2002, 12:03 PM
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When I make a decision it is based on facts not emotions. Although I love/adore/admire/worship the Mercedes, if reality is that they suck , then it is not a good buy. Like a Ferrari, A freind has one and you need all this major and expensive work all the time (ever wonder why Ferraris for sale ALWAYS have low miles? B/c too expensive to maintain and the break down), but the owners lust over these cars, as I imagine anyone who would buy a Mercedes knowing the headaches / money involved must be... even me

An update on my potential buy. The dealer called me today and said he would let it go for $13K (he's had it since end of Feb/beg of March), so if he offered it at $13K I know he will go lower . And he said he can sell me an extended warranty for $1100. I am going to go test drive the car today/tommorrow and get a copy of the warranty to see how it would cover the f-ups the MB has (wireing, head gasket, evaporator...................). What if the part doesn't go bad during the warranty, even though it will go bad sooner or later? Oh well, yet another issue I just thought of .

Theoritically thinking, if I get the car for $12K and add the $1100 for warranty I might do it, as total purchase would be $13K
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Old 06-11-2002, 12:14 PM
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Location: Florida / N.H.
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Then get hold of Engatwork from this Forum.
He has addressed most all the weak points of the E320-124
and should serve you well...

Aside from the harness/gasket biggies, these are a fine car with plenty of nicities and will go for miles to come. Nice strong eng, good on gas, and some features just coming out on newer makes..
A good one as his in that price range is a deal..
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Old 06-11-2002, 12:46 PM
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What about...

Crash worthyness.
Resale value.
Higher potential of electrical troubleshooting costs.
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Old 06-11-2002, 12:59 PM
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Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 2,632
Someone mentioned tranny & window regulator problems in the 1997 E320 (W210).

This is actually the reason why I've stayed away from the 5-speed electronic tranny and any MB newer than 1995.

I really think that aside from head-gasket problems (MB has fixed the head-gasket, with a 3rd for 4th revision) and potential evaporator problems, the 1986-1995 W124's and the W126 S-Class are one of the most reliable and well-built MB's PERIOD.

Moreover, parts are plentiful and inexpensive compared to BMW, Audi, Lexus, Infinity, and the like marques. And you can actually work on them and their little switches (I've rebuilt two seat switches, and I window regulator (new grease & brushes)).

I've been lucky (knock on wood), no evaporator or head-gasket problems.

I do have intermittant ASR problems on the 500E, but I have good plan of attack. So it will be under $500 in parts.

:-) neil
1988 360TE AMG (158K)
1993 500E (75K)
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