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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #1
I have been lurking in these forums for at least 2 years or so, mostly reading through the 140 section as this car has been in my wishlist for over 15 years. The purchase price initially, and the various issues have kept me from considering this car seriously. Still, there is something about the 140....

Having read through tons of material on the internet about the 140s, I am now actively searching for a nice unit which will give me plenty of future use. I intend to use the car as a daily driver and distances per day would be around 100kms at most, mostly city. I realize this is not exactly sensible (I am afterall not rich by any stretch of the imagination) but I am not buying this car strictly to take me from point A to B. I am puchasing a safe, luxurious, well engineered automobile. The words of a wise man some time past referred to luxury cars competing with mink coats and not other automobiles.

The consensus seems to be the that the S320 is the most effective and reliable engine, with the 96 and above the most worry free years - if that really exists! There are some exceptions it seems, particularly if some of the early issues have been addressed. Now, I dont know how reasonable this assessment is and would like to engage the views and guidance of the experts on these boards. The main issues in any search around the web appear to be:
1. The AC evaporator leak
2. The wiring harness
3. The timing chain guides
4. Potential transmission issues if oil change is not performed

Other lesser issues:
1. Both vacuum pumps
2. The window regulators
3. The suspension bushes



I am now going through the process of cutting down the list of ads I have seen based on the different advices, comments, and recommendations on the stickies and other threads in benzworld, as well as on the web - I'd like to think I have a fair sense of the challenge of owning and keeping one in top shape but submit that there is more to it.

So, my need (or wants) are:
1. It will be a daily driver - so need reliability - that is, if I take a 200 mile trip, I dont want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere.
2. I live in Manila, where temperatures typically are in the 30 to 40 celscius region (86F to 104F).
3. The Philippines is an archipelago - so mileage tends to be quite low relative to what goes for the typical US vehicle. On the island I live in, the typical distance drive will be about 800miles round trip... though traffic is an almost permanent feature.
4. Knowledgeable folks on the ground tend to be thin, so have to rely on my research and the repair shops.
5. I am near clueless about things mechanical but willing to roll up my sleeves to do a few DIYs - no hardcore stuff - maybe no more than the window regulators, oil changes, etc.
6. I have just established an acquaintance with a Benz mechanic shop owner who I can get some parts and service from at a discount (more on this later). Note that some very competent mechanics have learned to repair these cars organically, and so precise identification of root causes arent as comprehensive - for instance, one of the mechanics in the shop shared that the failure of the wiring harness was due to the fact that the harness traversed atop the engine and so the heat caused its disintegration... I didnt really open the question whether it had anything to do with the biodegradable material it used.
7. I have access to an motor electrical shop and electricians who I can enlist cheaply and work with in addressing some issues. This should help in my journey to get personal with the 140
8. The 140 has been my #1 dream car for over 15 years, and so my commitment for the long haul is quite intact. I am prepare to to pay around 50% of the cost price upfront to bring this beast to reliable condition.


I have looked at probably around 10 different units over the past couple of months, online, and covering different years and engine sizes. I spoke with the Benz shop owner earlier today and he was (as most mechanics apparently are) apprehensive of my taste in the 140 and asked me to consider the W210, I was tempted to do this but realized on my home that I'd keep on lusting after the 140. He had 2 V12s in his shop - 1 had the overheating issue and the owner was apparently looking to offload it. The Benz dude said that was a common issue with 140s in the Philippines as the climes werent kind to its cooling system... apparently they convert the cooling systems of imported 140 by ordering a more appropriate one - I am not sure of the veracity of this. The other v12 had overheating issues, as well as the driver side mirror permanently withdrawn. Apparently the fix is to order one online... takes 7 days to reach Manila. Another customer came in looking for an ECU, apparently he has been hunting around Manila for an ECU but couldnt find one.
It was tempting to explore the v12 but got hold of my senses rather quickly. Some comments by V12 owners indicate it can be reliable but I am not sure if that holds true statistically.
The Benz shop owner admitted to the 140's opulence and comfort but was scared of the arbitrary monthly, quarterly, semi-annual visits to the shop by 140 owners... he said that on any given month he sees more 140s in his shop than 210s, even though the later is infinitely more popular. We spent over 2 hours talking about things Benz, with a lot of brutal truths interspersed with some fiction (such as no difference in the issues between the different engines). Scary stats.

Still, I am not discouraged but pleased to have a more acute appreciation of the challenge of owning one. I had previously considered getting a new car - a nice shiny Jap car but I was appalled at the interiors... cant believe that the plasticky materials used in some of these cars is not frequently commented on. Then again. the market here tends to favor efficiency, and so my opinions tend to be in the minority.



