What are the pitfalls of buying a Β£5k R230?

What are the pitfalls of buying a Β£5k R230?

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mattman

Original Poster:

2,315 posts

181 months

Tuesday 6th October
quotequote all
Have started looking for a cheap convertible that still looks good on the road and keep finding myself coming back to the SL350/500

From the barge thread i understand that the 500's can suffer from air suspension problems - but i do prefer the idea of the bigger engine - so what else should i be looking for when paddling in the lower end of the pool for such a car?

For example - this looks like it could be ok
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2002-Mercedes-Benz-SL-5...

i'm obviously looking at around or just over the 100k mark - is there a chunky service or known problem areas that come up at that sort of mileage or would most major things have been sorted now on a 16yr+ car?

Dog Star

11,674 posts

127 months

Wednesday 7th October
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Your 5K R230 could cost you that on the first bill. 2002 models were shockers - my 2002 SL500 cost me £18k in repairs over 3 years. That's repairs.

If you are adamant (and have thousands in the bank for repairs) then I'd get the 350 - doesn't have the suspension woes.

However I still wouldn't. They're absolute dogst.

What I *would* do is look at an SLK350. You should be able to pick up a belter for 5K, newer and pretty cheap to run.

Really seriously: 2002 R230. Don't do it. It's on it's last owner before the scrap man.

mattman

Original Poster:

2,315 posts

181 months

Wednesday 7th October
quotequote all
Dog Star said:
Your 5K R230 could cost you that on the first bill. 2002 models were shockers - my 2002 SL500 cost me £18k in repairs over 3 years. That's repairs.

If you are adamant (and have thousands in the bank for repairs) then I'd get the 350 - doesn't have the suspension woes.

However I still wouldn't. They're absolute dogst.

What I *would* do is look at an SLK350. You should be able to pick up a belter for 5K, newer and pretty cheap to run.

Really seriously: 2002 R230. Don't do it. It's on it's last owner before the scrap man.
So i think what you are saying is don't buy one??

Monkeylegend

19,896 posts

190 months

Wednesday 7th October
quotequote all
I have a 2004 SL350 which has cost me a new starter battery and a crank position sensor in nearly 5 years, a grand total of £350 in addition to 2 services and MOT's smile


GTRene

11,814 posts

183 months

Wednesday 7th October
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its amazing how much car you can get for just 5k

that mercedes looks good, I bet you could get more (then the 5k) from it in just parts?

so I always think in such case, what the worse thing that could happen with the car (outside accidents of course) then you could still think, ok then I sell the rest in parts?

with that in mind and that say, you really want to have such car, go for it, you never loose the 5k, you always can get something or more back if you play it well, of course, when it is as good as it looks.

And about a SLK, I would also like a SLK better, also saver and lighter and shorter etc, but, if you like the model you pointed out, if its good the moment you think you gonna buy it, just buy it, life is 'short'

Dog Star

11,674 posts

127 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Monkeylegend said:
I have a 2004 SL350 which has cost me a new starter battery and a crank position sensor in nearly 5 years, a grand total of £350 in addition to 2 services and MOT's smile
A 2004 SL350 is a whole different ballgame to a 2002 SL500 - 2002 really was the pits.
I cannot stress to the OP what he is potentially letting himself in for.

SL500s always came in as least reliable in surveys, however there was one that really hammered home how bad they were. 99% of cars were in the 0-100 range, Range Rovers were out on their own at something like 347 and the R230 was in it's own league at 555. Wonder if I can find that.

Stuff to look out for on a 2002 R230 500
- tandem pump failure
- ABC valve block failure
- ABC shock failure
- balljoints on shocks (yes I know you can get these refurbed)
- water getting into SAMs
- water getting into boot wrecking PSE pump
- roof mechanism (only thing mine didn't suffer)
- rust on rear arches
- random electronic module failures
- SBS pump timeout
- fuel tank baffles breaking off
- engine/gearbox mounts

Any of the above are big money items to fix - OP you're budget is pretty low which indicates that you're on a budget. Most of the above are going to break the bank, and on a £5k example you're going to get them. I paid a lot of money for mine at 5 years old, impeccable history, 50k miles, full mbsh etc etc and it threw a £1000 bill at me every month.

