TRYING TO REMOVE THE LED BRAKE LIGHT UNIT MYSELF WAS NOT WORTH THE MONEY I SAVED. Removing the 3rd brake light on my 2000 W210 wagon was a disaster.
In removing the LED light bar I also damaged the sheet metal opening for the 3rd brake light on my tailgate. Half of the plastic mounts for the metal clips on the various trim parts broke off. I do not know how well all the trim parts will go back on the tailgate now that almost half the clips are permanently gone. I bet a dealer would break a fair share of these as well but maybe less than I did. If you decide to go forward with this job you have been warned.
A W210 wagon 3rd brake light is a small well-built LED light bar that is a single permanently sealed unit. It is a long lasting electrical part exposed to the elements 24/7. Every single individual LED light itself will probably not last for the entire length of time these great cars can last. I see the 3rd brake LED light bar as having to be replaced on all of these cars someday. My LED light bar had just ONE single LED out. And it was a big issueÖ
The insane part is trying to remove the old LED light bar.
Yes there are diagrams of four tools a professional metal worker could make to supposedly make removing the LED light bar possible, but I am not a metal worker and those tools are not available to the public as far as I have found. The dealer might have had the custom made tools made for this parts removal and be able to use them then. Again, these tools are not made for the retail market.
Installing a new light bar can be simple. Plug the wire into the LED unit first; BEFORE YOU insert the light bar into its slot. Apply the brakes and see if ALL of the LEDís light up. If ALL LEDís light up then just push the light bar into its slot and you should be done with that 3rd brake light issue for another decade. The fit of the light bar unit is amazingly perfect as long as the new gasket is in perfect shape and the tailgate opening was not damaged when the old LED light was removed. Trying to remove a light bar will probably destroy the unit due to its age and the plastic parts exposure to the elements over the many years.
1. ONE single little LED light in a 3rd brake light bar that is NOT WORKING - CAN FORCE YOUR CAR TO FAIL A STATE SAFETY INSPECTION! (In the USA and Europe) And then your car can not get registered/titled or get new plates or new tags!
This happened to me as I was changing my vehicle registration from IL to MO... I know this sounds insane but it is the truth. One little LED light out of many perfectly working LEDís is a legal reason to get pulled over by a cop for a fix it ticket etc. and or fail a state required safety inspection. (Now COPS might not see a single Burned out LED, BUT IF THEY DO, THEY ARE LEGALLY ALLOWED AND CLEARED TO PULL YOUR CAR OVER AND START THE PROCESS OF WHAT EVER IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT.)
My 2000 W210 wagon had one SINGLE LITTLE LED not working on the 3rd brake LED light bar with over 30+? working LED lights and my vehicle failed the MO state safety inspection and I was totally screwed...
(In hindsight you might be able to go to another tech and see if they miss a LED being out but, good luck with that. Anyway, once one LED is dead it is just a matter of time before there is a 2nd or a 3rd dead LED that shows up.) I now have to wait for the part to come from the dealer and it put me over the time limit for inspection stickers and now I will probably have to pay more money to register my car because it will be more than 30+ days since getting my car. Just for the record, I now hate LED lights on cars and can only see this type of BS happening on all the new cars I see these days with all their individual tiny LED lights in a row.
2. GO TO A STEALER AND GET READY TO PAY 200 TO 500? BUCKS FOR THEM TO DO THE JOB.
100 to 200 for the LED itself and then installation costs. If the dealer has the correct tool to remove the LED bar the install price might not be that bad after all. I did not call to get a quote. I would recommend you call first because this job is an amazing pain in the ass to do in hindsight. I now HAVE to buy a new LED light bar anyway and I damaged the sheet metal for the LED 3rd brake light opening and now have to patch it and the new gasket with silicon sealant, (BAD JOEBEAR!) Having had someone else do all this crap would have been worth it. Trust me!!!
3. REMOVING THE LED LIGHT BAR IS A HUGE MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS.
The LED bar is a mixture of 4 stainless steel ďUĒ shaped spring clamps that are amazing strong, permanently attached to the LED bar and EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to IMPOSSIBLE to remove from the LED bar itself.
In the act of trying to man handle the LED light bar out in many broken pieces CAN bend the sheet metal opening of the wagons tailgate where the new light is going back to go into. It happened on mine.
The opening for the LED light is an exact and extremely precise fit. I can see why that LED light bar never leaked after being exposed to the elements for over 17 years and 200,000 plus miles. The fit of the light bar and its gasket is a great example of why I drive the W210 series of cars.
