Common problems with Mercedes W124

The Mercedes W124 is certainly part of the Mercedes best hits of all time catalog because it enjoys an iconic status these days. Over-engineering, attention to detail, reliability, and good looks are all traits of the W124 which make it a modern classic.

Many people are still contemplating buying the W124 as either a project car or a daily driver, but it’s worth mentioning that even the fact that the W124 offers impressive reliability, it is not perfect. There are some issues commonly associated with the W124 which will be discussed in this very article.

The W124 is known for potential head gasket failures, rust, fuel pump failures, distributor cap issues, rear window issues, wiring loom issues, window regulators, suspension issues, front ball joints issues, sunroof seals, vacuum leaks, and ignition barrel issues.

Needless to say, a 1980s car is likely going to experience all sorts of issues in the 2020s because the car is so old. However, this does not make the W124 a bad buy because it still costs reasonable money while also being a reasonably good car that offers you a piece of Mercedes heritage.

Head gasket failures

Almost everyone is aware that the 1980s were the golden age of Mercedes engines because most engines from these days are known to last hundreds of thousands of miles without any major overhauls. However, head gasket failures were known to cause issues for the W124 and especially the 6-cylinder models.

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This issue usually starts developing with a small engine leak that later causes head gasket failures if not dealt with in time. This is also made worse by high temperatures which means that these issues can be fixed before anything serious happens.

Corrosion issues

Automakers these days offer 10, 12, or even 15 year-long corrosion warranties which means that they are aware a corrosion issue might form later down the line. Given the fact that the W124 is now more than 30 years old, you could potentially experience corrosion issues with some W124 examples that were not protected adequately.

Some W124 models were known to use water-based paint which meant that corrosion could form even easier. Corrosion is one of the biggest problems older Mercedes models have, so be sure to always check the wheel wells and the underside of the car if you are interested in buying one.

Wiring loom issues

Nowadays, so many companies take great pride in showcasing a more sustainable future by using more sustainable exterior and interior materials. Mercedes had this idea back in the early 90s because they decided to use biodegradable wiring harnesses for their 90s cars.

Soon enough Mercedes realized that those soybean-based wiring harnesses were far too brittle and were not able to stand the test of time. These wires were known to degrade faster than your regular wires, especially when near warm metal components. Be sure to look for a car with a replaced wiring harness, it will save you from a few headaches.

Fuel pump failures

The W124 also suffers from occasional fuel system issues, especially the fuel pump. Many owners complained the W124 sometimes emits strange whining sounds accompanied by performance issues. The issue mostly points towards a faulty fuel pump, a faulty fuel relay, and a faulty fuel filter.

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If you do come across these sorts of issues, be sure to take the car in for a service as this could potentially cause more serious problems down the line.

Distributor cap issues

If you come across a W124 that has been sitting untouched for a while, you should focus your attention on the distributor cap as the W124’s cap is known to accumulate moisture if the car was unused for a while. This causes a myriad of different issues that either make it difficult to start the car up or unable to do so completely.

The best thing you can do is to replace the distributor cap completely, but be sure to always use either Bosch or Mercedes parts.

Suspension issues

It’s no secret that older Mercedes models regularly suffer from suspension related-issues, but this was mostly the case for the self-leveling W124 estate models. The self-leveling suspension spheres are known to fail after a while and if you sense an uncomfortable ride and lack of cushioning, this could potentially be the cause.

You need to replace the spheres whenever you come across these issues which means that you should also focus specifically on either Mercedes original or Bosch parts.

FAQ Section

Is the Mercedes W124 a reliable car?

The Mercedes W124 is one of the most reliable and longest-running cars to ever grace the face of the earth. No car is without fault which means that even the mighty W124 can cause issues, but that does not mean that the car is not reliable.

There are still countless examples of running W124 models all across the world, even with more than a million miles on the clock. The W124 is an extremely overengineered car that can last longer than the Egyptian pyramids if maintained correctly.

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Is the Mercedes W124 a good car?

The W124 is indeed a good car, both because it is reliable and because it offers a 100% modern-classic Mercedes experience. Many people believe that the W124 is one of the best Mercedes classic cars for beginner classic car enthusiasts because it is likely going to make you fall in love with old-school Mercedes cars.

The W124 can still be a reasonable daily driver, but it does lack almost all modern-day amenities. Either way, it is still a lovely car to travel in that could potentially increase in value over time.

How many Mercedes W124 models were built?

The Mercedes W124 was in production between 1985 and 1996 and more than 2.7 million of these were built and sold all across the world. The W124 was offered as a sedan, a coupe, a convertible, or as an estate and it’s safe to say that all of these versions were popular back in the day.

The W124 sold so well that it even broke the Mercedes record for the best sold single Mercedes model at the time. There are still many surviving W124 models all around the world which is a testament to the indestructible 1980s golden era of Mercedes overengineering.

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Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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