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1984 500 sec
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27 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I figured I would post this question and ask for honest responses from the crowd. A month ago, my brother crashed my civic. I purchased a 1984 500sec to drive around for a time while I repaired my battered civic. The civic is back on the road. The problem is, I love the 500sec. I picked up the car for 1,100. The body is solid (no rust), but the paint is faded. The interior is basically shot, but it still passes in the dark. Most things work. I've done the belts, an oil change, the idle control, and the thermo. She had not run in years, but now she is back on the road. She runs pretty well, and is fun to take down country roads here in Kentucky.

I've spent a lot of time in the engine compartment. I've listened to the engine, waiting for something to go wrong. I can hear a slight, intermittent, ticking from the front drivers side of the engine. You can't hear it when the car is in drive. In fact, you can barely hear it at all unless you're looking for it. I am pretty sure it's the chain slapping, because you can basically only hear it when the engine gets warm. The oil pump is a bit squirly, but that may just be the gauge, since it loses pressure gradually around 3500 rpm and increasingly the more you rev. That's probably the oil pickup, or the pump is going bad.

I just got my mind around the idea of shelling out $1K for a timing chain and guides. This is a pretty big sum of money for me to spend on a car I only drive on the weekends. I started calling around to shops in the area (even including Cincinnati and Louisville independent shops). The lowest shop I have heard from said it would be $2500 for the chain and the guides to be replaced. And, that sum is waaaaay out of my price range. The problem is, I love the car.

So, the choice is 1.) drive the car until it dies. 2.) give a shot at doing the chain myself, since the parts alone will likely run $500 according to others (including the tensioner). I am pretty handy. I did the belts and other parts myself. But, I have never gone this deep into an engine before. I've never set timing. Again, I may be able to do it. My fear is that if I try this I will be out $500 in parts for a car that is hopelessly broken in my garage. The car has 120K on it, but the odo is broken, so I can't say for sure.

So, the question is posed to you out there. What do I do? Drive it until death or try and repair it myself? Love the car, but can't part with the money right now. The wife would kill me.
 

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1984 500 sec
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27 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
And, I forgot to add, the steering gear box pops when turning sometimes. So, that too is likely needing to be replaced.
 

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1983 300 SD, 1991 420 SEL, 1979 300SD
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536 Posts
i would do the chain/rails/tensioner myself. i did it on my old 420sel with instructions from this board. it's really not that hard, just be patient and pay attention to what you're doing
 

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CH4S Admin , Outstanding Contributor
1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
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40,650 Posts
Welcome.
Please make sure to read the 'Welcome....' on top of the forum page.
Source a used ps pump from your area wrecking yards?
 

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1984 500 sec
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27 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
I am in Kentucky, so there is no real great yard to look for parts (hard to even find something for a civic, much less a euro SEC that's 30 years old). It's actually the gearbox, not the pump, I think. It's only occasional, so I decided not to bother with it now. I am just a tad scared of trying this timing chain/guides job. Do I have to remove the distributor and set the timing again?
 

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1990 560 SEL with Euro engine, 1998 SL500 Sport
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$1,200 for a non-rusted SEC with most things working is a steal. It looks real nice in the pic. I would fix the car and enjoy even if you have to spend 2-3 grand. There's NO comparison to the Civic. The SEC is an exotic car and the Honda is not in the same league... although it's great reliable car.

Get the tensioner guides done right away. It's not that difficult to do yourself. There's a great write-up in the DIY section. If you get stuck, there's guys here that can guide you through it. The quotes you got seem way out of line and sky high.

Ebay parts and junk yards are a great source even if you have to drive a bit to get to one. However most of them deal online. I've gotten lots of parts off the internet.

As far as the faded paint goes, you might be able to compound and buff the car to a beautiful finish. These cars have great paint jobs and can be brought back (unless the clear is peeling).

Good luck!
 

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I would definitely fix it. You should be able to get one of the guys that visits yards frequently to get you a used steering gearbox for a fraction of what they sell for new. And despite their low value right now, particularly the SEC is sure to gain back some value over the next years, imo. Use the civic as a daily to save on gas, and the SEC as your going out car/weekend cruiser.
 

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1984 500SEC Euro: Midnight Blue w/ Cream Interior
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236 Posts
Timing Chain

I was able to do the job and I don't have much much experience at all. Just take your time, like someone else already posted. Some people treat the job like it is so very hard, I don't feel that way, it's just that there isn't any room for error so you have to be patient and not act like you'll finish the whole thing in a few hours when it's your first time.

