Maintaining and Repairing Mercedes
Answering common questions about Mercedes Maintenance with Bernie Pawlik
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with award winning mechanic and car repair and maintenance expert extraordinaire, Mr. Bernie Pawlik in Vancouver BC. How’re you doing tonight Bernie?
Bernie: Excellent Mark, how are you?
Mark: I’m good. So we’re going to talk about Mercedes. You’ve worked on them for quite a while, tell us about them.
Bernie: Yes, we’ve serviced Mercedes for a number of years. They’ve always been excellent cars, personally, I haven’t cared much for them up until around the 2000 model years came out though.
Mark: So why’s that?
Bernie: Well, prior to around the 2000’s, they’re kind of, well, Mercedes cars had some strange quirks – I mean, they’re great cars, but they had some strange things with the gas pedal linkages had a lot of extra play so you had to push the gas pedal extra hard to get the car to move, the cars were kind of floaty riding, big steering wheels – kind of bus like, boatie cars, luxurious and good but kinda boatie. Things changed, Mercedes became a tight car, responsive and became a more fun car to drive. Also around that time, they changed their the fuel injection system. For a long time, they used a Bosch K Jetronic, it’s a continuous fuel injection system, worked good when it was new but it’s a kind of semi mechanical system that had a lot of problems. Tough to diagnose and expensive to repair. So now they’ve gone to an electronic fuel injection, way simpler to diagnose, way more reliable, better to repair.
Mark: So, you didn’t like those cars very much, but were they pretty good cars?
Bernie: Oh, absolutely. Mercedes have always been well built cars, and are cars that last a long time. We rarely ever see an engine or a major component, like a transmission or rear end, ever of wrong in a Mercedes. They seem to last almost forever.
Mark: I know some people, I’ve always had this impression about them that they’re so unique and different that they should probably on be serviced at the dealer. Is that true?
Bernie: No, absolutely not. While they are somewhat unique, any shop that’s got proper equipment and skilled technicians can service a Mercedes and do them well. For example, we recently purchased a dealer level scan tool for our shop, it’s got amazing support – if we run into a tricky issue, we’re not sure what we’re reading, or the problem is too complicated, we can actually download the data files from our scan tool and send them off to the offices of this company – they have dedicated technicians, they analyze it and they can tell us hey, this is the problem. So we have that dealer level service that we can do it. We’re not the only shop that has that but there’s not that many that have it. It’s a pretty big investment.
Mark: So what do you have to fix on these cars?
Bernie: Well, on most modern Mercedes, the ones built in the last 15 years; we do a lot of brakes, routine maintenance, oil changes and inspections. Check engine light diagnosis is another common issue and repairs related to that. Another thing about the Mercedes is they’re also very advanced, they’re also very electronic and they do have some issues with their electronics, certain modules going bad, you know electrical items so there are a few more of those things to fix than your average car.
Mark: So what’s different about Mercedes maintenance service?
Bernie: Well, their maintenance services are pretty much like any other car, but they have a maintenance reminder system that’ll come up on the dash, again not unique to Mercedes, but they way they do theirs is a little different. They have like, generally there’s an A service and a B service, sometimes there’ll also be a C,D and an E, but mostly it’s an A service and a B service. The A service is basically an oil change and a light maintenance inspection; while the B service is the oil change with a full comprehensive inspection and maintenance service. Generally you do an A service, then a B, then an A, and then a B. The other thing about Mercedes, like a lot of other German cars these days, they have very long oil change intervals, I mean personally I think they’re almost too long, some of them are up to 24,000 km between oil changes. You know, when we change oil that old, I mean when I say it’s too long, when we change oil that old, it really smells bad and it just looks horrible. I think at that point I think it’s too far contaminated to be used, but anyways, that’s what they recommend. But I’d say, that if you have a 24,000 km oil change interval, you should change the oil a few thousand km sooner, maybe 20,000 km or sooner.
Mark: So why would they have such long service intervals?
Bernie: Well, there’s a couple of things. I think one, from a marketing perspective when the salesman and woman is showing the car in the showroom, they can brag to the perspective client – hey look at this car, it’s great – you buy it, it’s expensive, but you don’t have to change the oil very often, you don’t have to come in for service all that often, the car is going to tell you when it needs to be serviced. And when you think about it, a lot of people who buy those cars new, they’ll just lease it for short term periods, maybe three or four years. So for them, if they only drive 60 or 80,000 km, they might only need three or four services which is kind of a nice sales feature. On a positive note, environmentally, it’s a good thing to have a longer oil change interval because you don’t need to produce as much oil, you don’t need to use as much oil, waste as much oil and recycle it, so it’s better that way.
Mark: so how do they away with such long intervals? Do you think it’s ok?
Bernie: Well, the way they get away with it is, they use special synthetic oils and special long life oil filters, all of which we use by the way when we do a Mercedes service. The oil capacity on these engines is also quite large, like 7-8 litres, whereas an average V6 to V8 engine traditionally is taking 4-5 litres of oil. So you’ve got more oil which takes longer to get dirty. As I said earlier, I think 24,000 km is too long and the oil is severely contaminated by that time, but I don’t think if it was really that serious of an issue, they wouldn’t recommend it because obviously they wouldn’t want their engines to be destroyed in a short period of time, but that’ll at least satisfy the warranty period and perhaps a little longer but given a lot longer like 150,000 – 250,000 km it’s hard to know what’s going to happen. So, long oil changes are a good thing, just do go the full length. That’s my feeling on it.
Mark: So what else is great about Merk’s?
Bernie: Well, in the North American market, we get all the medium to high end models and I think that’s generally because they have to ship them from Europe, you know it costs a lot of money to put a car on a ship. If you’re buying it in Vancouver you have to ship it all the way across the country so the freight costs are really high – so why not sell a high end car where there’s more value and they make more profit. In Europe there’s many lower end Mercedes models available, things with wind up windows, stuff that we don’t really see here. That being said, all Mercedes are high quality cars. They are often innovative. If you want to know what kind of new technology you’re going to see in a car that’s mainstream in ten yeas, just have a look at a high end Mercedes model now. Just some things I can think about from the past, like 50 years ago – a lot of cars used DC direct current generators to charge the battery which wasn’t a very great system but everyone used it. Alternators were cutting edge, technology Mercedes had them early and within 5-10 years of Mercedes adopting it, everyone else had them. Another feature, like if you look back at some high end Mercedes of 10 years ago, they had a credit card key, that was actually the key, you could just walk up to the car, pull the door handle, the car opens, push a button and the car starts. Well now a days, lots of cars have that, even your average low end models have that. Just look at what’s new and fancy with Mercedes and that’s what you’re going to see in 5-10 years time in most other cars.
Mark: So, I know in some ways you’ve criticized Mercedes, but you’re actually a Mercedes owner, so do you have any final thoughts about these cars?
Bernie: Well built cars, the one I have is fun to drive, nice quality, it feels like a great car to drive and I get a lot of pleasure out of just driving it – so I think a lot of people who buy Mercedes feel the same way. Generally, they’re durable, they’re cars worth keeping for a long time, your repairs can be expensive for some items and for other items they’re not so bad. But like many other European cars, they can depreciate very heavily so they can make a pretty good used car value if you don’t mind paying a bit more for repairs than a Honda or Toyota. Those are my final thoughts.
Mark: Great thanks Bernie. We’ve been talking with an auto repair genius, Mr. Bernie Pawlik. He has an award winning business as Best Auto Service in Vancouver. They have won 12 times so far – best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by customers from a couple different publications. You can reach them at pawlikautomotive.com or give them a call 604-327-7112. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark, we’ll talk again soon.