Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W210: 1995-2003)

Used, silver Mercedes-Benz E-Class car, E 55 AMG, W210 model, 4-door saloon

 

Reliability & common problems

This section covers the potential reliability issues that you might have with the Mercedes-Benz W210. Click on the buttons below to read more about the typical problems that fall outside the scope of routine maintenance.

Corrosion (water-based paint)

In my opinion, rust is by far the number one problem with this car and other Mercedes-Benz vehicles produced between 1993 and 2004. In 1993, Mercedes-Benz implemented a more environmentally friendly, water-based paint.

Unfortunately, the new paint offered less protection from rust. With no galvanizing process, and coupled with steel that wasn’t very corrosion resistant, the W210 E-Class can corrode pretty much everywhere. When buying a Mercedes-Benz from that era, inspecting it for rust should be one of your top priorities.

Mercedes-Benz eventually started galvanizing their cars but it wasn’t until around 2004. The production of the W210 E-Class stopped in 2003.

Here’s why good corrosion protection is important:

Grey, Corroded Mercedes-Benz W220 S-Class car. A pre-facelift model with rust visible on every body panel.
This is a non-galvanized Mercedes-Benz W220 in a sorry state. There is rust on almost every body panel.

Spring perch failure

There have been cases of front spring perches breaking off the car. The spring perch failures are directly related to poor corrosion protection on these cars and their age. The front suspension spring perches are welded to the inner wing. This area, being so close to the wheels, gets splashed with water (and salt in winter).

The weld is coated at the factory to provide some protection, but over time moisture penetrates the coating and starts corroding the metal.

Corrosion in that area may eventually lead to one of the spring perches breaking off. If it happens, the suspension collapses and the tyre suddenly has the option to meet with the fender. As you can imagine, this can be dangerous if it happens at the wrong time. You may never see this problem in dry climates with salt-free roads, but otherwise, this is something to consider.

If you are planning to buy the W210 E-Class, and you live in a wet or cold climate, I recommend getting the spring perches checked and even reinforced after your purchase.

You won’t be able to check them before buying the car as you would need to peel off the coating to see the welds. Even then, it’s not obvious if the welds are still good. Replacement spring perches are available and can be riveted/welded back to the car if the original ones fail.

M104 & M111 engines – head gasket failure

The head gasket is the weak point of these engines. Considering head gasket replacement is inevitable at some point, often around 150k miles.

Before the gasket fails completely, these engines often develop an external oil leak from the head gasket at the back of the engine. Make sure to inspect that area when buying one of these cars.

Once the head gasket fails and is replaced, the new one should be good for another 100k – 150k miles. This issue mainly affects the inline-6 engines, like the M104, because of their long cylinder heads. However, the 4-cylinder M111 engines are also affected, but to a smaller degree.

M111 engine – “Kompressor” lifespan

The “Kompressor” variant is fitted with an Eaton (M62 or M45) supercharger. They are reliable but have a finite lifespan. I estimate that they will need to be rebuilt after around 150,000 miles.

The engine and other components under the bonnet will last a lot longer, so it’s very likely that the car will need to have the supercharger rebuilt or replaced at some point during its lifetime.

M119 engine – plastic chain guides & oil tubes

The M119 engines are reliable apart from a couple issues related to the plastic parts inside the engine.

The first problem is that over time, the plastic upper chain guides in these engines may develop cracks and pieces of the guides can break off. If they do, the timing chain loses tension and is at risk of skipping, which makes the camshafts go out of sync. It is rare, but it can cause some serious engine damage if it happens (valves hitting the pistons).

In my opinion, the guides should be replaced as part of preventative maintenance at around 100,000 miles.

Another issue, which could potentially damage the engine if left untreated, is the plastic oil tubes – 16 of them in total. These little pipes become brittle and may crack from the heat of the engine and the exposure to oil. When they break or lose their end caps, the hydraulic lifters do not get enough oil, and the engine develops a ticking sound.

The oil tubes used to be metal, and they were changed to plastic in 1993. The cars with the metal tubes are problem free. Fortunately, replacing the plastic oil tubes is a relatively small job.

OM604 engine – diesel distributor pump

While the 5-cylinder OM605 and 6-cylinder OM606 diesel engines, in traditional Mercedes-Benz fashion at the time, were equipped with a very reliable Bosch inline injection pump, the OM604 uses an electronically controlled, rotary injection pump made by Lucas.

This rotary pump is less desirable because there have been cases of its seals becoming brittle and developing leaks. Apart from the problem with leaking seals, rotary pumps are generally less robust than in-line injection pumps. The latter are lubricated by engine oil so fuel lubricity or quality isn’t very important.

Because of these two things, the OM604 is the weakest engine out of all the indirect injection diesel units available in the W210.

“Black Death” (affects all CDI engines)

The first two generations of CDI diesel engines may develop leaks from the fuel injector seals (copper washers). When a leak occurs, the gases and the diesel fuel from the combustion chamber can escape and cover the area around the leaking injector with burnt, hard, tar-like substance.

“Black death” is a dramatic name for something relatively inexpensive to fix, provided that you catch it early. Any leaks should be visible once the plastic engine cover is removed. 

