Used car buying guide: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (W168)

An expert’s view – Nersess Der Nersessian, Forrera: “When the A-Class first came out, everybody wanted one, but a couple of years later, I began hearing stories of many of them being scrapped. I wondered why, so I started working on them. I soon realised that it wasn’t the cars at fault but the people working on them. Owners love the A-Class. It’s roomy, practical and, above all, easy to get in and out of. I have a bad back and so do many of my older customers, so we find the A-Class a dream.”

Buyer beware…

Engine: Check old invoices, if they still exist, for work done, paying attention to small but vital jobs such as spark plug, fuel filter and pollen filter changes. A rubbing sound at tickover might signal that the timing chain is about to snap. On diesels, check the glow plugs aren’t seized and impossible to remove.

Electrics: A low-mileage car might have had to be jump-started several times during its life when its battery was flat. Unfortunately, this can cripple the various ECUs, especially the one for the automatic gearbox (where fitted), so check there are no electrical issues.

Transmission: On an automatic, check for first-gear selection problems. Typically, drivers don’t allow the gearbox oil to warm up and consequently the high oil pressure breaks some of the parts. The letter F being displayed on the dashboard means the automatic gearbox is shot.

Steering, suspension: Perform a three-point turn while listening for strange noises from the steering pump. The A-Class is heavy, so check the condition of the rear springs. They often break but are cheap to replace. Ditto the front suspension, except the whole assembly (shock absorber, spring and top mount) will need to be changed.

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