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Old 12-20-2002, 04:12 PM
Posts: n/a
Engine broke - would appreciate some advice

Hi guys,

today I got the bad news that the engine of my '72 280SE 4.5 needs major repair and I am not sure what to do. Thus I would appreciate your comments and suggestions. I love this car, but I am in no position to throw away money

The new noise that comes from the engine turns out to be the timing-chain hitting the engine case indicating broken rails and a bad chain/tensioning. This means, I should not drive the car anymore. Since I also have leaking valve guides as well, it would make sense to combine a possible repair with a valve job.

Options[list=1][*] Repair at my local shop
For the whole thing (valves and chain), I got a quote for $4600 incl. parts. The guy is very good, I trust him to do the job well, and he mentioned that the rest of the engine does usually not fail (is that right?) so I would get a quasi new engine. However, the value of the car would not increase because an unqualified partial rebuild is not as easy to sell.[*]Rebuild Engine from Adsit or other 3rd party
I found this company, Adsit, that sells a rebuild engine for $5000 plus shipping. Does anybody know the company and its quality? (or does anyone have a recommondation?). With the labor for putting it in, this would be more expensive, but it would be a completely rebuild engine, adding a little more value, but also from a third party of unqualified quality[*]Exchange engine from MB
I dont know how expensive that would be (most likely outragously expensive ... anybody knows?), but it would be a great point in generating value[*]Throw the car away
Since this could easily double the investment into the car, I am also thinking whether it is worth it at all. The car is absolutely rust free, decent interiour/wood, has a new exhaust system and new motor mounts, but heater blower is broken, AC leaks, power locks leak, transmission leaks at the torque converter (maybe this would be a quick fix if the engine is out) and the paint is a mediocer repaint ... however, I would get next to nothing trying to sell it with this timing chain.[/list=1]
I would highly appreciate any comments also about other alternatives. This is really a bummer for me

Thanks a lot in advance


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Old 12-20-2002, 06:40 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,538
I've seen this come up before, and the answer always seems to be to repair your current engine at your local shop. The bottom ends of these engines are virtually indestructable.

The problem you are experiencing happens about every 100,000 miles on the M116, M117, and M119 engines. The timing chains stretch, the tensioners wear out, and the plastic chain and guide rails become hard and brittle.
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 12-20-2002, 08:14 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Posts: 8,150
$4600 is a good price for valve job and timing chain/rail replacement. Doing both at the same time is a good idea, since the front chain cover fits up under the heads, very difficult to get it to seal properly if you don't also take the heads off.

However, if the only problem is excessive oil consumption and a puff of blue smoke on startup, you probably don't have bad guides, just worn out valve stem seals. These can be replaced without removing the head, should reduce the cost quite a bit if the mechanic can replace the lower rails without removing the front chain cover.

A running used 4.5 currently goes for about $1300 -- you would need to pay for R&R.

1972 220D ?? miles
1988 300E 200,012
1987 300D Turbo killed 9/25/07, 275,000 miles
1985 Volvo 740 GLE Turobodiesel 218,000
1972 280 SE 4.5 165, 000 - It runs!
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Old 12-20-2002, 08:39 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 854
I agree with Peter, about the valve seals. These are small rubber gizmos which go over the valve stem. the valve stem goes up and down through this rubber seal. The seal prevents exessive oil from the cam galley from going down into the combustion chamber. They usually come with a head gasket set.

You didn't mention how many miles are on the engine. It can be hard to tell sometimes, with these odometers only going to 99,999. This can be a good indicator if it is seals or guides. I would think it is seals.

The real bellweather though, is to get a compression test.
I can lend you mine if you want to do it yourself.

Peter can tell you better than me, but I think if you are seeing 100-135 across the board, then you are doing good and don't need a rebuild.

Doing it your self is certainly feasible too, if you have a dedicated space.

Also, don't forget to buy a new water pump from the dealer, whilst the heads are off.
1981 300CD (Benzina)
1968 250 S (Gina) 266,000 miles!
1983 Alfa Romeo GTV6 (Guido)
1976 Jaguar XJS-saved a V-12 from the chevy curse, what a great engine!
1988 Cadillac Eldorado (better car than you might think!)
1988 Yamaha Venture (better than a Wing!)
1977 Suzuki GS750B
1976 Yamaha XS 650 (sold)
1991 Suzuki GSX1100G (Shafty Gixser)
1981 Yamaha VX920RH (Euro "Virago")
Solex Moped
1975 Dodge P/U camper

"Time spent in the company of a cat, a beer, and this forum, is not time wasted!"
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Old 12-21-2002, 10:55 AM
Super Moderator
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
This is a four-way Hobson's choice and none of the alternatives are great.

I think if you truly love the car and intend to keep it, the best best is a complete rebuilt unit from Metric Motors. Make sure your mechanic passes their jobber price on to you. I say this because you take advantage of Metric's parts buying power and efficient shop. They really are the best in the business. That way the labor money from your mechanic is most highly leverage. You are not by any stretch going to get it back in value to the car, but percentage-wise it is the best bet.

The second best option is to replace the chain, the upper rails, the tensioner rail cover, and the tensioner. Throw in a set of valve seals for good measure. But do this only if you have decent compression. This is the low-dollar option.

I don't think much of the other two. A partial rebuild is not that much less than the Metric option and doesn't add anything to the value of the car. A used engine has the same labor cost as a new engine, but is a complete crapshoot.

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 12-21-2002, 07:38 PM
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Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 1,937
I agree with Chuck. Metric is the best in the business and I have personally installed three engines rebuilt by them and have had excellent results. Going to MB for an exchange engine will be outrageously expensive, but if you love the car that much, then certainly buy one from Germany. I mean, who can top a factory-exchange engine? Of course I'd count on at least double that of Metric's price, if not more. As I recall, some years back, when I worked at a dealer, we put in a BRAND NEW longblock in a 420SEL and I think it was around $25,000 for the engine from MB. And we also did a 6.9 (they had one brand new unit, still crated up in Germany). That was $43,000 for just the engine.

Metric's engines have a 4 year/50,000 mile warranty, same as Mercedes.

NOW, the bottom ends on the 4.5's are indeed bulletproof. However, for the $4,600 cost of just doing the top end, you might as well up the ante a little and get a completely rebuilt longblock from Metric. While the engine is out, why not clean and repaint the engine bay too?

Think of it this way..With a rebuilt engine from Metric, you'll essentially be driving an almost brand new 280 4.5 sedan, at least mechanically.

Do remember this though, your longblock from Metric won't include all the ancillary equipment, so make sure your current alternator, A/C compressor, power steering pump AND fuel injection are in good shape. They will have to be swapped from the old engine to the rebuilt one.

Good luck. Save your car!!!
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Old 12-21-2002, 08:29 PM
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Man of many masks
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 777
I like Metric too.. you'll probably be speaking with Mike.. he seems to be honest and a nice guy as well. He responds to email fairly quick if you want to contact him.

MB 72 250 M130.923 114.011 170k The Beauty
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