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  #1  
Old 07-06-2003, 02:24 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: San Diego county
Posts: 64
380SEL head or used engine?

Hello all,

Some time ago I posted I guess what was a serious novice question about this 1983 380SEL I have that wouldn't start. I never got any responses here, but after subscribing to a few mail lists, I learned that this engine was known for timing chain problems and indeed my engine turned out to have them. After pulling off the Left Hand valve cover I found rocker arms flopping around, at least 5 bent valves and a broken cam.

Now I understand that this engine requires a $200 tool to set the valve train clearances for the hydraulic lifters, so my first thought was to finding a good used head with cam, and just R&R the bad head for the good.

I read a usenet post from a few years ago, with a guy claiming he could pull one head while leaving the intake in place, replace the valves, etc and have the thing back together and to the customer in 3 days. His email is still active on the web, but of course I got no response to my inquiry about pulling the one head only.

The other thing that concerns me is I have heard others talk about the 380 engines stripping the threads the head bolts screw into in the block, and requiring heli-coil or better inserts and this requires engine removal. Others have said they had no such problems, and yet others said it's only when the engine has been overheated.

So the questions I have now are... is a remove and replace operation of the bad head, replaced with a junk yard head feasible? is it really possible to do this without removing the intake first? And what what about those stripped bolts? I'd be seriously upset if I went to all that trouble and during the 90 degree portion of the tightening phase, a bolt pulled the threads.

My other option is to go to a pull it yourself wrecking yard and try to find a decent 420 or 500 engine and swap it with mine. I really need to get this car going, and I was laid off a week ago so I have the time but not a ton of money. I even offered to sell the car to someone who has a wrecked 420SEL with a good rebuilt engine and trans, but no luck. I had another, supposedly running 380SEL offered to me too, but with no trans and no means to hear it run, I passed on that one. Any feedback from others who have been through this would be appreciated.
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  #2  
Old 07-06-2003, 03:46 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
First of all, the valve tool is not $200, it's around $50, and is available from Assenmacher Specialty Tools. MB dealers are now reselling it.

Second, pulling the intake manifold off is not that big of a deal. The real hassle is getting the injection lines off, which you need to do anyway. While you have the intake off. you can reseal the lower to the upper half and be sure you are starting with good tight vacuum.

The parts to convert to a dual chain are about $250. You should also plan to replace all the slide rails and the tensioner, another hundred or so, and add another hundred for a gasket set.

You will need have a machine shop replace the bent valves, check the guides, do a pressure check and install new seals. Maybe $200 per head.

So if you do both sides, you are looking at 50+250+100+100+200+200=$900, which is probably cheaper than a used engine you could trust.

FWIW, I did not encounter the thread problems when I did my 380SL.
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Chuck Taylor
Falls Church VA
'66 200, '66 230SL, '96 SL500. Sold: '81 380SL, '86 300E, '72 250C, '95 C220, 3 '84 280SL's '90 420SEL, '72 280SE, '73 280C, '78 280SE, '70 280SL, '77 450SL, '85 380SL, '87 560SL, '85 380SL, '72 350SL, '96 S500 Coupe
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  #3  
Old 07-06-2003, 04:52 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: San Diego county
Posts: 64
Thank you for the speedy reply. I figured out the nuances of the search here and read your posts on the R&R you did, as well as the other posts on the subject, and the pictoral sequence on www.pindelski.com. Lots of good info.

My car has the double roller chain, and the owners manual shows an entry for "timing chain mod" at 80,000 miles. The car is at 184,000 miles now. The chain does not look old at all, no varnish, etc... and I don't see any broken (yellow, not dark) guide pieces, which kind of threw me as to what exactly happened to this engine. I did find out that the car failed smog a few weeks before I bought it so I'm guessing the valve timing was all over the place.

Because of the one broken cam, and the earlier quoted cost of that tool, the idea of just buying a complete head at a pull your own parts kind of place came to mind. Complete engines even can be had for cheap at those yards, but I'd guess most would need at least a timing chain and guides too. A guaranteed used engine with warranty would be around $1200 + shipping. I've never even driven this car or heard it run and it's a SEL, not a SEC or a SL, so it has no real appeal on the marketplace, so I want to do what I can on a budget.

I'll just get the car where I can work on it, then get the head off and go from there.
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  #4  
Old 07-06-2003, 05:59 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
Sorry, I missed the broken cam. Then a used head and cam may be the best way to go. If you got a new cam, you would need new rockers as well.

But I would really be worried about why the cam broke. That is not exactly a common failure.

I have a bunch of gaskets and parts left over that you can have once you get into it.
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Chuck Taylor
Falls Church VA
'66 200, '66 230SL, '96 SL500. Sold: '81 380SL, '86 300E, '72 250C, '95 C220, 3 '84 280SL's '90 420SEL, '72 280SE, '73 280C, '78 280SE, '70 280SL, '77 450SL, '85 380SL, '87 560SL, '85 380SL, '72 350SL, '96 S500 Coupe
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  #5  
Old 07-06-2003, 11:05 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
Just saw this -

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=33615&item=2422306229

I am interested in the injection - send my an email if you are interested in pursuing.
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Chuck Taylor
Falls Church VA
'66 200, '66 230SL, '96 SL500. Sold: '81 380SL, '86 300E, '72 250C, '95 C220, 3 '84 280SL's '90 420SEL, '72 280SE, '73 280C, '78 280SE, '70 280SL, '77 450SL, '85 380SL, '87 560SL, '85 380SL, '72 350SL, '96 S500 Coupe
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  #6  
Old 07-07-2003, 12:25 AM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: San Diego county
Posts: 64
Quote:
Originally posted by ctaylor738
Just saw this -

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=33615&item=2422306229

I am interested in the injection - send my an email if you are interested in pursuing.
E-mail sent
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  #7  
Old 07-08-2003, 05:10 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 12
I have 380 sel heads and cams,etc. cheap

You are welcome to whatever you need for the 380. Email me @ Stevek@cox.net- I am not that far from you if you want to pull the parts, most of them are easily accessible. Steve.
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  #8  
Old 07-13-2003, 12:12 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: San Diego county
Posts: 64
Re: I have 380 sel heads and cams,etc. cheap

Well, I have been working on getting the driver's side head off this 380SEL, and I have some questions.

First off, I read of everyone saying how much of a pain it was to get to the nuts on the underside of the manifolds. I managed to get them off, but I am having problems getting to the bolt that holds the circular clamp around the crossover pipe where it connects to the left side manifold. The nut appears to be a square one that is held (when it was new anyway) by the circular clamp, and the bolt that screws into it needs to be unfastened from the top, only it's in an odd angle. It almost seems like I'll have to take an 11mm socket and have a handle welded to it.
This clamp is how the manifold gets released from the pipe for removal, right?

Next, I have heard on this forum and elsewhere (and in the 1983 Chilton manual that is all I have), that the intake does not have to be removed to get the head off, but it's been suggested that it's a good idea anyway. The first thing that comes to mind is the water coolant passages leaking upon reassembly if the gaskets aren't changed.

So, I think removing it is best.. but I've never removed injectors on these engines, never seen a intake setup off the car, to know what needs to be removed to get it off the car. There are a ton of connections to that manifold, and I want to disturb as little as possible, so I'll be able to get it back together without too much grief.

Any info that might be helpful, would be appreciated.

Also, seeing the section of the manual on using the valve train adjustment tool would be a great help when I get to that point, if someone has it handy and wouldn't mind sending it along.

anon-12037822@craigslist.org (temporary anti-spam email)

Thanks in advance!



George

Last edited by New2MBZ; 07-13-2003 at 12:36 PM.
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