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Old 05-26-2000, 03:54 PM
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I'm not an MB owner but I've been on the lookout for '85 (or earlier) 300D. From looking through the postings here I've gathered info on some problems that seem fairly common to this model.

But if any of you would be willing to summarize for me what kinds of mechanical issues I should expect or at least be aware of, I'd be very grateful (some sort of pre-purchase checklist would be great). Also, what is the range I should I expect to pay for one? (E.g. there's one for sale nearby for $6,000 - an '85 with 202,000 miles, looks pretty clean.) What is the range of what you'd expect to pay for annual maintenance?

I apologize if this is not exactly the right place for this posting, but since you all are mechanically inclined, you're the kind of people I'd like to hear from.

Thank you very much.

Jim Heetderks
Charlottesville, VA
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Old 05-26-2000, 05:48 PM
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I think $6000 is way too much for that car. I just looked it up at and got $4600 for retail. That's if it's perfect and you're buying it from a dealer. Trade-in value is $2000 according to

I just paid $5900 for my 300SD with 117000 miles from a used car dealer, and I'm starting to think I got ripped off, cause my transmission needed rebuilding about 200 miles after I bought it! I'm really wishing I would've bought from a private party. It's always cheaper to eliminate the middle man.

If you haven't owned one before, you'll soon find out that you get a lot of car for your money with an old Mercedes.

I'm not a mechanic, but I would say one thing to watch out for is rust.

Good luck!

Santa Barbara, CA
1974 280C
1984 300SD
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Old 05-26-2000, 07:21 PM
fz500sel's Avatar
Happy now in paradise!
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Venice, FL - "sharktooth capital of the world"
Posts: 712
Hey Jim,

Welcome aboard to the shop forum! I have a 1985 300D with 270K on it and it runs great (knock on wood).

I think that one of the most important things to look for is how well maintained was it by the previous owner, i.e. maintenance records, frequency of oil changes, etc. Pay attention to how smooth the tranny shifts. Check for leaks. If possible, check how well it starts on cold mornings (kinda' hard to do this time of the year). Does it have the block heater installed? If it has a sunroof, does it open and close smooth? How does the central locking system work? What about the operation of the power windows (if so equipped)? Look under all the floormats for rust (a sign that water has been leaking into the footwell areas).

I'm sure alot of the other members can give you additional ideas of things to look for.

$6grand does seem a bit high in my opinion.

Good luck!

84 500SEL EURO 87K
85 300D 267K (and still goin' strong)
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Old 05-26-2000, 10:32 PM
Harvey Sutlive
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I would suggest you look extra hard at past maintainance if you want to buy a 15 year old car. Try to find a one owner or two owner car that's really been looked after.
You pay more for a well maintained car but that's money well spent.
That thousand bucks or whatever that you save buying a ragged out car EVAPORATES in the first year or less. You will find yourself paying lots of money to get your car back to a level of dependability and performance and good looks which you might have already had by shopping with discrimination in the first place.
In short, my take is: one of the best bargains going is paying top dollar for a very well maintained older high quality car like a Mercedes.
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Old 05-26-2000, 10:51 PM
Aaron's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 1,935

Here's a basic checklist to follow..

BODY: Check rocker panels for rust, especially around jacking holes. Look in each front wheelwell and make sure that the upper stabilizer bar is secured to the firewall. If you see any rust in there, stay away by all means. Check bottoms of doors for rust and pull the carpet up and check floorpans for signs of rot. You might also want to look at the radiator support where the identification tag is riveted and make sure there aren't any odd looking weld "scars" (could mean the car was involved in an accident). It's also a good idea to check the points on the body where the front and rear bumper shocks mount up for serious rot.

ENGINE: Check for smooth starting by cranking engine IMMEDIATELY after the glow plug light extinguishes. A common trick is to wait 10 seconds or so after the light goes out to start the engine. This will result in easier and smoother starting. Check for any large oil leaks from the valve cover and check the gasket inbetween the oil filter housing and the block for leaks. Also check the oil cooler lines for leaks. Open up the coolant expansion tank cap and make sure there is no sign of oil in the coolant (signifying the need for a head gasket). If there is oil in there, you'll notice a white, milky substance in the coolant and probably all over the tank. Also check the auxiliary fan for free operation and check to insure that the radiator cooling fins are not rotted away and leaking. Check the condition of the brake fluid. Brown or dirty fluid should be changed immediately. Pull the engine oil dipstick and make sure the oil level is at or near the top indent on the dipstick. If it's low, the car is using (or leaking) a helluva lot of oil!

