The obvious element that needs your attention is the bodywork. Corrosion in W124 models usually starts in places where the car was heat-treated in the factory – by welding or heat-bonding.
- front spring mounts,
- front mounts of the rear bogie,
- openings for a jack,
- in the station wagon version, the rear wheel arch from the passenger's side, where the jack mount is welded,
- grooves for seals of rear windows.
The places exposed to weather are also more susceptible to corrosion. They include the fender under the turn signals and under the moulding, the wheel arches on the side of the engine compartment, or the sill tips on the narrow strip.
Unfortunately, corrosion also affects the sunroof guides, so pay attention to its proper operation and carefully inspect the roof at the area of sunroof seals. The fasteners of the door seals are equally sensitive places.
After lifting the, you can check the condition of the floor panels and thresholds, but in this case, a more in-depth inspection will be needed. The use of anti-corrosion coats (e.g. Bitex) and other coating agents that tightly cover the floor is always alarming. Even slight damage to the coating applied on the chassis of the car may let moisture and salt inside, resulting in a serious damage if left under the coating for longer periods.
Originally, the floor is slightly sprayed with the colour of the car body, and in hard-to-reach places there is only a primer and a yellowish wax. This features will reveal the original condition of the car's chassis.
The condition of the paint coating is inextricably linked to corrosion. Often, rust bloom can appear in the places where the paintwork is damaged. When checking a car before buying it, look at the paint coating from different angles and, if possible, under different lighting. In the sun, you can easily check how the light reflects off the panels and whether each surface element has the same paintwork structure. In artificial light, e.g. fluorescent light, you can see all the scratches and imperfections of the paint coat. If you have a paint coating gauge and know how to use, you can measure the coating of individual panels of the car and to interpret the obtained results in order to determine whether the paint coating has a similar thickness on all car elements. This will help you confirm the history of the car, e.g. previous renovation works.
The versions equipped with a gasoline engine are available with three types of fuel supply: carburettor, K-Jetronic and LH-Jetronic. Check how the engine starts up and works. In W124 versions equipped with gasoline engines, we recommended to check the timing chain at mileages above 250,000 km, as over the time these chains experience damage of sliding elements
Pay attention to the engine 'sweating', leaks and dirt on the oil filter, as well as leaks from the shaft seal at the connection with the gearbox. High mileage engines can also "click" with their hydraulic valve regulators.
With carburettor versions, adjustment is sometimes enough, but you should take into account that after a long stoppage, each of the fuel systems will require more or less regeneration. Carburettor versions will be more sensitive to long stops and contamination, and they will need more frequent adjustments.
The engines of cars that are regularly used usually work smoothly. The K-Jetronic system tolerates large mileage, but it does not like standing and using gas as a fuel. The gas is especially dangerous to the air flow flap. In this case, ignition of the mixture in the intake manifold leads to valve face damage or complete blockage of the flap.
LH-Jetronic electronic fuel injection systems are the most reliable, they tolerate using gas and long downtimes. The issue of controlling the operation of the system is similar to that of modern cars, there is also a possibility of computer diagnostics. Unfortunately, the engine harness and throttles are weak points.
Diesel engines are generally very robust, however, pay attention to a cold start noise which may indicate serious damage due to improper use. The elements of these engines are very durable, they do not cause any major problems, even in cars with high mileage. However, they are not designed to cover long distances at high speeds.
The future owner of the W124 should also be alert to the sound of the injection pump. Its failures are very rare, but they often contribute to the decrease of engine performance.
The automatic transmission system in the W124 is quite robust, but the first signs of wear are jerks when shifting gears, long time of gear change, and no vehicle movement in reverse without pressing the accelerator pedal.
Manual gearboxes are very durable. The most common problems are normal wear of the clutch or slave cylinder.
In units with larger capacity, flexible shaft couplings often break.
Excessive engine movement in its compartment during the operation may indicate damage to the oil pads under the engine. Over time, the rubber elements become brittle, which causes black and purple oil to flow out of the pillow.
Differentials are elements that can spoil the driving pleasure of many sensitive drivers. They can "howl", as this is a very characteristic sound, the most audible when gently pressing the accelerator pedal at a speed of about 80–100 km/h. Therefore before buying, we recommend a test drive on a road where driving at higher speeds is possible.
The suspension in the W124 usually requires only standard replacement of wearables and maintenance repairs. Frequent, however, are fatigue cracks at the ends of the springs and the breaking of the front cushions of the rear bogie.
