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Coupe/Convertible Forums Moderator
CURRENT: 2011 SL550, 2011 C300 FORMER: ML350, CLK550 Cabriolet, C240, ML320, 300TD
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18,991 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
There are several threads here where people are looking for "build sheet" information. Most are curious as to whether or not their engines fall into the range for potential "balance shaft" failure. Others are just looking for their car's data card to see what factory options were installed, delivery date, etc.

This information is all available by searching MBZ's Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) by the VIN. I have a copy of EPC good through MY2011. Anything later than that and my EPC is no good for data cards. While I definitely do not mind looking up data for fellow forum friends, I wanted to "demystify" this process so that anyone can do it in case you don't want to wait on my replies.

First, you could get your own copy of EPC. It's available as a stand-alone program or along with the Workstation Information System (WIS, i.e. MBZ's shop manual for dealers), or as part the full Star Diagnosis System (SDS, a.k.a. Xentry, MBZ's diagnostic system for dealers). These are commonly available on eBay and other sites as "cloned" copies. WIS usually sells for around US$30, where SDS is around US$500. These systems can be a bit of a challenge in terms of installation and use because of the nature of buggy "cloned" software, plus being developed in Germany by MBZ engineers who are not always clear in their explanations or terminology. And SDS can be "dangerous" if you don't now what you are doing and ignore the warning messages (i.e. it can fire airbags and wipe out programming form the electronics).

If all that sounds daunting, you have other options to gain access to EPC. There are online versions of EPC available. For example, MBZ itself offers its StarTekInfo site:

EPC-net Online

The bad news is that there is a subscription cost to use it and I think it may be limited to USA users.

Another is a Russian (or maybe Ukrainian?) site:

Russian EPC

The good news is that the "Russian" site is free, but the bad news is, well, it's in Russian, so for those of us who don't have that language in our repertoire, it's a challenge. But there is still more good news! Google Chrome does a decent job of translating it. My next post will describe how to use it.
 

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Coupe/Convertible Forums Moderator
CURRENT: 2011 SL550, 2011 C300 FORMER: ML350, CLK550 Cabriolet, C240, ML320, 300TD
Joined
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18,991 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
You can use Google Chrome to access the Russian EPC site and translate it to your native language. There may be other browsers or facilities to translate this, but Chrome works for me, so that's what I use. First, you need to install Google Chrome. I believe the default settings in Chrome are to automatically detect and translate languages. If it doesn't seem to be working, go to the "Settings" menu, then at the bottom "Show advanced settings..." and find the "Languages" section to select your default language and the translate feature.

Now, here's how to use the "Russian" EPC site:

Using the Google Chrome browser, go to the website"

Russian EPC

Enter your VIN in the text box and click the button to do a lookup:



Next, click the button on the top right side of the screen. Chrome should have translated the text so it is labeled "Information Map". If not, it will be labeled "KapTa AaHHblX":



If that button is not shown, then your VIN is either incorrect, or it is too new for this site. This covers cars through MY2013, which is fine for checking the engine for "balance shaft" problem range.

Once you get the data card displayed, here are the details:



Now, I know the translations can be a bit odd, but if nothing else, you'll get the options codes and they can easily be searched on the web for a better description.

Next, I'll explain how to check the VIN for being int he range for potential "balance shaft" failure.
 

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Coupe/Convertible Forums Moderator
CURRENT: 2011 SL550, 2011 C300 FORMER: ML350, CLK550 Cabriolet, C240, ML320, 300TD
Joined
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18,991 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Once you have your engine's serial number, here's what you need to know to understand the engine code and check if it's in the range for potential "balance shaft" failure. The one shown in the above example, "273 967 30 080 276" is my CLK550's M272 V8 engine.

The first three digits are the engine number. Note that only the "272" and "273" engines are susceptible to balance shaft failure.

The next three digits are just a variant number for the engine. There are different versions of these engines for different models. For example, that "967" is the 5.5l M273 V8 used in my W209 CLK550. The 4.7l M272 V8 used in the W164 GL450 is a "923". There are many other variations for the M272 V6. Note that this variant code is completely unimportant for considering the serial number range in terms of balance shaft failure.

The next eight digits (30080276) represent the engine serial number. They started with "30". I generally just drop the "3" and then consider the next 7 digits as the true serial number. So, I would say my car has M273 engine number "80276".

Now the next step is to understand the "balance shaft" problem range. Here is the TSB or DTB Star Bulletin that describes the problem and includes the engine ranges:

http://benzbits.com/BalanceShaftTSB.pdf

All you are really concerned with is if your engine serial number is within the range for "Scenario #1 ". That range is up through number 468993 (30 468 993) for the M272 V6, and through 88611 (30 088 611) for the M273 V8. These engines were installed in cars beginning with the MY2005 SLK350 and continued to about halfway through the MY2007 build. So any MBZ car through mid-MY2007 with an M272 or M273 engine will be in the range for potential balance shaft failure. This means ALL cars with the M272/M273 engine built through MY2006 will be int he serial number range for Scenario #1 - Balance Shaft failure. MY2008 and later are all fine. So you only need to check for MY2007 as it was split between good engines and potentially bad engines.

If you read the TSB, there are two other scenarios. Scenario #2 is failure of the camshaft adjuster solenoids (a.k.a. cam magnets). This can be a problem on M272 engines through serial number 759427 and M273 engines through 193592. Of course this includes all of those engines covered under Scenario #1 . The good news is that these solenoids are on the outside of the engine and are inexpensive (all four for around $100) and also fairly easy to replace. Scenario #3 affect the seals on these solenoids and affects M272 engines through serial number 895140 and M273 through 236260. Again, this is easy and cheap to fix, just need new seals or new solenoids.

I hope this information helps. Like I said, I'm always glad to assist, but sometimes people just want to help themselves. Oh, and one final word on "balance shaft" failure. There are over 500,000 engines in the range, but only a small percentage of these fail early. The rate is not even high enough to show up on the reliability indexes published in car review sites and magazines. So, if your car is int he range and you have no symptoms, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. But, when shopping, I'd avoid engines int he range since there are plenty of those that are not and there's no sense in taking an expensive gamble.
 
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