CHASSIS: Check the tires for uneven wear and make sure the brakes feel nice and firm. If possible, check for a lip at the edge of the rotor, which could mean they're due for replacement. Check exhaust for any leaks and make sure there is the correct downpipe coming off of the turbo. A late '85 could have a trap oxidizer, make sure it has been removed (it looks like a large cylindrical muffler). I would imagine it should have been done by now.

INTERIOR: Make sure all power/vacuum equipment works such as windows, locks and sunroof (if applicable). Check the automatic climate control THOROUGHLY for correct operation on both heat and air conditioning. On the test drive, make sure the tranny doesn't slip and check the fluid to make sure it's not brown and burnt smelling.

OVERALL: Just give the records and the maintenance book a thorough checkover. Records are very important with any Mercedes. Usually the maintenance books are long gone by now, but a caring owner will have ordered another book from Mercedes when the first one filled up and will have kept records of each service carried out. Check the paint, interior and chrome and if it all looks good, make your offer accordingly. $6,000 does sound a little high, just because of the mileage, but I'd say $5,000 would safely buy it. Good luck!

Aaron Greenberg
MB technician
Precision Motorcars, Cincinnati, Ohio
'67 250SE Cabriolet
'77 450SL
'80 300SD
'85 380SE
'89 420SEL
'93 300E 2.8
'74 Jensen Interceptor Mk.III
'81 DeLorean DMC12
'85 BMW 745i Turbo
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Old 05-27-2000, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
Unfortunately what you really need to do is have someone like me or Aaron do the things on Aarons list on any old MB you want to use for a while.

I can tell more in a test drive, walk around, and quick blow-by test due to my experience than all the looking or reading that you can ever do. Drive (and oversee the work on) ten of these cars a day for twenty five years gives experience that can't be learned from a book.

You will need a good shop for some of your work on an old MB (unless you got more time than money and are in training). If you don't know who that place will be then I would use the pre-purchase inspection to inspect both the shop and the car. They are both equally necessary.

Steve Brotherton
Owner 24 bay BSC
Bosch Master, ASE master L1
26 years MB technician
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Old 05-27-2000, 02:13 PM
Posts: n/a

You just got the very best advice from some very wise men. Follow all of it, and take the car to someone who has seen scads of these cars in their shop for many years. It may take awhile, but you'll love the outcome. Don't buy the first car that you see that catches your fancy.

Good luck,

Larry Bible
'84 Euro 240D, 516K miles
'88 300E 5 Speed
'81 300D Daughter's Car
Over 800,000 miles in
Mercedes automobiles
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Old 05-28-2000, 12:18 AM
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Along this advise, can anyone offer a competent, reliable shop in the Tacoma/Seattle area? I too am in the process of shopping for a 300D and will be looking at clean 85' tomorrow morning.

Taking the car to a good shop for the once over I understand is a great $125 +/- for what you get.

I understand there is a good shop in Bellvue.

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Old 05-29-2000, 10:57 AM
Registered User
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Queens, New York, USA
Posts: 38
I paid 4k a year ago for my 83 300SD. The car had only one owner and 137K miles. The interior is in top condition, however, I just spend 2,800 on a new paint job and expecting to spend an additional $700-$800 in front end repairs. The car looks like new but I have the "post-purchase blues". I feel that I could just put all that money together and buy a much newer model perhaps an 89 or 90. If you're buying and old Benz, figure out the total cost of getting the car in good condition and determine if you can get a newer model with that money.
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Old 05-29-2000, 03:46 PM
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Thanks for the responses, everybody; I'll be better prepared because of your help.

One further question: What is anyone's opinion on the Kelly Blue Book listings? Are they a a reasonable guide or are they skewed somehow?

Jim Heetderks
Charlottesville, VA
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Old 05-29-2000, 04:46 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Posts: 154

I find kelly is a good ballpark figure to work from. Since knowledge is power I also use nada and hemmings to get a more complete idea of the range of prices that may be reasonable. is useful, but have to pay for other than "good" vehicles prices. They show an 84 300D Good condition at 4,675 don't list 85 or 86. shows '85 300sD (no 300D listed) @ $5825 - $8900.
Of course prices vary by region, and kelly considers zip code.

Happy shopping and good luck!

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Old 05-30-2000, 08:09 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Los Angeles, Calif, USA
Posts: 521
Adding to Aaron's check list as follows:

(1) MB will replace the trap oxdizer in 85 Calif model for free with an Oxidation Catalyst. The part number for the Catalyst is 126-490-34-14. The trap oxdizer and the Oxidation Catalyst look identical and you really have to check the p/n in order to tell if the car has the final recall or not. The new Catalyst is warrenty for 12 month. It is about $750 (P&L) to replace the Catalyst. Most of the info is based on the Recall Campaign #96-1121, dated 2/97.

