How to change brake pads and discs on a Mercedes E Class (W211) With SBC brakes

Here is a guide on how to change the brake pads and discs on a W211 E class Mercedes.

Pre-facelift W211’s built before the June 2006 facelift have Mercedes’s very odd SBC braking system (please note, Post-facelift cars have a “normal” braking system that does not need to be disabled. SBC uses a sensor in the brake pedal to tell an electronic valves to push fluid down hydraulic braking pipes to then actuate the brake calipers individually. This uses a very high pressure brake fluid resevoir that gets charged when one of the following happens:

  • The car is unlocked
  • The doors are opened
  • The brake pedal is pushed
  • The reservoir pressure falls below a certain point
  • The moon aligns with the sun

As such, the system must be disabled when working on the braking system, to prevent it from breaking your fingers if they are in the caliper, or spraying brake fluid at very high pressure into your eyes.  The proper way to do this, is to use Star diagnostics to disable the braking system, which is the way I will be doing it as I have a STAR diagnostics system. Upon activavtion, it also reseats the pads so that the brakes work as soon as you drive off after the change. Understanibly, many DIY’ers wont have STAR to disable this braking system.

Some other methods to disable SBC include:

  • Unplugging the SBC pump (NOT RECOMMENDED, as this will load the car with fault codes) 
  • Disconnecting both the Primary and AUX batteries (the way I would do it)
  • Using a 3rd party SBC disable tool (that can be bought from ebay etc)
Now down to the steps required:
1. Starting on STAR, disable SBC (Control modules – > Chasis -> SBC – > Deactivate SBC. After carrying this out, the dashboard will display the following:

2. Once the SBC has been deactivated, Apply the handbrake, Jack the car up and place it on axle stands ( In my case, use 2 jacks and put the wheel under the car, as the camber on my road meant I couldn’t get an axle stand in there! ). Then remove the wheel (I started on front right):

3. Unbolt and detach the pad sensors:

4. Remove the caliper retaining bolts (one at top and one at bottom), and remove the caliper, Be sure to support the caliper, (I used the jack box):

5. Once the calipers are unbolted, you can remove pads from the pad carriers:

Once the old pads have been removed, toss them aside 🙂

6. Now we should remove the pad carrier, undo the pad carrier bolts:

Top and bottom bolts, once removed you can remove the pad carrier:

7. Once removed, I removed the pad retaining clips and cleaned up the carrier mounts with a wire brush, this is what tends to cause squeaky brakes or binding brakes:

I also cleaned the inside of the caliper area, evidence of the crap that get stuck there is on the jack box!

8. The next stage is to remove the disc from the hub. Firstly, remove the Hex nut retaining bolt shown below (on a new disc as I forgot to take a before pic :P: 

Once removed, give the disc a light tap from behind with a rubber mallet. In most cases it will come off without a fight. If the disc has been on there for a long time, its likely that rust/corrosion around the hub centre is keeping it attached. As I did not want to subject the front wheel bearing to lots of shock force, I used some bolts and nuts/washers to slowly introduce pressure on the back of the disk, in the setup below:

Whilst holding the back of the coach bolts, tighten the top and bottom nuts a couple of turns each, not too much as you do not want to subject the caliper mount to too much force. After there is some pressure on the disc, give it another tap with the rubber mallet. In my case, the bolts needed a couple more turns before the disc popped off:

9. Once the disc is removed, you will be left with the hub face:

Ensure you give the hub face a good clean with a wire brush and a good coating of cooper grease, especially around the center part where it often bonds to the disc:

10. Now that the hub is ready to accept the new disc, offer it up and align the retaining bolt hole:

New disc ready to go on.

Ensure that you put a little bit of loctite on the retaining screw:


Bolted up and secured in place:

11. Now that the disc is in place and bolted up, lets switch attention to the pads. Firstly we must open the top of the brake reservoir and syphone off brake fluid until it reaches the Min marker. If this is not done, then fluid will overflow when we press the piston back into the caliper. (I have no pictures of this as I forgot to take them 🙁

12. We must now push the piston back into the caliper to make way for the new original thickness pads. I used a piece of wood (old broom handle) and a C clamp to slowly wind the piston in like so:

Wind it in slowly, keeping an eye on the brake fluid level, until the piston is flush with the caliper body (being careful not to pinch the rubber surround). Once this is done, you can replace the metal cap that goes inside the piston with the new one from the pad kit 🙂

13.  Replace the pad retaning springs/clips with new ones that should be included with the replacement break pads, Give them a coating of copper grease to stop corrosion sealing them in, and ensure they are fully seated.

