Frequently Asked Questions :



What type of warranty are you giving me?

We offer a comprehensive 3-month functional warranty, following the date of repair. This means that from the time you get the unit back, if the problem covered by the original repair reoccurs, we will repair at no charge (other than shipping costs). The only things we don't cover are light bulbs, which you can replace yourself easy enough without our help.

For our pre-owned units, we put them through a thorough bench test, and driving simulation. Only when it passes this can we be confident that it will perform as well in a real car. We can verify every gauge, every warning light, emergency audible beep, and make sure each one correctly and accurately measures what it is supposed to. For those boards that have known failure cases, we repair the problem beforehand so it does not make it out the door as it came in. Each pre-owned unit comes with the same 3-month warranty our repaired boards come with.

Even with the repair units we get in, we also put them through the same bench test to see if any other problems appear. Functionally your instrument cluster will be as good as stock, in other words it will function exactly the same as it came with the car, the year it was offered. Since instrumentation is your eyes and ears, this is of particular importance!

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How much does shipping cost to ... ?

Shipping costs depend on location and provider, typically around $25. We deal exclusively with Canada Post when shipping out, and require US Postal Service when receiving from the USA. Private corporations such as FedEx and UPS are typically expensive on national shipping and extremely expensive on cross-border shipping. We do not ship or accept packages from FedEx or UPS!

USA/Canada border issues are nearly eliminated when using government run services such as Can-Post and USPS. Their variety of services, both based on speed and cost, make them the ideal shipping providers. Some customers already have business accounts with other providers and we can ship that way as well.

We are located in Toronto, Canada, and this a table of typical Canada Post shipping costs from Vancouver :

This a table of typical Canada Post shipping costs from California :

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How do I ship a cluster to you?

Here is a checklist to use when shipping to us :


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Is it easy to remove the cluster?

For the W140, it's not too difficult, with great care you can do it yourself. Mercedes sells these pull hooks to accomplish the job #W140 589 02 33 00:

You can also buy inexpensive hooked tools at the local hardware store. Paying careful attention not to damage the housing or the leather surrounding it. It is very, very easy to crack the corners on the housing, so be careful! Sometimes its easier to work with both hooks from one side to get it to give. If you are applying more than a couple pounds pressure, leave it to a professional to remove, or take the alternative approach.

This housing was damaged when removed, a $400 replacement item!

There are two possible ways to remove the cluster: the fast way which is more prone to damage and is chosen by MB mechanics; and the slow way which is more labour intensive, but nearly guaranteed not to break. Here is a step by step of the fast way:

  1. Adjust the steering wheel fully down and towards you.
  2. Remove the keys from the ignition, and disconnect battery.
  3. The cluster has "ears" molded along the sides where the manufacturer intended the hook tool to grab on to. Turns out this method was prone to damage and is now considered an incorrect tugging point! Instead, you must grip the instruments from nearer to the rear, catch a flat spot and tug from there. Ensure your tool is at least halfway buried before attempting to pull or else slippage and breakage is certain! Over the years, the instruments have been seated snugly inside the leather surround, so this will be certainly laborious.

    The following are pictures of various R129/W140 instruments through the years, red arrows indicate incorrect tugging points, blue indicate correct :


    1992-1994 W140 analog instruments


    1994-1997 W140 digital instruments


    1989-1992 R129 analog instruments

  4. There will be just enough room, once the cluster is out of its hole, to slide it around. Carefully manipulate it with enough room to slide your hand behind and start removing the harness connectors. There will be 4 of them. Pay close attention not to pull them out by the wires. The rounded connector can be pulled by hand. The square connector has a small tab sticking out which you must use your hook tool to pry out.
The slow way, but the way recommended for most first timers, is as follows :
  1. Remove all of the sound deadening panels under the dash (above the pedals), and the ventilation ducting. There are two hidden clips, located on both lower sides of the steering wheel, holding the lower knee-bar, which can be removed by applying a screw-driver tip to the release lever, as shown below.

