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Old 07-31-2003, 03:57 AM
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Buyer beware story - pls read as I need advice

Hi all,

( I know it's a long post but please help with your opinion/advise)

I am a little embarassed to ask for your opinion on this buying story coz, a lot of you might say I should have known better.

I have been on the outlook for a really good 560sel for quite a while. I came across a low miles (62000) black on grey -89 original owner in LA. My father in law was very close so I had him look the car over initially. He babies his cars too so I knew he would be hard to impress regarding interior/exterior. I knew when it came to mechanics I would have to do a buyers inspection. My father in laws gave interior/exterior A+, which he was right on.
The car was a original owner with all service stamps in book.
The owner stated no problems and a strong and smooth running engine.
I had the car goneover by a reputable mercedes only repair shop in LA. He came up clean with a couple of things needed.

Oil pan gasket+ pan
Oil level sensor
P/s hoses
Valve seal.
All belts.
Front brake pads.
Fuel actuator - fuel leaks
- a quoted total of $750.
After talking to the mechanic he attested to have test driven the car himself.

I was really happy to hear this and my father in law told me that when picking up the car there were about 20 other people picking up MB's. Very professional store it seemed.
I told my father in law to have the repairs done as he were to drive it to Seattle.

Well this past weekend has been eyeopening and scary.
The first day I noticed that a belt would screech even though all belt had just been changed?
When the car was cold it would start right up but when hot I had to pump the accelerator for it to catch on.
On these hot starts and some other starts the cabin smells of gas the first couple of minutes. The air condition has not been upgraded, which I didn't mind as the seller stated that ot blew cold air. A LA car must have this working I thought.
I noticed during sunday driving that the rear bounced quite a bit.
It turns out that the spheres needs replacement as they don;t work at all.
And finally monday morning on my way to work, the oil lamp came on steady. I took it to my very much trusted mechanic here in Seattle, he took a quick look into the engine through the oil cap and he said that the build up on was much more than he had seen on other 100k miles cars. I turned out that the engine had burned 2-3 quarts of oil in 1500 miles of freeway driving. Auchhh.

This perfect low miles example that I had inspected by a professional big MB repair shop is now so far facing the following list of issues:

Belts screech
Burns oil excessively
Oh BTW the emergency brake dosen't hold the car at all.
Rear suspension
Leak fuel, smell in cabin and hard to warm start.
Air conditioning.

I have approached the mechanic in LA and he basically claims that he didn't find anything. He looked at the spark plugs and did a compression test.
My mechanic took 30 seconds to look into the engine and found more right away. In his experience the build up is a bigger warning sign that sparkplugs as they can have been replace.

Regarding the suspension the LA mechanic claims he drove the car with no detection.
My mechanic bounced the car manually after driving it for 1 min.
He noticed the fuel smell after coming back from the test drive as he started it again.
The belt screeching was obvious from the get go.

I approached the seller as he had stated the pristine no problem car, but of cause he now refers to the mechanical inspection and that what he said was the best to his knowledge. When I told him about the emergency brake he said that he never uses it.
He knows nothing of the bouncing suspension or the excessive oil usage.

I have approached the mechanic and he told me to get a carfax to verify the milage as he claims that with 62000 miles no such problems should be present.

I need suggestions on how to get either the seller or the mechanic to pitch in on repairs.
I really believe they share responsibility morally in this case.
I paid top dollar for the car and the 750 repair bill which I feel I got nothing for.

Thanks for your time reading this long posting.
If nothing else let this experience help other people avoid my experience.

PS. The picture is taken through the oil cap.

