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Instrument Cluster Removal and Light Bulb Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Instrument Cluster Removal and Light Bulb Replacement

Tom Morr

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$1.00-$10.75 per bulb

Talent:

**

Tools:

Long T30 Torx driver, 10mm hex/Allen bit, socket extensions, breaker bar, Phillips screwdriver, 6mm nut-driver, needle-nose pliers

Applicable Models:

Mercedes-Benz R170 (1998-04)

Parts Required:

Replacement light bulbs

Hot Tip:

Don't touch good bulbs with bare fingers

Performance Gain:

Restores proper instrument cluster illumination
Burned out instrument cluster bulbs aren't always obvious. The main backlight bulbs obviously make the gauges hard to read at night if one burns out, but the indicator bulbs aren't as apparent. We tend to ignore the light "test" when the key is turned to the "1" position on the ignition cylinder.

USA-spec R170 SLKs have 25 bulbs in the instrument cluster. Now that these cars are 10-plus years old, the factory-installed bulbs' service lives are likely fading into the sunset. While some owners are content to live with burned-out indicator lights, spending a couple hours and a few bucks can restore the cluster to its fully illuminated glory.

The R170 cluster only uses two different bulb styles for USA-market cars. The instruments are backlit by a pair of clear 2-watt bulbs, mounted in yellow bases: OEM # 001-544-55-94. Indicators and warning lights (23 of them) are all clear 1.5-watt bulbs in beige bases: OEM #910141-000000. The 2-watt bulbs are sold bare and must be inserted into their bases; the 1.5-watt bulbs come complete with bases.

The air bag and lower inner panel must be removed first. See our articles on steering wheel removal and lower inner panel removal for more information. 

Once the air bag and lower panels are off, the cluster cover trim piece can be removed; two Phillips screws hold it in place.

M-B models allow the cluster to be removed with the steering wheel still in place. In these cars, special L-shaped tools are used to hook the cluster and remove it. 

In contrast, the R170's cluster is held in place by four Phillips screws. The lower interior panels and cover trim plate must be removed to expose the cluster. Some owners have successfully removed the cupholder and shimmied the cluster out with the steering wheel still in place. We tried this approach but weren't able to easily reach and release the wiring harnesses. Plus, the 15-year-old plastic pieces on our project 2000 SLK230 are fragile, so we weren't comfortable squeezing the cluster out between the steering wheel, dash, and upper center console.On a positive note, the R170 cluster only uses two different bulb styles for USA-market cars. The instruments are backlit by a pair of clear 2-watt bulbs, mounted in yellow bases: OEM # 001-544-55-94. Indicators and warning lights (23 of them) are all clear 1.5-watt bulbs in beige bases: OEM #910141-000000. The 2-watt bulbs are sold bare and must be inserted into their bases; the 1.5-watt bulbs come complete with bases.

Pre-ordering the bulbs allows the job to be completed in one session. 


Applying liquids or solvents to the Plexiglas can cause it to scratch or crack. Proper 1.5-volt bulb placement can be verified by removing a bulb and holding the cluster's gauge side toward light. The indicator icon will be visible through the empty light hole.

Pelican Parts also offers new, replacement instrument clusters (170-540-39-11-MBZ).

Finally, the car's immobilizer control unit is located behind the instrument cluster. Follow the steps here to access it once the cluster is out.
 
Always disconnect the battery before doing any electrical work.
Figure 1

Always disconnect the battery before doing any electrical work. Voltage spikes can damage the instrument cluster. Make sure that the battery's negative cable is disconnected and shielded from the negative post: An airbag misfire can be deadly. Wait about 30 minutes for the airbag's capacitor to discharge before proceeding.

A T30 Torx driver, ideally 2.
Figure 2

A T30 Torx driver, ideally 2.5 inches or longer, is required for removing the airbag bolts. M-B offers a special tool for the job, but a cheap parts store Torx set will work.

Unplug the airbag (green arrow) and store it face up out of the sun.
Figure 3

Unplug the airbag (green arrow) and store it face up out of the sun.

The steering wheel must be stabilized so that the force required to loosen its retaining screw doesn't damage the steering wheel's locking mechanism.
Figure 4

The steering wheel must be stabilized so that the force required to loosen its retaining screw doesn't damage the steering wheel's locking mechanism.

The lower interior panels are removed to create access to the cluster cover.
Figure 5

The lower interior panels are removed to create access to the cluster cover. It has a Phillips screw on each side of the steering column. (We initially attempted to remove the cluster with the steering wheel in place.)

The cluster cover has one Phillips screw on its right side.
Figure 6

The cluster cover has one Phillips screw on its right side.

Molded-in plastic hooks hold the cluster cover's top edge in place.
Figure 7

Molded-in plastic hooks hold the cluster cover's top edge in place. Carefully pull the cover forward to release these. Then the cover can be lifted up and out, between the steering column and dashboard.

Four Phillips screws (green arrows) hold the cluster in place.
Figure 8

Four Phillips screws (green arrows) hold the cluster in place.

