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Old 10-28-2003, 07:54 PM
Posts: n/a
Purchasing 300 E need info

I have been searching the for the past week now and just found this site yesterday. I'm looking at a 1991 300E that I believe as the 3.0L engine it as I don't see any 2.6L badges. How reliable are these cars? I need a very reliable car for the winter, and thought a 300E would do (german car fan) while my 944 Turbo is put up in the winter months. The dealer just said the car had a major service done which included a new waterpump and fluid change so from what they claim the car is ready to go and runs perfect. The car currently has 148k on the clock and appears to be in excellent condition. What things should I look for when I look at this car next weekend? Below are some pictures of the car that the dealer sent me. Does anyone know the color? It looks purple but is kinda growing on me. If anyone has a carfax and could run this vin WDBEA30D3MB395047 I would appreciate it.


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Old 10-28-2003, 07:58 PM
engatwork's Avatar
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Soperton, Ga. USA
Posts: 11,878
I have about come to the conclusion that the engine in that car (103) is about the best MB built outside of the pre-1985 diesels.
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Old 10-28-2003, 08:03 PM
Posts: n/a
I hope you are so right!! Reliability is key in the purchase of this car! Thanks for the info.
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Old 10-28-2003, 08:13 PM
dtf dtf is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: South East CT
Posts: 834
Have it checked out by a local shop for things like worn ball joints, idler arms and things like that as well as the standard compression checks. At 148,000 miles any car is going to show signs of wear. If you need the car as reliable as you indicate - invest a little up front and check it out.

Also, you don't say if you get snow but snow tires are highly recommended for any snowy conditions.
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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Old 10-28-2003, 10:10 PM
Super Moderator
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
Looks like a nice car.

There are a number of these cars that develop seemingly intractable stalling and rough running problems around 200K. Head gaskets, AC, and oil leaks are also problems as these cars age. You might want to search on "300E AND stalling" or "300E AND rough idle"

I had a 300E 5-speed for four years and loved the car, but an intermittent stalling problem that no one could diagnose finally caused me to sell it. It is getting hard to find shops to work competently on these cars when they have problems, at least in the DC area and several other places judging from the posts.
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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Old 10-29-2003, 12:28 AM
Posts: n/a
Well when I called and talked to the owner he told me he had no problem if I wanted to put the car on his lift to have the car checked out. I also asked him if there are any Mercedes shops I could take the car to for a PPI (that way I know of which shops not to take it to) and he didn't have any in mind that were close. He assured me the car was in pristine condition and was a new car trade in at a local Lexus dealership. I guess the main thing I'm worried about is ball joints and struts because after 148k these can get very tired.
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Old 10-29-2003, 12:41 AM
fahrgewehr2's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Wilmington, NC
Posts: 1,264
If you just want a reliable winter car, this is not the car for you. Unless major things have been done to it, the car will need major work. You will need to fix an oil consumption problem most likely, and the suspension will be worn in the front and rear. The AC shouldn't matter to you if you are driving in the winter only?

If you just want a winter beater, why not something economical with front wheel drive?

These cars are good if you view them as a hobby, but if you just want turn the key transportation, seriously, look elsewhere.

'90 300SE 298k
-300K and it gets put into retirement.
'80 300D 255k Purchased new by family in 1980.

Had a:
1973 220 (gas)
1980 300SD
1992 400E
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Old 10-29-2003, 12:41 AM
Posts: n/a
Also I'm curious what you guys would pay for a car like the one I have here? trying to get an idea of the price...
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Old 10-29-2003, 12:45 AM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,508
I think ball joints and struts should be low on your list for things to worry about.

Ball joints very rarely wear out on this car, and original Bilstein struts are extremely long-lived. So long, in fact, that they aren't even on a scheduled replacement interval.

They should last at least 200,000 miles before they may need replacement, and they are not that expensive, especially if you do it yourself.

The front has struts and the rear has shocks. The rear shocks, in particular, are cheap.

The three expensive things that you should be worrying about are:

1. transmission: 150,000 - 200,000 miles is an average life of an automatic tramsmission. About $2,500 for a rebuild.

