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Old 02-04-2003, 11:25 PM
Posts: n/a
300SE Reliability and Durability?

I am new to Mercedes. I just purchased a 1989 300SE with 130K. Transmission slips when shifting.

Is this a durable model and one I can expect to drive for a lot of miles?
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Old 02-05-2003, 12:26 AM
Registered User
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Scotts Valley, CA.
Posts: 145
It's my understanding that the engine and transmission on your car are the same as those in my '89 300E. If you'll look around elsewhere on this site, you'll find that many people consider this combination to be extremely reliable. I've found mine to be bullet-proof!

The slipping transmission you mention concerns me. At 130K miles, this thing shouldn't slip at all. My car has 155K miles on it and is solid as a rock. I bought it with 94K miles on it 3 years ago but I've very regularly had my car serviced by an independent MBZ shop (owner trained at the factory in Stuttgart - yes, he IS German). They follow the prescribed maintenance schedule to the letter. Every 30K miles they service the transmission (drain, replace filter, new fluid) and it's solid. I commute almost 70 miles each day and over an 1800 ft. pass - transmission gets its' share of work.

I think you'll love the car and find that the drivetrain is solid and reliable. Good luck and many happy miles to you in your 'new' car!!
Jay Yambrovich
Scotts Valley, CA.

1993 300 CE Cabriolet (A124) 131K miles
1997 C-280 133K miles

2000 BMW R1100RT 69K miles
1989 300 E 216K miles (sold)
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Old 02-05-2003, 12:32 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 563
Welcome to the club!

You've started with a loaded question. If your car was maintained reasonably well, it should last a long time. Your 300SE has the M103 engine which appears in several models and is a workhorse. I've got the same engine in my '88 300SEL. I'm at 143k at the moment.

On the flip side, to quote another member here, "There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes." This is basically saying that if the car wasn't maintained much, if at all, it will cost a fortune to get it back in good shape.

For the transmission, if you don't have any service records, you should change the transmission fluid and filter before checking anything else.
Mike Heath
1988 560SL Black/Palomino
1988 300SEL Black Pearl/Burgandy
1984 500SEC Anthracite Grey/Palomino
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Old 02-05-2003, 12:17 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Dallas
Posts: 750
Yes, look for the obvious things first: fluid and filter, and also check the kick-down cable and the little vacuum line on the driver side. I've never had a problem in 140k miles on my '91, so I don't know how/if these items will affect the shifting quality, but they are a quick place to start. To adjust the kickdown cable I THINK you do the following (a senior moment on my memory);
pop the cable loose from the throttle linkage at the ball joint attachment, push the cable back, then gently pull it out of the trans until you feel a resistance like it's starting to pull the linkage in the trans, then if it's adjusted for correct length, it should just pop back on the ball on the throttle linkage. If necessary adjust it for length until it does this. Sombody help me if i got this wrong.

Oh, some areas to check on the SE for potential repairs/maintenance (not related to trans though):
- motor mounts collapsed
- engine fan pulley bearing shot
- head gasket leaking water (or oil, or compression).
- ball joint and steering linkage grease boots cracked
- front "u-joint" or coupler shot
- the infamous front timing cover oil leak
- valve stem seals causing oil usage
- then there's the usual brake pads, rotors, and real mufflers every few thousand miles.
- And of course, if you have to replace the short water hose between the head and the water pump - JUST SELL THE CAR.
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Old 02-05-2003, 12:48 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Houston
Posts: 131
I bought my 89 300SE in 89 and now has over 170k. The maintenance cost has increased the last couple of years, but no trouble with engine or transmission. The car is still tight, and am very satisfied with this car.
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Old 02-06-2003, 08:02 PM
Posts: n/a
I also have an '89 300se and after three years have most of the bugs fixed. The 6 cylinder engine seems very reliable and not as thirsty as the MB V-8s. Problems include, leaking timing covers, and oil consumption from tired valve seals,

Your trans slippage might be from a vacuum modulator which has a perforated diaphragm. Mine did this and the engine drank the ATF like it was fine wine. When the fluid gets low you'll have that slippage.

BTW, do your seat memories work?
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