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Old 08-12-2002, 09:45 PM
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Question Transmission Q on '86 560 SEL

I am very interested in buying a 560 SEL and have a question about one I just drove today. It is an '86 with only 96,000 miles on it. It has been sitting for the most part over the last two years. I noticed when I drove it that the transmission would not downshift after flooring it and hitting the kickdown switch. In other words, traveling at about 40 mph, with the pedal to the medal, the engine would just loaf along at about 1800 RPM in 4th gear. The funny thing is, if I punched it from a dead stop, it would rev up to redline before upshifting, but would not kickdown to 1st out of the hole like I believe it's supposed to. When I manually shifted into 'B' it would go into 1st, but not if I simply floored it.

Does anyone know what this could be? I was thinking maybe the TV cable to the transmission is broken. Does this sound like a simple fix or a major problem for that transmission? I've never owned one, but always wanted to. Below is a laundry list of other things I noticed, thanks to reading a lot of very informative posts on this website.

1. A/C clutch engages, but no cold pipes (needs freon)
2. Timing chain has never been done (scary)
3. A small bit of rust on the left front fender (about the size of a thumb)
4. Seat memory doesn't seem to activate either front seat when held down (does it do this if not yet programmed?)
5. Power Antenna doesn't work
6. Front Dome Light burnt out
7. Rear seats aren't equipped with recline or heat (I thought they all had it)

The engine purrs and the interior is impeccably well maintained, plus it's black with grey leather--just what I want.

He is asking $9000. I made him a lowball offer of $5500 because of the tranny. Let me know what you guys think!

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Old 08-12-2002, 10:32 PM
amg280's Avatar
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: NY
Posts: 530

I would be weary. I think his asking price is much too high for an 86 model. I have an 86 420SEL and know quite a bit about these W126 cars. My first impression believes me to think that this may not even be a 560SEL. All 560SEL's had rear heated and power seats to my knowledge. Does it have zebrano (lighter with lines through it)wood or burl wood (darker). 560's should have burl. Does the air cleaner intake have two intake hoses coming off it or one? should have two. Does it has a resevoir tank for hadraulic fluid under the hood on the drivers side (near ABS pump). It should have that as well.

If I were in your shoes, I would search for a 89-91 model. Reason being is that they have the upgraded interior and stereo. It is much nicer. And I bet you can find one in your price range, just have to look hard.

As far as the transmission, my first thought would be the cable going from the throttle linkages to the tranny, but if from a dead stop it will go to redline when floored, may mean its working fine. It still could be out of adjustment. It might be something in the valve body that is stuck or gummed up (read: $$$). I had to rebuild my tranny at 150,000 and cost about $1,200 just for parts. I did most of the work myself. The 2-3 shift is notorious for wearing out.

The rust could be another bad thing. Since its already visible on the fender, it might also be present under the plastic thats on the doors. Another bad place for rust is on the rear wheel arches.

The airconditioning could add up to the cost of a small japanese econobox, so beware. If its not working now, chances are there is something more wrong with it than just the "need to add freon". Might need a condensor (common cause) or compressor, etc. Like someone else on this board once said, if the A/C does not work on a benz your looking at, instantly subtract 2500-3000 off the price. Ever so true!

Lastly, I would definetely replace the timing chain if its never been done before. This can also run into money if upon inspection some rails are broken. That is the #1 cause of engine failure on these engines.

Sorry this is so long, but I hope it helps in your decision. You can run the VIN and see if it is in fact a 560SEL. Maybe it could be a grey market or special order without those options?? I dont know to be honest.

Good Luck
93 300D 2.5 Turbo, Black/Palomino 273K
09 E350 Black/Black 41K
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Old 08-12-2002, 11:25 PM
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Wow! Thanks a bunch, and no way should you apologize for a long reply.

It's interesting that you are unsure if it's genuinely a 560, because the seller said a previous buyer insisted it was not a 560. Thank god for this forum! What a dummy I am for driving 40 miles and not writing down the VIN. I don't remember if there were two intake hoses, but it was definitely a V-8 and it looked just like the other 560 I drove. I just can't remember about the wood or the reservoir or the intake. I do remember seeing what seemed to be a belt-driven aux. hydraulic pump on the pass. side of the engine that looked like it had a clutch. I assumed that was the hydraulic pump for the self-leveling system which would indicate a 560. Now that I think about it, I remember punching the throttle up a hill and telling the seller that it didn't seem to be developing full power. Later I decided that must be related to the tranny problem, though.

