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Old 06-20-2003, 06:25 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 14
Transmission has no drive, 1st, or 2nd. Reverse works only. What's wrong?

1991 190E 2.3 112k miles

I was crusing happily down the highway at 100 95 mph or so when I decided to take an off ramp.

There was a stop sign at the end of the off ramp, so I slowed down.

When I pressed on the gas to speed up away from the stop sign, the car wouldn't move. It wasn't engaging 1st gear.

There was no noise, no smell, it was a big surprise.

I pulled over and looked the situation over.
Reverse WORKS
1st gear DOES NOT WORK
2nd gear DOES NOT WORK

When I pick Drive, 1st or 2nd with the select lever, I hear nothing. There is no little clunk like usual. Completely silent.
When I rev up, nothing happens. I even backed up on a hill and coasted down the hill hoping the car would skip 1st and jump in 2nd or something, lol. I've been reading about automatics and maybe within a few hours I'll understand them better.

Any ideas??? Right now the plan is just to get it replaced ($1600 at least), but I have the feeling it might be something minor. The car is stranded next to a highway right now, but I'm going out tomorrow to change the transmission fluid in hopes that might do something.

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Old 06-20-2003, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: GB
Posts: 219
Sounds like the B-2 piston in the transmission. About $100 for the part, only takes a few minutes to put in once you can get at it.

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Old 06-20-2003, 07:18 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 14
Sure hope so

Jerry, just before you posted, I found an excellent article on this b2 piston problem by Richard here:

I am so happy right now and will look forward to replacing it. Hope it works. I'll keep you guys updated! Thanks Jerry.
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Old 06-20-2003, 07:25 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 14
A request...

Could someone experienced replacing a B2 piston in a W201 talk about how involved it is? I understand it can be done with W124 without even moving the tranny. What tricks are involved when working on a 190E/W201?
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Old 06-20-2003, 01:56 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: BC, Canada
Posts: 378
Did you back home or get it towed?
1967 250SL
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Old 06-20-2003, 02:16 PM
yal's Avatar
yal yal is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: New York, Long Island
Posts: 2,707
When this happened to me I had to have it towed. Was only able to back into a parking spot. Anybody who has a W124 or W201 86-93 with 100 to 150k on the transmission really owes it to themselves to get this checked ESPECIALLY if you drive far from home often. It is not a pleasant experience!

ezra242 do a search this failure has been discussed before...I believe its an easier job for a tech who has done the work a few times before.
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Old 06-20-2003, 02:24 PM
Jim B+
Posts: n/a
Your car seems to have the standard transmission from an Italian

Army tank...except they had one forward speed in case of attack from the rear.
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Old 06-20-2003, 07:37 PM
moparmike's Avatar
You will rue this day...
Join Date: May 2003
Location: NW Arkansas
Posts: 732
Re: Your car seems to have the standard transmission from an Italian

Originally posted by Jim B+
Army tank...except they had one forward speed in case of attack from the rear.
I thought that was a french tank...
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Old 06-20-2003, 08:14 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 14
more info

vrsmith, the car is still out there...california highway patrol put a 72 hr grace period sticker on it. it's kind of on an off-ramp where truckers sleep. not too worried about it getting stolen or stripped, but it could happen. it's getting moved to a safe spot tomorrow. the plan is to drive it in reverse to a local shop i've been talking to. we're going to lower the tranny, check the b-2 piston, then decide whether we just need to replace the piston or replace the whole tranny. rebuilt tranny is $1600 - $500 core. shipped from los angeles. piston is $155 from local dealer. question to throw out there..

marshall booth, the diesel doctor, said it might be the b-2 band as opposed to the b-2 piston. if it's the b-2 band, i'm probably going to just replace tranny. so here's the question:

When I remove the B2 piston, will I be able to tell if it's faulty? Will it be broken? Worn out? In pieces? Binding somewhere?
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Old 06-20-2003, 11:13 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: BC, Canada
Posts: 378
Read this article regarding the B2 piston:

It mentions that the piston may come out in pieces which
confirms the problem. He says that only the 126 chassis has
enough space to allow easy replacement with the tranny in
Good luck!
1967 250SL
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Old 06-21-2003, 09:28 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 14


I drove my car in reverse all the way to a local mechanic. Took me 1.5 hours to get there, lol. It was just this place in a little desert town and I wasn't expecting much. There were some communication problems earlier with the father who owns the business b/c his English wasn't so great, but his son turned out to be a very qualified and nice guy.

So my mech and I took out the b2 piston.
It looked PERFECT. It used the new plastic sleeve, but still had the old flat ring instead of the T shaped ring. We pushed the piston in and out just like the fluid would, and it seemed fine. No binding or anything. The wishbone was not broken. No excessive wear or signs of binding. ATF fluid was nice and red, not burned or smelly. It looked perfect and seemed to operate perfectly. Unless I'm missing something, this probably means the B2 piston wasn't the problem? We even put it back in and tried it again just in case we unbinded it during removal. Car still wouldn't move unless rpms were in the 5k+ range...then it would less than a centimeter. Up on the lift, we tested the car in drive and could feel the car shifting gears. Not enough grabbing to move the car while on the ground.

It seems the b2 band clutch is worn out. Tranny only has 112k miles, but I guess this is the problem. I'm not 100% convinced as maybe the piston isn't pushing hard enough to engage the clutch, but at this point we've done enough investigation to determine that I'm not installing a $1600 transmission when it was a simple $100 fix.

So now we're putting in a new tranny I'm ordering from Los Angeles. He's charging like $475 for total labor. Hmm..I got quoted like $95 for a transmission charge earlier by someone else who worked there, but that seemed to be too good to be true. What do you guys think of that install price? Also includes the B2 piston investigation labor and he has to cut and weld a bit of the exhaust since whoever did prior work welded it closed. I do mech work myself, but I'm always impressed with professionals. He did what would probably take me six hours in less than an hour, lol.

Last edited by ezra242; 06-21-2003 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 06-21-2003, 10:44 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Posts: 2,053
Book time is ~5 1/2 hours to ~7 1/2 hrs. for R&R of a 722.3. I'd say with post-op adjustments and "time spent", you're lookin' good at $475, especially if he impressed you with skill and knowledge already.

The Golden Rule

1984 300SD (bought new, sold it in 1988, bought it back 13 yrs. later)
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