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Old 11-29-2003, 01:28 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2000
Posts: 3
Question Most reliable and maintenance free

love MBenz but do not have time to worry about one breaking down. Had a 1992 300TE 4matic and it was a fix it nightmare.
So I am looking again for a new one. I like these models 300CE, 300SDL, 300SEL, 400E, 420SEL and the 560SEC. I am looking on and have found several in each category but I just want to know this--of the above models what is the most reliable one and least expensive to work on. And if I am barking up the wrong tree what would be the best family car for someone who travels alot and wants something reliable and fix it affordable.
Thanks all
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Old 11-29-2003, 02:05 PM
Mike Murrell's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 2,141
There's is absolutely no way to claim that any particular MB model is the "most reliable". There may be a few with a gray history, but any that you listed MIGHT be ok IF the previous owners took proper car of their car.

I would look for simplicity. If it' gas you want, I'm not sure what would be simpler than an MB with a 103 motor. Mine has been rock solid.

Next you need to realize that most of the cars you're looking at are 10-15 years of age. You are going to spend $$$ on ANY car that age - asian - euro - domestic - doesn't matter.

Forget the "blue book", especially if you find a mint condition - one-owner car that has been meticulously cared for. That person is going to command top $$ and it's my belief you're better off buying a car like that than one that's full of problems for "cheap". You're going to pay one way or the other. Blue books are guidelines - not gospel.

Finally - there is no such thing as "maintenance free". Maint. is what keeps the car going.
Mike Murrell
1991 300-SEL - Model 126
M103 - SOHC

James Madison - Oppressors can tyrannize only when they achieve a standing army, an enslaved press, and a disarmed populace.

Liberty Firearms Training - After years of trying to regulate California criminals with a never ending stream of gun control laws they have still not given up with the belief that if they make something a crime that criminals will miraculously start obeying the law.

Last edited by Mike Murrell; 11-29-2003 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 11-29-2003, 02:09 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,503
Generally speaking, all of the models you listed are well-regarded and probably equally reliable.

However, there are two models that stand out as being easiest to work on: 300CE and 300SEL.

They both have the same 3.0 liter M103 engine and are proven chassis with no major issues.

I think it comes down to whether you'd rather drive a medium sized two door hardtop coupe, or a very large four door sedan.

The 300SEL would be particularly easy to work on as the engine bay is so huge. With the 6-cylinder in there, you could practically jump in there to work on the engine.
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".

Last edited by suginami; 11-29-2003 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 11-29-2003, 02:45 PM
Posts: n/a
Mike Murrell is absolutely correct. I would never buy a used car unless I knew the car and/or it was a one-owner and the PO could prove it was never abused and treated with TLC.

You are always ahead paying a premium for a cream puff.

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Old 11-29-2003, 05:55 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,315
I would have to say "none of the above" to your list especially buying one blind off Autotrader. All of those cars have known and expensive problems - head gasket, wiring harness, injection, engine management, climate control - just read the posts!

Your only hope with one of these is to find one with a known service history and a knowledgeable mechanic who can inspect the car and the history and tell you if the trouble areas have been addressed. Or see if you can find a Starmark car with the extended warranty.
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 12-04-2003, 10:32 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 4
I recently acquired a 91 300 SEL (140,000) from a very reputable private source. - with six inches of dealer documentation to back it up. Here are a few anecdotes - from a newbie:

- Door hinges on the 126 are notorious - something about the device which keeps the door open after you unlatch it. I've now replaced two of them (fortunately my mechanic is quite innovative, and not interested in buying stock parts.)

- Window motor units - the scissors inside the door. Check them all for any noise - which means they are about to give up.

- Unfortunately, the PO's dealer was not absolutely truthful on this point - which I just paid 2,200 to rectify. There is a filter in this transmission (inside the transmission casing) which requires periodic changing. Documentation showed 2 replacements of this filter prior to my purchase. My trans gave out just 3 months after purchase. You should check 3 points: 1) find out the standard replacement interval on this filter, and confirm it's been done. 2) smell the transmission fluid - if it doesn't smell like perfume - beware. 3) if there is any delay in shifting - even when engine is cold - beware.
My trans was replaced by a benevolent trans shop = expect a 3-4,500 bill if you don't have a friend in the trans business.
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Old 12-04-2003, 11:02 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 18,745
The most renown trans rebuilder in the SF Bay Area will do a 722.3 for around $2000. The dealer will install a factory rebuilt unit for not much more.

95 S420
87 300SDL
83 300SD ... $1100, see cars forum
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Old 12-04-2003, 11:41 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Wilmington, NC
Posts: 1,262


I dont see window regulators as a big problem... I can change them out pretty quick. It helps to use ALL the windows in your car on a regualr basis.

I hope you paid for that tranny in canadian dollars, most places around here can do it for less than 2, easy.

The door hinges you speak of are called door check straps. broke on my 116 car, but not on my 126 car yet. Easy to replace also.

Nasedo- These old cars (and they ARE getting old- newest 126 will be 13 this year) are a lot of work. They are really only worth it if you can do your own work or see the car as a hobby, otherwise the repair bills can break you down.
'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 12-05-2003, 10:04 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 197

If I were looking to purchase one off your list, it would be the 420sel. The reasoning is that the 420sel gets you the biggest body(room inside), as good of a ride as any and better than some, better gas mileage than the 560sel and almost as good as the 300sel, but with the power of a v8. I have a 90 420sel and an 89 300se. I love both. The inline six's seem for the most part have an oil consumption problem that is not really dangerous or anything, but is inconvenient on trips. The major demon of the v8's are timing chain rails/tensioners that have to be replace timely or major damage can occur ($5k). I suggest the 420sel over all on your list. Now, keep in mind as others have suggest with the age of the cars, there will be a certain amount of expense to renew the car such as rubber parts like control arm bushings, sway bar bushings, flex discs and other suspension parts like shocks. Of course, things like shocks and brakes are common with any car no matter what make. When we decide to buy another car, we will sell our 300se and buy another 420sel. If I was to go and buy another w126 knowing what I have experienced the mine so far, I would find a car with around 100k-120k for around $7k-$9k. I would have about $2k spare to have the timing chain service done, transmission service(approx. $100), check and replace all suspension parts if needed and check the blower motor/regulator for the ac/heat. A 90 420sel with that mileage will bring about $13k to the bank, so if you get for $9k and spend $2k you are still under the retail to the bank by $1k and you will be ready to ride for another 100k besides the normal services like brake pads, transmission service(every 30k-40k). I hope this helps.
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Old 12-05-2003, 11:07 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Canada
Posts: 298
No automobile is maintenance free, even bicycles need maintenance.

If you are talking about maintenance friendliness, I think 400E should be first ruled out. In my ownership experience of serveral cars&trucks, 400E is by far the most difficult one to work on by DIYers, especially anything under the hood, how about spending 6 hours in flushing cooling system, and 6 hours in removing camshaft cover and failed?
99 BMW 540i 6-speed 110K Km
03 SAAB 9-5 wagon 80K Km
92 400E (Sold) 245K km
Still missing the days with the Benz, it kept me busy.
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Old 12-05-2003, 02:52 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Posts: 132

The 300SDL would be your best bet...a 300SD from 1984 or 85 would be better. The 5 cylinder diesels are pretty much bullet proof. My "new" one has 175,000 on the clock...the old one had 350,000 before I gave it to my nephew. The maintanence and repairs on gas engines are much higher than a diesel engine.

Old age and treachery will allways overcome youth and skill!

1993 S500
1984 380SL
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