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Old 12-12-2001, 03:01 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posts: 51
Question New 560sl owner questions

Of course I found this site yesterday AFTER buying a 1987 560SL, 91,000 miles on Monday, having looked for about three months for the right color and condition. Had it checked out and had the more recent service records also. Here are a couple of questions I have about this car and what I should and shouldn't have done to it (in addition to the work I've already done (brakes, one brake caliper, turned rotors, muffler, coolant reservoir, differential pressure regulator), including complete new upholstery and carpets)

Valve cover gaskets--leak oil slightly. Can this wait until I do the valves and, if so, when should that be done?

Timing chain--when does this need to be done?

Steering box--is very slightly seeping. Works great. Replacing with a rebuilt one was quoted at $1K by a local (Bay Area) mechanic, is this a deferrable repair?

Front seals--mechanic noted slight leaking, said they were "known to leak" and that replacement wasn't critical.

Reading the board, I'm terrified about what I may have gotten into as a non do-it-yourselfer. Of course, it is a gift for my wife, so all problems with it will be double trouble!

Thanks for advice.
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Old 12-14-2001, 12:57 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 563
Congratulations on your new purchase.

>Valve cover gaskets--leak oil slightly. Can this wait until I do the valves and, if so, when should that be done?

The valve cover gaskets should only cost about $140 or so. But while they have the valve covers off, have them inspect the timing chain and guides. That should answer the timing chain question. From what I've heard, timing chains (AND GUIDES) should be replaced every 100k miles, just to be safe. About an $800 job (that includes the tensioner too). I've had both of these things done to my SL.

BTW, you should only take your SL to a mechanic who specializes in Mercedes (or German cars). I have a great mechanic for all of my other cars, but he told me that he doesn't see very many Mercedes, so he's not very familiar with their common problems and solutions. He recommended a good Mercedes mechanic for my SL.

What do you think is wrong with your valves? Are you consuming oil? If the valve stem seals have never been replaced, they will need to be, but you'll know because you'll be going through a LOT of oil. It may even foul one of your spark plugs. I assume that your mechanic can check the seals while replacing the valve cover gaskets, but it didn't work that way for me. You could pull the spark plugs and check for oil. Replacing all 16 of the valve stem seals cost me $720. Very labor intensive procedure. Takes an entire day for someone who knows what he's doing.

>Steering box--is very slightly seeping. Works great. Replacing with a rebuilt one was quoted at $1K by a local (Bay Area) mechanic, is this a deferrable repair?

Thankfully, I haven't had this problem yet. I seem to recall hearing that seeping is common.

I'm not sure what "front seals" is referring to.

Hope this helps.
Mike Heath
1988 560SL Black/Palomino
1988 300SEL Black Pearl/Burgandy
1984 500SEC Anthracite Grey/Palomino
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Old 12-15-2001, 03:18 PM
ericdee's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 497
Steering box

I just had one put in, for around $600. The box was $330 and labor was $200, I also replaced the steering coupler.

On the timing chain, I've seen them break at 130k, better sooner then later.

Eric, 1983 500 SL
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Old 12-16-2001, 01:49 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posts: 51
Amazing difference in costs

So where did the box for $330 come from and what labor rate are you paying? I was quoted $1000 for the box replacement, $660 for the rebuilt box and the balance labor. Is the Bay Area THAT much more expensive, or are variations like this typical
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Old 12-17-2001, 11:59 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Orange Park Florida
Posts: 363

Ahh! A new 560SL owner! Congratulations. You have just purchased the finest car Mercedes ever made! (My opinion)

I too purchased a 560SL under many of your same circumstances in July of this year. I found this site 5 days after purchase! Wish I had found it sooner.

The problem with the 560SL is that those who bought them new may have driven them down to Florida in the Winter and then took trips to the Golf Course with them and ergo low miles. (Who had 70K for a car in 1986 thru 1989)Answer: Rich Old people.
I have found that used Mercedes are a good buy as long as you understand a couple of things. They are used cars and they come with the positives and negatives of all of the previous owners. Rich people take care of cars to a point. They are generally not fanatical. Major problems or expense generally finds them trading the car in. That is why you see alot at 85K to 140K on the market.
You may ask Why? Well thats when the chain etc needs replacement and a guy or gal with dough trades it in and buys a new one. If you watch EBay you will see alot of Mercedes at this mileage not just 560's. OK those are opinions thats not what you asked.