A wiring plug on either side is secured by a gray lock-lever.
Figure 9

A wiring plug on either side is secured by a gray lock-lever. Depress a tang behind the lever (green arrow), then swing the lever outward. The left harness is longer. Angle the cluster out toward the left door.

The cluster's backside holds 25 bulbs.
Figure 10

The cluster's backside holds 25 bulbs. Two are 2-watt (yellow bases); the other 23 (beige bases) are 1.5-watt.

The cleanest way to remove the small bulbs is with a 6mm nut-driver, twisting about a quarter turn counter-clockwise.
Figure 11

The cleanest way to remove the small bulbs is with a 6mm nut-driver, twisting about a quarter turn counter-clockwise.

On burned-out bulbs, the broken wire filament is usually apparent.
Figure 12

On burned-out bulbs, the broken wire filament is usually apparent. (This one is fine.) The replacement 1.5-watt bulbs come mounted on bases.

To remove the 2-watt bulbs, cushion needle-nose pliers' jaws with tape or a rag before latching on to the bulb's base.
Figure 13

To remove the 2-watt bulbs, cushion needle-nose pliers' jaws with tape or a rag before latching on to the bulb's base.

The 2-watt bulbs pull out of their bases.
Figure 14

The 2-watt bulbs pull out of their bases. Replacement 2-watt bulbs normally are sold without bases.

Don't touch good bulbs with bare fingers.
Figure 15

Don't touch good bulbs with bare fingers. Skin oil creates hot spots on the glass, shortening bulb life. Installation is the reverse of removal. If the odometer reading is wrong or other problems are noticed after reinstalling the cluster, disconnect the battery and double-check that both wiring harnesses are locked into the cluster. If they are and problems persist, remove the cluster and look for bent pins in the cluster's plugs and any obvious signs of harness damage.

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Comments and Suggestions:
geir Comments: If i will have red light in my slk 170 dashboard, what type of buulb will i need, and howe many. Thanks
May 11, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Please share a photo of the light you are referring to. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Martin Comments: I want an instrument led instrument cluster kit for SLK 230 1997 but I want red. Do you sell this kit
March 25, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Pelican Parts may be able to get you one. To be sure, Give our parts specialists a call at 1-310-626-8765
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
mackymac18 Comments: Thank you.
February 10, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Marky Comments: What big 2w yellow bases bulbs go on the top of cluster on Mercedes SLK R170 are they T-5 or T-10 or what are they called Thank you
February 8, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am not 100% sure. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Sergey Comments: This article needs the following precaution: NEVER, NEVER connect your battery before you've connected the airbag. Otherwise you'll get an SRS error and need to visit dealer for clearing it. In other words, the SRS controller will not find your driver airbag connected and turn on the SRS dashboard light which will never go away by its own even after you've connected the airbag.
January 31, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it. I will have the article updated.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Grooveman Comments: Can we also get a description of replacing the ashtray bulb for the r170 and what kind of bulb we need here??
December 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We don't currently have that tech article. If we get a chance to perform the procedure, we will be sure to document it.

I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Jim Comments: Hi,
I have a 2003 Mercedes SLK230 kompressor with the following problem.
The warning lights on the left side of my dash are out Ie: Check engine, oil pressure, SRS, water level, windshield washer, etc. do not light when I turn the key on. The instrument lights and the warning lights on the right work normally. Any help please.
October 27, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The cluster circuit shares a ground and power feeds. The problem is likely internal tot he cluster. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Porsche-O-Phile Comments: Good write-up. Historically I've always removed the cluster the hard way without removing the steering wheel mostly because I was paranoid about messing around near the air bag. Of course this risks breaking plastic clips been lucky - only do this when it's warm out too! but after reading this I realize it's more of a non-issue than previously thought so I'm doing it your way for the current bulb replacement. Thanks for that! If you could confirm - the small 1.5W bulbs do just about everything - the 2W bulbs provide "wash" of light to the instrument faces and that's pretty much it so if you've got a burned out annunciator like I do, it's going to be a 1.5W bulb correct? This would help folks ordering the right bulbs but given the ratio of 1.5W:2W::23:2 if in doubt, get a 1.5W better still, get a couple of spares!
September 3, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 1.5w, if I remember correctly. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
beemer1100 Comments: if the battery is disconnected will you lose data for the radio or cause any error faults on reconnection
June 5, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, radio memory and any other adaptive comfort features. Like auto windows. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jan Comments: When I first saw this page "Instrument Cluster Removal and Light Bulb Replacement" for my SLK R170 I was like yeaah! just what I needed.
So I want all the lights necessary for this job but I couldn't find a button to click on to order all of them at once. So I though that would have been to easy. So I'll order them manually then, but there is no mention of what type of lamp I need to order for this project. Needless to say that I was disappointed. So my suggestion is to add a button at the top of the page that will add all the necessary lamps in my cart.

-Jan
December 6, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: we are working on it. Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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