See about ordering the parts from the MB Classic Center in Irvine, I was able to get 20% off my order. The salesman offered to always give me that discount, which is something my local dealership parts department would never do. They'll ship the parts right to your door.

I'll PM you some instructions that I have

Best of luck
 

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1984 500 sec
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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you all for the words of encouragement. I am but a lowly public servant (public defender) with a penchant for odd cars and a small salary to show for it (hence spending $2500 is basically out of the question). I've been through a bunch and this car is by far my favorite "odd ball" vehicle. I swore I wouldn't get back into Mercedes after a horrible experience with a 1996 C280. But, I just couldn't pass up this car. It's nice to know that there are people out there that can give me some advice if I decide to do this. It's going to be a tough decision. I've repaired many a small engine, but nothing this complicated before. However, I think this car is worth the investment of time in doing it myself. It's just a confidence question.

If I decide to do this then I think I'll be on here a bunch more, posting pictures, and freaking out that I have done something wrong. Thanks in advance for putting up with me if I give this project a go.

And, if there is anyone out there that would tell me this is a horrible idea, please speak up and talk me out of it.
 

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1990 560 SEL with Euro engine, 1998 SL500 Sport
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Like I said, for that price I would keep the car. BUT please understand you will most definitely need to spend a few dollars to get it right. I guess it depends on what your expectations are. If you want a driver/beater you will most likely have to spend $2-3k to get it decent. Of course you don't have to get everything done all at once. However, it's very easy to have $10k into these cars after a few years to get them real nice and probably twice that to get to show car quality... and then it's just maintenance of maybe $1k per year. It really depends on what you want out of it. It sounds like you just want to keep it running well and not be so concerned about looks. Some of us here have a staggering amount of money and time tied up in our cars. It's very easy to do if your goal is to end up with a stand-out vehicle.

And don't forget the old adage "There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes". They will cost you a bit especially if neglected.

If dollars are tight, the Civic may be a better choice. Otherwise you run the risk of neglecting needed repairs. If you need to keep the spending low, DIY will definitely be your future. To me part of the fun is seeking out used part bargains and connecting with fellow enthusiasts.

I would add one more thing. At this point, your downside risk seems pretty low. You should always be able to sell it for what you have into it so far before the "disease" gets out of control. :) Nice, like-new used parts do come up for sale and you'll find yourself salivating to buy them once the bug hits you. These cars have a way of getting to you. It's like a mistress.
 

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1984 500 sec
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Discussion Starter #12
Basically, here is my problem. I was prepared to shell out $1K to do the timing chain and guides. But, the figure of $2500 was a bit shocking for a chain and guides. Quite frankly, the wife wants new windows for the house. She checks my bank account online. If she sees me spending $2500 she will likely murder me in my sleep.* I feel competent to a level of radiator replacement, brake replacement, body work and other such things. Internal engine and trans I normally leave to the professionals. Anything else I feel OK to do. It's just that the chain is so exact that I figure I am going to screw up the whole thing. And, compounding issues, I am in a state that is not exactly a Mercedes mecca. I can make it to Louisville, Cincinnati and other surrounding areas. But, I can't seem to find a place that would do it for $1K like I have seen quoted around the country.

* One of my favorite cars, a 1972 Buick Electra 225 two door, was sold because of this kind of a problem. I kinda had an incident where the fire department had to be called.... That was the end of that Buick being allowed in the garage.
 

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1990 560 SEL with Euro engine, 1998 SL500 Sport
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2,957 Posts
Basically, here is my problem. I was prepared to shell out $1K to do the timing chain and guides. But, the figure of $2500 was a bit shocking for a chain and guides. Quite frankly, the wife wants new windows for the house. She checks my bank account online. If she sees me spending $2500 she will likely murder me in my sleep.* I feel competent to a level of radiator replacement, brake replacement, body work and other such things. Internal engine and trans I normally leave to the professionals. Anything else I feel OK to do. It's just that the chain is so exact that I figure I am going to screw up the whole thing. And, compounding issues, I am in a state that is not exactly a Mercedes mecca. I can make it to Louisville, Cincinnati and other surrounding areas. But, I can't seem to find a place that would do it for $1K like I have seen quoted around the country.

* One of my favorite cars, a 1972 Buick Electra 225 two door, was sold because of this kind of a problem. I kinda had an incident where the fire department had to be called.... That was the end of that Buick being allowed in the garage.
How about this. Can you find a decent mechanic that's comfortable with this sort of work and have him moonlight for a couple of nights and give you a hand? That should be well under $1k,
 
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