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Old 11-26-2003, 10:27 AM
Posts: n/a
What to look for in a - 1997-1999 E320/420/430

I am going ot be purchasing a 1997-1999 Mercedes E class in the next couple months. I consider myself fairly good at judging used cars based on test drives, records and basic mechanical condition. My question is this:

What are the common problems associated with these cars that I should look out for? I am considering cars with up to 80k miles.

Is there a source on the web for buying tips for these cars?

My last benz was a 1986 420SEL. It was a great car but became plagued with leaking seals, nothing major but it eventually influenced my decision to sell the car.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old 11-26-2003, 06:02 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 3,726
I suspect those years are all pretty similar except for engines - the 97s are the "old" generation. The 97 320 is the straight six 104 motor that is a good engine but does have some head gasket problems. The 98/99 320 is the V6 with balancer problem or whatever it is. The 97 420 is the old 32 valve while the 430 is the 24 valve. The 430 has fewer parts, less maintenance, better diagnostics, much lower manufacturing cost, and I think most people think lower overall quality. I personally think a 97 E420 would be a great car - they're getting cheap and the 119 motor is a great motor, sort of overbuilt in the old style, without the head gasket issue.
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Old 11-26-2003, 09:20 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,503
My vote is for the 1997 E420.

In 1996 no V8 was offered, and 1997 was the only year this engine was offered in this chassis. This 4.2 liter M119 engine was also used in the W124 chassis 400E / E420 from 1992-1995, and in the W140 chassis 1992-1999 400SEL / S420.

This engine was also offered in a 5.0 liter version (though somewhat modified) in the legendary W124 chassis 1992-1995 500E / E500, from 1990-1999 in the R129 chassis 500SL / SL500, and in the W140 chassis 500SEL / S500 from 1992-1999.

1998 was the first year the new M112 / M113 V6 and V8 engines were sold. They have a single overhead cam instead of dual overhead cams like the M119, but have two sparkplugs per cylinder, and 3 valves per cylinder - one intake valve and two exhaust valves.

The early 1992-1995-ish M119's had trouble with cam oiler tubes and bad throttle actuators. Other than that, they have no issues with reliability or longevity.

The M112 and M113 V6 and V8's have trouble with crankshaft balancers. If you buy a 1998-1999 E320 or E430, you ought to get it replaced to the updated part.

Read this thread:

Crankshaft Balancer Failure! UPDATED

If you decide to go with an E320, the 1996-1997 E320's have an inline-6 M104 engine. The 1998-current E320's have a V6.

The V6's have problems with crankshaft balancers, and hopefully the updated part will solve the problem. Other than this, this engine doesn't appear to have any other systemic problems.

M104's had problems with the original head gaskets leaking oil, but after countless redesigns, the new head gasets apparently don't leak.

In the U.S. the M104 was last used in 1999 in the W140 chassis S320, while the V6 is still in production. This may or may not lead people away from the M104.
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 11-26-2003, 09:54 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
The M119 is one of the most over-engineered engines to ever sit in the bay of a passenger car.

The best W210 in my opinion is the 1997 E420. While the M112 and M113 engines are superb low emissions engines that are pretty much bullet-proof save for the harmonic balancer, they just don't have the same sound/feel/some-intangible of the M119 DOHC V-8.

The E420's can also be picked up at pretty decent prices now. I think anyone that is selling their cherry W210 E420 is kinda nuts, but that's a bonus for us enthusiasts.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K

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Old 11-26-2003, 10:23 PM
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Thanks for the advice here. I just learned quite a bit and will heed the advice. I usually go for the newer car but can recognize the advantages of the 1997 E420. I will now focus my search on this car. I especially like the fact that it has the 5 speed automatic.

Thanks, I'll post when I locate and purchase a good one.
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