Mercedes Benz is a name that carries the weight of elite status, particularly here in the US. The name makes us picture elegance and luxury, and if you own a Mercedes Benz, you know that is accurate.
What you may not know is that they may suffer from an infamous transmission problem with that very car that awards them so much status. The 13-pin electrical connector in the automatic transmission may leak transmission fluid. Over time, leaking fluid migrates through the wiring harness and damages the transmission control module, causing the car to lose communication with the valve body. This problem is common with Mercedes Benz cars from 1998 up to 2008.
Often people and even mechanics misdiagnose transmission problems, thinking they need a new valve body or even transmission. In reality, the problem is often that the transmission connector plug leaks oil at the rubber O rings. So before you do anything else to your car, replace this plug and add transmission oil to eliminate this common problem. It is a simple task you can do yourself.
The key is to catch this early. Newer models have double O rings which are much more resilient to leaks. If you do not catch it before too much fluid has leaked onto the control module, you will have to replace the entire control module and harness.
There are at least two issues that can cause leaks in the pin connector in Mercedes Benz cars. The first is that one of the 13 pins can break off. A break like this prevents the connector from holding in place correctly and invites the possibility of transmission fluid leaks. In a pinch, some owners have tried to replace it with a hypodermic needle that has been cut to size and superglued around the base. That is not an ideal fix, but it may buy you some time until you can get to a specialty European auto mechanic, such as Euro Plus Automotive.
The second cause of pin connector leaks is the degradation of the O ring. If it is not clean and snug in place, or if it has worn thin, it needs a replacement. Again, the key to keeping these maintenance costs low is early diagnosis and prevention. Once the fluid has damaged the control module, the costs for repair and replacement rise significantly.
If early detection is the key to taking care of 13 Pin Connector problems, what are the symptoms to let you know something is going wrong?
All the symptoms are transmission related. Your transmission may go into “limp mode.” Shifting can become stuck, or it can become erratic. Eventually, the problem grows from hard shifting to no shifting at all. If you start to notice problems shifting smoothly, especially in engines built 1998-2008, get your 13-pin connector checked out immediately.
Sometimes, if you catch the problem early enough. When you first notice transmission trouble, try this:
1. Pull over and turn your car off. Remove the key.
2. Do not press any pedals or other buttons on the car.
3. Wait at least 20 seconds.
4. Restart the car and drive it again to see if it is out of limp mode.
You can also take a look at the 13-pin connector and see what is looks like — are all the pins still there? Does the O ring appear to be in good shape? If you spot any issues or don’t understand what you’re looking at, it’s time to get it to the shop for an expert to take a look.
While the 13-pin connector O ring may be a weak spot in the transmission of Mercedes Benz, the transmission itself, mainly those built 1998-2008 are still among the best built. The key is proper maintenance and getting it checked out as soon as you notice the early symptoms. If you live in Los Angeles County, CA or the San Fernando Valley, particularly near Canoga Park or Woodland Hills, come speak with our expert service technicians at Euro Plus Automotive. We have years of experience on European vehicles, so we can diagnose the problem and get you back out on the road as soon as possible.
* Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG image credit goes to: kurmyshov.