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Old 03-05-2011, 11:59 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 50
Needed: Reality-Check or Encouragement?

Hi all - so, I've owned my 1970 220d for just about a year now, and am still making such regular stops at the shop that I need to step back and evaluate my situation, and was hoping for other more experienced owners' perspectives.

I got a good deal in purchasing the car. It was more or less a one-owner, garage-kept car, with no rust in the suspected places (floorboards, trunk, jackpoints), although a touch behind the wheel wells. The original owner probably did not drive it (or service it) all too frequently, particularly toward the end of his life, so pretty much everything in it is 40 years old. Within the first month of it's life two separate mechanics (including Manfred at Rheinland Motors in NYC) looked at the car and said that, while there are obviously no guarantees with anything 40 years old, it didn't seem to be in terrible shape.

Immediately after getting it, I've had some big repairs that have cost me. Non-exhaustive list includes: brakes (including booster and master cylinder), timing chain, cooling system, alternator, drive shaft... So, I've already sunk some change into it. Through each of these repairs, I've repeated the mantra that these cars run forever, and that the repairs would start to slow down at some point. There's only so many parts in the car to fix! So, of course I was frustrated yesterday when the cooling system emptied itself on the street, and is now sadly on its way back to the shop.

Before I face another bill, I'm trying to determine if this is just poor timing, and that, yes, the expenses will plateau, or if I need to face facts that I'm in over my head and should cut my losses.

Unfortunately, I'm not experienced enough yet to do a lot of the repairs myself, particularly those that are necessary before you run the car again. I have started with some of the smaller fixes, and hope to continue to learn about the car, and enjoy it. But, for the most part I'm left paying crazy NYC shop rates. I knew the car would need some work, but sometimes it feels like there's no end in sight.

I'd like to keep the car for many years to come, but also don't want to end up having to live out of it. So, I turn to all you folks. Am I almost there? Or do I need to give up?


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Old 03-05-2011, 02:04 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Anna Maria Island, FL
Posts: 327
theres a time to learn how to fix things yourself, and i think now is that time. there is nothing more expensive than a cheap mercedes, especially when youre not fixing it yourself.

my advice is keep the car, buy some tools (only when you need them, theyll all add up quickly to a nice collection), use this forum for help and resources, and just start taking things apart. this is how everybody learns, you cant break whats already broken.

imo these cars are much cheaper when you do the work yourself, especially if you use used parts.
95 E320 24k
07 E550 4matic 20k Soon to go
1977 240d 481k
2013 SL 600

Non MBs

02 Ford F250 Lariat 4 Quad Cab 7.3 Diesel 95k
01 Chevy Suburban 249K LT 5.3 V8
88 Saab SPG Convertible 32k
06 Lincoln Mark LT 59k
62 VW Bug
52 Bentley Mark IV
53 GMC half Ton Pickup
08 VW Beetle convertible 2k
07 bmw x5 4.8i 17k
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Old 03-05-2011, 02:40 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Long Island, NY
Posts: 4,253
time to throw a party at your place, BYOT. I learned the hard way back in 85 with my 230/8. Great car, needed everything. It got it some of it by me learning and the rest by paying the mechanic.

Back then I woulda killed for a forum like this one. Take advantage of it. If you have a digital camera and know how to upload photos, we can walk you through just about anything if you're patient, willing to read and have a decent set of tools on hand.

PS. It also helps to have another car to drive while you fix this one. I don't work on my daily driver or my wife's as a matter of principles. We're a 3+ car family so I always have an alternative set of wheels (because I'm not that good of a mechanic to be able keep from walking).
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Old 03-05-2011, 03:13 PM
Yak Yak is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 1,711
If it's in the shop for the cooling system, ask the mechanic to go over the car with you while it's on the lift and with the hood up. Knowledge is power.

Prioritize your questions. I recommend safety, then reliability, then comfort, then style.

For me safety means stopping and steering, so look at brakes and steering components. Reliability means the engine doesn't need to be coddled to get me from A to B and back to A. So you're looking at compression, valves, intake, fuel lines and tank, oil, etc. Comfort and style come later, but you can't ignore them. If the heat doesn't work or the seat springs poke you, then you won't want to drive the car.

Your current problem is the cooling system, but you also say the cooling system was worked on. Is the failure related to the previous repair, or a different component? Did a 40-year old rubber hose blow? A rusted radiator? I presume there was no overheating.
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Old 03-05-2011, 08:29 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 106
What everyone else said. Something as old as these relics, especially if they've received only nominal, as needed maintenance, are going to need to have everything looked at, sooner rather than later. As said above, prioritize and start picking away at it. When done, establish a sound scheduled inspection/maintenance program and you'll stay on top of everything with a very minimal risk of on road failures. These things really are very rugged and reliable when properly maintained.

