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Old 02-01-2001, 11:42 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: SE PA
Posts: 63
If this is somewhat off topic, I apologize in advance. I'm posing the question here because, as a hard-core DIY'er, it's the input of others that mostly sort out their own problems that I'm interested in. I am considering the purchase of a relatively high mileage (109K mi) 1996 S320 SWB sedan. It's a two owner car in excellent condition with about 60K put on by the current owner over the last 20 mos. The price is at the wholesale end of the range. The current owner is clearly a "drop it at the dealership and pay the bill" type, as was, I believe, the original owner. All records are at the dealership and all services are current.

I'm curious, and concerned, as to the owner servicability of the car. Is this a vehicle that will drive me nuts with warning lights for oil changes or other services that can only be reset by the dealer and things like that? I've always owned Saabs and Volvos, all of which have been from the late 80's. I know later models by my favored manufacturers have such things (airbag lights etc) so, obviously, it's an unavoidable trend. But I am also aware that some manufacturers have gone to such extremes with these things that life can be difficult for DIY'ers. I'm hesitant to buy a vehicle if the manufacturer actively discourages owner maintenance.

I'm also interested in input regarding particular problem areas I might inspect or inquire about on this year and model and the quality and thoroughness of the service materials (manuals/CD ROMs) available. I have always done any work that doesn't require a large capital investment in equipment (e.g. alignment) and would like to continue doing so.

Finally, can anyone provide input as to what likely repairs I will face over the 100K to 150K interval? I recognize that no one has a crystal ball but those of you familiar with the mechanicals of these cars, I'm sure, can make a few good guesstimates as to what I might be looking at. It sure doesn't take a crystal ball to predict a transmission failure in a Saab over the same timeframe.

The car is just so gorgeous that I don't know if I can resist it. I learned to drive in a 1975 200 sedan that my father's company had at it's headquarters in Brussels. I put the first 5000 miles on the car driving my father all over Europe. It was an 18 year old's fantasy. I've always wanted a Benz of my own since. I guess I'm afraid of disappoinment.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-02-2001, 12:13 AM
Ashman's Avatar
Service Advisor
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
Posts: 4,748
I Don't own one of those cars and know very little about them mechanically. I'm not a tech or anything like that, so I'm only going to post my opinion on it.

It sounds like a great buy. With Full service history, The 109k miles is not really high miles for a benz. But it is high for the year. If you consider an average of 12k per year or even 15k per year, it should still only be 50-75k miles by now, maybe give or take a little. But if the car has been well maintained, and has had some repairs done to it which were common problems on the cars, I would think it should be very reliable.

If it were me, and it was a car I was looking to buy, I would have it checked out by my mechanic, and if all was good, I would buy it.

'92 300CE - Sold
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Old 02-02-2001, 07:45 AM
Posts: n/a
I've never been able to get a Benz properly broken in at such a low mileage.

Good luck,
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Old 02-02-2001, 09:02 AM
Posts: n/a
Can't get that many miles without a lot of time spent on the freeway. Which is a good thing. Have it checked by a MB mechanic for a typical used car purchase. In addition have them lift the valve cover to be sure there's no sludge build up (a sign of poor maintenance and serious problems in the future), have them check for rust everywhere they can see, possible accident repairs, have the engine compression checked, the motor mounts, the brakes, the suspension, exhaust system, along with everything else. Make sure that all the internal devices work - A/C, Radio, all the vacuum switches, lights, etc. If all is okay, go for it understanding that somethings are expensive to fix. MB's are usually good high mileage cars but do require routine maintenance, like everything else. Expected repairs are exhaust systems at about 100K, motor mounts, possible A/C issues, and some minor stuff. Don't know the expected life of the timing chain. You're definitely not looking at an engine or tranny rebuild any time soon, unless a lot of oil consumption becomes evident. Also, search the archives here. You will find useful information.

Good luck!

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Old 02-02-2001, 10:01 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Sunny Florida
Posts: 199
I do not think 109K is high at all for a MBenz. I do recall the 140 body having trouble with evaporators, and the repair is expensive, so check to see if it has been done. The repair involves much risk for the mechanic, as a very expensive dash can be ruined during the process if he is not careful. Have a good independent mechanic go through it. This will arm you with information to negotiate the price and perhaps steer you away from the car. Ask the mechanic's opinion, and listen carefully. An experienced mechanic can help you to determine if this is a "good one".
Good luck!
Larry - I am sure you are surprised to find the left hand number in the odometer can be a "1". <bg>
1989 560SEL (172k)
1989 325IC (122K)
2004 Suzuki Volusia LE (3500 miles)
2005 Yamaha Road Star (20 K miles)
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Old 02-02-2001, 01:53 PM
Posts: n/a
The book is $22k+ so if it falls in that range, do not be afraid of milage with that car. The 6cyl is bulletproof. get a survey done first. Take everything into consideration, tires, floormats, brakes, etc.
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Old 02-02-2001, 02:06 PM
Davis Lo
Posts: n/a
I own a 1995 S320L currently and one of the most common problems is the leakage of the heat gasket. Have it checked or see the service record as if it is replaced with the modified one or not. Moreover, try the transmission to see any harsh shift or slippage.Otherwise, it is a fabulous luxury sedan.
Hope this helps!
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Old 02-04-2001, 12:10 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 638
To Buy , or not to buy?

Have another MBZ dealer (or the present one) perform a 'pre-purchase inspection'-- a comprehensive check of the car. It covers about 3 pages of checklist (you get a copy).

Also ask to see the COMPLETE list of MBZ service buletins for the car and check to see their status for this car.

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