Niveauregulierung, or Nivo / Nivomat – is a rear suspension self-levelling system, which used to be a standard e.g. in a station wagon. The system is supplied with ZH-M oil pressed by a pump located in front part of the engine. The operating pressure of the system is approximately 130 bar. The system is based on the regulator that reads the height of the car from the stabilizer of the rear axle. When the rear of the car drops due to the additional load, the Nivo corrector transfers more oil to the system. The most common fault in this system is corrosion of power cables and damage to the hydrospheres (so-called "pears"), which have a damping function in this system. The role of the shock absorbers can be reduced to the function of the actuator forcing pressure to the 'pears' and in this part some leaks may also occur.
Sometimes you may notice leaks in the steering system. An excessive play in the steering gear and wear of the vibration damper can be felt on the steering wheel while driving.
You should also pay attention to the sound when opening and closing the door, because worn out door stops can operate loudly.
The electrical part that fails very often is the windshield wiper motor, which is prone to seizing. It results in motor power loss, slower and difficult operation of wipers and finally engine burnout.
It is also worth checking the electric window lifters, in which the motors also often stop working. Moreover the lifting and lowering system modes wear out and can cause blocking of the system.
In the sunroof, in addition to the corrosion already discussed, it is very important to remove dirt from the system and the weakest points include cracking guides.
Air conditioning systems very often lose their tightness due to old age, and the evaporators under the dashboard may leak, which is quite expensive to repair as it requires the car's dashboard to be disassembled.
The W124 was offered with leather, velour and fabric upholstery to choose from. The latter, in the vast majority of cases, stands the test of time best. You can chemically renew the well-kept leather in the detailing process, and when it cannot be saved, you can buy a new material to cover the damaged interior. Velour is definitely the most problematic in maintaining good condition, as it becomes brittle and tears easily after many years.
The rear windows of the W124 is often experience delamination, which makes them "milky" between the glass panels. If you find a car without corrosion, with original paintwork and undamaged glass seals, you may avoid the hassle of replacing the glass by choosing a vehicle without this problem.
The radio that is operational and complete, including the display, is a real treat. Original radios can cost up to PLN 2-3k if you want to preserve the climate of the era. By the way, we also recommend checking the electric antenna, the whip of which breaks frequently.
Wood in the W124 cars exposed to intense sunlight is often faded and its lacquer cracked. Renovation of these elements is not cheap, and the process is often lengthy.
You will have fewer problems with buying plastic interior elements, such as a light switch or the tips of the air vents, which crumble over time and can simply fall off.
Pay also attention to the fading of external decors (strips near the windows), which are factory anodized in a dark colour. Over time, they fade to plum-like colour, up to golden. If they are in good condition, there is a good chance that the car spent a large part of its life in a garage.
Inside the A124, some elements need to be carefully inspected. Look for cracking plastic elements, sun visors damaged by the sun, amp housing, a triangle next to the safety belt, which is often damaged, or roof handle covers. In the Cabrio and Coupe versions, the belt feeders can also break down and to repair them, it is necessary to disassemble parts of the interior.
Particular attention should be paid to cars with a depleted battery caused by a long downtime, as the electric roof module does not tolerate starting from the booster. When testing the A124's soft top performance, look in front of or behind the rear wheel for cylinder leaks.
The rocker arm position sensors are also prone to damage and they are responsible for the headrests that play the role of a "roller bar" in the A124.
The items described above are typical and most important elements that require inspection before purchasing the W, C or A124 models. However, as we all know, there are no perfect, defect-free cars on the market. When choosing a car, think about your budget and, a list of specialists at your disposal and the purpose of your purchase.
The models that you want to include into your collection, but not necessarily drive them all over Europe right away, can stay in the garage for a while or be repaired in a workshop right away. And cars for fans of driving, rallies or long trips with classic cars, do not need a perfect paintwork, as it will be difficult to maintain during intensive use.
When choosing a car, remember that almost every element can be replaced or repaired. Do not reject a vehicle right away because of imperfections that are visible at first glance. And remember that beautiful cars with perfect paint and perfect interior can also break down.
However, if you want to leave the assessment of the car to the experts, Legends invites you to its servicing facilities for a pre/post-purchase car check. Our specialists will look into every corner of your car to evaluate possible repairs and they will propose solutions to problems with a specific model:
At Legends, we don't just focus on comprehensive renovation work. If you need sheet metal work, refreshing the paint coating, repairing mechanical elements or restoring the interior, please contact us: