First thing you do, hook up the VAG-COM and retrieve the soft code from the instrument cluster. The soft code actually means something. Mine was 07262. I'm not sure about the 07, but the first 2 means USA, the 6 means 6 cylinders, and the last 2 means 6 cylinder petrol engine. Also, BE SURE TO WRITE DOWN YOUR CURRENT MILEAGE AND CONVERT IT TO KILOMETERS. You'll need that for later.
Now you shut down the car and wiggle the plastic steering column cover back towards you, it'll pop right off.
Next, remove the two exposed phillips head screws.
We ran into an issue with the right side phillips head screw; I almost stripped the thing completely. Thank God for Grapeking's Dewalt drill with phillips head bit.
I gotta tell ya, those 2 screws are REALLY tight! I highly recommend that you use a power drill to snap the screw loose.
Once the screws were out, I wiggled it free. You pull out the left side first to gain access to the blue connector on that side. You have to press in a little tab with a flat head screwdriver which allows you to pull up on a red arm. When you pull up on the red arm, the connector comes loose. THIS is a perfect example of German over engineering; damn, it was actually a cool connector.
Next up, reach in behind the cluster and work on the far side, green colored, connector. It's the same connector type, so press on the little tab and lift up the red arm.
Lastly, you have to reach back in there and work on the red center connector. It's a different connector type, so you have to press on a recessed tab on the far side of the connector and wiggle the connector free.
At this point, after coming so close to giving up on the right side screw, I felt like prehistoric man holding a stick on fire!
Now, you have to reverse the procedure. Insert the red connector, insert the green connector, insert the blue connector to the back of the new instrument cluster. Slide the cluster in place. Reinsert the 2 screws. Personally, I applied just a little bit of torque to keep them in place. I don't want to have a hard time removing them again in 6 years.
In steps Grapeking. Following the instructions from Ross-Tech, he checks the instrument cluster soft code and it's still 07262. He logs in under 13861, goes after the instrument recoding by accessing channel 9 in the recode string, swaps over to KM by changing the "2" USA code to "3" for Canada, inserts the equivalent kilometers divided by 10 (which subtracted 7 miles from my odometer at the end of this), save it, and then change back to a USA display. Boom. Done.
AND THEN... my battery was dead and the car wouldn't start! LOL!
Why hasn't anyone told me that you have to keep adding water to the original battery. That's right. I have a '99 A6, I'm in the Northeast so it gets COLD, I'm on the original battery, and I never knew that you had to add distilled water to the thing. Being short of distilled water, we screwed the pooch and filled the thing with tap water. Yes, I know, that's death to a battery, but after 6 years of service, it's done anyway.
So, that's it. SUCCESS! The cluster was $398.00 from Clair Parts with a $400 core charge. I'll be returning my cluster to Clair for the $400 credit and that'll be it.
So, cost of repair, $400... and the old I-owe-you-one to Grapeking for the use of his VAG-COM.