First and foremost: if you don’t know much about cars, take someone with you who does. Or even better, have the car checked out by a professional mechanic to be sure you’re not buying a lemon!
Here are some tips and advices especially for the W123, if you find anything it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy this car but it does mean that it’s going to cost you some extra to fix it…
- Feel if the engine is warm, if so: why did the owner pre-heat the engine before your arrival?
- Check the engine: is it dry, also on the sides?
- Check underneath the Mercedes, is there oil on the floor underneath it or hanging on the bottom of the car? Also check the gearbox for oil leakage.
- Start the car and listen, do you hear anything strange? Is the W123 engine running nice and smoothly? Also look at the smoke coming out of the exhaust, it’s normal to have some smoke coming out at start, but only at start! After a few seconds there should be no more smoke coming out of the exhaust (except when it’s very cold). White smoke could mean water in the engine (head gasket?), black smoke could mean the engine’s burning oil.
- Press the accelarator / pedal and keep an eye on the oil-meter. It should be on 3! If the meter drops while pressing the accelerator walk away immediately!
- Take the oil filler cap and check for whitish mayonnaise like sludge, if it’s there it could be the head gasket.
- Check the area around the hinges of the bonnet, these are known places for rust buildup.
- Check underneat all the mats for wetness and rust.
- Check the jack points (holes) for rust, a known place for a W123 to rust.
- Check in the trunk for wetness and rust: in the corners under the shelf and underneath the spare wheel
- Diesel only: take teh oil filler cap and put it loosly on the empty spcae where it’s supposed to be tightened. Now see what happens. The oil filler cap can move a bit and “dance” slightly, but if it’s blown off completely that means the crankcase pressure is too high! www.mercedes-W123.com
- Take the Mercedes for a drive. (You can take the W123 off the “handbrake” by pulling the lever on the left of the dashboard). Notice how the engine is doing on various speeds. Are there no sudden shakes or movements?
- Try shifting through all the gears while driving, is this going smoothly?
- Check the clutch in a manual driven (stick) W123 by driving in second gear and the brake with your left foot while accelerating with your right foot. It should be slowing down and “choke” the engine. If it does: the clutch’s fine. If the engine is not slowing down but accelerates it could mean the clutch has to be replaced.
- Check the tolerance on the steering wheel, it’s normal to have a little tolerance but if it’s too much it can be costly to repair.
- Check the condition of the tyres, not just the profile but for dryness and an even wear on the front tyres.
- Check the front fenders, are they aligned with the bonnet? Are all the seams the same width, also around the doors? If the seams are unevenly wide it could mean that the car has had severe damage or damage that was badly repaired.
- Check inside the car: the condition of the lining and chairs. Also check the dashboard lights and electronics like the AC, sunroof and windows. Basically check every option on the car: is it working?
Now you have a reasonable indication of the condition of the car. But don’t blame me if you still buy a lemon! You’re there, I’m not! Most important thing is: if you don’t know cars, get somebody who does. Even if he’s never driven a Mercedes W123 in his life, he may still be able to check the condition of the engine and gearbox, the most expensive parts of the car!
If you’ve used this list, please leave a message and also more advice to add to this list is most welcome!