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Old 11-03-2002, 09:06 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 2,516
MB Certified Tech or not - is there a difference?

I've been an MB certified tech for 14 years and I was wondering? To everyone who doesn't work on their own MB and to the DIYer's, what is the perception of MB dealership tech's vs. independant mechanics? Would you rather pay $86/hr. for factory quality work, or $65/hr. at an independant shop? Also, I've seen the term "factory trained" mentioned several times in this forum. I'd like to know what you all think this means, and if you think it makes a difference with respect to the independant guys. Thanks
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Old 11-03-2002, 09:32 AM
Posts: n/a
There is a huge difference among technicians whether they are independent or work for a dealership. I've had some really bone headed things done by MB dealerships that would never be done by a Stu Ritter.

On the other hand, I recently had some work done by a technician in a huge MB dealership. He probably averaged as many head gasket replacements in one week as my previous dealership did in a year. It's apparent he knew what he was doing. Experience is everything.

I wouldn't go to an independent unless they were one of the few that had a national reputation.

I used to take my BMW's to a dealership for a lot of service because they treated me like a car enthusiest rather than a naive owner. The only time I don't do things myself on my MB's is when I can't handle it.
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Old 11-03-2002, 09:46 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Omaha, NE
Posts: 962
My perception of dealership techs is that they are extremely well trained to deal with late-model vehicles and their unique problems but in general less interested and experienced in older models and THEIR unique problems.

It seems to me a whole different skill set when you are primarily working on 10+ year old cars with 100K miles on the clock as compared to doing largely warranty work. Being familiar with common failure modes of well-broken-in systems, using experience and common sense rather than relying on computer-aided diagnosis, and knowing when to choose an aftermarket part vs. factory come to mind.

These are MY perceptions. I have the best of both worlds, however, a factory-trained ex-dealership tech who is now an independent and charges $55/hr instead of the dealership's $85. He would be the first to say that it was a significant adjustment to go out on his own and that there is a lot to learn when one leaves the dealership. This fellow will do whatever it takes to get the job done and done right, including working weekends or if necessary through the night to finish the job when promised. It's his name on the business so he has a real stake in the quality of his work.

Also, it it of inestimable value to be able to talk directly to the tech who is actually going to work on the vehicle. Not easily done at the dealership.
'93 400E

Last edited by 400E; 11-03-2002 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 11-03-2002, 10:50 AM
Lebenz's Avatar
backwoods member
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: In the fog
Posts: 2,862
When I had my Porsche I took it to indes. Without exception, in the 12 years not only did they ALL suck, but they had a snotty attitude and refused to take responsibility for mistakes originating out of their work. That is the only reason I sold my Porsche, dang it!

While I wonít say the same is categorically true of MB techs as there are many fine individuals on this site, the only inde Iíve taken my MB to was less than satisfactory. Dealer techs will obviously not necessarily have more experience or competence, but they at least have the full force of MB behind them and a parts department that most indes will never have. This is not a slam of indes, merely the obvious as it exists around these parts.

OTOH, if folks such as Benzmac, Stevefb and many others of extremely high competence and generous nature were around here, Iíd make a bee line to their shops and never look back.

As an aside, for the comment that Steve W made (above) at the dealership I use, I always talk with the tech thatís gonna work on my car, usually before and after, plus I almost always use the same tech. It is always worth the effort to get to know the guy!

In the end, for me anyway, it is simply a case of bowing to the reality.

'00 ML320 "Casper"
'92 400E "Stella"
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Old 11-03-2002, 12:18 PM
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Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
Me and Tracy...

Sounds like our Porsche experiences were pretty much identical!! Geez did I hate taking mine ANYWHERE. Dealer just seemed to make up the price according to how much they wanted to make today, and indies had no idea of how to work on the car. Between a rock and a hard place...

With MB's, I find our local dealer techs are used to dealing with newer under-warranty cars, and do diagnosis through part swapping. This can get REALLY expensive when your car is not under warranty.

The other thing I don't like about our dealer techs is that they don't listen to customers, well, not me anyway. I have often suggested a diagnosis, only to have them roll their eyes at me, start in a different direction, and end up where I originally thought. I know that cutomers probably have steered them wrong in the past, but all I ask is that they just listen to me at the outset.