Previous suggests if the car is bad you can part it out and sell the bits. Really? So chap wants a nice car and is going to end up with a car being stripped on his drive? I would say I wouldn't.

Personally I'd have a 350 or a 400 (I don't get this "thing" about V8s and PH at all), 2006 onwards.

Seriously OP, and this isn't a dig or some awful snobbish jibe, it's genuine common sense advice: if you're on a £5k budget you can't afford to run an SL500.

Monkeylegend

19,896 posts

190 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Dog Star said:
Monkeylegend said:
I have a 2004 SL350 which has cost me a new starter battery and a crank position sensor in nearly 5 years, a grand total of £350 in addition to 2 services and MOT's smile
A 2004 SL350 is a whole different ballgame to a 2002 SL500 - 2002 really was the pits.
I cannot stress to the OP what he is potentially letting himself in for.

SL500s always came in as least reliable in surveys, however there was one that really hammered home how bad they were. 99% of cars were in the 0-100 range, Range Rovers were out on their own at something like 347 and the R230 was in it's own league at 555. Wonder if I can find that.

Stuff to look out for on a 2002 R230 500
- tandem pump failure
- ABC valve block failure
- ABC shock failure
- balljoints on shocks (yes I know you can get these refurbed)
- water getting into SAMs
- water getting into boot wrecking PSE pump
- roof mechanism (only thing mine didn't suffer)
- rust on rear arches
- random electronic module failures
- SBS pump timeout
- fuel tank baffles breaking off
- engine/gearbox mounts

Any of the above are big money items to fix - OP you're budget is pretty low which indicates that you're on a budget. Most of the above are going to break the bank, and on a £5k example you're going to get them. I paid a lot of money for mine at 5 years old, impeccable history, 50k miles, full mbsh etc etc and it threw a £1000 bill at me every month.

Previous suggests if the car is bad you can part it out and sell the bits. Really? So chap wants a nice car and is going to end up with a car being stripped on his drive? I would say I wouldn't.

Personally I'd have a 350 or a 400 (I don't get this "thing" about V8s and PH at all), 2006 onwards.

Seriously OP, and this isn't a dig or some awful snobbish jibe, it's genuine common sense advice: if you're on a £5k budget you can't afford to run an SL500.
That's the reason I stuck with the SL350 with standard suspension so no potentially expensive ABC issues to contend with.

I agree with the other issues you listed and would add instrument binnacle issues as well, which can be a pain to remove apparently and the gear selector getting stuck in park due to a small brittle piece of plastic in the selection mechanism.

Having said that the SBC pump can either often be reset or replacements are now a lot cheaper.

Also the fuel baffles can now be repaired with the tank in situ which is a lot cheaper than tank removal.

Buy carefully though, reasonable mileage, low owners, verifiable service history, maybe one that has been garaged for it's life and you won't be disappointed. These cars do exist. As said they are tremendous value for money.

Knowing a good indy is also a definite benefit with these cars as well.

CharlesdeGaulle

14,670 posts

139 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Not the question you asked, and maybe not the car you want, but the previous generation SL, the R129, offers a great deal and is worth considering. Values are rising, but you might still get a nice 500 at your budget. Certainly the 320 is also worth a look.

Dog Star

11,674 posts

127 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Monkeylegend said:
Buy carefully though, reasonable mileage, low owners, verifiable service history, maybe one that has been garaged for it's life and you won't be disappointed. These cars do exist. As said they are tremendous value for money.
My car was one of these cossetted examples, the guys garage was insane (would have been in the top tier on the garage thread) - it was still a total moneypit.

I cannot stress enough OP - cheap SL - don't do it.

