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Old 01-06-2003, 05:36 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 31
Can a THOROUGH Inspection balance out minimal/incomplete service record

After looking for a nice 90-94 300CE, have found one that looks like new. 1991, with just over 50k. Great exterior, interior is flawless, engine looks good, clean but doesn't look detailed or "prepped" for an inspection. No obvious leaks, etc.

However, current owner (dealer) has only spotty records, little service history etc....
CarFax shows clean. I have some misgivings, but my question is this -

Can a truly thorough (2.5-3 hrs) inspection w/ compression leakdown etc., by a good independent MB specialist determine if this is the right car for me, and outweigh the obvious disadvantage of minimal/poor records for the maintenance since new?

I was going to have the PPI done anyway, based on the way the car looks and drivers, but am not experienced enough to know if a good inspection NOW can catch the (potential) problems posed by any (potential) lack of maintenance in the past.

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Old 01-06-2003, 05:52 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 18,745
What usually doesn't come with a PPI is the tech looking you in the eye and saying, "Yes, buy this car."

The information you get out of a PPI will help you decide what the car will cost. It's up to you to decide whether or not it's worth the cost.

The reason you're asking is probably because you know there are things that a PPI will not/cannot reveal such as the amount of wear inside the engine and the condition of the solder inside the electronic modules.

Specific to the M104 engine in a 300CE, you'll want records to tell you how long ago the head gasket was replaced. If not recently, you could be in for the cost of replacing the head gasket in the next 20,000 miles.

I don't know if that car was part of the batch that had a faulty engine wiring harness. It's way past manufacturer warranty coverage despite the low miles so that's another potentially costly situation to consider in the absence of records.

On the other hand, none of my cars came with records and I haven't had any nasty surprises that complete records would have helped me avoid.

Good luck.

91 300SE
87 300SDL
83 300SD
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Old 01-06-2003, 05:53 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tucker, Ga USA
Posts: 12,153
A good inspection including valve cover removal to inspect for SLUDGE, should make-up for missing records. If the engine is clean then the car has been serviced.
IF you are serious then trans fluid inspection is also a good idea.
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Old 01-06-2003, 06:16 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 31
Thanks for both replies, as I am serious and have learned that PPI money is almost always well spent.

Yes, the valve cover removal is a must, and good call on the tranny fluid inspection.

Re Head Gasket - Any way to determine if this has been done, or ascertaining condition of the current one?

Once again, thank you for your advice and counsel.
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Old 01-06-2003, 06:58 PM
Posts: n/a
It is almost impossible to determine if the head gasket has been replaced, unless it's part of the documented maintenance/repair history. Carefully check on the right rear side of the engine for oil leak. The front engine cover is also likely to leak. If you see any sign of oil, chances are a head gasket replacement or front cover seal are in the plan. Check for presence of oil in the engine coolant expension tank.Other things to check: A/c and heating system. Make sure it works perfectly on all positions of the dash control. Can be expensive (very) to fix. Other things to check:
Cruise control:, flex disks, suspension links and bushings, radiator, rear engine oil seal, all electric windows, sun-roof operation, shock absorbers, brake system, exhaust system.
A full Pre-delivery inspection is your best insurance but it does not mean something will not break on your way home.
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Old 01-06-2003, 10:05 PM
Posts: n/a
A good under carriage inspection as well will show any signs of deterioration from road salts. Salts can create serious repair reqirements, something that is often overlooked.
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Old 01-06-2003, 10:16 PM
Posts: n/a
request maint info from MB dealer

just another suggestion:

IF you can find a "sympathic" ear at your local (or other) MB dealer, you can possibly get invaluable info on the cars past service history. it will include only the services that were performed at probably ANY MB dealer. i used this method to VERIFY that the head gasket on the 202 i recently purchased had it fact been done. it also revealed other items such as alternator and OVP that the PO had forgotten about that were still under MB warranty BECAUSE they were performed at the dealer.

i can not recall the name of the report. it is something to the effect of "master service report".

as much as i would typically not post glowing reviews of the dealerships, they provided for me (for free!) the absolutly MOST valuable info that i gathered in making the decision to purchase my 202.

smile, be friendly, and GOOD LUCK! - benton
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Old 01-06-2003, 11:25 PM
Lebenz's Avatar
backwoods member
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: In the fog
Posts: 2,862
In addition to the other excellent elements, check the hydraulic lines for being hard or leaking and also, of course the brakes. Providing the mileage is accurate, the car has obviously not seen a lot of use, and what it was used for was probably short distances. Oh, yeah, and the exhaust system. My car was similar to what you are describing and rust due to minimal to non-use was the reason I had to change my exhaust system at about 60K miles.

'00 ML320 "Casper"
'92 400E "Stella"
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