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Instrument Cluster 1990 300SL

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monarchd's picture
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:( I have a 1990 300SL with a manual transmission with 82,000 miles on the odometer. I had an intermittent problem with my instrument cluster which I'm hearing may be a common problem. (It's now not intermittent). What was happening was all my gauges would read zero even while the engine was running. Like, no fuel, no oil pressure, no speedometer and no tach. Also my low fuel, coolant and seat belt lights would flash off and on. Now this may be a way out of a speeding ticket saying my speedo's not working, but with no oil pressure gauge, I don't know if I have oil pressure. The car seems to run fine otherwise. So I guess I'm wondering if anybody else has had this problem and if it's an easy fix. It looks to me as if it could be a bad ground, but then again, maybe I'll have to scrap the car. Or since I live in Wisconsin it's almost time to put the car away for the winter and maybe it'll fix itself when I take it out in spring.

Thanks
Bill Bayliss

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On my '86 300 SDL, I had two separate issues with my gauges, first they would fluctuate quite a bit. For example, my temp gauge would shoot up into the red, but the car was running normal temp. The oil pressure gauge would drop to zero, but I had normal pressure. It turned out there were two cracked grounds on the back of the instrument cluster. After my indi mechanic repaired the grounds, this stopped the problem until about two weeks after, I lost all gauges. What was really odd, was with the engine running, opening the driver's door would cause my warning buzzers to go off for no reason.

I replaced the fuse for the instrument cluster and this problem was solved.

I don't know if either of these issues could be your problem, but maybe this will help a little.

Regards,

Anonymous
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That's kind of what I had in mind, but just wasn't sure where to start. My fuel gauge has been kind of funky since I bought the car four years and 10k miles ago. If anybody else has any other thoughts I'd appreciate it. I just wish I had more time to mess with it, but thanks for your assistance, I'm sure you're sending me in the right direction.

Bill Bayliss

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Hi Bill,

One thing I forgot to mention, Dr. Booth, ("der Diesel Doctor") who helps many of us diesel drivers in the Diesel section, recommends changing all fuses every ten years. Apparently, this is about the life of them and sometimes, according to what Dr. Booth has stated, the fluttery gauge issue has been solved simply by new fuses!

I saw my instrument cluster after it was pulled out, each gauge cluster had these small metal "bands" running of each one that were the grounds, one of the had corroded and just broke right through!

Good luck!

Regards,

Anonymous
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Thanks for all the tips guys. I pulled all the fuses and re-installed them and the problem went away. Right now I'm going to run out and buy all new fuses. Which I wouldn't think would be the issue. But I guess it is.

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Hi Bill,

I am glad to hear that this seems to have solved your problem. Isn't it great when a simple fix resolves the problem. One reason I love my car!

Have a great weekend.

Regards,

Anonymous
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Well I guess the new fuse thing was short lived. The instrument panel is acting up again. Is pulling the instrument panel a big job or is it kind of self explanatory? I just bought those hooks to remove the cluster on ebay, but I haven't got them yet.

Thanks
Bill Bayliss

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Dear Willy,

I had the exact problem on my 1990 300sl, which I bought from a friend out of an extended storage.

I found a intermittent connection (corrosion, film) at the fuse under the hood on the drivers side. I believe it was fuse #5.
cleaning this connection should solve your problem.

Bill

(1990 300sl, 1994 E420, 1998 E320 4matic)

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Thanks Bill:
So far it's not a fuse problem, but what you're telling me is that it's probably a corrosion problem at a connection somewhere. Not sure how it would be corroded, the car has never seen a winter. But then again it has sat for extended periods of time.

Bill Bayliss

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Willie,

My problem was fixed with 2000 grit sand paper. I just polished the terminals for the fuse.

I found this out while replacing the fuse, which of course was'nt bad, and moving it around between the terminals would make or break the connection.