A used 560SL will generally have the following problems:

1) Valve Cover Gasket leaks.
2) Valve Seals leaking sometime bad hi oil consumption sometimes not so bad. As stated if they sit they still deteriorate. Age has its own problems. Ask any 58 year old male.
3) Headgasket: Maybe. they all leak some more than others.
4) Brakes/Rotors/Pads/Sensors. Don't turn em replace em!
5) Monovalve. You would deteriorate to if your back side sat in AntiFreeze all of its life!
6) Transmissions seldom drained and filter replaced.
7) Differential seldom changed
8) Radiator generally has been replaced due to plastics on the top end. Use MB Anti Freeze. Most Radiators are new. If yours isn't you probably need one!
9) Radio, Becker in these years is not so hot! Speakers are good! Swap it out for a Blaupunkt.
10) Replace Cheap tires. Michelin MX is the way to go.
Get a Hunter Front End Alignment and balancing!
11) Drain and flush the cooling system.
12) You WILL replace the dash lights. So read the Archives.
13) Get the Timing chain checked and determine the amount of flex in the chain. As stated the guides go moreso than the chain. At any rate at 100K replace it and be done with it!
14) Use Premium Gas and change the oil every 3000 miles. Filter to. While your at it do the air filter every other change!
15) After you complete or verify all of the above. Sit back and relax you have overcome the majority of the problems.

16) Maybe this should be 1) Go out and find a good honest Mercedes Benz mechanic. Dealers are expensive. Be careful. Check everything with a second or third opinion until you know you can trust the guy your dealing with. Also check this Board and confirm the problem with the many talented folks on this Board. There is no better advice than from someone who has been there and believe me these folks here are great people, mechanics and human beings.

17) Buy your parts from Shop Forum or Parts Shop. They are more than helpful and they ship like really fast!

Hope this helps!


The guy I bought my 1988 from traded it with 76K because it was using oil. The Dealer wanted 5000 dollars american to do the Head, Valves, Valve Seals and Guides. I replaced the valve seals and the 1 quart per 400 miles went away and now nary a drop between changes. Again, trust, know who you are dealing with!

I know nothing about cars. I only like them alot. What I learned I learned from working on Model "A" Fords. The most valuable lesson is that a Used Car is Used. Regardless of what you pay for it you will spend money on it to get it up to your standards. It is worth it to catch it up as expressed above because then you can STOP worrying!

God Bless You! You bought a fine car!

Oh! one last thing: Polish clean and detail with Zaino! It is the greatest. (My opinion again!)
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1988 560SL
Black Pearl/Palamino
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Old 12-18-2001, 08:44 AM
Tom McMenamin's Avatar
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Orange Park Florida
Posts: 363
One last thing!

17) Replace the muffler!

I think you mentioned you did that. They all need one!

If these things I mentioned are all needed its normal. If everything was good it wouldn't be a used car and the previous owner would still be driving it! He/She got rid of it because of these costs upcoming. The costs for all I mentioned with doing a little yourself is around $2-3 Thousand.

You didn't say what you paid for it but when you look at one add $3000 to the purchase price and thats what you will have paid.
Rule of thumb, not scientific! Again my opinion!

As mentioned in other Posts, Low miles means nothing. Deterioration with age is what this is all about! Regardless of what you pay, low miles or not figure on the money and effort I mentioned!
1988 560SL
Black Pearl/Palamino
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Old 12-19-2001, 10:29 AM
Posts: n/a
560 SL Problems

I got to say Tom hit the nail right on the head. I too recently bought in September a 1986 560 SL with 123,000 miles. I have replaced everything Tom has mentioned except the radiator and the head gasket. I had to put a paint job on the car so do you really count that? I would say a $3000+ is an accurate figure to what you have to put into these cars excluding the cosmetics.
What I am left to do on this car is replace one door panel and bolster up the seats as I am sitting on the floor and to replace the rotors as I had cut them and now they squeal. I hope that my major repairs are over and I too must remember a used car is a used car....
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Old 09-03-2004, 02:04 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 492
I have spent $5000 in parts.

