I had a slight accident and cracked the lens of my tail light on the passenger side of my Sprinter last week, but rather than get all upset about it I started looking around for a replacement to see how expensive and difficult it would be to replace it myself instead of turn myself in to my insurance company and give them an opportunity to raise my rates, plus the down time associated with taking it to a place that could get the part and sit around while they installed it. For us fulltimers, there is no “drop it off and we’ll see when we can get to it.” Turned out to be a gravy job, and not much money, either.
I don’t know and don’t want to know what a dealership would charge for this tail lamp assembly, and a quick look online revealed $100ish prices for ones claiming to be OEM, but it’s a chunk of plastic with no moving parts, and there are plenty of enterprising manufacturers who will go to the trouble of tooling up to make a high-volume part like this. I ended up buying it from Rockauto, a big online parts supplier I had used for a variety of parts before, and price was $63.79. Since I’m an old customer they had no problems with my explanation about why they had to ship it to a tiny UPS outlet in Gold Beach, OR for me to pick up. A week later, I was unwrapping my shiny new tail lamp assembly.
A quick inspection of the hidden side of the new assembly revealed that this was gonna be easy, there are three screws down the inboard edge in the door frame, and three plastic prongs which snap into three holes on the outer edge. No need to disassemble all the paneling inside to get to the back of the assembly – Mercedes thinks these things out. No problem.
Well, slight problem. The three screws were Torx head fasteners, which Mercedes is very fond of. Luckily, Chris Deakins the Parts and Service Manager at Roadtrek had given me a fancy set of these – we had needed them for a customer repair job up at the Montana Meetup last summer, and he had no further use for them since he wasn’t going to be fixing anymore Mercedes components, and knew I was, so he gave them to me – sorta like getting socks for Christmas, but they came in handy for this job.
Off came the three screws, out popped the three prongs, and the tail lamp assembly was loose. the electrical hookup is a snap-in MPC (multi-pin connector), all very modular and modern, just press the release thingies at each end and it comes right off. Beats all those pairs of wires to each bulb like we had in the old days. I really see a lot of improvements in the newer vehicles compared to what i used to work on forty years ago. My old Volvo 1800 had Lucas electrics and Smiths gauges because the body was built in England – don’t get me started on that stuff.
Less than thirty minutes after I started, i was all finished up, and the evidence of my vehicular friskiness had been completely eliminated. For a very reasonable price, and without unduly alarming my insurance company. Now I can go back to my usual schedule of staring out to sea all day, knowing my vehicle is good as new. I know it’s a Mercedes, but it’s still just a car. You can fix it cheaply and easily.