  2. Reach inside and push the cluster out from behind. This is a tremendously awkward position, you must crank your arm in all the way and push out with vigor.
  3. There will be just enough room, once the cluster is out of its hole, to slide it around. Carefully manipulate it with enough room to slide your hand behind and start removing the harness connectors. There will be 4 of them. Pay close attention not to pull them out by the wires. The rounded connector can be pulled by hand. The square connector has a small tab sticking out which you must use your hook tool to pry out.
  4. Replace the ducting and the sound panels, as the installation is done from the front.
This will take longer, but if you're fearful of damaging anything, it's the safest bet.

Installation is simply done by reconnecting the electrical connectors and gently easing the cluster back into its hole. It should easily snap into place.

For older Mercedes models, removal instructions can be found here :
W126_removal_instructions
W123_removal_instructions

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Can I safely drive the car without the cluster?

You can drive the W140 without the cluster in the car, but its not suggested! You will see the following :

Without warning lights, sounds or gauges, you wont sense a problem if it occurs. Also driving without turn signals, and stiffer steering seriously compromises your safety and others, not to mention it is a technical driving violation. If you have another vehicle, drive it while the instruments are being repaired, better to be on the safe side!

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What if my cluster ends up not being the problem?

It's not usual, but entirely possible that the problem you're seeing in the cluster is actually upstream. Logically there are only a few real possibilities :

The problem could be a simple issue or a more serious vehicle electrical malfunction, or even possibly both. It's not unheard of to have a crack in the wiring harness, causing the problem. Its rare, but even possible that an electrical issue has fatally affected the instruments, and an instrument repair without finding the root problem would only cause another fatal instrument malfunction later on! Siemens has since recalled the older manual odometer design which is very sensitive to its environment and replaced with an all digital, and more forgiving cluster. Here are some steps to try to exclude the vehicle from being the source of the problem :

  1. First check the fuses! On older models, it's not un-common for the fuse contact surface to corrode due to bi-metallic contact. You'll have to yank them out, scrape the surface, and reseat. Fuse location for early W140 is on fuse box #3, and according to the (140) fuse designation, check fuses 17, 23, 24. Especially for early S/SL owners complaining of instrument malfunction when using turn signals or wipers, this can be traced down to corroded fuses. All fuses, especially fuse #9 must be checked and cleaned. Even if they look undamaged, closer inspection usually reveals weak points, all fuses should be replaced. R129 and earlier Benzes now have the option to upgrade all fuses to brass/copper ceramic fuses, which do not have bi-metallic issue, available here. The early(129) fuse designation can be found here.

    Nearly unnoticeable, this early R129 fuse is indeed faulty

    Copper contacts and aluminum ceramic fuses cause corrosion


  2. The cluster itself has a self-test diagnostic feature, which can be accessed via the clock knob on the right. The information is quite useful for debugging sensor information and general instrument health. To use it, start the engine, depress the centre of the knob for 5 sec., then extend and twist the knob clockwise. Each twist increments the test number ranging from 1 to 9, as described below. To exit test mode, turn the car off.

    Depress knob centre with pen

    1992-1994 W140/R129

    1994-1997 W140/R129


    • Test mode 1: Fuel tank contents in liters

    • Test mode 2: Momentary fuel consumption in liters/hour

    • Test mode 3: Engine oil pressure in bars

    • Test mode 4: Engine RPM

    • Test mode 5: Engine oil level (e.g. 0 indicates OK and 1 indicates Not OK)

    • Test mode 6: Guage override - 1/4 guage position

    • Test mode 7: Guage override - 2/4 guage position

    • Test mode 8: Guage override - 3/4 guage position

    • Test mode 9: Guage override - 4/4 guage position

  3. On W140 models, there could be a grounding problem due to several very important ground wires all tied together to a bolt with a single lock nut. You can see them when the cluster is out; they're located on a bracket behind the cluster. If it's not loose and doesn't move when you wiggle it, it's probably fine.

  4. For models W140 and R129, 1991-1996, the instruments' electrical harness can be checked. Using a digital multimeter (only), a few important signals can be probed on the harness connectors. NOTE: Do NOT use a mechanic's trouble light, as this feeds back power, and may cause damage! IF you do not have electrical experience or are uncomfortable checking, skip this step or seek the help of an experienced electrician! Be very careful not to short any signals to ground! The following pins are seen from the perspective of the harness ends :

    CONNECTOR 1CONNECTOR 2

    • Set multimeter and test leads for DC Voltage check (Max. 20V).
      Use grounding harness bolt (pictured above) for reference ground.
      Check for constant good positive (12V) on pin 2.12.

    • If pin 2.12 is correct, use it as a constant good reference positive (12V).
      Check for good ground (0V) on pin 1.10.

    • Put the keys in the ignition and turn them slowly until the fuel pump turns on (do not start the car).
      Use grounding harness bolt (pictured above) for reference ground.
      Check for good constant positive (12V) on pin 1.1.
      Check for good constant positive (12V) on pin 1.5.
      Activate turn signals and remeasure, ensuring voltage is stable.

    • If pin 1.1 is correct, use it as a constant good reference positive (12V).
      Check for good ground (0V) on pin 2.11.

    WARNING: Do NOT attempt to connect wires to the harness or introduce voltages to them! Irreparable harm may result to your vehicle! Only licensed Mercedes dealers can work on the electronics of your vehicle! Do not attempt to connect voltages to the instruments, as they are very sensitive and susceptible to total failure with incorrect or mis-timed voltages! A burnt wiring harness or power surge to any ECU will result in permanent vehicle and electronics damage!

    To print out these instructions, click here : printer friendly version.

    If the voltages seen on the multimeter do not match those expected above, the vehicle is most likely at fault. If the voltages appear correct, yet strange behavior is observed such as instrument failure when riding over potholes, or cold weather causing problems, this may be another indication the vehicle is at fault. Unfortunately, there is no further debugging that can be done, and the Mercedes dealer must be consulted.

If everything seems to point to the cluster, then send it in and we'll check for you. If we can't find a problem with the cluster, then the problem is still with the car. No harm done, we wont charge you anything for the diagnosis. All you need to do is pay for the shipping to get it back to yourself.

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What's this about a W140 recall?

Between 1992 and 1994 the instrument clusters for the S-Class (W140) and SL-Class (W129) had a defective recall. Various symptoms such as flickering signal lights, twitchy sensor lights, and all out blinking light shows, indicated the fault.

During those years when the vehicle was still under manufacturer's warranty, the units were replaced free of charge. Even on sale to the public, were replacement parts you could buy yourself at a lesser charge. The replacement unit was either another unit of the same type, or different unit from 1994 or higher. The newer replacement had the extra benefit of having a digital odometer.

The newer replacement has proven to be, over the years, a more reliable unit and typically does not malfunction. The original, however, is sort of a ticking time bomb. It could have malfunctioned any time from the date of purchase up until a decade and a half later. Unfortunately, Mercedes Benz does not honor the recall, and anyone stuck with this problem is forced to deal with it with their own pocketbooks, at the dealership.

Now, with our service, you have a choice!

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Why can't I just buy one from the scrap yard?

Aside from the high Mercedes prices, even for used parts, scrap yards can't really guarantee anything. Is the plastic housing scratched or cracked? Are all the LCD displays, gauges, and important warning lights still working, or even accurate? Sure, "It was working when it was removed", but how long ago was that, if it's true? Will they care after you walk out that door? With no return on electrical parts, you could be stuck with 2 broken clusters.

Lets say you get it home and plug it in. If it does work, is the odometer reading going to be close to what you had before? Probably not. Nevertheless it affects the resale value of your car. If you're an early S/SL owner, then you know that your cluster is already a recall, so another one of the same may yet fail again in the future.

All this with your car still broken! Why waste your time, when you can contact us and do it right the first time! You'll be back and running smoothly in no time.

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Are European and American clusters interchangeable?