I take the C230 to the dealer, as it's under warranty (Signature Class). The 190E does NOT go to the dealer. They make no attempts to repair anything. Let's face it, the 190 is worth 5, maybe $6,000. Do I really want to spend $1000 everytime it needs a repair? Nope.

There are some exceptions. When we replaced the timing chain, we had it done by the dealer. If the repair went south, I knew the dealer would make it right. We don't have an MB indie large enough here to do that. They're all pretty much small shops, two mechanics at most.

It's not the labout rate difference. I would gladly pay $85 per for someone to diagnose problems and replace parts that NEED replacing. Dealers also offer loaner cars and wash my car for me. That's nice too. I just hate the "throw parts at it and see what works" work that our local dealers practice...
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 11-03-2002, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,509
By and large, work done at dealerships is better because they are better and more consistently trained. The work is more expensive because their labor rates are higher and because they use only OEM parts at full list price. Dealership technicians also have better tools and resources: they have the help and advice of the not only the shop foreman, but also their fellow technicians; they also have the Star diagnostic computer system.

However, there are independents out there that are as good or better than dealerships if the shop has exceptional technicians that acquired their knowledge either from the dealership or years of experience.

But I believe most owner / operators of independent Mercedes Service and Repair Facilities began their career at a dealer and are therefore "factory trained" anyway, so the distinction between factory trained dealer technicians and independent technicians gets blurred.

Like Bud said, I would only go to an independent that had a "national reputation", or at least a large following and recommendations from members on sites like this and probably members of the Mercedes Benz Club on North America or other similar Mercedes Benz Enthusiast Clubs.

I've had bad experiences at three different Mercedes Benz independents near my home in Southern California. I drive 52 miles one way to the world-famous Enrique at Mr. MB Motors that is so highly regarded by others on this site. But then again, he is a factory trained technician that has been working at Mercedes dealerships since 1965 in Europe, South American, South Africa, and Beverly Hills, CA.

I'm also interested in seeing what Stevebfl has to say about this topic. He's commented on it from time to time...
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 11-03-2002, 02:52 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Soperton, Ga. USA
Posts: 11,947
from a hardcore diy'er

Since starting to drive about 30 years ago I have taken a car in for service three times (excluding alignments). Two of these were for Honda timing belt changes (included cam seals and water pump) and the 300TD for track rod mounts. The Hondas went to the dealer and I took the TD to a local independent for the track rod mount change. This particular independent has been around MBs since the 60's so you can imagine what he thinks about the new MB's. He and his wife own/run the shop and I get the impression that both of them are good people and they have a pretty loyal following of customers. He drives an '85 300TD as his personal car and his wife drives a E500 or a new ML. The service manager at the local MB dealer is too arrogant for my taste although all the folks at the parts counter are good, down to earth type of people. The service manager at the local Honda dealer is as good as they get. When they replaced the cam seals/timing belt on the CRV within the past 6 months they messed up with the seal and it leaked. I took it back to him one time and told him it was leaking. Initially, they just cleaned it up and told me to "monitor" it. Then a couple weeks later I figured out it was coming from the cam seal and let it make a real mess. I took it back and told him it was one of the cam seals leaking and left it with him. He said they found the cam seal leaking almost like he did not believe what I had told him. They fixed it for free.
I hate to think how some of these service managers treat people that don't have a clue about their cars.
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Old 11-03-2002, 03:13 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
Darn Paul, I was going to skip this one. Then you asked and I wrote for about twenty minutes addressing the issue and damned if they don't shut the site down for maintenance and its all gone. Here it is in one line: Good techs are where you find them.


I truely believe the best techs are eventually at independents as most techs are not institutional players. Just check the average age of the techs employed where ever you go. The dealers train them and usually within ten years the tech can't put up with the politics necessary to make a living. (This often has very little to do with technical skill.) Warrantee doesn't hardly pay for diagnostics so the skill is poorly rewarded at the dealer level.

Dealerships offer the added comfort of manufacturer back-up, but independents offer choice.

