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Old 03-25-2003, 01:53 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 280
Smile want to buy a W124

I want to hear from W124 present and previous owners about this car. What problems should I be looking for when buying this model I am looking for a 15 year old model ie. 1986, 1987 and 1988. Should I be looking at the engine? auto gearbox? suspension? electrical system integrity? drivetrain ? rust? bodywork? I have seen many threads which noted many problems like the harness, the twitchy 2 to 3 gear change, head gasket leaks, some overheating and aircon problems and so on. Please help!
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Old 03-25-2003, 01:56 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 3,469
You should buy a late model 124, like 94 or 95 because the 86-89 ones are starting to have more miles and you have to do suspension links, and bushings and tranny and all that stuff at 150k miles. I just had to do the 87 300D turbo links and everything. Gas M103 and M104 engines leak oil on the back of the head usually. Sometimes the head warps.
No Benzes in the stable at the moment, but itching for one again.

Former Mercedes in the Stable:
1983 300CD Turbo diesel 515k mi sold
1984 300CD Turbo Diesel 150 k mi sold
1982 300D Turbo Diesel 225 sold
1987 300D Turbo Diesel 255k mi sold
1988 300 CE AMG Hammer 15k mi sold
1986 300E Amg Hammer 88k mi sold
1992 500E 156k mi sold
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Old 03-25-2003, 05:20 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Epsom Downs, England
Posts: 152

If you want an erlier E-Class, it's the general high-mileage things which need to be checked. As you say:

Transmission: check for smooth changes and low noise (whatever the mileage). Walk away from any mechanical noises.

Engine: check for any "clapped-out" noises (tappets, general top-end rattles). The bottom end is generally bullet-proof. Head gasket failure is common at high mileages, check for external oil leaks and water/oil mixing. Check that the viscous fan "tightens-up" after sitting ticking over for 15 minutes or so. Leave the engine ticking over for at least 5 minutes, then rev it up, you should see no blue exhaust smoke. This would indicate valve stem oil seals need replacing. Smoke when you accelerate usually means ring wear, which is not cheap to fix.

Suspension: clonks and rattles are common at high mileages, but are usually fixable cheaply (anti-roll bar rubbers for example cost a tenner).

Rust should not be a problem, but always go for the car with the best bodywork, that's where the real value is established.

Interior is expensive to restore, go for a car that hasn't deteriorated too far to make it worthwhile.

I've no experience with wiring loom or Aircon failures, but these sound expensive. Certainly, make sure the aircon is good and cold, and the engine has no misfires.

It's better to pay a bit more up-front than to keep paying out later.
Paul Gibbons
'93 320CE
'73 Jensen Interceptor (Resting)
Giant Full Sus Mountain Bike
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Old 03-25-2003, 09:46 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Posts: 459
A lot of people say the air conditioning evaporators are a problem with this car, but I don't have exact figures. Secondly, the head gasket and valve seals on the gas engines are problematic. I guess the earlier models had seals that didn't hold up, which causes the obvious problems, and the heads need to be rebuilt. If the head doesn't go first, the headgasket usually starts leaking oil out the sides.

Bottom line, do what I did and buy a car that has documentation to show the head has been rebuilt and the headgasket replaced.

Another option is the w124 diesel. Now that's a nice ride!

Good Luck,

'84 300D, 173k
'90 300CE, 162k
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Old 03-25-2003, 10:00 AM
G-Benz's Avatar
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Dallas/Fort-Worth
Posts: 5,711
On A/C's specifically, it's the evaporator that needs replacing...expensive by itself, but the labor for removing the dashboard can eclipse the cost of the replacement. Sometimes the control unit can go bad, but this is not a modal failure. The blower motor and some vacuum actuators can go bad, causing vents not to open correctly, etc. Again, this is on an idividual basis and not a W124-wide problem.

Oil leaking at the rear of the head indicates impending head gasket failure...this is for the M104-series engines. For the same engine, oil leaking at the front is due to the timing cover seal leak...much less bothersome than a head gasket. Note that the head can leak for many miles before ultimate failure...I have watched my leaky head closely for the last three years, but no breach just yet...The M103-series motors have valve stem seals that need replacing on an aging motor, and excessive oil consumption is symptomatic of this problem.

Wires can (and do) get brittle over time, especially when subjected to extreme temps, like the underhood. Most W124s had the bad main harness problem replaced, as the problem would creep up somewhere between 70-100K miles. Still other ancillary wires suffer the same fate...I just fabricated a new harness for my oil sender, oil level, and starter solenoid ground, because the OEM harness had deteriorated to where 60% of the harness was devoid of insulation!

Overall, these are pretty solid cars. Lack of proper maintenance is usually the demise of most of these cars. Needless to say, nobody sells a car because it "ran too well", so assume that a prospective W124 up for sale is probably suffering from some sort of neglect.

The good thing is that most of the replacement parts are relatively inexpensive, that is, you could pay as much for comparable Camry or Accord parts.

My final tip would be to make sure the expensive stuff was dealt with. Wiring harness ($600+), A/C evaporator ($1800 incl. labor), and head gasket ($1200-1600). All other issues if you find a reasonable mechanic, or like to DIY, should keep you in the $500 and below range...