If you want them tight and right there are all kinds of parts to replace. All the body rubber should be replaced. Some don't do it but their cars will not ride like one with the parts changed. Idle speed controls tend to fail too.
1985 Mercedes 500SL Euro (Gray market)
1995 BMW 520i Euro (Gray market)
1992 BMW 525it Wagon
1994 Honda Del Sol Si
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Old 09-04-2004, 08:33 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Alexandria, VA
Posts: 326
Congradulations....on your new SL. A few other things...if you start getting rattling in the front end, think sub-frame mounts and shocks...makes a huge difference in handling. You will run some large bills at first, as you get your SL in'll find yourself fixing everything from the window buttons to the timing chain. But, at the end of it, you'll have an incredible car, fantastic built quality.

I'll echo what someone on the board said...getting to the right mechanic and shop is critical....all of us have wasted 100s or 1000s getting our repairs done by the wrong shop. You need to find a place that specializes in MB, especially older ones, and even then you need to manage your repair program carefully.
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Old 09-06-2004, 04:24 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: tulsa, oklahoma
Posts: 18
Congrats on the new purchace, I bought my 87 almost a year ago, she had 97,000 miles on her and I have been very lucky with nothing major done to the car. My mechanic for the car is whom I bought it from, farther and son who work on cars but have a few also for sale, BMW's, Jag's and MB's. I was so pleased with the service and the sale, have recently added a 91 420SE, 135,000 miles to my garage and am planning on getting rid of my jeep and buying a 99 E320 from them with 51,000 miles. My 560 was a one owner car and is in very good condition other than the normal use of a car this old. Good luch with your new baby,
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Old 08-08-2011, 06:23 AM
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Houston, TX - USA
Posts: 13
new 560SL owner

great input from fellow forum members, owners of the 560sl..

I too just purchased one, 88 560SL 142k miles, Black/Palamino from the 3rd owner. The 3rd owners purchased the car in 1999 when it was 11 year old and only drove it 1k miles in the 11 years they owned I knew when buying Id need to invest in it to bring it back up to a quality standard....

Works done before I purchased by previous owners indicated by documentation were the radiator and the timing chains/tensioners. My efforts since buying;

- complete suspension rebuild; upper/lower ctrl arm bushings, ball joints, sway bar and sub-frame bushings, steering gear box re-seal, steering coupler replacement, power steering unit re-seal kit, abs brake sensor wires with insulators, front / rear brake hoses, complete fuel system hose set replacement, transmission overhaul, rebuilt instrument cluster with repair to tach and odometer, changed instr cluster bulb, replaced OEM wheels that had been chromed, (peeling) with a newly chromed set (including spare), new Michelins, front headlamps, lens covers for fog and turn signals...all pitted from AZ climate road wear, antenna grommet, rear view mirror, door, roof and soft top weatherstripping.... saving money to do the following;

a/c repair (complete system overhaul, including underdash ctrl module replacement)

engine valve stem oil seals (using apprx 1 qt per 400-500 miles)

complete upholstery and carpets....

thankfully, after careful clay bar treatment and detailed paint restoration, i will not need to repaint as the exterior paint finish looks good as new (only a few minor chips, which I'll touch up).

note: only used and only will use genuine MB replacement parts, no APO chinese stuff going into this german classic.

All in I likely spent more than I bargained for ....with paying $10k for the car, I've already put 8k more into it and am likely facing another 8-10 to get it back up to the level I want....but!, i bought it cause i wanted it...not to re-sell, we want to drive it and enjoy it as it reaches its 25 year old vintage state....

look forward to continued reading and learning from other forum members on this site....thanks
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Last edited by rewillia; 08-08-2011 at 06:28 AM. Reason: correction
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