You'll have to learn how to fix and maintain it yourself, or it will quickly become a money pit. Also, as time goes by there are fewer and fewer knowledgeable mechanics that have a clue how to fix it. They'll sometimes do more harm than good, and many will just replace parts (at your expense) until they hit on the problem. Is this your daily driver or a fun/project vehicle? Once you make it reliable, you should be able to drive it anywhere without worry.

From the pix you posted, it looks like it is in pretty good shape bodywise. How's the interior? Fix it up and it will be a very "stately" eye catcher. Keep the faith and start the learning process. The forums are truly a great place for help and information. Best wishes and keep us posted on what all you find.

Edit: Be aware that if it is the radiator core, it is big $$$. A couple years ago I had mine recored by Mac's Radiator ( here in Boise. They had to special order the core, but it came out real nice and only cost a mere $400 or so. IMO, don't let someone Mickey Mouse something other than stock into it.

Last edited by mbbuff; 03-05-2011 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 03-05-2011, 09:23 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 5,088
The first response had good advice, either figure out how to fix it yourself or buy a new Honda. If you're paying someone $100 hr to fix a 40 year old $2k car, then you're going to loose your shirt pretty quickly.
With best regards

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Old 03-06-2011, 12:20 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 7
It has just dumped coolant out then it is probably just a split hose or similar. Fill it up and start it. It will soon be obvious where the leak is. If it's just a hose then one needn't be a Rhodes Scholar to fix it. Jump in at the deep end and if you get stuck, ask. Take pics of things as you take them apart if you have to.
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Old 03-06-2011, 01:56 PM
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Location: Central Ky
Posts: 6,240
gotta realize this is an old car , and it will need continued maintenace. IF it is rust free, and you learn how to do some of these things, it will go on a long time, and in the long run much cheaper than montly newer car payments.
I assume , since you did not mention it , the engine is in good shape, no oil burning ?
2011 Porsche Cayman - Bond,James Bond
99 E320 THE Queen Mary - SOLD
62 220b - Dolly - Finally my Finny! Sadly SOLD
72 450SL, Pearl-SOLD
16 F350 6.7 Diesel -THOR
19 BMW X5 - Heaven on Wheels
14 38HP John Deere 3038E Tractor -Mean Green
84 300SD, Benjamin -SOLD
71 220 - W115-Libby ( my first love) -SOLD
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Old 03-06-2011, 04:39 PM
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Location: near Scranton, PA
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Here's the thing:

Do you have the ability / willingness to learn & do it all (or mostly) yourself?
Do you have the location to do it yourself?
Do you have a tool rental place (AutoZone, Advance etc) or a Harbor Freight nearby for cheap tools you will use once or twice?

If the answer to any of these is no, I would suggest finding a car that would not need as much maint work. Something less than 10 years old with a low cost of ownership/repair bills (usually domestic or Honda/Toyota have lower repair bills due to availability of parts, while Euro Imports and some Jap like Nissan etc have high parts costs). If you like the car and you want to keep it, learn to DIY.

I have 3 cars I drive on a regular basis (The MB not being one of those). I wrench on all 3 myself, including the Charger (do the brakes, oil changes etc myself on it). I've had my 300M's dash completely out to do the evaporator so I had working A/C. You need to just evaluate your ability / comfort level with your pocketbook.

On the other hand if you don't mind paying someone else, knowing the car may not be worth it but you still enjoy it, then keep it.
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Old 03-07-2011, 03:00 PM
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Quality tools can be had very, very inexpensively from ebay too. It just takes patience.
1985 300D 198K sold
1982 300D 202K
1989 300E 125K
1992 940T

"If you dont have time to do it safely, you dont have time to do it"

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Old 03-08-2011, 01:19 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 50
Thanks all for your thoughts. Indeed, it is time to start getting my hands dirty. I had just hoped it would be a touch less of an all-at-once process. I've started with some minor fixes already...replacing window regulator, repairing blinker assembly, etc... but need to start getting under the hood more.

@Yak - It would be incredibly helpful to have my mechanic walk through the car with me, but unfortunately he's a bit of a crank. I think it's actually time to switch mechanics to someone more interested in having a conversation with me about the car. For the cooling system, initially we took care of the radiator - this time it was apparently a hose in the back of the engine.

