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Old 11-17-2001, 12:00 AM
Registered User
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Scotts Valley, CA.
Posts: 145
'81 380 SLC with oil leaks

Hi everyone,
I've got a non-mechanical friend who owns an '81 380 SLC. He loves the cars' looks (not me...) but is having a lot of trouble with oil leaks.

According to his explanation, I think he's got a rear main seal that's nearly gone AND something leaking at the cylinder head level pouring oil out onto one of the exhaust manifolds. Head gasket? Car leaves LARGE oil puddles all over the place.

Somebody quoted him $3000-5000 to fix saying the engine had to come out of the car and something about the heads.

My questions:
1) Can the rear main seal be replaced with the engine in the car? I'm thinking that the driveline and tranny can be dropped out of the way instead of yanking the engine out.
2) Would a cylinder head gasket leak oil THAT bad without ruining the engine internally?
3) What's the amount of time (flat rate manual) for changing a rear main seal?
4) What's the amount of time (flat rate manual) for changing a head gasket on this car with this engine?

As always, I greatly appreciate any responses from those MBZ technicians who are a part of this great group. Anyone else's responses are also welcome.
Jay Yambrovich
Scotts Valley, CA.

1993 300 CE Cabriolet (A124) 131K miles
1997 C-280 133K miles

2000 BMW R1100RT 69K miles
1989 300 E 216K miles (sold)
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Old 11-17-2001, 01:17 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Los Angeles, Ca.
Posts: 21
The rear seal can be done w/out removing the engine. It is definitely not a 3K job. Find an honest mechanic.

If the other oil leak blows smoke on the right hand side (facing forward) cylinder bank, then it sounds like you have a blown timing chain housing gasket. A reasonably easy fix but at the same time you should look into whether the car has had the single-row timing chain changed out for a double-row chain.

Steve Guilford
107 026 12 000677 - The original 'modern' Benz super coupe
107 024 12 011890
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Old 11-17-2001, 02:17 AM
RunningTooHot's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Here
Posts: 832
Ditto what Steve said about the timing chain. If it is still the single row chain, at the very least feed a new one in. This is more important than any oil leak. Of course, if your friend refuses & the engine blows, let me know and I'll buy the car. The 380 is a one year only model, and I have some special (Dr. Frankenstein type) plans for one if I can find a clean one with a bad engine.

You said that the oil is dripping onto the exhaust manifold, therefore the leak is *above* the manifold. Sounds as simple as a valve cover gasket. Iíll be more than happy to change it for half of what was quoted by the rip-off mechanic. Hell, Iíll repaint the car for no additional charge as well. $5000 goes a long way.

Make sure that what is dribbling out the back of the engine is OIL, not transmission fluid Ė the front pump seal on the transmissions are a frequent source of leaks at what appears to be the rear of the engine. In fact, it is much more likely to be the culprit.

How much mileage on the SLC?

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Old 11-17-2001, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
Cylinder head gasket leaks on the drivers side do cause considerable problems and often are mistaken for rear main oil seal leaks. Of course valve covers gaskets will do the same.

Mileage will determine the logical way to approach such problems. If the car has a single chain and a gob of miles 180k or above, logic says that one should do a complete valve job and chain update with the head gasket. The complete valve job will usually run 25-30 hours with normal chain replacement. On the SL or SLC the solid pan requires removal of the subframe for pan removal. BTW here is a good article about chain removal:

We usually do the whole thing in the car and charge 40 hours for valve job and chain update requiring subframe removal.

Just doing a rear main seal requires removing the trans (about 7 hours in a 107) and flywheel. One should probably reseal the front pump at the same time which requires pulling the front housing. This will add another 3 hours.
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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