The Mercedes W123 is almost 50 years old now which means that it is a true classic car that needs special treatment both in the maintenance department and the usability department. No matter how you look at it, the W123 is a car from a different era, but an era where Mercedes was leagues above anyone else.
As previously stated, the W123 is almost 50 years old, but there are so many working W123 examples all across the world with more than a million miles on the clock. These cars are known to last a long time, especially if you take proper care of them.
This does not mean that the W123 is without fault as many common issues tend to plague the W123 to this very day. The most common and arguably most difficult issue to fix is corrosion as most Mercedes cars from this era were known to corrode badly if not maintained properly.
Leaky door seals, issues with the instrument cluster and the entire dashboard, issues that arise from the fact that the W123 is so old, and all sorts of vacuum problems. It’s safe to say that the W123 is built like a tank, but even tanks need love, tenderness, and care.
Corrosion – A Mercedes W123s worst enemy
If you are aware of older Mercedes models, you have likely heard that they are prone to corrosion. This is not only reserved for older Mercedes models because most cars from this era are known to rust badly. It’s just the reality of it because these cars were not made with all the modern rust prevention technologies.
The W123 commonly experiences rust spots around the wheel arches, at the bottom of the doors, around the jack points around the windows, and near the front apron. This does not mean that the W123 does not experience rust spots in other places, because it does. Either way, you need to pay close attention to rust spots as these are likely going to retire your W123 soon.
Leaky door seals – A fairly common occurrence with the W123
Seals are made to last a certain amount of time because they are not made from long-lasting materials. The priority of a door seal is to keep the doors protected from outside elements, and the rubber used for this purpose is known to crack and disintegrate after a while.
These seals need to be replaced fairly often because they can absolutely destroy a W123 interior. Whenever moisture enters the car, it destroys the chrome panels fairly soon and it also worsens leather cracking over time.
Dashboard and instrument cluster issues
The dashboard of the W123 has a mind of its own which means that it often overcalculates the mileage or it breaks down completely. If you are looking at a low mileage example of the W123, be sure to look for overall wear and tear and try to compare it with other W123 models to find out if the mileage is indeed true.
The fuel gauge is known to fail at times, but the dashboard itself is also known to develop all sorts of cracks. This is mostly due to sun exposure or moisture and many W123s models have their dashboards re-trimmed because of this.
Vacuum seals are also common for the W123
The W123 offers power windows and power locks which are controlled with vacuum systems that are often known to leak and become operational. Thankfully, this is usually a fairly easy fix if you have the right tools for the job.
Warm weather, the sun, and moisture and known to cause vacuum issues more frequently, so be sure to pay close attention to these components if you live in a warmer climate area.
Effects of being almost 50 years old
A 50-year old is a tired car no matter how reliable and bulletproof it is. The W123 is indeed one of the most dependable Mercedes cars of all time, but you should skip buying tired examples if you are not willing to do a thorough restoration.
Low oil pressure is a common telltale that the W123 you are looking at is nearing its end. Rust is known to kill many W123 models, so be sure to skip heavily corroded models if you are not willing to spend a lot of money and time on fixing them.
How reliable is the W123 Mercedes?
The W123 is one of the most reliable cars in the history of humankind, and that’s simply the case. This does not mean that the W123 does not need cohesive and relatively frequent maintenance, but if you do everything right, you should be able to enjoy a W123 until the end of days.
The W124, the successor of the W123 is also known as one of the most reliable Mercedes models of all time. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Mercedes cars started being a lot more problematic, both because of complexity and product placement strategy.
Should I buy a Mercedes W123?
The W123 is one of the most iconic Mercedes models of all time, and if you are in the market for a classic 70s-80s sedan, the W123 is the perfect car for you. Be sure to look for rust-free or mildly rusted examples because any more than this is likely going to be too much.
Many Mercedes enthusiasts believe that good examples of the W123 are going to continue appreciating in value, and it seems like that is truly the case.
How much does a Mercedes W123 cost?
The average asking price of the Mercedes W123 is around $11,500 while good examples can go for twice as much. The W123 is indeed worth the money because it offers a true Mercedes time capsule experience that simply cannot be matched with any modern car out there.
The W123 offers incredibly soft seats, a laid-back driving position, and the feeling that you are operating a fine piece of machinery. The experience of piloting the W123 is vastly different than anything else out there, and paying $11,000-$15, for such an experience is definitely worth the asking price.