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Looking to buy a W140

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S-Class (W140) 1991-1999: 300 SD, S 350TD, 300 SE 2.8, S280, 300 SE 3.2, 300 SEL 3.2, S320, S320L, 400 SE, S420, 400 SEL, S420L, 500 SE, S500, 500 SEL, S500L, 600 SE, S600, 600 SEL, S600L, 500 SEC, 600 SEC

Looking to buy a W140

 
Old 11-20-2015, 07:49 PM
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2001 E320, 2010 E350 Sedan, 2015 ML 350
Looking to buy a W140

Hi everyone,

I'm looking to buy a W140 just as a third car. Always really liked this era of the S Class. I currently have a 2010 E350, and a 2002 E320.

Was just curious what are the really known issues with these cars at the age they are, so I can see if the vehicles I look at have some of those repairs done? and what years y'all would recommend? I was thinking 1995 and newer.

Also which motor? I don't really care about power, so I do not want the 600. Mostly just wondering the which do you all feel was the best? 320, 420, or 500?
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Old 11-21-2015, 04:18 AM
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1997 Mercedes S420
I have certainly enjoyed my 1997 S420 and would highly recommend it for your consideration. Amazing engineering, durability, and craftsmanship. A true joy to drive as well.
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Old 12-03-2015, 03:44 AM
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Mercedes S550, Lexus ES330
Originally Posted by austin94 View Post
Hi everyone,

I'm looking to buy a W140 just as a third car. Always really liked this era of the S Class. I currently have a 2010 E350, and a 2002 E320.

Was just curious what are the really known issues with these cars at the age they are, so I can see if the vehicles I look at have some of those repairs done? and what years y'all would recommend? I was thinking 1995 and newer.

Also which motor? I don't really care about power, so I do not want the 600. Mostly just wondering the which do you all feel was the best? 320, 420, or 500?
I would recommend getting a 1997 and newer W140 to avoid the wiring harness insulation decay issue with earlier W140s. Choose an S420 to avoid maintenance cost of the hydropneumatic suspension on the S550's, but still get the power of a V8. V6 S320s are somewhat underpowered for all the mass it has to move. A major failure item is the A/C evaporator unit which requires the removal of the entire dash to get at the unit. Unless you don't need A/C where you live. Brake pads and tires wear fast dure to the big body design's weight. Check for collapsed motor and transmission mounts. Overall, check for the operation of the various accessories. Finally, drive the car. The ride should be smooth like a magic carpet. I hope you find one you like. Good luck.
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Old 12-04-2015, 11:43 AM
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1990 300CE
1997-up for sure, 1998-99 if you can find one.

If I had it to do over, I'd take a V8, but the 320 isn't bad. It isn't fast, but it has sufficient power. I never have trouble merging or keeping up with traffic. The gotcha with the 320 is the head gasket will fail somewhere around 80-90K. I would imagine a lot of 320s have already had this done, but definitely try to confirm. I am told the gasket was updated, so one that's been replaced should last indefinitely.

This might apply to newer cars and not just the W140, but the conductor plate in the transmission is a common sore spot. Not real expensive to replace, but driving the car is a PITA if it has problems. Mine goes into limp mode any time I go full throttle and then let off. It's an issue with one of the speed sensors. I'll probably replace mine this winter.


Plan on fixing a lot of little crap. This is what I've dealt with so far. This was a clean car with 93K miles on it when I bought in in July of 2015. All of these are common issues:
  • Bad glass in driver-side auto-dimming mirror.
  • Inside rear view mirror wobbles
  • Rear sun shade sticks in up position (appears to be bad switch)
  • Antenna mast doesn't retract (fixed with $15 replacement mast)
  • Door/trunk auto-close pump failed (fixed, thanks eBay)
  • Driver door lock actuator failed (bought one, waiting to be installed)
  • Driver seat belt doesn't fully retract without help
  • Wiring insulation inside passenger side mirror cracked, causes fuse to blow when you fold or adjust mirrors (easy fix)
  • Passenger side headlight wiper doesn't return to down position
  • Bad BAS module
  • Right rear window sticks and is hard to close
  • Lumbar support adjustment does not work
  • Remote trunk release fails intermittently

My brakes were worn out. I replaced pads and rotors at all 4 corners for about $250. Totally worth it. Incidentally, Akebono pads really do reduce brake dust to the point of being inconsequential. The stockers were BAAAAD.
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Old 12-07-2015, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by JSlabotsky View Post
1997-up for sure, 1998-99 if you can find one.

If I had it to do over, I'd take a V8, but the 320 isn't bad. It isn't fast, but it has sufficient power. I never have trouble merging or keeping up with traffic. The gotcha with the 320 is the head gasket will fail somewhere around 80-90K. I would imagine a lot of 320s have already had this done, but definitely try to confirm. I am told the gasket was updated, so one that's been replaced should last indefinitely.

This might apply to newer cars and not just the W140, but the conductor plate in the transmission is a common sore spot. Not real expensive to replace, but driving the car is a PITA if it has problems. Mine goes into limp mode any time I go full throttle and then let off. It's an issue with one of the speed sensors. I'll probably replace mine this winter.