I like to work on cars, but I read a post about the W126 procedure for replacing the evaporator. Sounds like an SOB to me. I'm an okay mechanic but I don't like the sound of one members' recommendation to "mark the vacuum hoses with little pieces of tape" scares me a bit. And by no means am I capable of disassembling OR reassembling an automatic transmission.

Too bad, I thought I had found a low-mileage diamond-in-the-rough. I really appreciate your help. Once I get over my broken heart (this benz was black with a grey interior, remember) I'll start looking again. Thanks so much.

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Old 08-12-2002, 11:34 PM
MikeTangas's Avatar
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: So. Cal
Posts: 4,430
The '86 560SEL does not have a belt driven hydraulic pump for the suspension, the pump is bolted directly to the block (about under the distributor) and is internally driven. The device you noted on the passenger side, if it was low in the bay was likely the air pump (smog equipment used only during cold engine operation).

My guess is it's anything but a 560, just misbadged.
Mike Tangas
'73 280SEL 4.5 (9/72)- RIP
Only 8,173 units built from 5/71 thru 11/72

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Old 08-13-2002, 12:31 AM
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Thanks to the both of you for the heads up. These forums are dynamite. A ton of knowledge in here. So it sounds like it's a 380 or a 420 with some cheap makeup on it. Following AMG 280's advice, I searched AutoTrader for '89 - '92 560 SEL's. There were a few that looked like they would be perfect... except that they're 2000 miles away. Maybe it's worth a trip (I fly for free) if I come across a really spectacular one. Thanks Again!

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Old 08-13-2002, 12:48 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: NY
Posts: 530

I will keep an eye out for you, since im not far from where you live. Im in the central NY area. Dont be discouraged. There are alot of cars out there (even with that color combo). Hell, there were two right here in my little town. I dont blame you for looking for a 560SEL. They are awesome cars! Someday I will probably pick one up. Ive always wanted one, but having the second thing closest to the 560 (420) tied some of my urges over. It has served me well for over a decade and hundreds of thousands of miles, just like a 560 will.

And to confirm what MikeTangas said, what you saw was the smog pump, which is unrelated to the self leveling rear suspension.

Good luck, and if you have any other questions, feel free to post them
93 300D 2.5 Turbo, Black/Palomino 273K
09 E350 Black/Black 41K
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Old 08-13-2002, 08:57 AM
Posts: n/a
Thanks a million AMG or anyone else who happens to come across a fine example. Thanks to this site I think I've narrowed it down to a few things. With any other car I would be more careless, but buying this car will mean the fulfillment of a little dream of mine so I have to insist on a few things.

1. Either black or white exterior with either a beige, black, or grey interior.
2. Has to be a 560 SEL
3. A/C must work (thanks AMG)
4. Timing chain and guides must have been replaced recently
5. 89 or newer
6. < $10,000

I'm an airline pilot so I'll be making the two-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Cleveland only once a week. Eventually I plan on taking the car to Los Angeles, where I will use it as a primary car. Thanks for keeping a lookout.

-Josh (New Mercedes Nerd)
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Old 08-13-2002, 10:50 AM
it leaks, its german
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: raleigh nc
Posts: 1,111
126.039 = 560sel model indicator 72

126.037 = 500sel model indicator 54

126.035 = 420sel indicator 71

126.033 = 380sel indicator 52

just call him and ask for the model # off the tag on the core support. save a trip. :-)

Project Smoker, '87 603 powered wagon
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Old 08-13-2002, 04:41 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 709
7. Rear seats aren't equipped with recline or heat (I thought they all had it)
thats mother has a 1986 420SEL that she bought in 1991 and it has the reclining seats...but they are not heated


I understand what you are looking for car wise...but if you must have a 560 and must be just a certain color or so..with AC perfect,timing chain done..etc, that less than <10K you are willing to pay realistic?...I have seen some pristine examples(showroom actually) and I don;t think are hard to find...but I think you need to up that $$ amount up to about 15K to get a showcase car..there is a gentle man that patonizes thesame dealer as I that has a blk/blk 1991 with 50K miles that was bought and serviced at the same MB dealer 100% of its life...treats it like his baby...and I am sure an example like that would be well over what you are willing to pay

1992 300SD 145K
Columbus Ohio
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