American Cluster

European Cluster

European (metric) and American clusters are pin-compatible. As long as the entire cluster is swapped in your car, it will function normally. The differences between the two types of clusters are :

The circuit boards alone cannot be swapped, as they are not interchangeable. The American circuit board will drive MPG and Fahrenheit so the gauge will need to be MPG and the LCD Fahrenheit.

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Are the W140s and the R129s interchangeable?

Absolutely not! Although they appear to be identical, and they will fit in each respective car, the operation would be incorrect. Here are the differences :

As a result of the uniqueness of the R129 cluster, it is a more difficult unit to find second hand.

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Can I replace my older instruments with the newer digital type?

Yes, they are totally equivalent in operation. In fact, the dealer does not sell the older mechanical style any more. Once the recall was issued, the older mechanical type was eliminated from the shelves.

The only caveat is a dependence on model years for the R129, but not for W140. For example all digital W140 600, 500, 400 and 300 instruments will replace the respective mechanical types for earlier years. However for SL models it depends on year of production, specifically before or after 11/93. Thus, for example, a digital SL500 set produced in 1994 will not work on a 1991 model. This is due to signal changes in the VSS introduced in that year to make it more compatible with the W140 design. To be sure if a digital set will fit your SL, double check your VIN with the dealership. Here is a brief history:



1991-1994 R129/W140 Instruments

In MY 1991, the R129 was introduced and used the familiar mechanical type odometer instrument gauge cluster. The W140 followed suit in 1992.

During the next couple years thousands of vehicles returned to the dealer with complaints of dead instruments. The familiar blinking lightshow and dead gauges were reported to be caused from a variety of reasons such as low batteries, boosting cars, using turn signal lights, and even turning the key in the ignition too quickly. The amount of warranty claims lead Mercedes to ask Siemens/VDO (makers of the instruments) to investigate the problems and find a solution. It turns out that the instruments were very sensitive to the voltage input, and any variation from the expected input could cause total board failure! This would explain all the varied excuses owners reported to cause the failures. The vehicles themselves usually showed no signs of electrical wiring problems.


In MY 1994-1997, Siemens/VDO introduced their new digital line of instruments for the R129/W140 models. This new design proved to be a much better design which was more flexible to bad inputs and more resilient to failure. The pinout for the electrical harness did not change, which enabled dealers to issue digital instruments as direct factory replacements for all older mechanical types. As an added bonus, digital instruments introduced independent easily replaceable bulb inputs for the backlighting and LCD, which the previous design did not have.

The only known issues were failing LCD pixels on the main display. This problem would prove to reappear again in other LCD displays made for other models in later years. Symptoms such as corrupt displays, missing pixels, and failures in colder weather would plague owners for years to come. The W140 implementation was a little different than other models, and so problems were rare.


1994-1997 R129/W140 Instruments



1997-2000 R129/W140 Instruments

In MY 1997-2000, the appearance of the W140/R129 instruments did not change, however Mercedes and Siemens/VDO collaborated and implemented a bold new strategy that spanned all models. The new strategy used a universal instrument wiring harness and a new square connector that every model would use. Obviously, the instruments themselves changed from model to model, but the connection was meant to be the same.

This change also marked the beginning of a new concept in the automotive world, which was to utilize the CAN information serial bus to pass signals in the vehicle. Up to then Mercedes only used a low speed CAN bus in the engine compartment. The new design used a low speed CAN for all sensor inputs and high speed CAN everywhere time critical information was needed. The increase in complexity reduced wiring, and therefore reduced costs. The downside was the complexity proved to be harder for the average owner to service their own cars. The days of basic resistive-type sensors and dedicated wires to the instruments were over. Other European manufacturers soon followed suit, but it would take another decade before American manufacturers adopted the design in some of their models.


In MY 2000 the W140 changed into the W220, and Siemens/VDO introduced a new digital line of instruments. They also again redesigned the wiring implementation on the W220. The new connector used even less wires and used a single high speed CAN bus throughout the car. Complexity reached dizzying heights for the W220, by converting all sensors to information carriers on one main high speed CAN bus super-highway. The concept immigrated to other models in later years, which is where Mercedes has evolved to today.