@mbbuff - Although this is my only car, it is not my "daily" driver - since I live in the city, having a car is a luxury, and it is only used weekends and occasionally otherwise. The exterior is in good cosmetic shape, but the interior is fantastic. It looks like the original driver never had any passengers. It already gets a lot of attention - but most importantly, I really enjoy driving and just looking at it.

@Tomguy - I absolutely have the willingness to learn to fix it, and was one of the things I had hoped to do when buying it. Unfortunately, because I'm in the city, I either have to make repairs that keep it mobile or can be finished before the next scheduled alternate side parking, or just think ahead until I'm up at my family's place upstate where there is a garage. And I'm certainly willing to invest in tools that will help me in this process.

If there's anyone in the greater NYC area that is interested in being patient in helping a beginner through familiarizing himself with his car, I'd be happy to travel for a meet-up, and will gladly bring the beer. In the meantime, I'll be taking everyone's advice to use this forum heavily for any upcoming repairs I think I can attack myself. So, look for some more posts from me soon!

Thanks all!
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Old 03-08-2011, 01:48 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 96
Hang in there amt230. My car had a similar story. I purchased it from the original owner 4 years ago, and it had 103K miles. It did not run (starter commutator was tarnished), the clutch did not work (slave cylinder), and the brakes needed rubber hoses. It took months to sort out other problems, like the fan rubbing the shroud (rubber radiator mounts allowed radiator and shroud to drop touching fan). And it had dents everywhere, as the PO was very careless in his old age.

But the interior was perfect, and no rust, the car was always in a garage in San Francisco. So I kept at it. Now, it'll go months without needing anything but the oil changes, and minor stuff. I've put 50K miles on it in 4 years, it takes me to work every day. The last problem it gave me was a burned out headlight bulb, a totally usual repair. I do have a nagging water leak into the trunk, left side, I got the right side leak stopped. And it was painted last summer, looks great!

Sorry to see yours on the flatbed, but hopefully you can get it back on the road soon. Ron
1971 220D, daily driver, new paint, 142K
1973 220D, low compression
1975 300D, back on the road! 166K
1971 220D, salvage, rear hit, engine excellent
1972 250, bad cam, but runs!
1971 230, engine stuck
1971 220D, low compression, rusty
1976 240D, salvage, engine excellent
1966 230SL, water in oil after rebuild
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:24 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Anna Maria Island, FL
Posts: 327
in summers i go to the poconos, not too far from nyc, maybe take a weekend up there... id be more than happy to help you out.
95 E320 24k
07 E550 4matic 20k Soon to go
1977 240d 481k
2013 SL 600

Non MBs

02 Ford F250 Lariat 4 Quad Cab 7.3 Diesel 95k
01 Chevy Suburban 249K LT 5.3 V8
88 Saab SPG Convertible 32k
06 Lincoln Mark LT 59k
62 VW Bug
52 Bentley Mark IV
53 GMC half Ton Pickup
08 VW Beetle convertible 2k
07 bmw x5 4.8i 17k
03 bmw x5 4.4i 40k
08 Range Rover S 9K
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Old 03-16-2011, 09:17 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: brisbane,Qld.Australia
Posts: 2,062
You have the right idea,get an independent mercedes expert to service your car and before you approach them , Ask other customers about them. I am of the old school where I appreciate my customers so I actually get to pick and choose them. If i don't get on with someone,they are asked to go to another place . It makes life easier for both of us and their cars are always running properly and at a price we are both happy with.

A conscientious mechanic will do the mercedes Service properly and go over the car according to the mileage . The steps are outlined in the owners handbooks and list as 'service A B or C etc .' An A service being just a oil change and quick check of fluid levels with a E service being a replacement of all worn rubbers etc etc including checking door seals as it happens .
As a general rule all rubber hoses should be changed every 7 years although I have worked on plenty of elderly mercedes With 40 year old radiator hoses still giving top service.
You have done your brakes but did they replace the hoses as an example?.
By doing a proper book service the mechanic can rest assured there qwill be no knock backs and the customer can drive the car knowing that only a really unlucky event will cause a problem.
The mechanic wins because he makes more money,the owner wins because service is really cheap maintenance and a lot cheaper than a new engine or trans because they didn't bother to mention the old heater hoses.
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Old 03-30-2011, 02:46 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Flyover State
Posts: 1,364
Don't give up. The DIY advice is spot on and these cars are pretty rugged and simple. Once you get everything sorted out, you'll probably only need to do regular maintenance while of course replacing the occasional 40yr old part

63 220S W111
76 300D W115
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73 280 SEL 4.5
86 300E 5 speed
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