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Old 08-16-2002, 08:55 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Princeton, NJ
Posts: 44
'88 560 SEL - Nagging issues - please help?

A month ago, I bought a '88 560 SEL as my second car. Since, I have replaced ball joints, belts, front brakes, new V rated tires, and oil change as well as FI cleaner.

I did pass NJ inspection and the like before the above.

Per my mechanic - the suspension - front and rear are fine, need a tune up ($600), valve cover ($200) and my A/C need to be fixed - it was working then I sprung a leak from the hose that runs along the condensor in the front right hand side of the car!.

I have searched this site for answers but have either gotten confusing take aways or not specific to my issues. This is quite long, so, I will apologize in advance as well as thank you for replying, helping me out. I am reasonable savvy about cars in general - not a novice but clearly not an expert.

Within the last two days, the car has begun this shaky idle - when I am at a light, it will give this shudder ..... I am going to replace the fuse in the over load protection relay today .... but, this engine was running like a dream when I bought it (one of the biggest reasons for the purchase!) - dunno what happened and how I can fix.

I inspected the self leveling reservoir, there is little oil in it and will be filling that up to today. The rear left of the car is lower than the rear right and all in all the top of the rear wheels are below the wheel fender - is this the correct ride height? Also, with the oil this low, I hope I have not blown anything - how can I check that? Upon reading some threads, I read that you should see the fluid flowing when the engine is on - the container is a milky white and whit age, you cannot see anything through it - I am unsure about keeping the container open witht he engine on ...

The ABS light is on - it wasn't when I first drove it, after the brake job, the light is on and he wants 40 bucks to check it as he claims "replacing the brakes have nothing to do with the ABS light coming on!" - BS in my opinion, but ..... how can I fix this myself?

A/C - can I order the part from here (about 20 bucks) and change it myself and go get it charged with R12? Is this a DIY?

The rear seat do not move - the motor hums and works fine. I cleaned out the back and the cables seem to be rotating too - am stumped as to what it can be - I asked the dealer for these cables and said he did not have them! Suggestions? The bronze colored gear seems pretty solidily placed in the grooves on both sides - can I turn these manually to get them started? I did spray some WD40 to loosen things up.

Once in a while, there will be an intense white smoke that pours out of the exhaust - if I am at a light and I move along, the "cloud" can get pretty huge at times. THis however comes and goes - it is usually absent. We had some 90+ degree days here - dunno if that was it? THoughts?

The fan in front of the condenser - I guess the AUX fan - when does that come on? With my A/C not charged, I had the A/C on but the fan did not kick in....?

The outside Temp gauge is hooked to the frame of the front license plate, when I go through a car wash - the display in the instrument cluster comes on and the temperature gradually starts moving up - eventually it dies and goes blank - is it the sensor - how do I replace that, fix that? Is it a DIY?

When I go over potholes, there is a "ghadak" kind of sound - in my Audi, I did not feel such a jar or hear a sound like that - it seems the bushing - as the mechanic did say the suspension was fine in the front - it almost feels a bit soft - I drive a S2000 daily so it will be softer, I realize that, but - - - ? How can I be sure all is well and what should I expect next from a cost perspective?

Lastly - any advice on winter driving in this car - I hear sand bags is a must in the rear - advice?

Thanks much for reading and taking the time to write back. It is not like I have the knowkledge myself or a trusted mechanic who does not want my first born. I really like this car - have always liked it and I want to build it back up to it's fullest again. Your help and insight is much, much needed and appreciated.
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Old 08-16-2002, 10:00 AM
MikeTangas's Avatar
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: So. Cal
Posts: 4,430
I can only try to help with a few items.

Did the shudder and ABS light manifest about the same time? I'd be looking at the OVP again, perhaps you need a new OVP (since you changed the fuse already).

Low oil in the suspension resevoir. Get some MB suspension fluid ASAP, hopefully you didn't burn the pump. Yes you can open the top and run the engine, the return flow of fluid is a slow steady trickle, no worry about splashout. When you fill the res, fill it to just above, like 1/4", the top rib of the bottle.

If you've lost all the R-12 from the bad hose, yes you can DIY then have it charged with R-12 at the shop.

Rear seats not moving, are you trying with the door open or closed? I found that the seats don't operate on mine with the door open.

Is your "ghadak" coming from the front end when you go over bumps/potholes? Most like track rod mounts (part of the front suspension).

Last question. Is you mechanic a MB specialist or Independant, or the dealer OR is he a mechanic not familiar with Mercedes?
Mike Tangas
'73 280SEL 4.5 (9/72)- RIP
Only 8,173 units built from 5/71 thru 11/72

'02 CLK320 Cabriolet - wifey's mid-life crisis

2012 VW Jetta Sportwagon least its a diesel

Non illegitemae carborundum.
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Old 08-16-2002, 10:02 AM
Posts: n/a
I too have an 88 560sel. it also is my baby. I have had it for 3 years and have already socked over $15,000CDN in repairs into it. But it is worth it. I had the whole car stripped down and all rust removed and new metal put in and then had the car reassembled and repainted and hand polished to a mirror shine. I replaced the front windshield and rear window and redid the burl wood trim inside the car. The car looks mint and I cannot get a new car with all the features this one has for what this one cost me. I am still about $2,000 away from saying it is perfect. But enough about me. Any older car will need maintenace on a regular basis. The trick is to get all the bugs out first - then just maintain it.
My car had a mysterious white puff of smoke with the smell of burnt oil on the passenger side of the engine every now and then. After trying to find it for over a year and 3 valve cover gaskets later - the Mercedes dealer up here just told me the valve cover was warped in the rear. Why did your mechanic tell you to change yours? I am going to take Mercede's advice and send my cover to a machine shop and have the bottom sealing edge machined flat at a cost of $40-75 CDN. If yours is the same problem - maybe you can save some money this way.