2. a/c - the weak point on these a/c systems is the evaporator. The original ones have a tendency to leak. The part itself is not that expensive, but the labor will kill you. We joke that the engineers designed the whole car around the evaporator. It is buried underneath the dash, and everything in the interior of the car in front of the front seats needs to be removed to access it. The shop labor time is 17.5 hours if I remember. You'll have to budget about $2,000 parts and labor for replacement.

3. M103 engines are prone to valve guide wear, as well as oil leaks at the head gasket. Either of these require removal of the head. Budget $1,200.

I wouldn't let any of the above scare you away from buying the car. You just should know what might happen within your ownership experience should you buy the car.
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 10-29-2003, 01:04 AM
Posts: n/a
Yes I'm pretty much looking for turn the key and go type operation. I already have a Porsche that takes up most of my wallet on maintance so you are probably right this car isn't for me, from what I have learned on this site anyways. I just heard really good things about mercedes reliability. I will probably just end up getting a dead reliable 3.8L V6 Grand Prix GTP 97' or newer. We will see..
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Old 10-29-2003, 01:28 AM
Benz300's Avatar
Benz Enthusiast
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 803
I suggest you read on the other post of mine "is mercedes too troublesome". some interesting things people have to say. As from personal experience and the experience my friends have with the W124, if you're looking for a 'turn the key and go' type of car this most definitely will not be the car for you. It might have been if it was a low mileage car but with this mileage you're bound to have a lot of expensive repairs coming your way. Believe the others when the tell you the same thing.
Whether you think you can or cannot, Either way you're right!. by Henry Ford.
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Old 10-29-2003, 07:52 AM
Posts: n/a
Originally posted by Dan87951
I guess the main thing I'm worried about is ball joints and struts because after 148k these can get very tired.
Dont let that stop you, ball joints are simple,~$60/ea. at Fast Lane, struts are easy too.
You might have the motor mounts looked at.
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Old 10-29-2003, 09:56 AM
csnow's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Mass
Posts: 1,127
You should be looking at the 'dealbreaker' items first.

A/C comes to mind.
Nothing in the suspension/steering is that bad taken alone, but getting stuck with a full front or rear redo can indeed add up to big money.

Find out what has been done already, if you can. If it has been maintained, you should not get stuck with any big ticket repairs.

Have it checked out. Could have a lot of good life left in it.

Realistically, you are looking 12 year old car, and should adjust your expectations accordingly. I think you would find that a 12 year old 300E is more solid and reliable than most other 12YO cars. Also more enjoyable to drive.

Using your example, would you consider a 12 year old Grand Prix? Dead reliable? Fun to drive. How's that depreciation coming along? Consider total cost of ownership over time. Lifecycle costs, as they say...

May cost more for the first few years to proactively maintain the old Benz to keep it reliable, but what will the newer GM product really cost you in the long run?
1986 300E 5-Speed 240k mi.
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Old 10-29-2003, 10:02 AM
blackmercedes's Avatar
Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
This car is 14 years old. Please do not expect ANY 14 year car, even a Mercedes, to be a "turn the key and go" kind of car. It will require a fair amount of care and feeding, no matter how good a car.

That said, it can be a great car to own if you're willing to invest a little time and effort. Much less than ANY Porsche!

If you're really in need of something that just starts and runs and never needs much in the way of repairs, spend the same cash on a late model Corolla. Yucky to drive, but works like a refrigerator. Just open the door, and it's there.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 10-29-2003, 10:37 AM
Posts: n/a
Thats just it we are comparing a 91 vs 97-98 year. A 3.8L V6 from GM is very reliable simply put!! Granted its no german engineered car, however I can get a 97-98 Grandprix for about the same price as a 300E. I understand that any car is going to require a little maintance when being 12+ years old, but valve jobs, transmissions, and running rough that no one can figure out is harldly little maintance. I appreciate you guy telling me how it is on owning one of these cars but I just don't have the money to pay for the repair bills at this time on such a high mileage car. This is what one of the users on this board told me. "If you just want a reliable winter car, this is not the car for you. Unless major things have been done to it, the car will need major work. You will need to fix an oil consumption problem most likely, and the suspension will be worn in the front and rear. The AC shouldn't matter to you if you are driving in the winter only?"
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