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Old 03-01-2002, 09:46 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 33
looking at a used 500sel

tommorow i will be looking at an 86 sel and would like to know if there are things i should look for in that year or model. I know that the full size w126 is a well thought out car but would like to know how i should approach it. I asked if i could take it on the highway to really feel the engine and the tranny and hes not to hip on that. How can you buy a car without driving it on the highway. Anyways he says everything works and hes asking 2900 firm. This seems like a deal. Thanks.

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Old 03-01-2002, 11:44 PM
Posts: n/a
Take a look at the w126 coupe "Buyer's Guide" at

Most of the guide is applicable to the sedans as well.

Pay particular attention to the timing chain and guide rail references contained within.
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Old 03-02-2002, 12:06 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,503
Aren't you just a little suspicious that he doesn't want you to drive the car on the highway?
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 03-02-2002, 03:27 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Central Oregon
Posts: 91
The usual tips apply.

Look for leaks, engine noise, rust,uneven tire wear, and overall condition. The timing chain is definitely an issue. If the car has 120k+ - it should have been done. Any slack in the chain is a death sentence for these engines.

These are great cars, and there are many out there that have been well cared for. Remember that these cars cost as much as a home when new. Before I bought my 85 500SEL I drove several W126's (even one's outside my price range). That way I knew what to expect, and was ready to pounce on a great deal.

If they won't let you drive it on the freeway - forget about this one. If the car tends to overheat, you dont want it, and a good test drive is the only way to verify.

Trust your gut. Mine fires right up on 3 cranks, and you practically have to look at the tachometer to tell it is running.

Best of Luck
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Old 03-02-2002, 04:43 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 17
I suspect that there may be the beginnings of a front end problem - and this problem in the early stages manifests itself with a slight wheel shimmy going down the highway!
You can confirm this by driving over a few potholes in the road
and you'll hear the familiar "thud / clunk". My antidotal experience
is that the right side tends to go first.
If this is the case you can count on Upper/Lower control arms,
lower ball joints, tie rods. You'll probably want to do the idler arm
and stabilizer rods as well. If you are a DIYer - you can probably get by for under $400.00 by just replacing the control arm mounting joints - and not the entire unit itself. At $400.00
you could probably put on front shocks as well.
With the proper tools (you can rent the spring compressor and have a machine shop install the ball joints) its not that bad a job.
Obviously - an alignment after this work is a must.
One further note - Timing chains are a regular maintenance issue with these models, and hardly classifies as a "death sentence". If you do purchase this vehicle - the timing chain is
something you would want to check regardless. That is of course unless the owner can privide receipts of recent service.
Good Luck!
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