Common problems with Mercedes W126

If you are looking for a classic, durable and comfortable Mercedes cruiser, the W126 should definitely tickle your fancy as it is one of the most iconic S-Class models of all time. Virtually all S-Class models except for the W220 are impressive and still are lovely cars to own and to travel in on a daily basis.

However, the W126 was in production between 1979 and 1991, and for such an old car, the W126 is holding up nicely. This does not mean that the W126 does not come with its fair share of issues, and the most common ones are associated with the timing chain, oil leaks, transmission issues, worn-out interior trim, and the pneumatic suspension system.

The W126 S-Class is known to last hundreds of thousands of miles without needing large overhauls. All engine options are potent and sophisticated, but the best one to get is the S500 V8. All in all, the W126 should serve you well, but be sure to pay close attention to the components listed above.

It’s worth mentioning that common W126 issues are far greater than the ones mentioned in this article. The electronics can also act up after a while and the same story goes to the rust as these cars are way too old to be properly rust protected.

Timing chain issues

One of the largest issues associated with the W126 are the plastic guides for the timing chains which are known to fail prematurely. They wear out fast and become brittle, and it takes little to no force to break them. This issue affects both early and late W126 models and should be addressed as soon as possible in order for the car to perform at its best for a long time.

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If you don’t fix these issues early enough, you are likely going to face more serious engine issues down the line, so much so that the repair costs could potentially even make the entire car a money pit hole. Always inspect the guides whenever you can, no matter if you are only buying the car or you own it yourself.

Oil leaks

The powertrain found in the W126 is robust and should last a long time, but specific issues like oil leaks from the timing cover are known to negate that. This can increase the overall oil consumption without you even noticing it, so be sure to check the oil levels whenever you can to ensure your W126 is running smooth.

Sadly, this is not the only place where oil leaks tend to occur because they also tend to occur around the valve cover gasket covers. It is rather easy to spot these oil leaks with a decent flashlight, but if the W126 you are looking for leaves oil spots on the ground, chances are that the oil leaks are a lot more severe.

Transmission issues

The W126 comes with either a manual or an automatic gearbox. The manual gearbox is not fit for such a large automobile, but it seems to be the more dependable option. The 4-speed automatic sometimes takes too much time to shift into gear so be sure to test that out if you are in the market for a W126.

The automatic gearbox is known to wear out, especially if you are looking at a high mileage example. Sometimes your W126 will need a complete rebuild while some gearboxes only need a few components replaced.

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Worn out interior

The W126 is now a really old car which means that it is not going to look as nice as it once did. This does not mean that the W126 is not sophisticated enough, but rather the fact that the interior leather and wood trim is prone to cracking and discoloration, especially if you opted for a brighter interior.

Pneumatic suspension system issues

Some W126 models come with a rear pneumatic suspension system that is known to make the car sag at the back. This is commonly caused by a leaky shock or issues surrounding some of the auxiliary parts of the suspension system. If these systems start malfunctioning, your ride comfort is likely going to be affected enough for you to realize.

FAQ Section

Is the Mercedes W126 prone to rust?

The Mercedes W126 is a well-built car that uses high-quality paints that can stand the test of time. However, given the fact that the W126 is a few decades old now, the protective properties are nowadays not as effective as they once were.

As such, you should pay close attention to specific potential rust spots on your car starting with the underside of the car, the wheel wells, around the windows, underneath the doors, under the battery tray, and under the plastic moldings that surround the car.

Is the Mercedes W126 a classic car?

The Mercedes W126 is indeed a classic car these days because it packs a lot of interesting features and design choices in what is now known as the very first S-Class. There is quite a bit of W126’s roaming around which means that it’s not exactly an appreciating asset.

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However, if you manage to find one in good condition with not too many miles on the clock, you might even profit from it in the not too distant future. It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of Mercedes Benz enthusiasts are interested in the more powerful V8 models.

Is the Mercedes W126 the best Mercedes car of all time?

The W126 is the very first S-Class, and the S-Class is the benchmark full-size luxury sedan. This begs the question of the W126 is good enough to be considered one of, if not even the best Mercedes sedan of all time. Some believe that the W126 is indeed the best Mercedes car ever, while the majority of people tend to disagree.

It’s safe to say that the W126 offers quite a bit of value, and it may have been the very best car in the world back in 1979. The W140 is usually believed to be the best S-Class of all time and thus the best Mercedes model of all time, and I tend to agree with that even though the W126 is high on that list.

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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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