Unfortunately, I have messed up the opening for the LED light bar while I was removing the light bar and am sure the new LED bar will now leak. So I have no choice but to reinstall a new light bar with some type of silicone sealant with the gasket to make the LED bar water proof. It is not a good idea to let water get inside the tailgate near the wiper motor and the door latch with all its electrical parts needed to close down and lock the rear hatch on these wagons. In another decade, my beloved 4-matic wagon will probably already be recycled so some poor guy will not have to undo this sealant mess I have to put in now. If the four stainless steel clips that hold the bar in place came off; the LED bar removal would be no big deal, they do not and it is a big deal.
(In hindsight; To make the old light bar loose I shoved my fingers into the open slots behind the LED bar and I placed my fingers between the top of the LED bar and the sheet metal. I then pulled down on the LED bar and it began to crack and then break some of the red lens of the old LED bar. I tried to pull out the metal retaining clips. It messed up everything. I then just tried to break apart any thing I could get a needle nose pliers in. I kept on doing this until the entire LED bar fell backwards and was no longer held in place by the four metal clamps. I was half way through destroying the old LED bar when the LED bar flipped over backwards. Now the back side of the LED bar was pointing towards the opening of the tailgate. When this happened, removing the LED light bar remnant was much easier. I wonder if I could have rotated the LED bar so the red lens was pointing away from the opening and then removed the whole Light bar a hell of a lot faster and without damaging the sheet metal???
I read some guy used plastic cards to help get the LED bar out but I have no idea in the world how you would do this.
Possible ghetto version of getting your wagon to pass safety inspections.
Option one: Cover up the 3rd brake light with say black electrical tape so you cannot see the light any more.
Tape installed over the LED light bar, done well with an Exacto blade cutting the tape to fit perfectly over the LED unit, might make the now missing 3rd brake light become rather invisible. If the tech says something you could try saying it was not an option on this car and was not installed. If you go to some ghetto inspection place maybe the kid doing the inspection will not put it together that there is supposed to be a 3rd brake light and you have covered it up with tape and he passes the cars safety inspection. Rain, cold or very hot weather or darkness are one way techs rush their jobs to be done faster. If possible you might try to have the ghetto place do the safety inspection at these times. As soon as a real tech sees you just covered up a light with tape you will probably fail the test though.
Option two: Install some after-market 3rd brake light set up on the inside of the rear window.
Maybe you could just paint over the old LED light bar to make it invisible. Or; using an Exacto blade to cut around say, black electrical tape fit over the LED unit, might make the now missing 3rd LED brake light unit become invisible. Remember, the old light unit has to be covered or disconnected to use another light unit.
There are complete kits out there for 3rd brake lights that attach to a rear window. Most of the kits are for sedans and are at an angle instead of being vertical like the rear window on a wagons tailgate. There are some of these kits made just for vertical windows though.
If you are really broke or the car is near death anyway you could try making your own 3rd light set up. The 3rd brake light has to be red by law though. All you really need is for a good amount of red light to come on when the brakes are on. A small strip of red LEDs should do the trick or whatever else you make.
The w210ís two outside brake lights/turn indicators are very low on the w210 body and any 3rd brake light you install will be above the outside brake lights so; it should be acceptable to a safety tech. I would tap the wiring from a side tail light housing and then run it up to the tailgate hinge alongside the wires that go into the tailgate already and then down to the new aftermarket 3rd tail light set up. Avoid removing the trim panels from the tailgate if you can! Itís a total pain in the ass. Double sided tape or glue works wonders! Using an after-market 3rd brake light saves the trouble and expense of a new MB LED 3rd brake light as well as opening up the rear tailgates plastic interior trim parts which I advise you not to do if you can avoid it...
I also wondered about an old trick I saw in high school. Some guy used paint or tape over the red lens of his tail lights to spell out a word. If you were a good artist maybe you could design and cover up some of the burned out LEDís as well as some of the LEDís that were not burned out. If you found some red tape that did not let the working LED lights underneath them show you might be able to make a convincing alternating pattern covering, like one on one off etc. Done correctly such a pattern might make the remaining LEDís look normal and it would pass a safety inspection.
IT IS A REACH BUT IT MIGHT BE THE CHEAPEST WAY TO GO IF IT WORKS.
sirguyrodney has pictures in his post of the trim pieces from the rear tailgate. After you remove the two metal screws; all the plastic fasteners, inside flexible handle, the plastic little frame held on with a single tiny screw that goes around the interior door release you can now move on to a trick I saw to help preserve two of the big panel clips in the tailgate. Lift off the lower plastic trim piece that goes all the way across the bottom of the tailgate. Now slowly pull one side of the lower trim piece 1Ē to 3Ēapart. Now look up between the bottom of the tailgate and the trim piece that is still attached. Look for the two clips that are holding the two pieces together. When you find that point, place a long flat screwdriver firmly against one clip and push. Doing that should help you separate the tailgate and the big trim piece without breaking it off, then do the one on the other side. Now all the other plastic pieces seem to break half of their plastic/metal clips upon removal I found.