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Well I'm just finding time to work on this problem right now. Car's been down for a month and a half now, although the salt and the snow will keep me from driving it anyway. Tried burnishing all the connections I could find, including the fuse holder's to no avail. I'm ready to pull the instrument cluster, but it doesn't appear to be as easy as I'd hope. I see right now there's an instrument cluster on ebay for $400, although it's the wrong red line on the tach, (it's for a 500). Don't know if that's a good deal or not? I'd still like to take the cluster out to look for bad solder joints but not sure how to do it. Has anybody taken the cluster out and how would you do it? If it's bad I'm going to have to take it out anyway. But I would hate to take a sawzall to the dash.

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Tom Hanson's picture
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I hope that fixes your problem, or else you need a new cluster.

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Prior MB cars: 2010 ML350 Bluetec, 2003 C320 Coupe, 1986 300SDL, 1971 300SEL 6.3, 1973 450SE, 1959 220S, 2011 C300

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Well I found time to work on the cluster. Bought a 300sl cluster on ebay for $175. Seems to work well now, but the only problem there is now is that my mileage was 80,000 miles and the new(used) one reads 133,000. Does anybody know how to reset the odometer on the new one. It has the old tumbler style like the one that was in the car (1990)

Thanks
Bill Bayliss

PS It sure was miserable getting the original one out. Also does anybody know about what it would cost to repair the original?

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As far as I know they can not be repaired. Also the IC is really easy to pull out if you go and buy the tools from the dealer for $13, they have handles on the end, you put each end on each side of the IC, turn the handle a quarter and pull, takes 3 seconds. The mileage will have to be reset by MB, you would have to take your old one in with your new one, they send it off to be reset to the mileage of the failed unit. Happy Benzing!

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Well, I was told by an old mechanic that if the cluster has never been out and it's old(15 years) that I'll have a very difficult time taking it out, possibly even breaking the plastic face of the unit. Anyway, I broke two hooks getting it out and finally after buying another set, it finally worked it's way free of the dash. Now of course it will take only 3 seconds too take it in and out, because the rubber that's between the cluster and the dash almost seems like it melts in place after time. Well I'm throwing those rubber shims away when I re-install the cluster, hopefully it won't rattle, but I doubt it will. Also as far as the odometer is concerned, all I did was change out the speedo/odometer portion of the cluster and now everything is just great. :)

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Thanks for letting me know, I didn't think you could just replace the individual items because MB says replace the whole thing, but that is their mentality, rather than take a chance of something else failing they replace the whole thing. I am glad you got it fixed, that is great! Good luck!
Brian

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Chappy's picture
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1991 300CE
Possibly some good news here!

My good friend has a 1991 500SL and had issues with his instrument cluster as well. He also got the song and dance about having to replace the unit ($1,000+). Eventually, he located a shop in North Carolina (if I recall correctly) that was able to repair his instrument cluster correctly. He saved big money.

He goes by mooneypilot....I'll try to find the name of the shop and post here.

EDIT:
Here's the info he posted:

"I had a flashing lights/jumping gauges problem on my 1991 500SL instrument cluster. The OEM part is $1400.

Beckmann Technologies in Durham NC overhauled my cluster for $330 with a warranty and it works so far for a month. +1 800 7421021. You should go through your mechanic to get this price, as they charge a higher price if you go direct.

I looked for 2 years on ebay. Don't buy unless you can return; the problem might not be in your cluster, or you might get one that had the same or worse problems as yours.

Also, I'd be careful about claims of "compatibility". While the clusters look the same, the harnesses, etc are different. The early clusters with the reel odometers are hard to find, OEM replacements are digital only.

The authorized Mercedes dealers are obligated to set the mileage to the correct miles on the car and certify it. Most states have big fines for changing mileage; don't do it. Many states pick up miles on inspection where they are picked up on CarFax."

Hope this helps! :) BTW, Beckmann Technologies also happens to be a sponsor at StarTech!

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