There! Now that I have spewed out a lot of (non)sense that a couple of years of membership on these boards never got out of me, I am going through my list of targets, and the first person I have communicated with is the owner of a 91 500SE (rebadged S500, with some 97' cosmetics). I know the general view is that staying away from early years, especially the first year, is the most prudent path, but there are some owners of the pre 96 who swear by them. They are in the minority I suspect, but I wont be scared off a good unit if that means I can find the sheep amongst the goats. The ad says:

- 1991 Mercedes Benz S500 w140 (1997 look)
- original 16 inch mercedes rims made in Austria with free 1 set of chrome benz 3 16s rims
- Engine: 5.0 v8, 32 valves, 300++hp.
- Power windows, locks, steering (power adjustable), sunroof with tilt
- power seats
- center arm rest with cooler
- pop out reverse antenna guide
- all vaccums are working
- all vanity mirrors working with lights
- HID lamps and foglamps
- Blaupunkt mp3/cd in dash radio with bluetooth handsfree
- 1 -10 inch subwoofer
- 2- amplifier
- nothing to fix. very fresh.
- Price is Php455k, negotiable, ~USD11k
- Mileage is at 90k km, ~55k miles
Mercedes Benz S500 Philippines - 5860703

He shared further that:
- He is not aware if the wiring harness has been changed but has had no issues with it (apparently)
- All options are working fine
- In 2009 when he got the unit he:
- replaced the main vacuum pump
- replaced the components of the front suspension
- replaced the engine and transmission mounts
- replaced transmission repair kit (not sure what this means)
- The AC was serviced and he thinks the evaporator was changed but will get back to me
- The car does not overheat

I went back with more specific questions:
- The year is correct – 91? The badging makes it difficult to tell.
- How many owners?
- Has the timing chain been replaced, together with the guides?
- Are you able to provide records that show what has been done to the car over the years?
- Why are you selling?
- Any issues I need to know of?

Once I get the responses and they sound reasonable I will schedule a viewing.

Should I just forget about the 91?
Can I expect this unit to be reliable, insofar as I keep it maintained?
Should I just stick with 96+ S320's?
Should I forget about the V12? :surrender:

As with all things economic, caveat emptor, so the mileage, the condition, etc are all to be taken with a boulder of salt.

Grateful for your thoughts and advice on this - I will update this thread as I get more information and move through my targets.

btw - I am not rushing into it, as there are a number of units to go through, but if the collective wisdom is to focus on the 96 and above, the 96 and above it shall be.
 

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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #2
I realize the pics (from the add) are hardly sufficient, but I have appended them for easy reference
I asked for pics of the engine bay, and more, so hopefully that comes through.
 

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1991 Mercedes Benz 300E, 179K, stock, daily driver
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Maybe its just me but who would go for a car in which it was new for that year, usually they don't have the quirks fixed. I'm actually kind of like you, I just haven't had the car on my wishlist for 15 years. Look forward to seeing you on Benzworld! :thumbsup:
 

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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #4
Maybe its just me but who would go for a car in which it was new for that year, usually they don't have the quirks fixed. I'm actually kind of like you, I just haven't had the car on my wishlist for 15 years. Look forward to seeing you on Benzworld! :thumbsup:
I am not entirely comfortable with the first year, especially re the wiring harness issue, but would prefer to be deliberate in selection.
 

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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #5
- In 2009 when he got the unit he:
- replaced the main vacuum pump
- replaced the components of the front suspension
- replaced the engine and transmission mounts
- replaced transmission repair kit (not sure what this means)
From an ancient thread, it is revealed that this means the transmission was rebuilt - correct me if Im wrong

Does this mean a previous owner found out the hard way that the transmission oil needed changes?
 

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M120, M119, W126*2 + Silver Avantgarde wagon
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If money is a factor go for a 1996 or later unless the wiring harness has definitely been replaced with new and with service records to match.

Good luck, don't overlook S420. A nice 97 with PPI would be the best IMHO.
 

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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #7
If money is a factor go for a 1996 or later unless the wiring harness has definitely been replaced with new and with service records to match.

Good luck, don't overlook S420. A nice 97 with PPI would be the best IMHO.
The S420 is even a rarer breed over here. What I tend to see are the S320 and the S500/600, but I will keep an eye out.
Digging through some older tread, it seems to generally point at the 97/98 as the best years, where the main issues around the wiring harness and the evap have (mostly) been taken cared off. I just saw an add for a 98 S320 which is listed at php850k (~usd20k) with 90k on the odo. Thats nearly 2x the 91, but willing to stretch if the main issues have been taken cared off.
 

