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Old 05-04-2004, 08:07 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 66
Wot I lurned changing the evaporator on a '99 E430

In the spirit of giving back here are my comments on changing the evaporator in a '99 E430. The following relates to changing the evaporator but not refilling the system with freon.

(i) As others have said, it's a long job but it isn't particularly difficult, requires few special tools and no special knowledge. I was doing it on Sundays and some evenings and it took a couple of weeks. If possible arrange other transport; you don't want to be rushed. You'll need an area bigger than the footprint of the car to layout the stuff you'll be removing. You'll have to decide for yourself if you're up for this job - if you're not intimidated by the thought of taking out the dash out you'll find it easier than you expect, if you are then don't do it. If you normally break trim when you take it apart or strip screws in plastic this isn't the job for you.

(ii) Tools - I spent about $125 on special tools, ignition key bezel, instrument cluster puller, radio keys, torx for the steering wheel, big metric allen for center of steering wheel nut (not sure of size) and there is a pair of plastic wedges that are great for prying pieces of trim. I borrowed a vac pump and AC gauges from AutoZone (you buy and then they buy back) - great deal, I had them for 3 weeks, they were new and seemed to me to be good quality. The only non standard tools you'll need is a set of small screwdrivers for pressing locking tabs in electrical connectors and a set of torx - Craftsman has both.

(iii) Information - you'll need a days worth of subscription to MB's Star TekInfo ( I got my money's worth and downloaded a bunch of stuff but IMHO it isn't very well organized and I missed documentation on some of the steps I needed - nonetheless it's the probably the best there is. In my case I missed info on adjusting the windshield wiper, filling with freon etc. There is also an MB training video on CD that covers a lot of the interior trim - very useful.

(iv) Take pictures - there are situations where technology does wonderful things and using a digital camera to "memorize" how it all goes together is one of those. I took around 200 photo's and was still missing some steps. Simply shoot each connector, tie wrap, routing, etc as you undo it then transfer the pictures to you're computer (notebook in the garage is nice) and view them in reverse. Aside from "take a lot" I'd add be sure to take some pictures of the overall layout of things, for me after the dash was out I wish I'd taken 20 shots of what was underneath, and you need shots from a number of angles to get all the details. My mistake was that many of my pictures were zoomed in to far, filling the screen with a connector doesn't do a good job of showing which of the 100 connectors you're looking at and you can always zoom in with the viewing software. I wouldn't embark on a job like this without a digital camera.

(v) Parts - Phil at Fastlane does a great job. I think I spent around $650 on parts.

(vi) The good

- MB does make a car where the trim can be taken apart and put back together without breaking.
- Technically this isn't a difficult job, it is a long job, I'd recon over 20 hrs in my case.

(vii) The bad

- There must be 20 different types of electrical connector and most have little tabs to lock them together, you'll need some small screwdrivers, pliers etc to pull them apart. I spent 30 minutes on one connector trying to figure out where the catches were.
- I broke the metal clips off the bottom of the plastic trim that covers the carpet to sill joint (sits under the passenger door) - I don't think there was any way around it, the metal clips were dug into the metal and you can only pull on the plastic. Be very careful - try to work the screwdriver under the plastic till you feel the metal and then pry those.

The car in question is 5 yrs old and has 69500 miles, I predict extended warranties on MB's will get more expensive, buy now.

Thanks to those who have replied to my various posts,


Last edited by pwells; 05-04-2004 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 05-04-2004, 08:19 AM
yosshimura's Avatar
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Liberty City, FL
Posts: 653
Good info, thanks for a view from a normal person like some of us, not a mechanic by trade, lol.

Sad, that you had to go through all that with so little miles and so new, sad indeed.

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