Candellara

1,398 posts

141 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Sounds as though Dogstar bought a lemon but for every one unhappy story...……….there's a positive one.

I've owned my SL55 for nearly 4 years. One of the most reliable and cheapest cars to run I've ever had.

Certainly cheaper than all the "supercars" I've owned and has been more reliable and cheaper in terms of running costs compared to our Mk7 VW Golf GT and E Class Estate.

Buy carefully and if you're handy with the spanners - go for it.

Edited by Candellara on Thursday 8th October 14:41

TarquinMX5

381 posts

39 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Dog Star said:
Monkeylegend said:
Buy carefully though, reasonable mileage, low owners, verifiable service history, maybe one that has been garaged for it's life and you won't be disappointed. These cars do exist. As said they are tremendous value for money.
My car was one of these cossetted examples, the guys garage was insane (would have been in the top tier on the garage thread) - it was still a total moneypit.

I cannot stress enough OP - cheap SL - don't do it.
Aaaww, stop sitting on the fence, say what you really think biggrin

mattman

Original Poster:

2,315 posts

181 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Loving all the info.

Don’t be fooled by the budget, it doesn’t mean there is nothing left to run it. Having just sold my gen 2 Boxster S and finishing off a house renovation, I just don’t fancy sinking a load of money into a car for the next couple of years.

5k is a nominal budget that I can think I can get a relatively decent car for. The Porsche chucked lots of bills at me on a regular basis and it just gets a bit boring after a while.

Really appreciate the knowledge on the early 500’s - I will look away from those. A R129 is an option as well, just that SWMBO prefers the R230 shape so that makes it easier on my ears long term.

mattman

Original Poster:

2,315 posts

181 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
P.s. Dog Star - I’m a middle aged man who grew up in the max power days so I love a nice throaty V8 - I want to grow old disgracefully......

mattman

Original Poster:

2,315 posts

181 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
Dog Star said:
A 2004 SL350 is a whole different ballgame to a 2002 SL500 - 2002 really was the pits.
I cannot stress to the OP what he is potentially letting himself in for.
So was there a significant update for 2004 that basically means avoid any R230 before that? Good to know if that’s the case

Monkeylegend

19,896 posts

190 months

Thursday 8th October
quotequote all
If you go for a 350 you will be ok with the 3.7L engines which were phased out mid 2005, but the early 3.5L engines that replaced it had balancer shaft issues. This is very well documented and a search will tell you all you need to know.

The 3.5L engines beyond mid 2007 ish should be ok but if you do the search you will find a list of engine numbers affected and best avoided.


snafu10

31 posts

120 months

Monday 12th October
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I had the pleasure of owing 350sl 2003 vintage from 2009-14 fortunately very trouble free apart from usual tyres .front disks also had the secondary cats removed .take a look at Honest john website .review of sl very scary. The 500 has the ability to put you in the poor house lol.tread very carefully. Beautiful cars interior bang open .

DapperDanMan

2,602 posts

166 months

Thursday 15th October
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Candellara said:
Sounds as though Dogstar bought a lemon but for every one unhappy story...……….there's a positive one.

I've owned my SL55 for nearly 4 years. One of the most reliable and cheapest cars to run I've ever had.

Certainly cheaper than all the "supercars" I've owned and has been more reliable and cheaper in terms of running costs compared to our Mk7 VW Golf GT and E Class Estate.

Buy carefully and if you're handy with the spanners - go for it.

Edited by Candellara on Thursday 8th October 14:41
Had mine 10 years and still going strong. I've changed the ABC fluid and filter once (a major cause of issues). I had a small leak from the valve block but that was just a seal and it did not disable the car (a weep of fluid really).

I have a full scanner for Mercedes so I can check all the systems and have decent mechanic skills to sort out issues but not had to use them to much with the SL55.

So in summary.

