The Mercedes 190E (W201) is a Mercedes entry-level luxury sedan from the 1980s. Ever since it was released, it was and still is a fairly common car all around the world. The 1980s are commonly referred to as the Golden Age of Mercedes engineering because all Mercedes cars from this era are made to last.
However, even the 1980s Mercedes models are without fault, and given the fact that they are now more than 30 years old, they are going to experience all sorts of issues. Some of them are more frequent than others and some of them are caused by lackluster maintenance, either way, be sure to read this article to find out.
Early 190E models are equipped with faulty single-row timing chain engine that is known to fail prematurely. The engine head gasket is also prone to malfunctioning and so is the Jetronic fuel injection system. Furthermore, the gearbox coolant pipe is also a weak point of the 190E and is known to leak from time to time.
The 190E is now a 30+-year-old car which means that overall wear and tear is more frequent, including corrosion. The suspension system is likely going to cause all sorts of cracks and creases which is normal for such an older car.
Single-row timing chain issues
The 190E Mercedes got a hefty update in 1988 when they also replaced the single-row timing chain with a dual-row timing chain and thus solved this issue. However, if you come across an earlier 190E model, be sure to inspect the single-row timing chain because it is known to fail prematurely.
Multiple sources state that you should replace both the chain and the tensioner every 100k miles or so if you want to keep your engine running safely. If you hear any strange noises, inspect the chain immediately because if you don’t replace it, your engine is likely going to suffer more serious damage. This applies to all W201 single-row engines, not just the one found in 190E.
Engine head gasket issues
Most mechanics agree that the engine head gasket is one of the most vulnerable parts of the 190Es engine and thus should be replaced at least a few times during ownership. These engines are able to last more than half a million miles, but you should inspect and replace the head gasket every 100-150k miles.
An easy way to tell that your 190E needs a new head gasket is to look for external oil leaks coming from the head gasket. Issues such as these are more common with engines that offer an aluminum-made head gasket because aluminum is known to expand more than cast iron while under large temperature fluctuations.
Jetronic fuel injection issues
The M102 engine and the M101 engine found in the 190E are equipped with a sophisticated Continuous Injection System (CIS) also known as KE-Jetronic. This fuel injection system was designed by Bosch which is one of the most sophisticated car parts and engineering companies in existence.
As such, it’s safe to say that the KE-Jetronic system is actually fairly dependable and should last you a long time. However, not many mechanics are even aware of how this system works and thus a lot of them are not able to maintain it properly. Be sure to ask your mechanic about this issue and if he is not able to provide you with the needed assistance, contact a Mercedes dealer.
Many people out there believe that corrosion is the single most dreadful enemy an older Mercedes can face, and that is not far from the truth. As previously stated, the 190E is now a fairly old car, and cars from that era did not benefit from a sophisticated corrosion protection system which means that these cars are now prone to rust.
Be sure to check the wheel wells, the underside of the door, the underside of both the front and rear bumpers, and around the windows for signs of rust. If the car you come across is heavily corroded, turn around and never look back.
Creaks and general wear and tear
A few decades on the road can really beat up a car, no matter how sophisticated or dependable the car is. This means that most 190E models out there already have hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock which also means that they are likely experiencing all sorts of creaks and rattles.
A noisy suspension is a fairly common issue for older Mercedes models, including the 190E.
Is the Mercedes 190E reliable?
The Mercedes 190E is indeed a reliable car, but it is also a 30+-year-old car. The body used to offer decent rust protection qualities, but nowadays this is a lot more questionable. Most 190E models tend to spend up to a million miles on the road which means that killing a 190E is a rather difficult task.
There are a few niggles here and there, but the 190E is truly built to last, just like any other 1980s Mercedes model.
How much does a Mercedes 190E cost?
The Mercedes 190E can now be bought for peanuts, but the ones in a more decent and well-kept condition tend to run a few thousand dollars. The most expensive 190E model is the Cosworth-backed 190E 2.5 EVO II nowadays costs as much as $400,000 for the very best examples out there.
Owning a 190E shouldn’t be all that expensive because there are loads of spare parts around and Mercedes is also willing to supply you with all the parts directly.
Is the Mercedes 190E a future classic?1
The regular 190E is not a classic car and is not likely to become one either because it is not all that rare or special in any way. Higher-end trim models might increase in value over time, but only if they are kept in pristine condition.
There are so many amazing Mercedes 1980s models and the 190E is only the “entry-level” baby Merc from that era. Even though it does offer a lot of value, it is not likely to become a true classic, but only time will tell if that is truly the case.