Jari Kristensen
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Buyer beware story - pls read as I need advice-560sel.jpg  
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Old 07-31-2003, 11:54 AM
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 1,562
sounds like you were after an as-new 'perfect' condition '89 and should have commissioned as comprehensive a PPI as possible- this type of PPI would have noted every little non-showroom/ non OEM aspect of the car

if you have a detailed written legally binding contract representing the condition of the car (specifics) contrary to its true condition, you most likely have no recourse back to the the seller/ PPI company

if this is the case, I'd just spend the money and get the car into the condition you desire...all '89 vintage cars will need work here and there in an ongoing basis- even ones with low low mileage

some of the issues you observe now- - truely may have occured after delivery/sale (vs being pre-existing conditions)

good luck and let us know how this turns out
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Old 07-31-2003, 12:01 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
I don't know about consumer protection in CA, so I can't offer much help there. But it does sound like you have a basically good car that is suffering from some deferred maintenance and low mileage problems, none of which are huge if you intend to keep the car for a while:

Belts screech - probably the alternator. Simple adjustment.

Burns oil excessively - probably valve seals if the compression test was good. Typical on low mileage cars. Check around with good independent shops for replacement. Do frequent oil and filter changes to clean up the varnish build-up.

Oh BTW the emergency brake dosen't hold the car at all - have an adjustment done. Not a big deal.

Rear suspension - have new shocks installed.

Leak fuel, smell in cabin and hard to warm start - take this one back to the mechanic - he clearly did not get the actuator repacement right.

Air conditioning - beat the seller up on this one. Otherwise, admit that you should have caught it when you drove the car, suck it up and get it fixed.
Chuck Taylor
Falls Church VA
'66 200, '66 230SL, '96 SL500. Sold: '81 380SL, '86 300E, '72 250C, '95 C220, 3 '84 280SL's '90 420SEL, '72 280SE, '73 280C, '78 280SE, '70 280SL, '77 450SL, '85 380SL, '87 560SL, '85 380SL, '72 350SL, '96 S500 Coupe
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Old 07-31-2003, 12:16 PM
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wjm wjm is offline
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Location: Suburban Detroit, MI
Posts: 692
I'm not usually a believer in snake oils, but many people I trust swear by this product:

Call Frank Miller at 904-273-9098 and tell him about your possible seal leak and varnish build-up. He'll suggest how to remedy it using this product.
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:01 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 2
I think $750 for repairs on a car you just purchased pretty reasonable. Every used car I bought required some repair/maintenance right after I bought it. A lot of times the PO may pass on repairs/maintenance since they are planning on selling the car.

I consider it pretty normal.

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Old 07-31-2003, 01:25 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: South Eastern, MA
Posts: 1,743
First of all congrats on the car!

As everyone has already mentioned, many items are typical wear and tear that were neglected by PO.

The only item that is of major concern is the oil consumption. You mentioned the mechanic did a compression test. If he did then he should have provided you with the pressure readings for each cylinder. Post those numbers and maybe a tech can check them to insure it's correct.

The parking brake is a simple adjustment, the spheres are not too expensive and can be a DIY if you're handy. The belt could be a tensioner or any accessory, you'll have to isolate that but it's not a big concern either.

Forget the PO and the mechanic, doubt you have recourse with either of them. For LA area members can you post the mechanics name for future reference/avoidance.

02 C32 AMG

92 500E
84 190E 2.3 5 Spd
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:41 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Northern Calif. (Fairfield Area)
Posts: 2,225

Congratultions. You are the proud owner of a low mileage car. Over the past 30 years as a professional mechanic my warnings about buying low mileage cars has fallen on deaf ears. Take the little book out of the glove box and read the section on maintenance for cars operated under severe conditions. You'll find short distance driving listed. The engine and trans are really punished in start and stop situations. You'll put more wear on an engine in the first few miles of driving than the next 50 miles on the highway. The belt and fuel smell, etc are incidental and to be expected. The oil consumption wasn't noticed by the PO, because he didn't haul ass on the Interstate for hours at a stretch. Valve seals may solve that problem, but I'm betting a valve job is in order. Just because the car has only 50,000 miles doesn't mean the engine doesn't have a 100,000 miles from idling. Remember a Budhist Monk can go through 5 gallons of gas and never leave the spot he is sitting on.