(2) Some cars have problem with the speedometer. Check the trip and mileage readings to be sure they are moving during test drive. In some cars, the trip meter is not working but the main mileage meter is okay. Some cars have the digits working intermitently and you may not discover the problem during a test drive. About $100 to rebuild the speedometer.

(3) Check the oil gauge. It should be between 1.5 to 2 during hot idle but goes to over 3 when cold or normal driving.

(4) The temperature gauge should reach 80 to 85 degree in about 5 minutes of driving (dry, 75 degree outside). It should be between 80 to 85 for the remaining test drive.

(5) Open the engine oil filler cap during hot idling, if you see smoke shooting out, it is okay. But I prefer no smoke or little smoke. I saw one 617 engine with 250000 miles having no smoke out of the hole at all. The lowest mileage 617 engine I checked was 100,000 miles and it had some smoke. I have not seen a 603 engine (87, 300D) having smoke coming out of the filler hole. There is not too many 603 engine around anyway to make a conclusion.

(6) Check the electrical connectors on top of the brake fuild reservor. If it is disconnected, it is possibly because the brake warning light is on.

(7) When checking the windows and sun roof, be sure to open and close them all the way. Some times it has problem when it is fully open or closed. Sun roof is expensive to repair. Parts for Window problem can be from few dollars to 100 dollars.

(8) All doors, trunk lip, front hood, should be open or closed easily. All Door and trunk edges should align and fit. Otherwise, it may be an indication of accidents. If you find some 123 body cars having the front hood not level with the fenders, in most cases, it is okay.

(9) Check the antenna operation including the antenna switch. Many cars have a worn antenna rubber seal. The seal is very cheap.

(10) Check the rear-end for oil leak.

(11) Check the front windshield for crack or chips.

(12) Check hazard switch and then the turn signals. In some case, the turn signals are out of service after you play with the hazard switch. It is because the poor contacts inside the hazard switch. Check the remote mirror operation also. Hazard switch is about $20.

(13) Rock the fan by hand when the engine is not running. Small amount of play (fan clutch) is okay. Fan clutch is about $100.

(14) Check the A/C switches and heater operation. A/C may not work but at least you need the heater to work, especially the defrost switch. Look at the A/C hoses and connections for oily appearance that indicate leaking of freon.

(15) The non-metallic paint starts to crack on older cars and you cannot see the cracks unless you come very close to the surface.

(16) Check the sun visors. Many cars have broken covers or cracked case. The electricity for the sun visor lights is from the mounting clip which sometimes is broken. A sun visor is expensive, possibly $100. Mounting Clip is ~$5.

(17) Be sure the driver seat can be adjusted. Both front/back and up/down. It is adjustable to fit a very short person.

(18) Except the 85 California model, the air filter housing mounting screws or bracket are known to have problems. Try to move the air filter housing by hand to see if it moves. If it is loose, you can possibly hear it "clink" when you turn off the engine. The mounting screw set is about $10, bracket about $40.

(19) Check the coolent recovery tank for cracks. Tank is about $35

(20) Some cars have worn seat belt buckle, mostly driver seat. The buckle is about $30 for the driver side, $20 for the passenger. You may not notice that it is worn out the first time. Try to put the male insert into the buckle several times or compare the force required to push it into the buckle to the force required for the rear seat belt. Some cars may have broken male insert (smashed by the door).

Happy shopping and searching


[This message has been edited by be459 (edited 05-30-2000).]
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Old 05-30-2000, 08:40 AM
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Most importantly, let us know about your new baby when you find it.

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Old 05-30-2000, 08:49 AM
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Dear prospective owner,
I just wanted to second what Steve, Aaron, and some of the other respondents suggested. ABSOLUTELY have any prospective purchase inspected by an experienced Mercedes technician before making an offer or getting too attached to it. Any old auto mechanic is not good enough. It MUST be an MB tech who is familiar with these cars. They are excellent cars and a joy to own and drive, but if you've never owned an MB before, be aware that major repairs are MUCH more expensive than they are for a Toyota, and require the expertise of someone like Steve or Aaron or their staffs to do properly. This is why the maintenance history and prepurchase inspection are so important. That said, I can say from much personal experience that an old MB will usually run trouble-free for 250,000 miles and beyond if carefully maintained. There is simply no sturdier car in the world.
Good luck!
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Old 05-30-2000, 11:16 AM
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Thanks again for the sage advice (especially to David, for the addition to Aaron's checklist).

As for maintenance records, what should I expect? One of you mentioned the official maintenance books; should I look for one of these to be carefully filled in for each service? Should I expect a perfectly complete record for the life of the car?

I'll certainly report back on what I find, though I intend to take my time and find just the right car. But I do look forward to joining the club of satisfied MB owners.

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