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Old 10-17-2003, 11:33 PM
Jon Hrut's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43
1996 E320 Reliability

I have treated my 96 E320 like a "baby"---I keep it clean, take it in for regular servicing and have made a variety of "elective repairs" to restore it to almost new condition. People tell me that it looks GREAT and like a new car.

Last month, it finally passed the 100,000 mile mark. Looking at my maintenance records, I have been lucky (compared to some posts, my overall maintenace has been lower than average--even tho this car has an overall high reliability record). I am a maniac for changing the oil--every 3000 miles if I have made long drives; every 4000 miles otherwise.

I was proud that it reached 100K in the current condition, but a bit sad question is what can I expect in the way of problems that may develop over the next 100,000 miles?

Since the car is running so well and I have developed such a fondness for it, can I expect more long miles of good performance or should I prepare myself for some major repairs
- Jon E320 210.055

90 Wrangler
77 Mustang 307,000 mi
63 T-Bird [fully restored]
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Old 10-17-2003, 11:44 PM
blackmercedes's Avatar
Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
You should switch your oil change interval. Long drives are much easier on the car, and you could add a thousand miles if you're on the highway. Shorter trips are more demanding, and under those circumstances you should shorten the interval. However, that said, in your case it makes no difference as 4000 miles is still plenty short.

100,000 miles is a short distance in the life of the M104 engine. You may require a head gasket sometime in the future, but that is probably the only driveline attention for at least another 100,000 miles. Take care of the tranny (change the fluid/filter every 30K-miles if it's the four speed, I think a very limited number of 96's had the five speed) and it'll last another 100K or more.

Change the final drive oil every 50-60K miles and the car will be in the junk yard long before that gearset gives out.

Keep on all the other assorted fluids/filters and all the related systems will last years and years to come. I have heard some early W210's have steering rack problems, but I would think by 100K that would rear it's head. Any techs want to wade in on that one?

The W210's also have some issues with front suspension components, including lower front ball joints and control arm bushings. The remainder of suspension bits last a long time. Shocks are very high quality and will last for many more miles.

Overall, you're still at an early point in the car's life. My old 190E's were not as well made as your E320, and I sold them at 250K-miles, still running, but in need of work. I see no reason why you couldn't beat that mileage by some margin.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 10-17-2003, 11:47 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,508
I have a 1993 E320, which has the same engine and transmission as your car.

I would guess that your transmission should last the next 100,000 miles.

I would suspect that if your head gasket hasn't already been replaced then it will probably go out within the next 20,000 - 30,000 miles. The original head gaskets were poorly designed and leak oil from the right rear corner (passenger side) of the head gasket. Our engine (3.2 liter M104) was used continuously in the S320 until 1999, and the head gasket was redesigned numerous times.

If you are unlucky, your throttle acuator might go out. It is not a very frequent repair item, but they have potentiometers that seem to wear out over time. They are expensive, about $1,200 for the part, and don't take longer than 1.5-2.0 hours to replace.

Other than those two relatively expensive repairs, their really isn't anything terribly expensive that I can think of. You might have a mass air meter or an upshift delay valve go out, but they won't break the bank.

Remember that even if all of the above need replacement, you are still ahead as far as money is concerned. Owners of cars tend to universally obsess over the high cost of repairs when they occur, but repairs are actually a very small cost of ownership - less than the cost of insurance, gasoline, and depreciation.

The biggest expense in car ownership is depreciation. Your car sold for $43,500 in 1996, and now it is worth probably about $15,000.

Your depreciation cost in the last 8 year is $28,500.

It would take a lot of repairs to equal that dollar amount, to say the least.

I'd suggest that you drive this car for as long as you can stand it.
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 10-18-2003, 12:10 AM
Jon Hrut's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43
Thanks for the two excellent replies. I did a search before posting about my 1996 e320, but most of the same type questions were about 98 E320s and beyond.

I have heard that of the E320s built, the 1996 was one of the best made. I have no intention of getting rid of it anytime soon.

I think that I sometimes bore my girlfriend and friends because I regularly clean the exterior (using the MB products at scheduled intervals) AND I am always talking about the car......need to keep my mouth shut or I will lose a girlfriend

Good point about the oil change. I could probably cut back on the schedule I've used.

BTW: re tranny. Every other car that I have owned and had the trans fluid replaced along with the filter has ALWAYS caused the transmission to develop problems within 1000 miles of the work.

NOT SO with the Benz.....I had tranny work done early this year....major workup and they did the transmission. Since then, it has been running like new. That was actually the major workup for the higher mileage....had it done around 97000 miles. Yes, it bit into pocket book but was worth it (BYW: I had the left rear window regulator go out also and they repaired that on that visit which added about 300 for parts, labor and tax).

I used to find that with American cars, the first 24 to 48 hours after it was in the shop to get something repaired were the most likely times that something else would fail (or the original problem would reoccur). THIS IS NOT TRUE OF THE BENZ. When they have worked on my car, the problem is FIXED.

Thanks again.
- Jon E320 210.055

90 Wrangler
77 Mustang 307,000 mi
63 T-Bird [fully restored]
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Old 10-18-2003, 02:41 PM
dtf dtf is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: South East CT
Posts: 834
The fan clutch is a well known failure around 200,000 miles as well as tensiometers. Your car probaly has the updated and reinforced radiator neck as well. My water pump went about 130,000 but I think that is not the norm.
1994 E320 Wagon (Died @ 308,669 miles)
1995 E300 Diesel (203,000)
1999 E300 Turbodiesel ( died @ 255,000)
2006 Toyota Tundra SR5 AC 4X4 (115,000 miles)
2011 Audi A4 Avant (165,000 miles) Seized engine - donated to Salvation Army
BMW 330 xi 6 speed manual (124,034 miles)
2014 E350 4Matic Wagon 48,000 miles
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