If there was a leak, you will see a black mess on top of the engine. You may also smell diesel fuel inside the car when the engine is running. If the leak is large enough, the engine may sound like a steam locomotive due to gases escaping from the combustion chamber.

If left untreated, it can become very expensive to fix – injectors seized in the cylinder head, damaged injectors seats and massive carbon build-up to clean.

Summary of problems & additional information

  • The W210 is one of the last “old-school”, over-engineered Mercedes-Benz cars. Except for the rust, which can be a serious problem, the W210 is pretty reliable. Just like the older Mercedes-Benz cars, it is well engineered and relatively easy to work on.

  • Unless you can find a rust free example, I would stay away from this model though. If you do decide to buy it, be prepared to spend some time and money on dealing with the rust in the long run. That is if you live in a wet or cold climate. If you live in a place like Spain, buying a W210 is not a bad idea at all.

  • The V6 M112 and V8 M113 engines – Mercedes-Benz got both of them right. They are closely related to each other and both are reliable.

  • Watch out for head gasket leaks in the M104 and M111 engines.

  • The 6-cylinder 3.0L OM606 engine is the pinnacle of indirect injection diesel technology. The turbocharged version is reasonably powerful in stock form and robust enough to be tuned to over 300hp by upgrading only the turbo and the plungers in the injection pump (Swedish speciality).

  • The 5-cylinder 2.5L OM605 is closely related to the OM606 and very good too. The 5-cylinder diesel is a more economical and less powerful option. Just remember to take the car to a competent mechanic when the time to replace glow plugs comes – they can be difficult to remove and you don’t want any of them to snap while they are still in the cylinder head. This applies to the OM604, OM605 & OM606 engines.

  • The OM604 diesel engine has a distributor pump, which is less robust than the inline injection pumps used in other Mercedes-Benz engines. The weak point of this pump are seals that may develop leaks.

  • The 5-cylinder 2.9L 10v engine (OM602) is unique. It’s the only non-CDI, direct injection engine. Just like the Volkswagen TDI engines from the same era, it uses a Bosch VE distributor pump and mechanical (spring-loaded) injectors. If you are looking for a direct injection diesel engine (better fuel economy), but you don’t like electronics, this is the engine for you.

  • The CDI diesel engine range in the W210 was the first generation of Mercedes-Benz Common Rail engines. Follow this link for an article that might help you decide if a modern diesel engine, like the CDI, is the right choice for you.

  • All W210 engines are fitted with timing chains, which normally don’t have a specified replacement interval. The timing chains in the W210 are generally reliable, except for the M119 plastic chain guides, but they will not last forever. Read more about timing chains.

 

Mercedes-Benz W210 specifications

This section contains Mercedes-Benz W210 specifications. You will also find technical information regarding the engines used in these cars. Press the buttons below to display the specs and engine technical details.

Petrol engines – specs & performance figures

ModelEngineDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
E 200M1111998 cm³ / 121.9 cu in136 PS / 100 kW190 Nm / 140 lbf⋅ftUntil 2000
E 200 KompressorM1111998 cm³ / 121.9 cu in163 PS / 120 kW230 Nm / 170 lbf⋅ftFrom 2000
E 200 KompressorM1111998 cm³ / 121.9 cu in186 PS / 137 kW260 Nm / 192 lbf⋅ft1997-2000
E 200 KompressorM1111998 cm³ / 121.9 cu in192 PS / 141 kW270 Nm / 199 lbf⋅ft1997-2000
E 230M1112295 cm³ / 140.0 cu in150 PS / 110 kW220 Nm / 162 lbf⋅ftUntil 1998
E 240M1122398 cm³ / 146.3 cu in170 PS / 125 kW225 Nm / 166 lbf⋅ft1997-2000
E 240M1122597 cm³ / 158.5 cu in170 PS / 125 kW240 Nm / 177 lbf⋅ftFrom 2000
E 280 M1042799 cm³ / 170.8 cu in193 PS / 142 kW270 Nm / 199 lbf⋅ftUntil 1997
E 280M1122799 cm³ / 170.8 cu in204 PS / 150 kW270 Nm / 199 lbf⋅ftFrom 1997
E 320M1043199 cm³ / 195.2 cu in220 PS / 162 kW315 Nm / 232 lbf⋅ftUntil 1997
E 320M1123199 cm³ / 195.2 cu in224 PS / 165 kW315 Nm / 232 lbf⋅ftFrom 1997
E 420M1194196 cm³ / 256.1 cu in279 PS / 205 kW400 Nm / 295 lbf⋅ft1996-1997
E 430M1134266 cm³ / 260.3 cu in279 PS / 205 kW400 Nm / 295 lbf⋅ftFrom 1997
E 36 AMGM1043606 cm³ / 220.1 cu in280 PS / 206 kW385 Nm / 284 lbf⋅ftUntil 1997
E 50 AMGM1194973 cm³ / 303.5 cu in347 PS / 255 kW480 Nm / 354 lbf⋅ft1996-1997
E 55 AMGM1135439 cm³ / 331.9 cu in354 PS / 260 kW530 Nm / 391 lbf⋅ftFrom 1997
E 60 AMGM1195956 cm³ / 363.5 cu in381 PS / 280 kW580 Nm / 428 lbf⋅ft1996-1998