I see that the largest wasted expence in auto repair is not dishonesty or lack of training (although both do appear at every level). It is diagnostic intent. To give an example, last week I worked on a 1999 528i for the SRS light being on. Testing showed an intermittant in the signal from the pass seal ocupied sensor. Having done a couple 210 cars with similar problems I might have replaced the film that goes between the upholstery and the seat as with the MB. Since I follow and contribute to the BimmerTG (a tech group for BMW technicians) I recently read that on Bimmers the seat film is connected to the harness by a cheap module/connector ($35) that is the common problem. Upon checking at the dealer we find that both the film and the connector are stocked as they always replace both pieces. Well the film requires seat disassembly and costs five times as much. I replaced the module only.

This would be considered poor practice by many managers as it could cause another trip for the consumer and leaves a lot of money on the table. A good independent has the access and freedom to use many techniques not available to dealer techs, from used parts to reconditioned parts (both done internally and purchased elsewhere). We repair Becker and VDO electronics and speedos for many dealers. We make A/C hoses. We do MIG, TIG, and gas welding and fabrication. We do numerous machine operations, none of which would be an option at a dealer. The fact that we can do these things does not keep us from being parts changers it just gives us another option.

But I'm biased!
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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Old 11-03-2002, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,509
Originally posted by stevebfl

I truely believe the best techs are eventually at independents as most techs are not institutional players. Just check the average age of the techs employed where ever you go. The dealers train them and usually within ten years the tech can't put up with the politics necessary to make a living. (This often has very little to do with technical skill.) Warrantee doesn't hardly pay for diagnostics so the skill is poorly rewarded at the dealer level.
Hey Steve, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

It's something I'd never paid attention to, but now that you mention it, most technicians that own or work at the indpendents that I've visited have generally been 40 years old and older, with maybe a handful in their late 30's.
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 11-03-2002, 09:58 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Seattle Area
Posts: 373
I own Mercedes (among the other obvious safety and performance reasons) because I've seen their low operating cost due to ease of basic maintenance
and inexpensive parts when going outside the dealer. An oil change (with mobil 1) on my
E420 would run in the nieghborhood of $80-90 at either of my local dealers, while my home
job runs about $40. While having my car washed and vacuumed is nice, it's not worth double
the charge for basic maintenance.

That was an off-topic example, but case in point (as mentioned by several above, and more
eloquently than I am able), dealers are very expensive, and while better trained at using
the latest computer diagnostic systems, they have more of a 'throw parts at the problem"
mentality. I believe this is counter to MB's solid engineering and high level of
'rebuildability'. My Indie runs a two - sometimes 3-man shop, has all but the very latest
in computer diagnostic equip. Shop is always busy, meets or beats Fastlane prices on parts
, always keeps my old parts to look at after replacement, and much more
investigative/troubleshooting mindset. Now, I have no illusion that many indies are not
this honest or competent, but with what I have, the dealer doesn't make much sense to me.

He also own three Benz's himself and loves them - always asking me how mine are running,
etc. but I honestly don't know if he's ever been a 'certified MB tech'.

Lastly, there are plenty of examples with any dealer/indie where one person hates them
because of one experience while the next loves them. To a large extent, the question at
hand is largely subjective as owners are as varied in expectations and experience
as the techs are.
'95 E420 - 'Shadowfax' 138kmi.
'92 Volvo 740Turbo Bard 193kmi
'74 240D - 'Ol' Green' 4spd Manual 104kmi. (sold )
'77 300D - 'Red' 223kmi (sold)
'75 240D - 'Bianca the Blue Bomber' (sold)
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Old 11-03-2002, 10:57 PM
Posts: n/a
I've taken my 190e, VW Passat and corvette(just brake jobs) to the same mech for four years, I don't know if he's certified or factory trained but he's always fixed my car problems and never given me an incorrect diagnosis. The problems have also never come back.

I'm not too fond of dealership service and I've been to lots of different ones from Volkswagen, Mercedes, Chevrolet to Honda, what I've got from them is insensitivity, indifference and high prices for simple jobs.

