Summary of my experience today with MB Workshop
As promised, I am posting here my impressions of the service provides by the MB Workshop, which I found out about through this forum.
Overall: Wonderful experience, I now highly recommend these guys to any Benz owner in the greater San Francisco bay area. If you own one, do yourself a favor and get them to do your next service, and see for yourself.
Car: 2002 CLK55 AMG, 46000 miles.
List of issues I wanted handled before calling:
1) It's been about 11K miles since my last service. While the FSS was still showing 3200 miles to the next "B" service, I was getting a bit antsy about waiting the course. I drive the car a lot and since this was the first service after I bought the car 7 months ago, I was leaning towards getting it done sooner.
2) Driver's seat would not move forward/back.
3) Clicking/popping sound from the left front wheel in certain extreme situations when the car was turning left.
Timeline: I contacted them on the phone Monday, 10/16, and asked several questions related to various issues with the car. The gentlemen I spoke to (Shawn) was courteous, helpful, and informative, and did not in any way try to shove anything down my throat. In fact, when asking about the service time issue, he asked a number of questions and ended up saying that I can fully trust the FSS and wait until it runs out. I still chose to do the service anyway.
I set up an appointment online monday night for friday (10/20) morning, and received confirmation in email the next morning. They also followed up with an email a day before the appointment to remind me of the schedule.
Appointment was for 8AM; at 7:55AM, Shawn showed up at my door. He finished the service around 10:30AM, but I kept him around until 13:30 to fix something that came up during diagnostics (see below).
During Service: Wow, was this guy knowledgable about these cars or what. I asked so many dumb questions I was sure he was going to fall asleep, but he was always courteous, always happy to answer and educate and show me stuff I wanted to look at. That in itself is a significant part of the overall experience, at least for me.
The devil is in the details, and this is where he truly shined. See, at the dealer, you don't know what they do, exactly, and they really don't do much anyway. Shawn, on the other hand, went around the car as if it was his baby, muttering here and there, applying grease to hinges he thought were drying up, opening this little compartment or moving that little piece of something or other and making sure everything looked good. He took out the internal dust filter in the car and replaced it as part of the service - and guess what, the damn thing had never been replaced before (you should see how it looked), even though the car had always been serviced at a dealer. He detected a number of minor problems - such as a tiny leak from the rear diff, and another tiny leak from the front oil pan. I should mention that the car just spent 3 1/2 weeks at a dealer to replace the gas tank, and they never found anything unusual about the car, even though they supposedly "ran a diagnostic" before I got it back.
But it gets better. He hooked up the diagnostic machine, and let me peer over his shoulder as he collected data from the car. That was fun in and of itself. Two really interesting things came up; first, the diagnostic codes had not been cleared in the past long while, most importantly during the gas tank replacement. Result was that many fault codes were noted that were related to that fix, and even some before them, that were no longer true. So much for the dealer having run a diagnostic, I no longer believe they did. Which leads me to the second interesting thing: cylinder 1 was occasionally misfiring. Dealer didn't say anything about that, nor about the fact that I should have been replacing them since the car was reaching 5 years (mercedes recommends every 5 years/100K miles). Best part is that I could SEE the misfires on the diagnostic screen, in real time, so I KNEW this wasn't some attempt to get extra money out of me for nothing.
So I asked Shawn if he could fix that by doing the spark plugs, and he said OK, but he didn't have the plugs on him. So he drove to his supplier, got the plugs, and came back - and I didn't get charged for that extra time. He also ended up changing the ignition cables for that first cylinder, since they were worn out.
Then he took the car for a test drive, and figured out that the lower control arm bushings were a little tired, which was causing the popping sound. So he took the information for my extended warranty, called them, opened a claim for the three outstanding issues - the two tiny leaks and the bushings - got the claim handled, and is coming back to fix them next week.
Another nice thing is the fact that these guys provide a 12 month warranty on parts and labor for anything they do. My dealer? fuggetaboutit, once you drive out it's always your fault. Also, on the report I got he noted everything that was done, and even things such as the exact brake pad and rotor measurements in an easy to read section.
Total cost: $950, including taxes. This is for Service B and changing the sparkplugs; labor was under $400, the rest was parts. Those platinum Bosch plugs are expensive at $18.50 apiece! yes, I could get them for about $15 each online, but I wanted it done today. So they were about $300, and the ignition cables were about $80, making for the major part of the total parts cost. In any case, I found the cost quite reasonable considering that my dealer would charge me $800 just for changing the sparkplugs without blinking an eyelead, and another $600 for service B.
Additional comments: Again, I can't say how much I enjoyed having an actual obviously expert tech work on my car, next to my house, with me being able to hover around him and ask questions and see what he's doing and feel involved. This is a definite high point. Add an attention to detail, a sense that the guy truly cares for these cars, and a cost that is about 30% lower than my dealer, and I'm now firmly a big fan.
Oh, did I mention they also do mods? Renntech, Kleeman, the works. I am getting quotes for these, since after today's experience, I would happily give them the car to work on and trust them not to screw things up. And they'll pick it up from my house. I mean, how can you beat that?
Footnote: MB workshop guys, feel free to quote me in any promotional material containing customer testimonials; if you want my full name and title to add to the quote, let me know.