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Good to see another w140 enthusiast from the Philippines. It took me more than a year to find the right w140 in the form of a 94 S280 which was an ex ADB car, it had 23,000km when I got it more than 2 years ago, I bought the car for Php 650k with all taxes and duties fully paid. Since it was a low mileage car, it was in pristine condition but also some issues weren't addressed either, within a week of owning the car I had to have the wiring harness repaired and also replaced the alternator. But one issue that took me a while before finally solving it is that the temperature always hits 110c especially when traffic is heavy. I kept on trying to do things to lower my temps but to no avail until a friend introduced a mechanic who used to work for CATS discovered that the resistor block for the auxiliary fan isn't functioning properly and was promptly replaced, the car still has the tendency to run hot but it's much better than before, at least now it takes a while for it to hit 100c and doesn't go up any further. I also replaced the A/C evap on my S280 recently, it cost me 25k for the whole thing including labor and freon. Although the work was done by a Benz specialist, they also take in other cars. The guy who did my evaporator said that the W140 isn't the easiest car to work on but having worked on an 05 Mazda 3 and also my bro's 04 Camry, he said that the evaporator on the w140 is nothing compared to those 2 cars as he had to remove the driver's door just so that he could take the evaporator out on both cars.
 

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216 with everything. 2002 SL500 with everything. 2009 SL500 with everything.
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I am with Rich on this one, the later CL420 are a super car, I get up to 28.9 miles per gallon over and average 500 mile run, The CL is fine if you do not have more than 2 in the car most of the time, its very good looking and very well made.
 

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1997 S500V, 1999 S500 grand edition, 2006 s65 amg
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wow in america you can get the cleanest 140s for $20k but the 91-96 have harness issues they fixed the harness problems in mid 96-99

91-95 transmissions had a reverse issue and there was a rebuild kit for it i think that is what the seller meant
96-99 have leak and slip issue

320s have head gasket issues
420/500s have ticking issues
600s i honestly don't know never owned one

people usually don't change timing chains the interval according to a dealer was about 160,000miles but i know someone who drove their s500 over 300,000miles and the chain was still good and that guy never maintained his car except oil change(every 4000miles) and spark plugs(every 75,000miles) and two sets of air filters in 300,000miles but he had the transmission rebuilt 2 times.

also one thing you might want to check is the self leveling suspension because those have problems.

also exhaust pipes there can be holes and cause issues, clogged cats but i think some countries have no cats.
 

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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks gents for your comments.

ronw123w14 - it is great to hear from you. It looks like the better units would likely be one that came from a hotel or some international institution. Was it from a dealer you got it? Seems priced at the higher end but I recall that 2 years ago I did not see any 140 under 600k. Do you find the 280 underpowered? Some heads believe even the 320 is underpowered but I think those are for those who have been riding V8s and V12s. Would one have to live with the overheating problem or is there a permanent solution? Seems you have brought down the issue to serviceable levels but still have to manage it.
My main concern will be the harness issue, and if not done on any unit, I'd have to use that to negotiate the price down. How much did the job cost? They got brand new harnesses? The evap one looks cheap, relative to the prices being quoted on here. The pictures of its repair (on the 500 or 600)had convinced me that this job would really be one of the more painful ones.

Mercedes>Bmw - The cars here go through a beating on import duties and tax. As with automobile markets worldwide, there are huge differentials in price.

television - was tempted a couple of times but its hardly practical.


nhzruthless818 - those issues you mentioned, these are for the 96 and up variants? The gasket issue appears to have a permanent fix on account of a better better gasket material. It doesnt appear to be an involved fix so the shops should be able to do it fairly easy (I hope). Thanks for the specific areas to check for issues.
 

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Thanks gents for your comments.

ronw123w14 - it is great to hear from you. It looks like the better units would likely be one that came from a hotel or some international institution. Was it from a dealer you got it? Seems priced at the higher end but I recall that 2 years ago I did not see any 140 under 600k. Do you find the 280 underpowered? Some heads believe even the 320 is underpowered but I think those are for those who have been riding V8s and V12s. Would one have to live with the overheating problem or is there a permanent solution? Seems you have brought down the issue to serviceable levels but still have to manage it.
My main concern will be the harness issue, and if not done on any unit, I'd have to use that to negotiate the price down. How much did the job cost? They got brand new harnesses? The evap one looks cheap, relative to the prices being quoted on here. The pictures of its repair (on the 500 or 600)had convinced me that this job would really be one of the more painful ones.

Mercedes>Bmw - The cars here go through a beating on import duties and tax. As with automobile markets worldwide, there are huge differentials in price.

television - was tempted a couple of times but its hardly practical.


nhzruthless818 - those issues you mentioned, these are for the 96 and up variants? The gasket issue appears to have a permanent fix on account of a better better gasket material. It doesnt appear to be an involved fix so the shops should be able to do it fairly easy (I hope). Thanks for the specific areas to check for issues.
the headgaskets are not cheap to do on the 320s and from what i have heard its all i6 3.0 engines. when i had my 92 300se it had a slight leak but the repair was expensive so i skipped that plus i was 17yrs old back then. now for the transmissions on the later models its usual about $200 unless you are unlucky like me which is going to need a rebuild since my tranny is leaking from a weird spot.
 

