Failed instrument cluster

The instrument cluster on my wife's 1997 MB C280 has failed. The dealer wants about $1000 to replace it. I have found a couple of places that claim to be able to repair it and a couple of places that appear to have
replacements (used but guaranteed).
However, I have been told by my local garage mechanic (who would likely do the removal/replacement work) that the new/repaired cluster must be "reprogrammed" by the dealer and that could be almost as costly as having them replace it.
Can anyone provide me the correct information on this issue, please.
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The instrument cluster does have to be coded specifically for your vehicle's engine, country, and optional equipment (but not odometer reading as that is stored in the vehicles on-board systems and simply displayed on the cluster) This programming requires the dealer's Star Diagnostics HHT to perform, but there are some independent shops that have these tools. My guess is that it's no more than a 1.5 hour job (of course that means it takes 15 minutes to program and 1.25 hours to do the paperwork and cleanup). Have you thought about replacing the cluster yourself? I'm not sure about your model, but most of the modern electronic clusters are very easy to R&R, being held in by just a few screws or clips and a single electrical bus connection.
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http://instrument.articles.mbz.org/ has a few helpful articles. They really are just big circuit board with various things attached to them. Very easy to repair.
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Thanks for the information on reprogramming the instrument cluster. I will probably try buying a replacement and installing it myself. I do not have a parts list for the MB. Can anyone out there provide me with the part number for the '97 MB C280 instrument cluster? Thanks for the assistance.

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