Plan on fixing a lot of little crap. This is what I've dealt with so far. This was a clean car with 93K miles on it when I bought in in July of 2015. All of these are common issues:
  • Bad glass in driver-side auto-dimming mirror.
  • Inside rear view mirror wobbles
  • Rear sun shade sticks in up position (appears to be bad switch)
  • Antenna mast doesn't retract (fixed with $15 replacement mast)
  • Door/trunk auto-close pump failed (fixed, thanks eBay)
  • Driver door lock actuator failed (bought one, waiting to be installed)
  • Driver seat belt doesn't fully retract without help
  • Wiring insulation inside passenger side mirror cracked, causes fuse to blow when you fold or adjust mirrors (easy fix)
  • Passenger side headlight wiper doesn't return to down position
  • Bad BAS module
  • Right rear window sticks and is hard to close
  • Lumbar support adjustment does not work
  • Remote trunk release fails intermittently

My brakes were worn out. I replaced pads and rotors at all 4 corners for about $250. Totally worth it. Incidentally, Akebono pads really do reduce brake dust to the point of being inconsequential. The stockers were BAAAAD.


haha sounds like any typical 15-20 year old Mercedes. I had a W210 which was just totaled . Thanks for all the help everyone! Really like this body style, now I just have to find one. May be a while, I want a black one with less than 80k miles. and after what you all have told me I guess my search will be even slimmer because I want the 420. The 320 almost has the same motor that was in my W210 and I can't imagine that thing pulling that big of a car around...and where I live nobody knows how to merge so I need the extra power.

Thanks again. Feel free to suggest anything else.
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Old 12-14-2015, 01:28 PM
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'97 S500 Coupe, '03 CLK430 CAB, '05 E320 4Matic Wagon, 2000 RX 300, 90 Honda Accord Cpe EX
I have the S500 coupe (Later renamed CL) purchased in 2012 and it is a great car and I plan on keeping until it dies or because to costly to maintain. I haven't had any major issues normal maintenance (brake pads, oil change, fluid flush, etc.). The following were additional items covered for cosmetic or addressed because it was an annoyance:

Replaced the rearview mirror for discoloration ($60 eBay)
Driver side mirror (previous owner put cheap glass over old mirror $160 eBay)
Air circulation motor center overhead console (annoying noise when it fails $15)
Overhead console dome light (malfunction after replacing air circulation motor $40 eBay)
Lifter noise Oil Tubes (common on M119 420/500$200)

Good luck with your search!!
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Old 12-14-2015, 08:10 PM
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1999 S500 Grand Edition
I am on my 3rd W140 car and they are pure pleasure to drive. They are expensive to repair and over engineered at every turn. I have had 2 S420s and currently have a 1999 S500 Grand Edition. The most important thing to establish is that you have access to a shop who knows how to fix and keep one of these things alive!

Pay attention to cosmetics. Wood, leather, carpets are all pretty pricey but ebay is your friend here. Leather is most important because there are not really any short cuts to be had there.

It is a very heavy car and pretty nimble for its size. It drives more like a smaller car. The price for that is you tend to wear out the suspension sooner than you would expect. W140 cars are very sensitive to tires. I am replacing the Continentals with Michel AS Sports and they are doing very well. Not all S500s have the hydraulic suspension but you want to avoid that if possible. I replaced mine with the strut master set up and it rides just fine.

Another source of expensive repairs is the pneumatic locking system. It also drives the circulation valves in the environmental system so it is important. They are pricey to repair and once you start, you tend to reveal the next weakest link in the system. Expect about a $3500 fix after you get through all of the doors and the trunk. It is probably the dumbest engineering in the car. I am not sure what advantage Mercedes was trying for over an electrical system on that one.

The engine is bullet proof so far. Electrical gadgets will go bad every now and again. The S500 is pretty fun and is noticeably more powerful than an S420. The S420 is a good compromise of power and gas mileage. The S500 gets around 16-19MPG.

If you budget around $2500 per year for services and fixing things, you will probably be good to go. Mine needed a lot of restoration so my budgets are blown out of the water.

I have put around $16k into mine over 4 years and I estimate another $7k to complete a restoration to almost perfect. That puts me at around $35k total layout, or the price of a new Toyota Camry.

Having said all of that, there really is no substitute. The W140 cars are much less prone to failures of all sorts than the newer S Class cars and in my opinion, much more elegant machines.


I bought the 3rd one after my wife was in an accident where a pick up T-Boned her. She doesn't walk away if she were not in that W140 S420!

These cars are Tanks!!!
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Old 12-14-2015, 11:34 PM
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Thanks for the info!!!

How many miles do you all have on yours? And do you use them as daily drivers?
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Old 12-15-2015, 05:28 AM
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1999 S500 Grand Edition
Our S500 has 96k miles on it and it is a daily driver. Our previous S420 had around 147k miles on it when it got smashed. It was also a daily driver.
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Old 12-15-2015, 02:25 PM
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'97 S500 Coupe, '03 CLK430 CAB, '05 E320 4Matic Wagon, 2000 RX 300, 90 Honda Accord Cpe EX
181k and I rotate the car with the others. It is a great highway cruiser and very enjoyable on road trips
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Old 12-17-2015, 04:27 AM
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I was curious as where did you get your S500 grand, ie state? Did it take you to hunt it down, many thanks...