  • There are good ones but you need to choose carefully
  • ABC can be an issue so check for leaks, fluid level and condition. A difficult one to check is overnight sag where the car can settle overnight and the fluid flows back out of the strut causing a corner to be lower than others.
  • Raise and lower the car several times and make sure all corners go up and down as they should.
  • Lower balljoint on suspension strut cannot be replaced with a bolt on however the bush can be replaced so not the end of the world.
  • Ideally a gearbox oil change at some point
  • If they've had the plugs done then great as there are 16 of them.
  • Look for oil leak from rocker cover and from additional seals on the rocker cover itself that seal additional covers. Basically, the rocker covers should be clean.
  • Boot battery condition. This runs all the ancillaries and I charge mine once every two weeks or so if not used.
  • Boot seals. Use a watering can to simulate rain then check inside the boot for any dampness of the carpet or general musty smell get to the bottom of the well and see if it looks like any moisture has got into there as the vacuum pump lives down there and can become water damaged leading to issues with central locking.
  • Roof up and down several times. Make sure rear quarter lights also behave as they should.
  • Get one with a wind break it is very effective
  • Be suspicous of any under bonnet leaks especially bottom right where the steering and ABC pump (tandem) is fitted.
  • Check everything works regarding electrics in the cabin.
  • Panoramic roof is a nice to have
When they work they are great cars for cruising top-down but go in with eyes wide open as they can sting.

Gouki

322 posts

143 months

Tuesday 20th October
quotequote all


For every R230 thread, thankfully Dogstar will always be there to tell you all the pitfalls of ownership.

I can't recommend any £5k high mileage car which is 18 years old as sensible motoring. But when you get an R230 you cannot just walk into Mercedes Benz and say, 'I've got x wrong with my car', that's for owners with warranties and people with deep pockets.

Out of the things listed by Dogstar I've had the following go wrong in 140k miles:

-tandem pump failure x2 (every 50k miles)
- ABC shock leak x 2
-supercharger pulley bearings (replaced with eurocharged)
- balljoints on shocks (refurbed)
- vac pump (had it refurbished and uprated)
- rust on rear arches (should've cleaned the arch lips properly)
- SBC pump timeout (MB goodwill 50%)
- engine/gearbox mounts (worn out)
- ESM module selector clip brakes (locking into park, easy fix).
- odometer (didn't drive the car for almost a year and it decided to increase it's mileage to starship levels!)

That exhaustive list is for an SL55, but in my experience you can replace a leggy SL55 with any of the following e.g. BMW E92 M3, E63 M6, E46 M3 and you'll get the same bills.

You either pay for a warranty or you are the warranty.





Dog Star

11,674 posts

127 months

Tuesday 20th October
quotequote all
Gouki said:

- odometer (didn't drive the car for almost a year and it decided to increase it's mileage to starship levels!)
rofl Brilliant!

Gouki said:
For every R230 thread, thankfully Dogstar will always be there to tell you all the pitfalls of ownership.
I consider it my civic and moral duty to stop people doing this biggrin .

Effectively a 5K R230 has got one foot in the grave - a big fault and it's scrap.
Couple this with the sort of people often (not always) owning them at this price point - they'll get an expensive fault or know something is on it's way out and they'll move it on - at some point (same as with that list of cars you posted, Gouki) it will become a mad game of pass-the-parcel as each owner desperately tries to move the car on to the next unsuspecting sap as soon as they realise what is wrong.

Fresh Prince

384 posts

131 months

Tuesday 20th October
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Dog Star said:
...SL500s always came in as least reliable in surveys, however there was one that really hammered home how bad they were. 99% of cars were in the 0-100 range, Range Rovers were out on their own at something like 347 and the R230 was in it's own league at 555. Wonder if I can find that...
This line has made me repeatedly chuckle for the last half hour.

I was thinking of replacing my 987 Boxster S with a V8 R230 due to my anticipated usage profile over the next year or so. Now I'm not so sure. This sounds like jumping out of the frying pan into an incinerator.