Everything has changed.... and nothing has changed
For over a decade, Mercedes-Benz has experienced record sales. About 70% of those cars were leased. A large number of the remaining sales were financed with the equity in the buyers home. Obviously things have changed for all of us. Now that everyone has started to settle in to the new economy, owners have began to return to the traditional reasons that made people buy a Mercedes-Benz in the first place. People are rediscovering the fundamentals. If you made the effort to buy a quality product, it pays to take care of it. Fewer owners are so cavalier that they walk away from the car at the first sign of trouble. But an age old problem still exist. How do you find a competent mechanic that can take care of the problems. In many ways it's even harder today then it has ever been. How do you know who to trust, when you're dealing with one of the most complicated machines built? You can just ignore the problems and just drive the car until it quits. We can certainly understand the frustration, but that's an awful expensive way to maintain a car.
We meet new customers all the time who are sure their car has been serviced. We get the unpleasant task of telling them that most of the car has not been touched. We're certainly not getting any joy out of this, but it's easy to determine when you know what to look for. One way you can do it for yourself, is to simply check some of your old repair orders at the 30000, 60000, & 90000 mile intervals. Or, whenever you think it might have been done. Even if it says something about a Major Maintenance, the parts billed out on the Repair Order will tell you what really got done. It really doesn't matter if you understand anything about a car, common since should tell you that the parts needed to do the Major service should include Spark Plugs, Transmission Filters & ATF, Rear Axle oil, Power Steering oil & filter, Air Filters, Fuel Filter, Suspension oil, Brake Fluid, Antifreeze, and the rest of the parts needed for a Major service. Think about it; a Major service means that all the different systems in your car get their oil & filter changed. If the Repair Order says a Major Service and you weren't charged for parts, it must have been your lucky day and you got free parts. If you see the phrase "Serviced as per the manufactures recommendations", you probably didn't get a major service. Your owners manual says the "B-service" is a "major service". It's not. Check the parts. It's a Oil Change.
Frankly, we're amazed at how long people have been willing to put up with this treatment. People must just hope and assume that no one could deceive customers this way without getting caught. People must think that somebody double checks this stuff and would raise a red flag if true. Car repairs frustrate most people because it's so complicated and difficult to understand. People just don't have time to figure out what should be getting done. They just want to pay the bill and not have to think about it.
Here's a short version of what every car needs to be maintained in the most cost effective way. It doesn't really matter what year or model you own, the same basic things need to be done to each one. A few models have special systems that need additional service, but those exceptions and are dealt with on a case by case basis. These are the same things Mercedes-Benz spells out in their Workshop Information System, but they don't explain it very well in your Owners Manual.
￭ CHANGE THE ENGINE OIL AT 6000 MILES (A-SERVICE)
￭ MINOR MAINTENANCE SERVICE AT 30,000 MILES Change the Engine oil, Transmission oil and filter, Power Steering oil, and Air Filter.
￭ MAJOR MAINTENANCE SERVICE AT 60,000 MILES Iincludes the 30000 mile service items, plus the Spark Plugs, Fuel Filter, Rear Axle oil, Power Steering Filter, Suspension oil as needed. (This is the biggest service the car ever gets, and makes all the difference in the world.)
￭ CABIN FILTER EVERY 45,000 MILES
￭ BRAKE FLUID FLUSH EVERY 2 YEARS
￭ ANTIFREEZE FLUSH EVERY 3 YEARS
That's it. It's not mysterious. If you follow it, you will have a very nice car for a very long time. It will hold its value and you'll not feel the need to trade it in every 4 years.
Just how much is 40 years of Experience Worth?
We had a new customer recently, that had been to several shops trying to solve a rough running problem. They had spent over $7000 on the problem, but it still wasn't fixed. All of the normal things that causes rough running had been tried.
This car is a perfect example of how technology has changed & whole lot of technicians haven't kept up with the changes. Vehicles built over the last 10 years are much more complicated then they ever were in the past. It's imperative for the technician really understand how modern computer systems work. The simplest things don't work like they did in the past. In particular this case, there were no Fault Codes for the engine and the Check Engine light.
We have the same diagnostic equipment the Dealer has and we get the same monthly updates. It is impossible to fix modern cars without it. The tester allows us to see the live data the engine is creating as it runs. This live data showed us that there was no throttle signal to the engine computer. No signal caused it to idle to slow. We did a search for Fault Codes in other systems and saw one in the transmission control module. It said the Neutral Safety Switch was faulty, but not specifically what the problem was. (The Neutral Safety Switch's main job is to prevent you from starting the car in gear and running over your lawn mower. It also does other things.) With further testing, we found the switch was not telling the engine's computer that the transmission was in Park. We looked closer and found it was corroded with water. Above the switch is located the drain for the A/C condensation. It had been dripping into the switch. All of the electrical components are linked together through a sophisticated high speed data transfer system (CAN) which keeps all of these parts in constant communication with each other. The switch was so corroded inside that the network was interrupted. Since the engine computer didn't get a signal from the switch, it went to a default setting that was slower then normal. The engineers do not want the engine to ever have "unintended acceleration". Since it idled much slower then normal, it was rough. We put in a new neutral safety switch and rerouted the A/C drain tube. Once the engine's computer got all of the signals it needed the engine ran normal.
A sizable sum of money was wasted by mechanics that really didn't understand how the system worked. They think that plugging the computer tester into the car will tell them what to do. The tester gives out data. The human brain has to determine what the data means. You still have to understand how the system works.
So how much is 43 years of Mercedes-Benz experience worth? In this case, $6800.
Quality is never an accident. Is is always the result of the best intentions, a sincere effort, & skilled execution. It represents the wisest choice from many alternatives. It can't be promised into a product or service. It must be intentionally put there. If it isn't, the slickest sales pitch in the world won't take its place. Quality starts on the inside & works its way out.
It's been said, that no one is easier to deceive then one's self. For what we wish were true, we readily believe to be true. We wish to convey to our customers a openness to listen to their concerns. You'll never have to hunt us down to take care of a problem. We personally answer every phone call. We despise Voice Mail. You'll never have to leave us a message & hope we return the call. We assume our customers get just as annoyed with this all to common of a practice as we do. We think that if someone wants your business, the very least they should do is answer the phone. We want our customers to know that by choosing Stephens Service Center to service their Mercedes-Benz, they have made the wisest choice among many alternatives. It is our sincere hope that our customers realize that they can come to us for the little things that come up in the life of a car. Hopefully they know that we're not going to charge them every time we have to replace a light bulb or check for the reason "Check Engine Light" came on. We want them to come to us when a tire needs some air. Cars just don't always need big repairs. As with many things in life, it's the little things that count. We want them to trust us when we tell them something needs to be fixed as well as when it's time to stop fixing the car & get a new one. Customers are not a interruption to our day. They are the reason we are here.
Think of us as a seatbelt for your wallet!
I n d e p e n d e n t