Increasing complexity yields several benefits, other than decreasing production costs. It also gives Mercedes exclusive vehicle repair rights, as technician training and proprietary testing equipment virtually eliminates any other entity from servicing their vehicles.


2000+ W220 Instruments


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My instruments say "EXH TEMP" on the bottom, what does that mean?

The bottom of the instruments have colourized light strips that indicate functions installed in the vehicle. These are custom tailored to the specific vehicle depending on what options were installed from the factory. The North american standard issue light strips can be seen below.

"EXH TEMP" is a sensor on the exhaust manifold used as a smog option in some countries. Typically Japanese cars will have this feature. When vehicles get exported into other countries that feature may be disabled.

Light panel strips - North American Models

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What taxes do you charge (for Canadians)?

Each province in Canada has its own tax scheme, they are not all uniform. Some pay PST, GST, RST or HST. The following map depicts the tax layout for Canada :

Canadian Provincial Tax Map

As a business registered in Ontario, MBCluster charges tax depending on the province the customer is located. If it is out of province, the customer will be charged the GST/HST rate based on where the goods are being shipped to.

Therefore, if it is B.C., the charge is 12%, in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, or New Brunswick, the charge is 13%, to Nova Scotia 15% and if it is Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec or Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut or the Yukon, the only charge is 5% (the GST rate).

Source: http://sbinfocanada.about.com/b/2010/09/03/shipping-out-of-province-should-you-charge-them-hst.htm


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How do I know if my odometer gear is broken?

If your odometer or clock is not turning as it should, a broken gear may not necessarily be the cause of the problem. As newer odometers are electrically driven, an electrical fault may be the source of the problem. Burnt driver chips, or dried capacitors are often times the root cause. Symptoms of these electrical faults are excessive battery drain when resting, or general inaccuracy.

Although, not to say that gears are seldom the issue, as they are simply made of vinyl, and prone to the caustic effects of petroleum products such as grease over time. Typically, though, cars from hotter climates, such as the southern states like California, or Hawaii will be prone to broken odometer gears due to the excessive heat. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say whether the gear is broken or not without disassembly. The following are examples of broken gears:

W126 with broken vinyl gears

W140 with broken vinyl gear

W124 with odometer gear slipped off shaft

If the gear is indeed broken, a fresh set is available from a large and reputable US supplier located in Virginia. The specific gear will depend on being applicable for metric or imperial use, and will require a careful and precise gear count. The specifics of the gear measurements can be found here:



New gears from www.odometergears.com


MBCluster deals exclusively from this supplier, and we can order the gear once your instruments are received and diagnosed. Shipping times are usually a week, no extra stock is kept on hand, as the specific gear varies with application.


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Why do people replace the 140/129 wiring harnesses?

During the years 1990-1994, beginning from the introduction of the new 129/140 models, Mercedes decided to deploy a soy-based wire sheathing for its wiring harnesses. After a short time, they discovered that this material was highly biodegradable and prone to premature failure. After MY 1994 they returned to the industry standard polymer based sheathing material for all models.

All harnesses within the 1990-1994 129/140 models are susceptible to premature failure, although fortunately, due to the moderate ambient in-cabin conditions, most of the interior harnesses tend to not fail. The issue predominantly affects the engine compartment harnesses, which have the more aggressive hot and cold engine conditions. This is the reason why many forums and mechanics will usually recommend replacing the engine harness as a first line of defense against electrical issues.

To see if your harness is in certain need of replacement, closely inspect your engine wiring harnesses to see if they are showing signs of failure similar to the images pictured below:

The implications of a deteriorated wire sheathing range from infrequent electrical glitches to all out catastrophic failure. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, several complaints have been recorded regarding electrical hazards. This link is a transcript of some consumer complaints.

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Email : Info@MBCluster.com