Originally Posted by 1999 S500 View Post
I am on my 3rd W140 car and they are pure pleasure to drive. They are expensive to repair and over engineered at every turn. I have had 2 S420s and currently have a 1999 S500 Grand Edition. The most important thing to establish is that you have access to a shop who knows how to fix and keep one of these things alive!

Pay attention to cosmetics. Wood, leather, carpets are all pretty pricey but ebay is your friend here. Leather is most important because there are not really any short cuts to be had there.

It is a very heavy car and pretty nimble for its size. It drives more like a smaller car. The price for that is you tend to wear out the suspension sooner than you would expect. W140 cars are very sensitive to tires. I am replacing the Continentals with Michel AS Sports and they are doing very well. Not all S500s have the hydraulic suspension but you want to avoid that if possible. I replaced mine with the strut master set up and it rides just fine.

Another source of expensive repairs is the pneumatic locking system. It also drives the circulation valves in the environmental system so it is important. They are pricey to repair and once you start, you tend to reveal the next weakest link in the system. Expect about a $3500 fix after you get through all of the doors and the trunk. It is probably the dumbest engineering in the car. I am not sure what advantage Mercedes was trying for over an electrical system on that one.

The engine is bullet proof so far. Electrical gadgets will go bad every now and again. The S500 is pretty fun and is noticeably more powerful than an S420. The S420 is a good compromise of power and gas mileage. The S500 gets around 16-19MPG.

If you budget around $2500 per year for services and fixing things, you will probably be good to go. Mine needed a lot of restoration so my budgets are blown out of the water.

I have put around $16k into mine over 4 years and I estimate another $7k to complete a restoration to almost perfect. That puts me at around $35k total layout, or the price of a new Toyota Camry.

Having said all of that, there really is no substitute. The W140 cars are much less prone to failures of all sorts than the newer S Class cars and in my opinion, much more elegant machines.


I bought the 3rd one after my wife was in an accident where a pick up T-Boned her. She doesn't walk away if she were not in that W140 S420!

These cars are Tanks!!!
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Old 12-17-2015, 05:40 AM
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From what I know from friends who own it there is a common problem of the Over Voltage Protector Relay fuses getting blown. Sometimes when the car is starting up, it may not rev up beyond a certain point - a limiter issue and could happen while on the move too. The Electronic Throttle Actuator needs to checked time and again to see whether it is working properly.
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Old 12-21-2015, 01:23 PM
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s320
I was using a 125hp wet nitrous shot on my 320.But I quit racing,I would love to turbo charge the engine,like turbo bandits to around 500 rwhp.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:58 PM
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1999 S500 Grand Edition
I bought my Grand Edition at a dealer in New Jersey. A very bad, lying, cheating, and overall mis-representative dealer. North Jersey Auto Mall although the name has changed numerous times but they are in a warehouse in Paterson New Jersey, a suburb of Newark.


There are a couple on Autotrader or Ebay right now. If you have to do wood or leather, don't get one. They only made 600 and those two items are unobtainium! I do like the look of the 18" AMG Wheels but I am not convinced that they don't cause additional wear over the 16" on the suspension.

Last edited by 1999 S500; 12-21-2015 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 12-22-2015, 07:08 AM
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'97 S500 Coupe, '03 CLK430 CAB, '05 E320 4Matic Wagon, 2000 RX 300, 90 Honda Accord Cpe EX
I have the OEM 18" AMG Setup (staggered), and haven't had any suspension issues. The ride is smooth on the 18" and 16" OEM setup, was a little rough when I installed the "20 Brabus setup.
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Old 01-01-2016, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by JSlabotsky View Post
1997-up for sure, 1998-99 if you can find one.

...Plan on fixing a lot of little crap. This is what I've dealt with so far. This was a clean car with 93K miles on it when I bought in in July of 2015. All of these are common issues:
  • [*]
  • [*]
  • [*]
  • [*]
  • [*]
  • [*]
Interesting that those items you listed above were the problems I had with mine.

Ahh, the rear view mirror. That brings back fond memories. The whole rear mirror assembly is a major piece of over-engineering. They should have just copied Lexus and held it together with screws or designed it simpler, but instead it is a friction fit relying on tabs. Internally, there are two metal plates bent into a v shape that act as a spring. I'm writing from memory so forgive me if it's not exact....The rear view mirror wobbles because the mounting stem assembly gets loose internally. Over time, the plastic gets brittle from exposure to heat and sun radiation. Mine one day just popped open and parts of it fell on the center console while I was driving. I bought two donor rear view mirror housings off Ebay. The first mirror frame surround I got was so brittle from heat and age that it cracked and so I shelled out another $75 bucks for almost 20 year old plastic. Took the damn thing apart, assembled it with the help of double stick tape and a lot of patience. Fond memories indeed.
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