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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, I'm looking to buy a 2001 to 2004 SLK and have a few questions for the more experienced owners out there. The performance specs are close enough that if it's a good deal I'll purchase either a SLK 230 or 320. I've owned several used Mercedes and really love how they are built and their road feel.

1. How many miles can you expect to get from a well maintained engine?
A. 230 Kompressor engine
B. 320 V6 engine

2. What are the top three mechanical problems to look for before buying? and are any of these deal breakers?

3. I'm pretty good at seeing the obvious stuff but are there hidden items to look at that if gone unnoticed will soon be big or expensive problems?

Any other advice besides the following - have it checked out by a good mechanic and don't jump at the 1st/lowest priced vehicle (unless it has 12k miles and lived in a garage it's whole life) :)

Thanks.

Mitch
 

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Administrator 2009 SLK 55 AMG/Founding Member 2006
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Mitch, going to move your 1st post to the new member introduce yourself section to save you a step

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Super Moderator 2010 SLK300 2LOOK
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Welcome and thanks for joining.
 

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Premium Member 2007 SLK280
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Hi Mitch, a warm welcome from Southern Arizona. Good to have you on board. Hopefully someone will come along with answers to your well articulated questions. Enjoy the people, the forum, and top down cruisin'.
 

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Premium Member 1998 SLK230
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Welcome to the forum.
I have 173,xxx miles on my SLK230 with no major problems with the engine, I do have the car serviced when it says to do so.
the deal breaker or price reducer depending on how you look at it, would be if the roof hydraulics are leaking or if the roof does not work or intermittently works.
Take $3000 off the price right there. If you have the roof repaired at a dealer it can easily cost you that much.
but there is a lot of info on this site to help you diagnose a problem & fix it yourself for a lot less.
 

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Welcome.

1) I can only answer B, but the answer is: 100K plus, easy, assuming good maintenance. Even the supercharged version is pretty bulletproof. The only engine failures I've heard of on the M112 have been from when some jackhole runs way too much boost and runs crazy lean until things go boom.

2) Top three failures:

* rear main seal ($10 part, $800-1500 labor). It will fail. The question is when. Don't buy a car with a leaking one, but assume that it will leak even if it doesn't at purchase time.

* roof hydraulics. If these fail, you're in for a *lot* time and or money (depending on where on the dealer->backyard spectrum you are in terms of repairs.)

* leaks. These are cheap to fix if you find them in time, so it's really more of a thing to watch out for during the inspection process, but boy oh boy can they be costly to fix if you don't notice them. Nothing like being several hundred miles from home and finding out that you have a leaking seal that's been dumping water right onto some electronics, lemme tell you... To avoid this, I'd recommend you take the car through a car wash or two during your inspection. Any leaks, and you need to 1) check that they're fixed before you buy it 2) check for damage from said leaks before you buy it (as it could have been going on for a while.

* dash crumbling. The plastic used for the dashboard will crumble with heat and time. I'm not talking about the paint peeling -- that's a well-known, but relatively easy to DIY fix problem. I mean the plastic itself crumbles and breaks apart. You will need to replace the parts to fix this. This will cost between 1 and 2 grand to do yourself, and will take several hours (I'd plan on a Saturday being eaten up by it if you're new to DIY.). I did this recently, and it's not terribly fun (though it was rewarding...)

Oh, and check the drains. All 8 of them. Chances are a couple will be partly clogged -- so then check for damage that may have resulted from said clogs.

3) See above, but also (in addition to the usual stuff you'd check for any car):

- PSE pump damage
- drain blockage leading to water entry into AC blower
- dash crumbling
- exhaust manifold cracks/leaks
- catalytic converters failing
- (if supercharged) intercooler leaks
- TCU connector plug. $5 part. If it fails you lose your trans fluid. This is bad.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and advise. I have a couple of questions before I'm armed to find my next MB.

* rear main seal ($10 part, $800-1500 labor). It will fail. The question is when.
Where do I look for signs of this failure? Telltail signs?

* roof hydraulics. If these fail, you're in for a *lot* time and or money (depending on where on the dealer->backyard spectrum you are in terms of repairs.)
Best place to look or check the roof and hydraulics are still in good working order. Other than testing opening and closing, what's the best way to visually inspect this system for leaks and other issues?

* leaks. These are cheap to fix if you find them in time, so it's really more of a thing to watch out for during the inspection process, but boy oh boy can they be costly to fix if you don't notice them. Nothing like being several hundred miles from home and finding out that you have a leaking seal that's been dumping water right onto some electronics, lemme tell you... To avoid this, I'd recommend you take the car through a car wash or two during your inspection. Any leaks, and you need to 1) check that they're fixed before you buy it 2) check for damage from said leaks before you buy it (as it could have been going on for a while.
Are you talking about water leaks into the interior or other sorts of leaks?

Oh, and check the drains. All 8 of them. Chances are a couple will be partly clogged -- so then check for damage that may have resulted from said clogs.
Where are these drains? Easy to inspect?

Mitch
 

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My 2 cents

I was in your shoes 13 months ago. I ended up with a gorgeous 2001 SLK 320 with $80K miles. I drove both the 230 and the 320 and I preferred the sound and interior of the 320, but that is a personal choice.

