really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
48,720 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500 seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500 Owner Comments

problem #7

Jul 092015


  • 71,000 miles


Suspension drops overnight and has dropped while in motion on the expressway. Red warning to limit speed constantly comes on especially if low on fluid and on bumps. The dealer cannot isolate the cause of pressure or excessive hydraulic fluid leaks. Front bumper damaged as a result. Over $8000 spent and problem not resolved. No confidence in the car unless the supply of fluid is carried in the car at all times. Dealer wanted $16,000 to diagnose and possibly repair but offered no warranty for work.

- Brown Deer, WI, USA

problem #6

Jun 282013

SL500 8-cyl

  • 50,000 miles
The SRS system (airbags) have been deemed inoperable by the dealer and may either deploy at any time or not deploy at all in a collision. This is due to a defective seatbelt buckle and a defective passenger recognition sensor pad located in the front passenger seat which disables/enables the airbags functionality. Both a very common defect in the 2000 to 2006 model year Mercedes Benz S class vehicles. The seatbelt buckle contains a sensor that eventually fails for no apparent reason or warning which compromises the air bag's functionality. The passenger recognition sensor pad located in the seat eventually malfunctions due to fatigue.this also disables the functionality of the SRS system.this malfunction has recently been addressed and recalled by BMW for the same issues but Mercedes Benz has yet to issue a recall campaign also the gear shifter is stuck in park and can not be shifted in reverse. This is due to a small plastic part located in the shifting mechanism which is released by a solenoid when the brake pedal is depressed. The plastic part eventually cracks and renders the car inoperable.the part is not available nor produced by Mercedes Benz and the entire mechanism must be replaced by the dealer at the owner's expense. The cracked part can also affect the safety of the driver and pedestrians. If it cracks while the car is in drive, the shifter can not be moved forward to neutral or park and will remain stuck in drive due to a broken piece of plastic blocking the shifter from moving.this is another extremely common and dangerous defect in the model year 2000 to 2006 S class and has affected and left thousands of motorists stranded. Mercedes Benz has the lowest recall rate in the United States according to the following www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/us-autos-recalls-study-idusbrea2Q1zq20140327. they should not ignore safety issues.

- Valley Stream, NY, USA

problem #5

Jul 152011

SL500 8-cyl

  • 49,909 miles
2003 SL500 merceded SRS control unit malfunction and failure preventing use of saftey equipment.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #4

Dec 062010


  • 87,000 miles


The contact owns 2003 Mercedes SL500. The contact stated that while attempting a left turn, the contact was struck in the front of the vehicle. The air bags did not deploy. The contact sustained minor injuries as a result of the crash. A police report was available. The vehicle was destroyed. The failure and current mileage was 87,000.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #3

Feb 072009


  • 74,000 miles
I cannot believe that there is not or will not be a recall on the "suspension" issue. I too had the fate of my car collapsing on my way home from work-which is 35 miles away-it happened. On the dash it stated in bid bold letters "airmatic car too low". I pulled over and stepped out-my heart felt like it was going to come through my chest. Everyone in that situation understands just how I felt at that time. The front of the car was completely covering half of the front tires-if I turned the wheel it would have scraped the fenders. I left the car there overnite. The next day {Sunday} my partner's brother -who is a mechanic-went to retrieve my car not being familiarized with the Mercedes brand he started the car and pushed every button on the dash-he called me telling me the car was fine it was "fine". he drove my car to my home-much to my puzzlement. The car looked normal. The next day on Monday I started the car and on the dash in big red letters airmatic. Though the car looked fine I saw on closer inspection that one side in front was sagging lower, to sum this up-got the car to the dealer and was told the " air was leaking out of the bags in the front suspension".that cost $1,000 to repair-I think its cheaper to pay that than the alternative. As I write I am furious yes- I have another appointment this coming Monday for my SRS system. This is the second time. This time it has to do with the front passenger seat and the etr-they state there is a fault. I have to pay $540 to have a safe car" this is the second time the SRS light has come on-sounds kind of like the first time it happened too-only that was covered under warranty. I have 74,000 miles on this car. Whats going to happen next? Mercedes submitted a video showing an S class with a collapsed suspension showing that it was fit to be on the road along with other cars-people what are you thinking?this is supposed to be one of the safest cars on the road! that's why we bought it.and about the SRS light"

- Wassaic, NY, USA

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problem #2

Jun 252003

SL500 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 9,132 miles
The vehicle (2003 mb slk320) was purchased on 4/14/2004 in AZ and began noticing problems on the drive back to nm. The most significant safety problem involves the transmission, which has been serviced by the manufacturer 8 times without resolution. The vehicle slips in and out of gear at highway speeds. The vehicle has spent a total of over 68 days in the shop for unsatisfactory repairs in a one-year period. To this date, the manufacturer has been uncooperative in resolving these problems forcing me to seek legal services.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

problem #1

Aug 262004

SL500 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The air bags are deploying. So far no injuries. The air bags have deployed on two service techs. And one tow truck driver. Deployment is do to a defect. The car is an slk 320.

- Sarasota, FL, USA

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