Mercedes-Benz Forum banner

1 - 20 of 37 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I want to get an older Mercedes that is reliable and has airbags. I am looking a the 1987 W126 gasoline models. How reliable are they?
 

·
SuperModerator
1986/1990 W126
Joined
·
13,674 Posts
Depends if its been looked after or not. Timing chain guides and/or tensioner are the thing that can kill them off.

Electro-mechanical injection was deemed to be the most reliable option. In my experience, my two have been incredibly reliable and even with issues have always got me where I'm going.

On the other hand, some people seem to get endless problems. Welcome to the forum, by the way.
 

·
Registered
Too many to list
Joined
·
8,744 Posts
This is a 30 year old car and NO old car , regardless of manufacturer , will be reliable like a newer car . Parts just fail due to age. Even if the car had excellent maintenance history (and the ones that do command high dollar ) no old car will be reliable like a newer car will be . Moreover , most of these cars at lower priced points have been neglected or sat undriven for years . You can easily spend $5000 bring one one up to snuff then have some random part fail.

the timing chain/guides is a once every 100k mile repair but at this age the complete fueling and ignition systems and suspension bushings are due for costly repair simply because they are old and worn
 

·
Premium Member
1991 560SEC / 2013 GL550
Joined
·
1,372 Posts
Kind of a rhetorical question:
"How reliable are 30+ year old German flagship sedans (which many mechanics don't know how to work on and for which many parts are EOL)"

Anything can be reliable if you know someone who can fix it, parts are available, and you have money :)
 

·
Registered
1988 560 sec
Joined
·
685 Posts
I daily drive mine every day with very few problems, for a classic car once sorted out I would say they are reliable. But if you can’t turn a wrench and or don’t like paying or can’t find a mechanic to work on them your enthusiasm for ownership will evaporate quickly.

Classic car ownership is a labor of love and there is lots to love with these cars . Best of luck .
 

·
Registered
1985 MB 500sel (Euro)
Joined
·
213 Posts
good question and I agree with comments above. If you want a reliable car, pick a Toyota. But,if you are genuinely interested in a unique, dream to drive and generally reliable car, that is elegant and timeless (unlike with all due respect that Toyota) then a W126 might be for you. Take some time and read this forum, look at the cars on it. Maybe its for you, maybe not. I got my 500sel at 100K miles in perfect condition, driving it from Miami to DC in one long day it was a pleasure. Over the next 200K miles it has generally been reliable.....but if you can't live with the occasional gliding to a stop because something went bust and you need to call a tow, then its not for you. best of luck
 

·
Registered
1985 500sel and 500sec 2012 E63 1989 Porsche 911
Joined
·
5,241 Posts
buy the best one u can afford with detailed service history...whats your budget
 

·
Registered
1985 500sel and 500sec 2012 E63 1989 Porsche 911
Joined
·
5,241 Posts
sel or sec
 

·
SuperModerator
1986/1990 W126
Joined
·
13,674 Posts
Mine have genuinely been on a par with new car reliability. I did have a hesitation that took me ages to figure out on my SEC. But it sat for a year before that on a mossy drive. I bought it and drove it at highway speed through the night for 600 miles on an essential family mission. Did not miss a beat.
My SE was literally green with moss when I bought it. Started right up and in about 11 years only glided to a halt once, a few years after that. Chinese rotor arm had melted like spun sugar.

I look after and use loads of new or very modern cars and I often think they seem to need a lot of attention considering they aren't supposed to. Some are way better than others obviously.

Points I would echo are most definitely if you can at least tinker, that is going to be the thing that makes or breaks ownership. If I'd had to pay for every little job or improvement it would not have worked at all. But my SE cost £405, my SEC £900 I think it was. At your budget you should be able to be driving one that needs nothing.
A good mechanic familiar with the model is essential too and is another make or break thing perhaps.

The other thing is they improve with use. And that means out on the road not just going to the local shop. Every long trip I did in mine woke them up a little more. I would not want to buy one for town use only, personally.
 

·
Moderator
1991 500SEC sub 50K mi. 1987 560SEC Now 150K mi. 2018
Joined
·
4,292 Posts
^ What Ian has offered too.

Since 2003 [and over 120,000 total miles driven], I've had but one instance each when either of my SECs failed me.

My 560 'acted out' as the then but 9-month-old alternator regulator failed. It was Kaeler brand rather than Bosch.

My 500SEC engine failed to start/stay running & stopped at speed, totally intermittent, resulting in a AAA tow.
The ultimate cause was a faulty 28 year old fuel pump relay, cracked solder joints now resoldered...

One 560 trip was over 3500 miles all at once, another into Canada, was 1800 or so. There is nothing like us two traveling for weeks at a time in both style & comfort.

Rock-solid, I'd say.

MBL
 

·
Registered
1983 300SD
Joined
·
873 Posts
I can't speak to gasser 126s of that era but having owned lots of old cars of different makes, you can only expect so much reliability from a 30-35 year old German car. The bar for being reliable was lower in the 80s (for all cars). And like modern $100k+ cars, reliability wasn't the top priority like a Toyota or something.

That said, each car is going to age differently and has had a different maintenance history. And the build quality on these is remarkable. So your results will vary. Essentially, I think it's a bit of a roll of the dice.

Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
1986 420 SEL
Joined
·
14 Posts
I think it's a waste of money to chase after a low mileage car to use as a daily. I would look for a well gone through example over a garage queen that is a waiting timebomb of issues. You mentioned airbags. Most likely unless it has had everything done at the dealer meticulously, it will need a set of airbags as the ones in it will have "expired" those are over 1000$ each new. All that said the cars are built like tanks. There is not much more satisfying than the thunk of a door on a 30+ year old car still closing like it did when new.
 

·
Registered
1985 MB 500sel (Euro)
Joined
·
213 Posts
Mine is a daily driver and as I said, generally reliable. But things do wear out. That's why I am replacing the door strikers so as to have that satsfying thunk again, as lesdmark describes.
 

·
Registered
1991 560sec. 1969 280SL
Joined
·
1,088 Posts
Most cars I’ve had over the years have been pretty reliable. The w126, providing all maintenance items are done are very reliable and I feel really connected to the car and road when driving. It’s hard to describe but with these cars it like “when she moves you move” as in “when I move you move”.
 

·
Registered
Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6, 300E, Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T
Joined
·
918 Posts
I think it's a waste of money to chase after a low mileage car to use as a daily. I would look for a well gone through example over a garage queen that is a waiting timebomb of issues. You mentioned airbags. Most likely unless it has had everything done at the dealer meticulously, it will need a set of airbags as the ones in it will have "expired" those are over 1000$ each new. All that said the cars are built like tanks. There is not much more satisfying than the thunk of a door on a 30+ year old car still closing like it did when new.
As someone who bought a beautiful 560SL with less than 100k miles for $15k and had it crap out - which necessitated $6000 worth of work, I agree with you completely. Even for just an occasional driver, I would hunt for a deal at an estate sale.

Often higher mileage cars are better, because they've often been sorted out and haven't sat as much. I used to own a 190E, and that car even at 245k miles was reliable enough to take autocrossing, but I also spared no expense on the car mechanically.

Anyone looking to buy one of these cars should try to pick them up for a song, not top market pricing, because cars that are around 30 years old are a total crapshoot. I had a 420SEL for my first car at 17, and that car was a pile of shit despite having a service history. My 560SL was a garage queen creampuff, and I had the oiler tube blow off the passenger cam towers. My 190E had no coolant and was 2 quarts down on oil when I bought it for $650, but I drove it 60k miles over 3 years after fixing some stuff, and now my brother is driving it with over a quarter million miles now. I've enjoyed each of the 4 MBs I've owned (the 4th was a 300E) and am currently eyeing a 560SEL with 179k, but its not even within 2 orders of magnitude of what I spent on my SL and I will never pay that much in purchase price for a car ever again.
 

·
Registered
560SEL 560SEC 300SEL E320 Cab. MB Metris Van / 300TD 300TE 300SDL, 300D, Unimog 406 (Gone)
Joined
·
2,319 Posts
Ignore suggestions about buying appropriate mileage examples and get the lowest mileage car you can afford without stepping into "museum piece" territory. Right now that is anout 80,000 miles. You can't turn back the clock and a low mileage car is probably more likely to have received all of its scheduled service. Of course, apply the same standards as you would for any purchase: PPI from a competent indy MB mechanic, nothing from the desert (its the worst). Best is to find one that has been in an attached or high rise garage.

After 30 years of S Class MB and a lot of midsize ones, I find them more dependable and economical than a new vehicle, but for warranty coverage.

My current SClass has only been stopped two times in 10 years. Once from worn out alternator brushes, once from a windshield wiper fuse in the rain. Of course my commute is only 10 miles, so this one has only gone 60,000 with me. (45 to 104). There are some mysteries now and then but nothing to put my 560SEL on the roll back.
 

·
Outstanding Contributor
1989 560SEC, 1989 560SEL, 1995 E420
Joined
·
4,090 Posts
We daily our 1989 SEC (250K) and 1989 SEL (172K). I do the maintenance and try to watch out for anything that might become a problem.

We also take them on trips fairly regularly. I never hesitate or worry. Most recent was a very nice trip in the SEC from San Francisco to Seattle and back. Glorious. In May we'll take the SEC across the most barren part of Nevada on our way (at a very high rate of speed, I suspect and hope) to a family reunion in Utah. Can't wait.
 

·
Registered
MB 300SE '90, anthrazite grey, black leather
Joined
·
186 Posts
We are planning to carry out our next summer road trip in my daily driver 300SE (currently at 673 900 km); the previous ones went without major issues (the stories are in these pages somewhere, distances ranging from 4500 km, which was a two-week trip - 7800 km, a one-month trip), so I am inclined to vote for reliability indeed !

Rust is the one issue that will most likely kill my car eventually, then it will continue serving as a parts car, as I'll by another one to be used on a daily basis...
 

·
Registered
85 500SEC (Euro), 87 560SEC (now sold)
Joined
·
1,160 Posts
It's really a crap shoot. You might get a good one and you might not. I thought I had purchased a real peach July of 2018 , but everything in the world went wrong in the first two months. I was losing my mind, but fortunately things worked out ($4000 later) and now the car is completely reliable. I turn the key and don't worry about it.
 
1 - 20 of 37 Posts
Top