Scan Tool Review: Tools for Mercedes-Benz, smart Car Good Investment
Karl Benz is credited with the invention of the gasoline-powered automobile, the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen. And Mercedes-Benz (MB) has remained a front-runner in building automobiles for almost a century and a half.
Boasting a company slogan of “Das beste oder nichts” (“The best or nothing”), Mercedes-Benz has a rich history of making automobiles replete with luxury and excellence. Thus it should come as no surprise that Mercedes-Benz vehicles are some of the most challenging for the independent repairer to repair at a high level.
MB has a few early legacy tools that are worth mentioning. The On-Off Radio Tester and the Impulse Counter have long been retired (1993 and 1994, respectively), but are essential for early model testing. Keep in mind these are no longer in production so finding one will require delving into the used market; however, their function can be easily duplicated with common shop testing equipment.
On the other hand, the Hand-Held Tester (HHT) and the Compact 4 have been fully replaced and are not currently available new, though the Compact 4 remains supported for the time being. Both were great tools for their time, but my advice would be to not invest in either of these tools if you are just now taking the plunge into MB service.
In modern automotive diagnostics, few manufacturers rival the thought that has gone into scan tools or the repair processes, post sale, as MB. The tools are truly a complete diagnostic system that is comprised of more than just a scan tool that allows manipulation of a specific module. Instead, a technician gets a complete information system, fault diagnosis and guided diagnostic tests in one package.
Originally released as the SDS/DAS (Star Diagnosis System/Diagnosis Assistance System), it grew into the Compact 4 and the latest variation is the Xentry Connect/ DAS. Laptop-based and using a Wi-Fi-type ACTIA interface, the Xentry Connect/DAS has multiple levels of value it brings to the service bay. All functions for diagnosis, including reprogramming, configuration, initialization, fault diagnosis and guided diagnostic tests, are contained within DAS. For 1998 and older models (non-analog), HHT emulation is accomplished through the HHTwin software that is built into the tool.
The WIS (Workshop Information System) is the technical workshop manuals, including diagnosis procedures for pre-DAS systems and assembly/disassembly of all vehicle systems including – but not limited to – wiring diagrams, installation instructions, detailed technical information, service bulletins and repair information. Also included are the ASRA Arbeitstexte, Standardtexte, Richtzeiten and Arbeitswerte (translation: work texts, standard texts, flat rates and work units) that serve as a labor guide for all labor operations. The SDmedia (Star Diagnosis Media) is simply your database of knowledge of video, animation and audio files to help you with troubleshooting, repair and maintenance of all MB vehicles. It is basically your guidebook on how to use the tool!
At $22,000 to $24,000, it is one of the more pricey initial investments a shop can make on a scan tool, but remember: this includes 22 updates and a 42-month hardware warranty. When you look at the long-term efficacy and competence gained, combined with the initial subscription savings of about $3,100 per year, this tool really becomes an affordable asset to any shop serious about doing MB repairs.
If you want to be competent on Mercedes-Benz and smart automobiles (MB’s lower tier model), the Xentry Connect is the way to go. If you are working with anything less, you should really evaluate the disservice you may be performing when you do a simple oil change without it!
Special thanks to Steve Brotherton of Continental Imports in Gainesville, Fla., for assisting with this article.
A basic oil change requires a vehicle module scan to meet OEM standards for MB vehicles; few non-OEM tools can do this. MB information and tooling can be found at www.startekinfo.com, with smart information located at www.smarttekinfo.com.