Mercedes 190 Transmission Shift Problems

by James Highland

The line of Mercedes 190 cars built between 1984 and 1994 are safe, classic luxury vehicles, but they often suffer from automatic transmission problems. Gear changes may not shift smoothly due to increased sensitivity to transmission wear in these models. Fortunately, there are specific problems to watch for when purchasing this car, as well as simple solutions to try before significant repair.

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While the Mercedes 190 line began in 1955, the frequent problems reported today primarily affect automatic transmissions in the W201 series of these models. These cars were the final variations built under the 190 name before it was discontinued. The 190D from 1984 to 1991 and the 190E from 1984 to 1993 are the most common Mercedes models seen with transmission problems.


The transmission difficulties manifest in a variety of ways, all affecting the car's ability to change gears. According to Motor Traders Network, one common problem is the transmission's struggle when shifting down from a higher gear, often fourth. Owners also report gear sticking, when the transmission will not shift at all. And high engine RPM without expected thrust may occur as the transmission falters. Loud, sharp sounds during any gear change also suggest transmission difficulty.


The majority of these problems arise from deteriorating parts within the transmission. Less often, they stem from maintenance concerns, such as transmission fluid levels. Plastic and rubber fittings, seals, hoses and cables around the transmission are most often to blame. In many cases, these small parts are all that is in the way of a smoothly running transmission. However, the cooling tank may also develop problems, which eventually affect the transmission. Rarely are the inner workings of the transmission itself the source of the problem.


Before any repair, and to help keep all parts in working order, check basics such as oil and transmission fluid regularly. Watch for coolant loss that has leaked into the transmission fluid. If the fluid is foamy, unusually dark or smells burnt, this could be the problem. Transmissions specialty shops sell inexpensive chemical additives that streamline the transmission's processes, often with effective results.


While routinely changing out all the transmission fluid may prevent future wear on parts, it does not fix damage already done. If problems persist, start with small parts. Many are available in transmission overhaul kits. Check the vacuum pump's pressure and replace vacuum fittings and lines. Also look for leaks in all hoses connected to the transmission and replace if found. Some of these are found under the dashboard. These inexpensive fixes solve the majority of problems. If not, a transmission specialist should be consulted.

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