1986 Mercedes 190E 2.3: Junk Or Fix? (Updated)

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Speaking of 1986 Mercedes, there’s this 190 2.3 (W201) sitting in my driveway right now. It belongs to my younger son’s GF, and I’m trying to help her figure out whether to ditch it or fix it. The front struts are shot (leaking), this front brake is grinding metal on metal, and the tires are shot. You should have heard the sounds it made when I drove it a few blocks over here, between the brakes and a horrible sound from the struts too (I assume). She got a quote for some $800-900 to fix it all. Is it worth it? This is a pretty tired car…

(Update: her Grandpa just bought her a 2002 Focus wagon from a used car lot. It runs like a top, although I know that 2002 was a bit of a transition years for Focus reliability. So now to get rid of the 190. Probably follow the advice of putting some cheap brakes on it and trying to sell it.  Thanks for all the feedback.)

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She’s a University student, and needs cheap wheels. Last summer, I found what I thought was the perfect beater for $200, a 1992 Corolla and gave it to her (full story here). For one reason or another (I think she never got comfortable with the stick shift, or who knows why) she gave it back to me after she bought this 190 for $900, with 200,000 miles on the odometer. She didn’t ask me, and I didn’t think it was such a hot idea. Whatever..kids.

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It seems to run ok; I only drove it a few blocks over at a crawl. A far cry from my old Mercedes days…

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Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in one of these. It’s very compact inside; the seating position is quite different than from a W124, which was substantially taller and roomier. And the interior ambiance is almost equally different: the quality of the materials is a substantial step down. Well, it was intended to compete in a very significantly different class.

I’ve got a guy I know in the neighborhood who runs a little repair business from his garage checking to see if it is necessary to have a Mercedes-specific spring compressor to do the struts. The brakes are easy enough. And the used tire store says they have some good ones for under $200 a set. Maybe I can get the cost down to closer to $500. Does it have to be aligned after doing the front struts?

Or should she look for another…tired beater? Finding a decent car in this town for under $2000 is very hard. That’s exactly what everyone wants.

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