Two places could be considered "behind" Mercedes Benz of Tampa (MBOT), the dealership to which you refer.
You may mean Mercedes Complete, at 4411 N. Lois Ave., which can be considered "behind" MBOT - just a few blocks west. They have just changed their name to "M Complete." Those guys are happy to talk about your car, especially if you know something about it. While they are working on your car, if you describe a problem and want to pursue it yourself, they will make recommendations as to how to proceed. They did good work on mine, though what I had asked them to do wasn't especially challenging. Their "waiting room" is just a chair in the office - most of their facility is devoted to the cars. But you're not paying for the fancy waiting room at MBOT in the hourly rate, either - it is comparable to Dave's rate (below). Where Dave's Automotive had mainly older vintage MBs, Mercedes Complete had newer and older cars, and seemed equipped to work on them.
I just had them perform "B" service and 50,000 mile additional items (coolant and brake flush, transmission fluid change) on my '05 S500. It was done quickly and at reasonable cost. I have no qualms about returning to them.
You could also mean Dave's Automotive at 3926 W. Crest Avenue, just a few blocks north of MBOT. I have been there - the work was excellent, and Dave knows his stuff on older Mercedes. However, he doesn't like to listen to owners - thinks they're mostly stupid.
My '78's A/C was not cooling - the compressor clutch would not engage unless I jumped certain connections. I had studied the electrical diagrams (I have the background to understand them), and run the diagnostics, from the shop manual CD. By doing that I had eliminated any vacuum-operated actuators and switches, and also the high and low-pressure switches on the Receiver/Dryer as possible causes. I could tell the system had a good charge. I carefully explained what I had done. He blew it off, ran full diagnostics (for which, of course, he charged me) - confirming my work. However, he found the problem - something not in the shop manual. The dessicant sensor, a small pin on the back of the R/D unit that cannot be seen without removing the unit, had popped. It does that when the unit needs to be replaced - which he did. His experience base was greater than that in the shop manual.
I found Dave to be a bit brusque, but also very knowledgeable. Once he had developed a little respect for what I knew (I had been correct in my diagnostics, as far as I could carry them) I noted that my nylon grommets for the soft top pins were missing, and he tossed me a pair, no charge. He also took me around the shop, showing me differences in the R/D units on different SLs. He really enjoys his work, and he will discuss it if he thinks you can understand.
If you don't know much about your car, and just want to drop it off and have him fix it, he will.
If you don't know much but think you do, Dave is not your man. Dave is going to treat you like a fool. But he will fix your car.
If you do know a lot about your car, he is going to ignore you initially. However, at least he will respect you somewhat if his own diagnosis shows you were correct. He is very likely to know more than you do (he should), and once he respects you, he is more approachable. Not the best businessman, but a good tech.
His hourly rates are better than MBOT, which is up to $140 per now.
One other local shop alternative is European Autohaus, 1105 E. Bearss Ave. (Just off of I-275 - nowhere near MBOT). They handle a variety of cars, they also sell them. It is a very small operation, one that most would blow off - however, their principal tech is highly trained and certified in Bosch systems. So far I have only had them work on fuel-related items and a straightforward mechanical repair. Yesterday, they installed a fuel pump that I had supplied in my '78; it fixed a problem that had nagged me for over a year - see the MBOT observations below - but as expected, fuel pressures need adjustment for idle after warm-up; the new pump puts out much better pressure than the old, and the K-Jet's engine controls had been set up for the old one. I'll have them attack that tomorrow morning. I also had them install new rear stabilizer links, which was done well. I'll keep using them for Bosh systems on my cars, but have no experience regarding their Mercedes expertise outside of that. I would not rely on them for troubleshooting telematics in my '05, for example. BTW, I asked what they would charge for the proper fuel pump; they quoted $250 (the retail price for the pump I needed - contrast that with what follows with MBOT), but suggested that I shop it for less. I did, found the same pump for $137, and they were happy to install it when it arrived.
Mercedes Benz of Tampa (MBOT) is the dealership you refer to. It used to have one tech who was very good with the older cars; lots of experience with the SL, and he had done excellent work on mine. However, when I took the car in last week to get the nagging fuel delivery problems diagnosed, I asked my service manager if he was going to have him work the problem (I wanted to discuss it with the tech, and had provided a detailed list of symptoms and conditions leading to failure). The service writer said "I'll have to see which team wants to work this." I never got to talk to them. He told me to shut the car down (I had left it running because the problem would not occur unless it had run for at least an hour; when I made the appointment, I told them I would do this - and that I wanted to wait for the car; they didn't listen). There is a new department head there, and I suspect that the service writers can no longer direct the work as easily as they once could; or, perhaps, their highly experienced older car tech has left. I don't know. When they ran the "diagnostics," which they didn't do until the next day, they found nothing, told me to come and get the car, nothing was wrong.
I am not stupid. I know when my car is stalled as I sit beside an Interstate highway, inches from semis doing 70 and fools who cannot stay in their lanes; or in rush hour traffic blocking a lane of a major highway. I know there is a problem when, after waiting 30 minutes after a stall, it will only run for about 5 before stalling again. If I wait 10 minutes, it will run for two. If I wait for two minutes it runs for about 15 seconds. I know when a 20-minute return trip takes 3-1/2 hours to complete, as it did week before last. And they tell me "nothing is wrong." I know that the car stalls because the fuel pump has quit - it is dead silent. No, they ran diagnostics while the car was cold, when it had not run long enough for the problem to develop - something I was very careful about telling them. The only way they could approach the problem was to replace the fuel pump relay, fuel pump, and in-tank strainer - for which they quoted me a price of $2300 for the whole job. They even recommended the wrong relay, wanted $329 for it, when the right relay can be had for $5; and $1100 for a fuel pump (part only) that I got (new) for $137. The $2300 also included installing a new in-tank strainer ($502 to unbolt and move the fuel tank back to access the strainer; I gave then the part). Let's see - diagnostics show nothing, so let's throw parts and labor at it to the tune of $2300, and "see" if that fixes it. Thanks, I can do a LOT better on my own (and I did). So, for the '78, I have washed my hands of MBOT, and I took my '05 to M Complete too.
2005 S500 4-Matic
Last edited by Skylaw; 05-18-2012 at 01:39 PM.