Good luck,
Auto Zentral Ltd.
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Old 07-31-2003, 11:35 PM
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Found out today what the real issue is!


Thanks for you replies and good luck wishes.
I think I will need it on this one.

My mechanic opened up the valve covers and inspected the guard rails. He certainly believes that the engine has more miles than advertised.

I took the engine number and went to my local MB dealer and to my dismay it turned out that the engine has been replaced.

I asked the seller today and he now has no idea what and why the engine doesn't match numbers. Who knows how many miles this engine has one it?
Suddenly the perfect interior means nothing to me as the car is not original.

The mechanic in LA has taken this very seriously so far and I believe he will aid me in getting money out of the seller.
So far it is only words but he sound serious!

We will see.

I really feel taken on this one.


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Old 07-31-2003, 11:46 PM
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wjm wjm is offline
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You said the car was purchased from the original owner?

Well, maybe someone here might know.. but couldn't a dealer run the engine number through the system to see what car it came off of? Then, see if you can do a carfax of your car AND the car that the engine came out of.

I think that you may have some legal recourse at that point... or at least you'll scare the original owner into settling.
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Old 08-01-2003, 01:53 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: oregon
Posts: 2,013
that cam looks like an engine with many miles,or else it's been overheated severly or run too long between oil changes.......
William Rogers.......
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Old 08-01-2003, 01:57 AM
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your insights are very much appriciated

Even with these cams looking like this could the rest of the engine be fine. Meaning if I do a complete valve job could the engine be expected to run 100k?

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Old 08-01-2003, 07:55 AM
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wjm wjm is offline
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You never stated if you ever pulled a carfax on your vehicle.
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Old 08-01-2003, 11:19 AM
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Oh I did pull a carfax

I did pull a carfax and it showed no roll back issues or anything
All entries were from CA.
Only suspicious thing was that the first entry was in -93 with no milage given and the first milage entry was in -97 at 23,752 miles.

I should have inquired more into that and perhaps even have let it go.

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Old 08-01-2003, 11:30 AM
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Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 545
Assuming that the MB dealer is correct about the engine numbers - in other words - you do have a different engine than the one the car came from Germany with, the so called "original" owner is a liar.

How could he/she not know that the car received a new motor along the way?

A lawyer isn't going to help you here because the monetary damages are small in their eyes. You'll spend forever in small claims court battling this issue.

The bottom line is this. You bought a 14 yr. old car with a tampered odometer reading. Someone rolled back the clock and no one really knows the history except the "original" owner who thus far has sold you nothing but BS.

All 14 yr. old cars need work. What you describe does not sound unusual.

Fix the car and move on.
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Old 08-01-2003, 11:39 AM
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wjm wjm is offline
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Location: Suburban Detroit, MI
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No way. If you purchased from the original owner -AND- you can prove that the odometer was tampered with, he is in HUGE TROUBLE! Don't just throw in the towel. Yes, move along and get the vehicle in running order... but you have nothing to gain by letting this guy off the hook. Look at the back of the title.... he signed it and verified that the odometer reading was correct.

Carfax claims that they have some sort of $5000 guarantee regarding their info. Look into that as well.

Also, go to the dealership and ask them for a history printout of the vehicle. I think it's called a VMI. Any service guy should give you that. It will include all info about your car including the engine number.. which by the way is a different number than the VIN... in case your mechanic did not know that. Take the information and compare it YOURSELF to the numbers on your vehicle.

Also, before you go to the dealership, get the number off of your engine and see if they can find out where it came from.

With all due respect folks... you just don't roll over and play dead every time you're screwed. If you don't win, nothing lost except for your time... but the experience will be good for you and to share with others in the future. Also, you don't spend forever in small claims court. That's what it's there for... quick decisive resolution on issues of small $$$ amounts. I think it is $3000 now.
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