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280SE 1978 - Wrong Engine Oil Used

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Hello 116 world,

Today i found out that my 280SE has the wrong engine oil in it and I also noticed that the oil level on the dipstick was non existent..
The previous owner told me today that 5w40 was used and it shouldn't have been but he wasn't driving it much so he decided to leave it be.
I've driven the car maybe 100KM since buying it with the oil in it - probably should've changed the oil - I know!

Today I decided to check the engine oil and there literally was none showing on the dipstick.
All I could see is a 1mm dot at the very edge of the dipstick which has got me worried.
The engine was cold and the car hasn't been driven since yesterday.
I am assuming that is not the right way to check oil level? Should the engine be up to temp and then shut off before I check oil level?

Anyways, I did some research and found that 20w40 / 20w50 are the recommended oils as per Mercedes.
I have a 87 420sel and a 87 560sec and both have 5w40 full synthetic. They don't get driven in winter (Toronto, Canada).
Should I switch them to a heavier oil as well?

What oil should I use for the 280SE? Its a German import (not sure if that matters). I am going off what I find on google and just want to be sure before I change the oil / filter.

PS I am in Canada and the parts store here don't carry 15W40 / 15W50 so I am going with 20W unless you guys think I shouldn't.
I also checked what FCP Euro recommends and its not the same as what I see in the manual...

Are either of these good for this engine?

The oil in there now is dark and I'm assuming has burned due to being the wrong kind? The inside of the engine bay is very clean and I'd like to keep it that way.

Thank you all for your help!

Welcome to the best 116 resource on the planet  8)
I would say an engine flush is in order then of course new filter and oil.  You can use Marvel Mystery Oil to flush, get it at Walmart.  Dump in the whole bottle into the oil filler hole and run it for a tank or so of fuel.  This will loosen up some crud if present.
Then drain it off, change filter and add new oil of course.
Don't use synthetic,  a conventional oil like Castrol GTX is good, 20W-50 is a good choice.  Yes 15W-40 diesel engine oil will also work like Shell Rotella or Chevron Delo.
Use good brand filter like Mahle, Mann or Hengst.


The only wrong oil in those engines is no oil ;)
And modern synthetics, perhaps.

5W-40 is perfectly fine, especially in moderately cold climates like Canada!

Personally, I'd stay far far away from anything above 15W-40, unless in a hot climate country, which Canada isn't, just like Ireland :)

I use 10W-40 since I've had my 450SE in Ireland, with brief stints with 15W-40 and 20W-50. The only time she ever burned oil was on 20W-50.

Mineral, or mineral-base semi-synthetic works best.

Level should be no higher than the max mark on a hot engine, but with the engine turned off and allowed to sit for a few minutes. Closer to mid-way on a cold engine. Only the automatic transmission fluid level is checked with the engine on.

Here is what I use in my 450SEL and 560SEC, I have zero oil burning and both engines seem to run happy(TO based supplier link below):

There are a couple videos that "Uncle" Kent from Mercedessource posted on Youtube regarding this particular oil.

That's the exact oil I use in all my benzes. Never a bother with it.


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