Car drives great and I will tell you you get a lot of attention as you drive around town. Lot's of people notice you in these cars.

When I was shopping I found you could get a number of these cars with under 100K miles and of course many over 100K. For the price difference I saw in my area then, it seemed like going with the lower miles was worth the small amount of extra cash.
 

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Where do I look for signs of this failure? Telltail signs?
No tell-tale signs unless you have it up on a lift -- which you should do anyway prior to purchase! Of course if it's *really* leaking badly you'll notice the oil level dropping, but at that point you'd also notice it in other ways, like if there's a pool of oil under the car. Usually the leaks are much more subtle than that. (Case in point, my SLK32 has a leak at a rate of a drop or two per month. I keep an eye on it, but I won't replace it until it gets worse, as I could very well have sold the car by then. All rear main seals leak, the question is whether it leaks enough to qualify as an issue that needs attention. And that part is subjective...)

When you do, look at the front of the trans bell housing and look for oil drips.

For that matter, take a rag and wipe it. Brown/black = oil, red=ATF.

Best place to look or check the roof and hydraulics are still in good working order. Other than testing opening and closing, what's the best way to visually inspect this system for leaks and other issues?
Make sure the headliner is not wet. Take a flashlight and look for water anywhere during your carwash (i.e. be inside the car when you drive through...)

Check any seals for distortion, cracks, tears, etc.

Regarding the hydraulics, listen to the sounds. The pump should sound even and smooth. The motion of the roof should be smooth. If it's jerky or if the pump sounds strained (like "rrrrRRRRRRrrrrRRRRRRrrreeeeee" or something) then you may be in for a problem. (Or the hinges may just need some lithium grease...)

Pop the access cover in the trunk and check the hydraulic fluid level. They're lifetime filled, so if the level is out of range, something's up.

Also, a wet headliner can be due to either water or leaking hydraulic fluid (from the roof locking cylinders.) In my book however, wet headliner = no sale regardless of the cause...

Are you talking about water leaks into the interior or other sorts o leaks?
Water leaks into the interior.

Also, if you have a screwdriver, drop the access cover in the passenger side and open up the AC blower to look at the filter. If it's clogged with debris or wet, be careful! If it's wet, you have clogged drains up front and should be careful you don't have other water damage.

Where are these drains? Easy to inspect?

This is covered elsewhere in the forum (sorry, no link off the top of my head, but search should help), but the basics are:

Three under the hood. One is in the center of the trim beneath the windscreen. The others are at the corners. You will need to remove the trim to clean them, *but* a flashlight and some careful poking and peering should be able to show if there are any serious amounts of debris. If you've looked at the blower and filter and don't see water, then I guess you're OK even if they are clogged (provided it doesn't rain on the drive home.)

Two at the rear of the car, at the front corners of the trunk lid (right behind the B pillar). These clog easily, so take a water bottle and dump some water in. It should exit in one of two places: from an angled outlet to the front of the rear wheel on pre-facelift R170s, or from the fender behind the rear wheel on post-facelift ones. The pre-facelift design is more prone to clogging due to the spout location, and has much worse consequences when it does clog (cabin water ingress). In both cases, clogged drains will cause water buildup under the rear window which can breach the trunk seals. This leads to PSE pump failure, among other things.

Two more drains are by the rear windows. They're pretty easy to spot with the top down: they're obvious holes right at the leading edge of the window. Visual inspection or a *small* amount of water is fine -- they don't get much water in normal use anyways.

Two more at the top corners of the A pillar. Again, these don't get much water with the top up, so a quick test and visual inspection should be fine. I can't remember where these exit, but when you do test with water MAKE SURE that they don't lead to water exiting on the cabin side of the seal. The seal extends into the cabin area, and (particularly on the R171 design, which is similar) water can get into the cabin via this seal and run along the inside where it is unnoticeable... until it damages something, that is. You'll also want to make sure that the leading edge of the seal (where it contacts the windscreen side, not the roof side) fits well. Again, test with a small amount of water with the top up and someone inside the car. Check the A-pillars (pry back the seal slightly with your hand) for signs of water running down the inside. This is a right b**** to deal with if it goes unchecked for months, so you don't want to miss it. (Speaking from experience here.)

Oh yeah, and check the side mirror seal. It's designed such that when closed and when it has water on it it will not let *any* water between the rubber and the glass. (Despite what a salesman may try to convince you, there is no internal drain there. Water that gets in on the exterior side between the rubber and glass will dump directly inside the door. You just won't see it... until after he makes his commission.) If the window alignment is off or the seal is old, it will let water in, which will either end up inside your door (which is basically impossible to notice until it's done damage) or -- if you're lucky -- will trickle out from under the trim piece on the interior side. Of course if it does that, then it'll run down and soak all the door panel material which leads to all sorts of fun problems... So check for this. It's easy to fix -- usually just window alignment does the trick -- and even if the seal has to be replaced it's not *that* expensive, but missing the problem until it's too late can lead to expensive interior repairs (like replacing waterlogged door trim).
 
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