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1989 190e 2.6 1993 500sel (sold) 1995 S500 coupe (sold) 1994 S500 blk/blk
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Superquest,
Methinks you are over-thinking.

My suggestion is to listen to the mechanics who advised you about the W140. Also I suggest that you think about the purpose of say an S500.

The purpose of the S500 and S600 is to drive long distances at 90-100 mph. I don't know about the 320 or 420.

But driving a big luxury car only 62 miles a day in city traffic, stop and go and in high ambient temperatures is not reasonable from my point of view.

For many of us in the U.S. the W140 is a weekend, special events, holiday car.

But if the W140 is your dream car, you should buy one and let the dream play out in the real world--a world in which nothing is predictable except the laws of thermodynamics which are always at work.

I congratulate you on the clarity of your writing.

Just my 2 cents of opinion.

The best to you!
------
A familiar road sign on the way to Hell is > Heaven Straight Ahead
 

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1995 S320
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Discussion Starter #15
nhzruthless818 --> I think I'd include replacement of the gaskets (if its not been done) in my baselining costs

drcharlesatlas --> Thanks for your kind words. I have that general tendency, to over think. :) I'd probably stick to 320 or if I find one, a 420. I have long taken the rational approach and only said I'd buy the 140 if I was ultra-rich, etc. But the sensible cars are all too bland and unimpressive and I find the cost not appropriate to what it gives. I'd rather spend the same amount buying and fixing a car of the quality of a 140.

In fact, I was the shop also to look at a 97 E230, it was okay, and the net indicate it is a very reliable car, save the usual electronic issues. However, I knew that I'd always be longing for the 140, notwithstanding the headaches owning one would entail. I only hope for the fortitude to stick with it over the long haul.
 

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If this was your dream car wouldn't you want 2 or 3 of them, I know I would.
This is exactly the reason why I own 2 W126's, it was my dream car so when the opportunity came to own one I didn't let it slip. After getting a W126, I longed for it's successor, the W140 but realized after getting it that I still couldn't have enough of the W126 so I got a Diesel W126 last year.

And I'm still on the lookout for a nice W126. Frankly, I enjoy them more than the W140.
 

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@SuperQuest, the worst cars that I've seen are those ex-hotel cars. I got my car thru a referral from Manhattan Motors in Pasig, the place that regularly sees my MB's. It was owned by an ADB executive who was in hurry to dispose of it since she was about to leave for a new assignment. I've looked at maybe at least 10 cars before pulling the trigger on this one. I don't find my S280 underpowered at all, but then I'm used to my 300D W123 and my 300SD W126 both of which serve as my daily cars, in fact its the only car that I took all the way to 200km/h on the NLEX. Now for your concern on the overheating issue, if you read through the threads, you'll see that some are lucky not to be afflicted with the overheating issue while some are not so lucky but at least from my point, I've taken it down to a more manageable level, at least I only see 100c at worst at it doesn't happen so often anymore. I paid around 25k for the harness repair, basically all the wires have been changed to non biodegradable ones but retained the original connectors.

I suggest that you take a mechanic that has extensive knowledge of the W140's when checking out one. I can PM you my number if I can be of any help to you.
 

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1999 S600 Sedan, 1999 S600 w/ 4-pl seating, 1995 S600 Coupe, 2-1992 600SEL's, 2002 ML55, 1998 SL600
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I concur with Dr. Atlas on the over-thinking bit.

Keep it simple: Find a likely prospect for your purchase. Have the car taken to a Mercedes dealer (not a Mercedes mechanic) and have them give you a pre-purchase inspection, which you will pay for. After they get done with it, you will have a blueprint of repair options to follow, not just whether or not you want to get involved with the car.

It will be the cheapest $250 you will spend on your prospective car.

So far, that methodology has saved ME from two MB vehicles that were NOT as they were represented. Beware the hype-specialists. There are many out there. And they all want you to buy their car. Sometimes, they will resort to exaggeration, if not outright fraud.

Meanwhile, any MB dealership will want to earn your business, has the resources to completely analyze the vehicle, and will treat you with the respect you deserve.

Keep it simple and smart. And take that from someone who's been where you are now.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks Stryker, that seems to be the most cost effective route in light of the many issues that could be unearthed.

@ronw123w124 thanks for your comments. Will like to hear your thoughts on this a bit more... might need to know your mechanic. The benz shop owner may not have emphasized that they do have extensive experience with 140, and will confirm if so.
 
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