Best safety net is to ask for permission to have the car inspected by a
respected MB specialist. Otherwise, like any car, it can be a pitfall.
Generally speaking, drive the car normally... listen for any abnormal
noises, feel if steering wheel is tight. is the tranny shifting smoothly?..
Does the car feel powerful?
Drive the car aggressively... does the car feel loose? Does the tranny shift
smoothly and correctly?
Is it easy to start cold engine?
Is it easy to start hot engine after 10 minutes of sitting?
Any fluid smell? Leak?
Depends on mileage, but these are the things I have had to replace on my 300e
and a friends 300CE, both with around 115K miles, due to normal wear & tear.
Remember these are old cars so things WILL fail, although they are very
reliable & great fun to drive.
Radiator - the plastic gets brittle & eventually the top hose connection breaks
off. $100 refurbished replacement, do it yourself.
Water pump - seal leaks. Can be a do it yourself job. Replacement pump around
$200, 12 hours of DIY labor. $800 to $1,000 for this job at a dealer.
Shock absorbers - check for leaks. I replaced the rears on both vehicles. $60
or so per absorber, 1 to 2 hours per to replace yourself.
Sway bar bushings - cheap & easy to replace yourself
A/C - if not blowing cold have it refilled with R12 plus dye to check for leaks
A/C fan fan not blowing - check for power at the fan. If no power, remove the
control unit from the center of the consol, go over all connections & resolder
if necessary, or replace the unit.
A/C fan not blowing, power at fan - remove the fan, replace the graphite
contacts ($10) or put in a new fan ($300)
SRS & Check engine light on or flickering - the contacts in the alternator have
worn down so they are only making intermitant contact. Replace the voltage
regulator unit on the alternator with a quality one - around $50
Valve seal or valve guide problems - pull a couple of spark plugs & check for
color. Should be light. Any vertical streak of black indicates oil is being
pulled down the valve guide. With 24 valves even replacing the oil seals is a
pain. Cost about $40 for the seals & a long weekend with the right tools to do
it yourself. If you want the guides done you will need to pull the head. New
guides & head skim plus new gaskets will cost around $1,000. Having the whole
job done by professionals will cost around $3,000.
Oil on the front of the engine. Various points where it can leak & provided
not too much then not a problem. If it's the crank oil seal it is a real pain
to get to. You can do it yourself with patience & the right tools, will cost
around $1,000 at a dealer.
Rotor, Cap & Plug wires. These are all pretty solid. Pull the cap off & look
for black scorching indicating shorts. Plug wires are solid wire & only need
to be replaced if the aires or the rubber insulation is broken.
Sun roof - check that it operates smoothly. Ask when it was last cleaned &
lubricated. If the control cable breaks you will probably need to take it to a
professional. Expect to pay around $500 to have it fixed.
Single arm wiper - check to see that it operates smoothly. Ask when last
cleaned & lubricated. Replacement motors & arms are around $500. Add 3 hours
labor if need to have it replaced professionally.
Electric windows - if don't work it's probably the switches on the center
consol just need cleaning. It's a lot more expensive if you need to replace
Electric seat - same as for windows except the switches are on the doors.
If it's done over 90K miles check to see if the front wheel bearings have been
cleaned & packed with fresh grease. If not, this should be done. If yes, ask
if done by the seller or by a shop. If done by the seller they tend to be
overtightened & generally fail due to heat stress within about 10K miles.
When driving, does it tend to wander a bit. If so, could be the track rod
ends, or the rear suspension control arms. If seller tells you he has
tightened the steering box to fix this he has probably screwed the box & it
will need to be replaced in the not too distant future. Does the steering
wheel move more than 2 inches without moving the wheels? If so it's probably
the rod ends, which you can replace yourself. Replacing the rear control bars
or their bushes is probably a job for the pros.
Brakes - have the rotors been replaced? If it's done over 100K miles you will
need to replace the front rotors next time you change the brake pads. Cheap &
easy to do yourself.
Brake master cylinder fails when bleeding the brakes. Common to all older
cars. $300 for a new one, do it yourself. Once you have fluid in the lines
push the brake pads back when bleeding at each wheel to get any air bubbles out
from the piston internals.
Think that's about it, good luck.
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