Good luck!
2009 ML350 (84K) - Family vehicle
2001 CLK430 Cabriolet (71K) - Wife's car
2005 BMW 645CI (124K) - My daily driver
2012 Mustang V6 (60K) - Daughter's car
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Old 03-25-2003, 10:48 AM
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Miami, FL
Posts: 645
Flex joints on the 124

The evaporator is deeply buried in the body and replacing it is expensive. It was made of aluminum rather than copper, which is why it goes bad. Replace it witrh a copper one, if you can find one that fits.

If the A/C does not work, the car will blast only hot (not fresh) air at you. You will probably not appreciate this, unless you live in Siberia.

The blower motor should work. The A/C should blow cold air out through the center vents.

The flex joints that work as U-joints tend to go at around 100K, They will cost around $200 to replace.

The radio may need a new set of front speakers.

Good luck.
Semibodacious Transmogrifications a Specialty

1990 300D 2.5 Turbo sedan 171K (Rudolf)
1985 300D Turbo TD Wagon 219K (Remuda)

"Time flies like and arrow, yet fruit flies like a banana"
---Marx (Groucho)
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Old 03-25-2003, 05:41 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Mass
Posts: 1,127
Just thought I would add that most early models are due (or overdue) for major suspension overhauls at both ends.

No single repair is particularly expensive, but in sum, this work can amount to a couple of thousand AUDs.

Worth looking into the repair history in this regard.
Good luck with your search.
1986 300E 5-Speed 240k mi.
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Old 03-25-2003, 07:18 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica.
Posts: 50
Yes, it's all true, but if you use quality parts and quality workmanship, you should not have to worry about replacing that part for another 15 or 16 years.
Check out the "FEATURED CARS" section on this Home section, there is a review on the older 124 cars.
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Old 03-25-2003, 10:56 PM
Posts: n/a
Wanna buy mine?
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Old 03-26-2003, 12:49 AM
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If I were to buy another used MBZ, particularly this model, I would not buy one unless it had low mileage ( less than 130K). When you get around 180K, everything big (suspension, gaskets, top end) starts to wear out. You will find a lot of cars on the market with around 190- 200K, and this is the reason. Find one with 100K and drive it until it burns too much oil.

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Old 03-26-2003, 09:43 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
Here's your problem: A 1986 300E could be up to 18 years old. Find me an 18 year old ANYTHING that won't be coming to the end of it's life. Not many cars live that long, period.

So, all the 86-88 cars have been sitting on springs for years. Bushings have all aged. Shocks will have been shot for a while, if they haven't been renewed. Transmissions have shifted tens of thousands of times, maybe hundreds of thousands of times.

Okay, now that we've scared you, here's the reality: An early 300E can still be a great car, but make sure you budget the right amount to keep that age of car running, otherwise you'll be frustrated and blame Mercedes for making an inferior product, when the truth is that it's a very old car.

The problem with buying older ones where I live is the price. I could buy a 91-92 300E for about $15K, and 1986 owners all seem to be asking $10-12K. Those 1986 300E's need to be $3000, not $10,000. I've seen some for sale for months before the owners give up.

Unless abused, the bottom end of the engine will outlive the rest of the car. The M103 is overbuilt, especially considering it's "modest" (high in it's day) 177 ponies. Top ends are weaker, but still last many, many miles. If you find a car with a recent top end (done by a good shop) the engine will probably outlast the rest of the stuff on the car.

The transmission is very durable, but given the age/mileages of these models, you may be in for a rebuild if the PO had not already done so. I have a friend that is intent on keeping his 87 300E forever, so he bought a Mercedes rebuilt unit for his car. Had the rear main seal done at the same time, and suddenly his driveline is renewed. He's diving into suspension bits now, and this will run some serious damage on his wallet. Is he nuts to put $6-7K into a car worth maybe $5000? Sure. But, so what? He'l keep the car for years, and probably come out ahead. I wouldn't do it, but that's just me.

If you can live without the AC working, you might be able to get a stral on a car being sold by a frustrated owner facing a high AC bill.

Go shopping, and see if you can find a much later model for not much more money. With MB's this is often the case.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K

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Old 03-26-2003, 07:08 PM
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Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 54
93 300e w/ 54K

I own a 93 300E with only 54,000 miles, this thing is like new. I have records and books. This car was from Beverly Hills and sat for a while, an old lady used to own her. She drives like the day it was driven home new.

If you are interested in it, please let me know, at a very fair price.

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Old 03-26-2003, 08:06 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: boston
Posts: 119
Are you in Sacramento now? I saw one in the paper (Sac Bee).

94 e320
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Old 03-26-2003, 10:03 PM
Posts: n/a

My 2 cents:

Great cars even though my head gasket just blew:-( I know I'd never find a better car for the price of a valve job, which I am going to have done.

About 2K but the motor will be like new.

Vacuum hoses and lines are important areas to look at as are breather hoses. Stiff, cracked hoses are a sure sign of neglect.

Replaced all of mine and it helped with running problems. Also, whatever MB you buy, change the fuses. Don't assume they are okay. They do wear out.

Good luck,
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Old 03-26-2003, 10:55 PM
Posts: n/a
Let me be frank with you. If you are looking for a 15 year old Mercedes at a good price I have one sentence of advice that I heard on this site, "The most expensive Mercedes is the cheapest one". Do yourself a favor, go find a nice C class that's still under warranty, you will pay more for it initially but you save many heartaches along the way. I paid $4500 bucks for my 1988 300E and I have dumped at least 10K into it over the past six months to keep it running and all the accessories working. My 124 may be a poor example but as I look back now, I should have looked for something much newer. Next time I will.
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