Unfortunately, it sounds like whoever owned that car before simply abused it. Driving it without regard to common sense, for example, running fast and hard down a rocky, hole infested unpaved road, or other such driving abuses would do any car in. Of course failure to keep the car maintained would also lead to problems. I am one of the lucky ones with an 86 420SEL I bought at a Mercedes dealer 4 years ago at 188000 miles. It's still doing fine so far at 205000. Obviously there are some bad ones out there.
What can you really expect from a car that is almost 20 years old with 165000 miles?
Honestly you should have taken it for a thorough test drive, and brought it to a mechanic to check out before you bought it. You say that it struggled to keep up with traffic even before your problems started, and that should have been a sign to you. You cannot knock all German cars or even Mercedes for buying a high mileage car that you don't know the history of. Most cars don't even see 170k, and if this Benz had been well maintained it would have easily done 270k.
Next time try to get a mechanic to check out a car before you buy, and if it's an old vehicle make sure you're getting it from 1st or second owner with maintenance records.
I have an '89 Mercedes-Benz 560sel that I bought from a Honda dealership after it was traded in. I paid $950 for a high mile Benz, but it was worth it. With very little money into it now, it runs great and looks great, and I plan on keeping it, even though I bought it to drive for a month or so and resell while my truck was in the shop... There are a few bad Benz's out there, obviously you got one. I agree that you should have had it checked out instead of jumping on it. It has too much power and class to be a first car for a teenager.
The 560SEL has maintenance issues with the engine, such as the timing chain can go out after 100,000 miles, and can bend the valves creating a jump timing. The 420SEL is the same way.
The 560SEL also has problems with the rear suspension because they are hydraulics, when that goes out it can cause an unpleasant ride, especially when the car hits potholes on the road.
There are not a whole lot of 560SEL out there because of the engine issues like burning oil and leaking oil.
The gas mileage is really bad.
The 560SEL was good when it was new, but when it gets old, it's costly; same with the 420SEL.
I would go with a 300SE or 300SEL in-line six; it will last longer and it's low maintenance. Personally I like the 300SE because it's not a boat like the SEL's.
Sounds like normal maintenance for an old high miles car.
And settle for 6 instead of the V8? I don't think so.
I have had my 560SEL 86 model for 2 years now. What a fantastic car to drive. I have been a Mercedes owner for 10 years now having had various older models, but the 560SEL is by far the best, it has all the creature comforts anyone could ever ask for. I am the third owner and this one has been looked after, full 23 year service history with no expenses spared in maintenance, first owner spent 70K over the 13 years he had it on maintenance, second owner was a mechanic and it was his pride and joy for over 10 years.
The mileage isn't that bad, having owned a few 70's model 280SEL's, they are so heavy and as a result use a lot of fuel. The power is awesome, the road holding is better than anything I have ever driven, better than my mates 2005 model M3 BMW. I intend to drive this beast for a long time to come. I only bought it to make some cash out of, got it for a great price and was looking at doubling the price, but after driving it how could I part with it?
In my opinion this is the best car on the road, no wonder they cost over 220k in Australia when new.
Well here I am looking at the reviews... I am a new owner of a 1 owner 560SEL with 228,000km, and looking forward to driving it.
Later I will leave an honest review of my findings as to ride, mileage, cost of repairs etc.
One thing to look for is the car-fax report; they give a good honest background of the car, and it's worth the money invested.
This will be my first adventure with a Mercedes after owning GM Ford and Chrysler vehicles.
Should have bought an old Volvo instead. Cheaper to buy, built just as solidly, but without all the costly and time wasting headaches Mercedes provide their owners.
Had terrible luck with my 300E. Tons of problems big and small, ranging from half a dozen interior switches not working, to inoperable features such as cruise and stereo, to the transmission failing around 100k miles.
The car was a cream puff, just poorly engineered and it was painfully obvious.
For those who argue it must have been neglected/abused, I've owned multiple RWD Volvos of the 80's and 90's with literally twice the mileage, and a very small fraction of the problems my MB had, NONE of which ever pertained the engines or transmissions.
That's funny, the last guy would rather drive a Volvo :)
I've owned my 89 560SEL for 20 years now. My intention was to fix it up. I've put a lot of money into it, and each repair has made the car better, with new shocks and collectors - rebuilt transmission, timing chain - she drives like a dream and handles so very beautifully, and eats Volvos for lunch - yum!
I hate to see a car bashed as it is in this case. It simply has a lot of miles on it and is really due for maintenance. 180,000 miles... that's not bad mileage out of any auto. I've driven just about all makes of autos produced in America, they all have the same concept, to get you from points A to B. Maintenance is the key to long life and reasonable driving habits.
I must say I've owned my 560 SEL for 3 years now, and I've changed the fuel pump on the car, as well as 2 window motors. I love my car, and will never give it away. I urge anyone who can keep the car to keep it. One of the best cars ever built. If you disagree, buy a Honda Civic or a Corolla.
Well, you're somewhat on target re. Volvos. I've owned an '88 240 sedan and currently drive a '92 740 wagon with 216K on the clock. The engines are in fact bulletproof. The transmissions? The 5-speed in the old 240 got to be very notchy after only 110K, and the slushbox in the 740 won't shift into fourth gear -- which kills the MPG.
But mainly, the Volvos have crappy (though large) seats, and the interiors fall apart. My 740 has lost its passenger sun visor, decorative carpeted door inserts, interior cover on the inside of the rear turn signals, etc. The console hinge is loose. The crank handle came off the sunroof. I still commute in the car daily, but I would love something quieter, more cushy, and with better seats. Oh, and some 740s have the fuel pump in the gas tank -- which means mucho dinero if you have to replace it.
Thus my exploration of the 560SEL. I LOVE the classic vault shape, and the seats from the late-'80s cars look like the seats in Rolls-Royces.