Now its time to refit the pad carrier, you should use new bolts but I reused the old ones as they looked fine. Make sure to apply a bit of thread lock to these bolts as well:

Make sure your bolts arent right next to all the crud like mine where 🙂 and use them to remount them, I used a 12v torque wrench set to 100nm to ensure they were done up tightly. Once the carrier is in place:

Once the carrier is in place, obtain the new brake pads, Take note, that on the w211, the pads are sided, the right hand side had sensor holes closer to the backing place and the left hand side had holes further away, as such the replacement sensors will only fit their respective side (As they also have different connectors) not sure of the reason for this.  A pic of the left and right side pad together:

Once the pads have been inserted into the carrier, you should be left with something resembling this:

You also start to get a nice sense of achievement at this point 🙂

14. The next stage is to re-attach the caliper, offer up the caliper to the pad carier and use new bolts (only 2 bolts where provided in my pad set of 4! for some odd reason)

Shiny new bolts, on a not so shiny hand! :p

Once re-attached (and torqued up correctly) you will have this:

Insert the new pad wear sensor into the pad sensor hole and re-attach the bolt securing the sensor to the caliper, I re-used the old one as it wasnt worn and I managed to break the replacement by fitting it incorrectly:

Thats the front right brake done! Repeat the same process on the left hand side and your front brakes are now done!

Onto the back brakes.

16. Jack and support the car and place wheel chocks in front of the front wheels. I also placed the tyre underneath the car to support it in case it rolled. Ensure the handbrake is off.   Also but the car into neutral. Once SBC was disabled, I was not able to get the car out of park. I used the release button through the rear storage compartment underneath D, Remove the wheel:

I then used the c clamp to compress the piston this way, as I would be changing the pads and the discs anyway.


Remove the pad retaining clip. I used a screwdriver to pry it off whilst holding with pliers to ensure it didn’t fly off.

18. Undo the caliper mounting bolts:

Once removed, support the caliper on the jack box or hang it with a zip tie on the suspension arm.

19. Now is the time to wind out the handbrake shoes. Ensure the handbrake is off and access the adjuster from the right hand side via a wheel bolt hole. A picture paints a thousand words here:

I always forget the direction as its different for each side. To figure it out I turned it 4-6 turns until it stopped the back disc from turning, then backed it out 10 turns the other way. You can now remove the disc retaining bolt and  remove the disc.

20. Both my rear discs came off without issues and i didn’t have to use my pusher bolts.

21. Bolt the new discs in on the same way as the front, ensuring the hub is cleaned and copper greased up.

22. Replace the clips in the caliper in the same way as the front and re insert the back pads, ensuring to use copper grease on the clips.

23. Readjust the clutch adjuster until the disc cannot be turned and back of 2-3 turns. Ensure that the same number of turns is used on both sides for equal adjustment.

24. Re bolt the carrier to car, ensuring the bolts are loctited up.

25. Replace the wheels and lower the car.

26. SBC must now be re-actived to push the pistons out against the pads. Via star:  Control modules – > Chasis -> SBC – > activate SBC following maintenance. Replace disks.

27. SBC will then recharge the system 3-4 times and push each caliper’s pads out to the discs. It then presents you with a pressure readout for each wheel. Ensure that the fluid level does not drop below Min in this process, or the brakes will have to be bled if air is sucked in.

28. Done! Drive carefully at first, being sure to brake fairly firmly from high speed a couple of times to seat the pads and the discs. (note, some people remove the protectctive surface on the discs before installing them. I chose to let the pads do the job).

Let me know any questions in the comment section 🙂


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35 thoughts on “How to change brake pads and discs on a Mercedes E Class (W211) With SBC brakes

  1. Brilliant write up Alexander.
    Nice clear photos with concise explanations..
    Well done mate.


    (s.speed on the forum)

  2. Great write up! This is my first brake job ever and it was easy to follow…Only issues I had was the torque on both pad carrier screws and the caliper screws to the axle and what wrench size to use, but I tried one after the other until it was a fit. Also let me mention that I do not have the system to disable the SBC but I unplugged both batteries by unplugging the the negative first positive last after the job I connected the positive side first and negative second. To reactivate the SBC I turn the key to position 2 and pumped the brake pedal until the pressure is built did it 4 times to make sure then I reset the windows by putting them up and holding for 15 seconds everything including the roof was reset but clock was done thru system paging.

    • Hi P0410 refers to secondary air pump failure. However, you really need to get it plugged into star to check that the relay is functioning and to see if you can actuate the Seceondary air pump

  3. Do you happen to know the driver size required for the rear brake caliper mounting bolts? I can’t get a good view – I think it’s a Torx? But I need to go get a tool and it’d be nice to get it right without multiple trips – so if you happen to remember off the top of your head, that’d be awesome!

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  4. Pingback: Difference between a rear and front disc and pad change - MBClub UK - Bringing together Mercedes Enthusiasts

  5. Hi done what you said and very good but it feels like the discs move when I tap the brakes but not hard braking looked at all bolts they are all ok can you help

    • HI Mark

      The discs are held on by the wheel bolts. If it feels like the discs are moving, double checked that your wheel bolts are properly torqued up. The only other bolts to check are the caliper mounting bolts.