As for the shaky idle - been there - go to tech help search and type in "idle control valve" Check the procedure to clean it - should solve your problem - Also suggest you pour a couple of cans of injector cleaner or that more expensive fuel system conditioner cleaner (I use the stuff by Duralube) into your gas tank - you may have dirty injectors causing the shake. Worst case - look up thread from me on rusty fuel line replacement - it will explain that problem to you and what Henry did to cure his recurring rough idle as a cheap fix.
As for the self leveling container - clean the outside of the case real good and you should be able to see the fluid level in it. It should be at least 2/3 full. If I remember right there is a level mark on the case - but don't remember - as long as mine is over the ridge around the container above the spring holding it by about 1" I call it full. Search for threads on car not being level with hydraulic suspension - loads of info available. Use recommended Mercedes hydraulic fluid when you top up - not anything else.
With your ABS light on - search for threads on OVP relay - Also note - if you ever have your car jump started and it doe not run right after the jump start - the fuse on the OVP will be blown.

Aux fans - been there - note: when the engine temp reaches 107C the aux fan will come on high and not shut off until temp goes down under 100C. When you get your air conditioner fixed - there is another aux fan sensor near the drier that will kick the aux fan on low when the pressure in the air conditioner gets to a certain value. Unless either of the two abve scenarios are achieved - that fan will not go on. learned that the hard way!!

Outside temp - if the only acts up in the car wash - check the leads to the sensor - they may be corroded. Other than that - don't know - mine always has worked.
As you get deeper into this car - go to search and read all the posts by Mike Tangas - he descibes all the problems he had refurbishing his 560 and gives detailed instructions on how to do the repairs he did.
I saved the worst to last - Timing chain and guides and tensioner.
Definately read Mike's post on this subject and he describes how to do it yourself. If your car has over 150,000 miles on it - it is time. To check the condition of your plastic guides to see if they are still good or not - remove the passenger side valve cover and look at the long guide on the timing chain going to the cam. If it is white - it is new - if it is amber - it is OK - if it is brown like the color of a beer bottle - DANGER - replace immediately- they crack and the timing belt comes loose and $$$$$$$$$$. The upper guides and tensioner are cheap - With Mike's guidance from his posts - it is a DIY job.
All the best and good luck!!
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Old 08-16-2002, 01:05 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 248
I can't check right now as my car is in the shop for some front end work but I believe Mike Tangas is correct about the rear seat - it only works if the doors are closed. I know mine was also very problematic until I replaced one of the switches. If you need parts that Princeton MB doesn't have or seem expensive, I've found very good luck in working with Rusty Cullens at ***************. His prices are very good and he'll work with you on the phone to determine what you need - been working with him this morning on control arm bushings myself.

As for the shaky idle, have you noticed any other performance changes? Do you track your gas mileage? While I gather from other posts here that the OVP and idle control valve can cause idle problems - don't think I'm suffering from either of these myself - if you're also seeing severly reduced fuel economy and general performance problems, the O2 sensor might be the culprit.

Good luck with getting things straightened out and welcome to the club. As a relatively new W126 owner myself, I know that it can be a bit unnerving getting the car up to snuff but boy is it worth it


Last edited by jcantor; 08-16-2002 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 08-16-2002, 01:41 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Atlanta Ga
Posts: 281
Also, since your mechanic says you need a tuneup anyway, you may want to check the condition of your wires/wire ends.I had an erratic shaking idle with my 560 and although I changed out my ovp,my 02 sensor and even a cold start injector (because it was more prevalent when it warmed up), I replaced my old wires with new Beru's and its been smooth sailing ever since (Iwas gonna replace the idle contro valve but did the tune up first). Great mpg and no shakes!

My back seat doesn't recline if the door is open either.Good luck!

1997 E320
1986 560SEL
1983 300SD
1972 220D
1970 250C SOLD
1971 250C SOLD
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Old 08-16-2002, 03:45 PM
Posts: n/a
I am up to $9000 into my sdl. I am hoping this will level off very soon and I can drive for several years without major repairs. Then maybe my wife will begin to like me again.

Honestly, I was kidding myself when I bought mine. I figured I would fix a couple of cosmetic and mechanical items and ride on the repuation of Mercedes the rest of the way. Not the case. Let's face it, these are old cars. Mercedes reputation is anything but that of a chevy but its also expensive to repair. Time and the elements = rock and reputation = scissors no matter what manufacturer name you stick on it. Between 2 oil cooler hoses alone, I will spend $700. I also need a fan clutch, $200, sunroof doesn't work $xx?, hoses need replacing, prob should get a new vacuum pump just so those bb's don't fly into my engine and destroy it, other gaskgets and several other items. Timing chain and rails will cost you $400-600. I can almost guarantee you will be up to my figure in no time. I am not saying don't enjoy your car, just be prepared to shell out lots of green. If you don't want to shell that out, then sell it now before you start.

p.s. The guides to the timimg chain are NOT plastic. They are plastic coated aluminum. That's why when they break, they can do a lot of dammage. Good Idea to replace those as well.
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Old 08-17-2002, 02:31 AM
Posts: n/a
True. Also, if your car has engine shocks like mine, and they go bad, big time vibration and shaking. Its a cheap fix too.
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