Diesel engines – specs & performance figures

ModelEngineDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
E 200 DieselOM6041997 cm³ / 121.9 cu in88 PS / 65 kW135 Nm / 100 lbf⋅ft1996-1998
E 200 CDIOM6112151 cm³ / 131.3 cu in102 PS / 75 kW235 Nm / 173 lbf⋅ft1998-1999
E 200 CDIOM6112148 cm³ / 131.1 cu in115 PS / 85 kW250 Nm / 184 lbf⋅ftFrom 1999
E 220 DieselOM6042155 cm³ / 131.5 cu in95 PS / 70 kW150 Nm / 111 lbf⋅ftUntil 1998
E 220 CDIOM6112151 cm³ / 131.3 cu in125 PS / 92 kW300 Nm / 221 lbf⋅ft1998-1999
E 220 CDIOM6112148 cm³ / 131.1 cu in143 PS / 105 kW315 Nm / 232 lbf⋅ftFrom 1999
E 250 DieselOM6052497 cm³ / 152.4 cu in113 PS / 83 kW170 Nm / 125 lbf⋅ftUntil 1998
E 250
Turbodiesel
OM6052497 cm³ / 152.4 cu in150 PS / 110 kW280 Nm / 206 lbf⋅ft1997-1999
E 270 CDIOM6122685 cm³ / 163.9 cu in170 PS / 125 kW400 Nm / 295 lbf⋅ft (automatic), 370 Nm / 295 lbf⋅ft (manual)From 1999
E 290
Turbodiesel
OM6022874 cm³ / 175.4 cu in129 PS / 95 kW300 Nm / 221 lbf⋅ft1996-1999
E 300 Diesel OM6062996 cm³ / 182.8 cu in136 PS / 100 kW210 Nm / 155 lbf⋅ftUntil 1997
E 300 Turbodiesel OM6062996 cm³ / 182.8 cu in177 PS / 130 kW330 Nm / 243 lbf⋅ft1997-1999
E 320 CDIOM6133222 cm³ / 196.6 cu in197 PS / 145 kW470 Nm / 347 lbf⋅ftFrom 1999

Petrol engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingFuel deliveryDMFInlet flaps
Legend:SOHC - Single Overhead Camshaft
DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
VVT - Variable Valve Timing
EFI - Electronic Fuel Injection
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
M111Inline-4, 16 valvesNaturally aspirated or superchargedTiming chain, DOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)YesNo
M104Inline-6, 12 valvesNoTiming chain, DOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)YesNo
M112V6, 18 valvesNoTiming chain, SOHCPort injection (EFI)YesNo
M113V8, 24 valvesNoTiming chain, SOHCPort injection (EFI)Auto. trans. onlyNo
M119V8, 32 valvesNoTiming chain, DOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)Auto. trans. onlyNo

Diesel engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingInjection systemDMFDPFSwirl flaps
Legend:SOHC - Single Overhead Camshaft
DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
DPF - Diesel Particulate Filter
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
OM604Inline-4, 16 valvesNoTiming chain, DOHCIndirect injection, distributor pumpNoNoNo
OM611Inline-4, 16 valvesTurbochargedTiming chain, DOHCCommon RailYesNoYes
OM605Inline-5, 20 valvesNaturally aspirated or turbochargedTiming chain, DOHCIndirect injection, in-line pumpYesNoNo
OM602Inline-5, 10 valvesTurbochargedTiming chain, SOHCDirect injection, distributor pumpYesNoNo
OM612Inline-5, 20 valvesTurbochargedTiming chain, DOHCCommon RailYesNoYes
OM606Inline-6, 24 valvesNaturally aspirated or turbochargedTiming chain, DOHCIndirect injection, in-line pumpYesNoNo
OM613Inline-6, 24 valvesTurbochargedTiming chain, DOHCCommon RailAuto trans. onlyNoYes

 

Mercedes-Benz W210 wheel sizes

Press the button below to see the original equipment manufactuer (OEM) rim & tyres sizes for the Mercedes-Benz W210. These are the original wheel sizes that were fitted by the manufacturer.

TyresRimsCentre BoreBolt PatternComments
195/65 R156.5Jx15 ET3766.6mm5x112
205/65 R157Jx15 ET37 or ET3866.6mm5x112
215/55 R167.5Jx16 ET4166.6mm5x112
235/45 R177.5Jx17 ET37 or 8Jx17 ET3766.6mm5x112Front tyres wider than 235 might rub
235/40 R18 front & 265/35 R18 rear8Jx18 ET31 front & 9Jx18 ET35 rear66.6mm5x112European AMG models (E 50 & E 55 AMG), staggered setup, rolled fenders, these wheels should fit a standard W210
245/40 R18 front & 275/35 R18 rear8Jx18 ET31 front & 9Jx18 ET35 rear66.6mm5x112US AMG models (E 50 & E 55 AMG), staggered setup, rolled fenders

 

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