  6. Hello thanks for the clear write up my 2003 e320 cdi front brakes were so easy as I only had 2 pins to remove and slide the old pads out

    Do you have write up for rear shoes replacement

    Where about a are you located in UK
    Email me :

    • No problem.

      I haven’t as I have never had to change them, but from the picture, it should be pretty straight forward. I Do know they are a bit fiddly.

  7. Hello, thank you for the write up! Would you know if I could disable the brake system on an E55 AMG by disconnecting the batteries as well, or do I need STAR? Thanks

  8. Pingback: Disc and pads all round - Page 2 - MBClub UK - Bringing together Mercedes Enthusiasts

  9. Please can you tell me how reset SBC as I had to do the top wish bone and had to take a brake pipe of and have bleed the brakes but need to reset thanks

  10. Hi i work in a garage and we have just service a merc w211 2005. but we didn’t realize about the deactivating of the system and now the rear brakes bind we’ve replaced the pads discs and made sure everything is free. but they are still binding any ideas on rectifying this and if its too do with not deactivating the system first????


  11. Hi I’ve tried sending you a question or two, but doesn’t appear to have gone through.
    I have one of These odd E class MBs and the facia lit up with brake ware please go to a Workshop. I thought I#ll replace the pads at the front because they look fairly worn down. I then sarted to read and read untill I was dizzy. A lot of People recommend you Change the SBC unit and reset the fault code, there are others that say it’s not neccessary to. I’m in a quandary what to do, to be safe and save Money.
    If I just repalce the pads and reset the code to Zero, should I expect any nasty surprises in the near future?

    • Hi Ralph

      If the only message you have is “Brake wear, visit workshop” then its only telling you that your brake pads are worn out.

      Check the brake pads on all 4 corners and replace them and thats all you need to do. You do not need to reset or change the SBC unit for that message. Other messages may be different. Once you chance the pads (and wear sensors) the message will disappear on its own.

  12. Hi hope you can help me I am about to change the sbc pump do I bleed the brakes before I reconect the batteries and what type and make of bleed tool would you recommend I believe it has to be a posative pressure type does it connect to the fluid resovior thanks Jim

    • Hi Jim.

      Yes, bleed the brakes before connecting the battery.

      You are correct, a positive pressure bleeder that fits onto the master cylinder cap is the best way.


  13. I have 2003 w211 E500, 235k miles on it now. I’ve been getting the brake malfunction/stop vehicle red warning light intermittently.. It’s happening more often now and has only happened while moving, not while braking. However when it does come on, car goes into limp mode, I have to pull over, turn the car off and back on and it goes way and can sometimes drive for a few more days before it happens again. Prior to this happening, I had changed out the pads both front and back WITHOUT having disabled the SBC or disconnected the batteries. I pulled the codes and they were C26FB and C2131. First code saying SBC faulty, 2nd code saying pressure regulator faulty. I’ve talked to MBUSA, a Mercedes dealer and two Indy MB shops. All of them saying its odd that SBC isn’t completely failed and my problem is intermittent. This is causing me to think the SBC unit does not need to be replaced, that maybe it just needs to be reprogrammed, counter reset and brakes bled? (I do have some air in the lines) also was told by a shop I took it to for a diagnosis that my aux battery was failing under load(even though I tested both batteries myself with car running and not running and both showed full charge. Main battery is about 4 yrs old, aux battery no idea. I bought the car in 2010 with 120k. My first option is to replace aux battery and see if that makes the difference. $80 as opposed to $1600 for a new SBC. If anyone can help me diagnose this prob I’d be exceptionally grateful. Also wondering if I buy a used one will I need to have counter reset and SBC reprogrammed for my car by a dealer or Indy shop? Thanks much

    • Definitely replace the front battery first to see if it helps.

      Although, I think you have an intermittent fault with the actual motor in the SBC pump. Its still possible that its faulty without it timing out.

      I would recommend getting a refurbished one rather than a second hand one of unknown quality.

  14. Hi, I bought 3rd party SBC disable tool and there was no instructions on how to use. Could you please explain on how to Deactivate SBC and reactivate using this device. Thanks

  15. Hi! Thanks for clear and useful instruction you outline, unfortunately I have 2003 E500 W211 with SBC; Do you think the steps to deactivate SBC and pad replacement procedure equally applies to my car E500? Also as I am DIY guy is it possible to raise or jack the front tire ONE AT A TIME to replace brake pad without damaging the air shocks on the car?

    • You are welcome. Yes the same procedure should work on that car.

      You should have no problem jacking up each side to do the work at a time, just be weary that the Airmatic may try to level the car when you jack it up.

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