I've also noticed a subtle kind of reluctance to work on your car if
it's an older model, you get a lot of responses along the lines of, this problem is not worth fixing. This has made an impression on me that if it's an older model take it to an independent, most of the time you won't see a lot of older cars at the dealer anyway but you will see them at the independents. Of course this might just mean that drivers of older cars find the prices of independents more affordable.
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Old 11-04-2002, 10:36 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Dallas/Fort-Worth
Posts: 5,711
I hear AND have experienced dealership "horror stories" in the past. Fortunately, they were few and far in between.

The Park Place dealership here seems to keep a competent staff of technicians, and if I was a successful surgeon or world-class attorney, I would love to dispense with weekend wrenching and just drop off the car, hand over the keys and say..."fix whatever you find wrong with it".

But at $100+/hr labor, even the most simple tasks are wallet eaters!

I am still shopping or a good "indie" and have found a few, but I don't have any references that can tell me if they are good or not. It's okay to save money, but if they screw up the repair, there is no gain.

Dealerships also have the perks like courtesy vehicles and loaner cars. That may be a costly frill for some, but they know that for their clients, time is precious. Sometimes, I have to decide if I would rather use up what little quality family time I have working on one of the vehicles all weekend, or just bite the bullet and have it done conveniently (and correctly) while I'm doing better things with my time.

Other times when money is tight (which is often, lately), I have to meter out what repair tasks to tackle in order of critical-ness (if that's a real word). Especially with the W124, which is older and has numerous little quirky things that need attention.

I believe, as cars get more complicated and repair expenses climb, society will eventually introduce a sort of vehicle-HMO plan to cover the costs of repair. This would be similar to the current extended warranties that you already can purchase, except, you pay monthly, just like you do with medical insurance...
2009 ML350 (106K) - Family vehicle
2001 CLK430 Cabriolet (80K) - Wife's car
2005 BMW 645CI (138K) - My daily driver
2016 Mustang (32K) - Daughter's car
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Old 11-04-2002, 04:58 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tucker, Ga USA
Posts: 12,153
There are 3 levels of certification for MB techs at dealers, certified is the LOWEST!
I have posted many times that there are good technicians at dealers & independants, finding them can be a problem.
THERE are bad apples in evert bushel, so you can get either at any place.
Integrity is a key factor in the auto-repair business as well as being competent.

Good luck!!

I know several VERY good MB techs that have NEVER worked at a MB dealer!
MERCEDES Benz Master Guild Technician (6 TIMES)
ASE Master Technician
Mercedes Benz Star Technician (2 times)
44 years foreign automotive repair
27 Years M.B. Shop foreman (dealer)
MB technical information Specialist (15 years)
190E 2.3 16V ITS SCCA race car (sold)
1986 190E 2.3 16V 2.5 (sold)
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Old 11-04-2002, 09:15 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Suwanee, GA, USA
Posts: 4,712
I have never worked for a dealer. But, I feel as though I know the cars as good if not better than many dealer techs. I have dealer techs call and ask for my input all the time.

The bottom line is, if a tech will read and keep up with the newer models, has a good attitude, will buy the tools needed and works in a healthy environment, you should be safe.
Donnie Drummonds
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Old 11-05-2002, 04:56 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Carol Stream, Il, USA
Posts: 605
Hardcore DIYER

Unfortunately for the good technician the first line of defence for a person off the street is the service writer. From my past experienced the service writer is for the most part arrogant/ignorant. This has a direct reflection on how I perceive the work done at the dealership.

I usually end up at the parts department standing in line with technicians. One soon realizes that the technicans dont have the same arrogant attitude as the service writer and they put their pants on the same way as everyone else.

Walking to the parts counter you often get a chance to see the shop floor where the work is being done. My take on a good shop is if the technicans are working at a comfortable pace - not rushed to keep up with the backlog or not too slow so the customer isn't paying $85/hr for the technican to do a 2 hour oil change.

I am not biased with the dealer or independent, but I do appreciate it if I am told about potential problems with my car - something that you cannot get at a quick lube oil change.

The shop I go back to is the one which stands behind their work and charges fair prices.
1998 Mercedes E320, 200K Miles
2001 Acura 3.2TL, 178K Miles
1992 Chevy Astro, 205K Miles
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