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Video | Here’s Everything That’s Broken on My Cheap Mercedes 500e

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote an article here on Oversteer detailing the virtues of Mercedes ownership — including their ability to "live forever." Back then, I was beaming with pride after my 1995 Mercedes C36 AMG had given me a flawless year of ownership — despite having 210,000 miles on the odometer. Even though I said that I would probably never sell it, I ended up parting with my rare Mercedes sedan to buy an even rarer Mercedes sedan. Unlike my C36, though, this 1992 Mercedes 500e feels like it’s on death’s door.

I credit the longevity of older Mercedes NOT particularly to their build quality, which is good, nor their serviceability — but primarily the willingness of owners to spend a ridiculous amount of resources keeping them on the road. Early owners of European luxury cars remember how expensive they were, and in their minds, it justifies spending vast amounts of money keeping their rapidly depreciating German luxury vehicle in top condition — even as it’s value slips below the price of a new Mitsubishi Mirage. The other half, like me, buys these cars cheaply enough — but since they still seem special, we still end up spending vast amounts of money keeping the cars running.

It appears the previous owners of my very special 500e, which was developed and built using Porsche engineering and production facilities, got tired of the constant repairs — and began letting things go. Once it finally got into my hands, the engine was misfiring badly, the transmission had serious problems, and a troubling noise from the rear pointed towards a failing differential. In addition to having the entire drivetrain wounded, there are various electrical problems — and coolant is pouring out of the engine bay. Despite all of these problems, I paid a $10,000 for this disaster — and I still think it was a good deal.

Completely sorted, I expect my 110,000-mile example would fetch $20,000 very quickly — but given the list of repairs, it’s very possible I could pass that figure invested once my car is totally fixed. So I decided to take the car to my mechanic, the Car Wizard, for an estimate to sort this long list of problems — and decide whether it’s worth tackling this big project. Normally, I’m pretty gung-ho with these kinds of lost cause projects, but considering I have three cars sitting in 1,000 pieces at his garage already, and two more major projects I haven’t even started yet, I need to be realistic.

I told myself that if the estimate was more than $5,000, I would sell the car — which should easily fetch what I paid — if not a bit more. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told the Car Wizard my limit, since he priced the repairs just under it at $4,200, which does not include the cost to rebuild the transmission. The rebuild, and other repairs that will inevitably pop up, would send me over my maximum for sure — but it’s close enough to have me waffling.

For now, I’m having the Car Wizard replace the radiator and fix the engine misfire, then I’ll drive the car for a bit to see if it’s really worth diving into. Most likely (and like always) I’ll end up making the wrong choice. Find a Mercedes-Benz 500E for sale

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