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Because I am addicted to Mercedes vehicles, and because I seem to get myself into all kinds of trouble, I am considering whether a purchase of a Star Diagnostic Tool might be in order. I see a bunch of them offered on eBay but it is hard to tell if they are legit or knockoffs. A lot look like they come from China with MB Software loaded. Anyone have any experience with purchasing a Star Diagnostic Tool? Recommended model? I have a laptop that can run the software so I wouldn’t need that part of the package (maybe save some quid). As always, appreciate any words of wisdom.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
At current prices it starts at $17,072.94. Comes with few years of free updates after which it is $2500 a year.

https://www.startekinfo.com/StarTek/outside/220753/?requestedDocId=220753

All you see out there is knockoffs.
Well, then, that marks out the StarTek system. I suspected that there was something about these eBay versions that was less than official. That being said, do any of those knockoffs offer an advantage versus the hand-held scanners? I certainly don’t want to buy something that is pirated but if they are better than any of the hand-held scanners, might they be useful? It looks to me as if the scanners can give you the error codes but the Star software takes it to the next step and guides the diagnosis of the problem. Am I correct?
 

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SDS is bidirectional while most scanners are just that. Scanners. With SDS you can activate certain components or systems for diagnostics. EGR function test, SAI function test, transmission solenoid activation, list goes on.

In newer vehicles like W164 most control modules have SCN (Software Calibration Number) after replacement SDS connects to MB server and downloads software that matches control unit exactly. That's where clones fail. Otherwise functionality is the same.

https://www.benzworld.org/forums/w220-s-class/2865122-sds-way.html
 

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SDS (even the clones) is more than a scan tool. It includes WIS (Workstation Information System, i.e. shop manuals), EPC (parts catalog with diagrams), and a few other resources that can be very helpful for repairs. For the W163, it usually kicks into an emulation mode of the old HHT (Hand-Held Tool), but for newer cars, it hgas full screen screen menus with guided diagnostic steps.

Oddly enough, there are some things that the clone SDS setups can do that the full licensed version cannot. Most of the clones have "developer mode" turned on, which opens up some new options, like the ability to increase vMax, ans program certain other functions not normally available without customized module firmware downloaded from MBZ.

My advise is not to buy on eBay. There is a lot of markup there. DHGATE is a sort of Chinese eBay with better prices and more sellers. Also, i suggest that if you aren't a computer expert and don't want to spend a lot of time researching how to install and setup SDS, get a turnkey system that comes with everything pre-installed on a used laptop. Or, at least get a setup where you BYOC, but they supply the software already installed on a virtual machine using VMWare. Finally, there is C43 and C4. C3 uses a wired RS232 (actually, RS435, but it will have a built-in adapter) connection for the multiplexer. C4 uses a private wifi network to connect to the multiplexer. Both do the same thing, but the wires RS232 units seem to be more reliable. And finally, remember that you are buying Chinese hacked stuff, so the quality is hit or miss.
 

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I purchased a Chinese knockoff and it was the best investment I’ve made since buying the vehicles. It’s indispensable for diagnostic purposes and now that I’m no spring chicken anymore I take my results to my close friend (and indie mechanic) and he uses what I provide him with to make the repairs. Unless you’re loaded with money to pay dealers learning the vehicle is essential and getting the SDS is as essential. Learn how to use it and it will tell you everything you need to know about the vehicle.
 

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I bought a C3 clone directly from China and it does most if not all of the things of the real deal. I decided I needed to diagnose and work on the ML myself. As others said later model cars have the ability/requirement to update firmware on certain control modules. I don't think there is much of that going on for the ML. And if you need there are ways to work around the requirement to be online with Star Diagnostics. There is the ability for offline coding.

The W163 is a transitional model as far a control units. Some of them such as ECM, ESP, BAS, are still diagnosed by the older HHT standard (hand held tester). The clone C3 provides a nice HHT implementation. The other control modules are already on the newer DAS/Xentry diagnostics standard. I have used My C3 for the following jobs which would have been much more difficult if not impossible with generic code readers:

- check and learn keys to the AAM
- diagnose SRS light and re-code the car to disregard the passenger occupancy sensor
- diagnose a rough-running condition to a miss-fire on a particular cylinder
- diagnose the BAS/ESP light to a poor yaw sensor input signal

Every time a dash warning light comes on the C3 is my first diagnostics. It makes troubleshooting so much easier and takes the guess work out of things. This clone has paid for itself and then some.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I bought a C3 clone directly from China and it does most if not all of the things of the real deal. I decided I needed to diagnose and work on the ML myself. As others said later model cars have the ability/requirement to update firmware on certain control modules. I don't think there is much of that going on for the ML. And if you need there are ways to work around the requirement to be online with Star Diagnostics. There is the ability for offline coding.

The W163 is a transitional model as far a control units. Some of them such as ECM, ESP, BAS, are still diagnosed by the older HHT standard (hand held tester). The clone C3 provides a nice HHT implementation. The other control modules are already on the newer DAS/Xentry diagnostics standard. I have used My C3 for the following jobs which would have been much more difficult if not impossible with generic code readers:

- check and learn keys to the AAM
- diagnose SRS light and re-code the car to disregard the passenger occupancy sensor
- diagnose a rough-running condition to a miss-fire on a particular cylinder
- diagnose the BAS/ESP light to a poor yaw sensor input signal

Every time a dash warning light comes on the C3 is my first diagnostics. It makes troubleshooting so much easier and takes the guess work out of things. This clone has paid for itself and then some.
I live a long way from the dealer and am having a problem with my steering angle and possibly other ESC/BAS/ABS components. Will the C3 hit all of those? There are a lot of vendors out there - where did you buy yours? Did you get it with the PC or install it on your own?
 

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The C3 should be able to tell you if a tail light is out! It truly can tell you anything about the car and in the right hands it can diagnose anything that could possibly with your vehicle. I have a 4K SnapOn that I don’t use on my vehicles. For the 2 MB I own I use my SDS C4.
 

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What do people recommend these days, the C3 or C4?
There's a wealth of SDS information in this thread:
https://www.benzworld.org/forums/w211-e-class/2838009-nervous-about-buying-star-diagnostics-china-3.html
And the threads that are linked internally.

My take, based on the hours of reading I've done, is that a wired C3 system is better for W163s because a lot of the HHT* emulation is problematic on the WiFi. It's what I've chosen to go with, a good, old-fashioned, hardwired, turn key, plug and play system with a dedicated laptop running only the SDS software. I'm an Apple guy, i.e. too PC illiterate to configure a computer and the ports to make it work.


*W163 are an interim model and some of the systems are the old Hand Held Tester protocol and some are the newer SDS protocol, as far as I understand it.
 

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I would also strongly recommend a C4 the one with LCD display not the one the Chinese call C4 compact (no display),
-you can run windows 7 with latest software
-you don't need to have a com port on your laptop
-HHT Win works as well as on a C3
-I had 2 fellow Benzworlders that ordered a C3 lately and it turned out several connections in the cable where missing
-you can but don't have to use the WiFi its wired via Ethernet cable

Paul
 

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I would also strongly recommend a C4 the one with LCD display not the one the Chinese call C4 compact (no display),
-you can run windows 7 with latest software
-you don't need to have a com port on your laptop
-HHT Win works as well as on a C3
-I had 2 fellow Benzworlders that ordered a C3 lately and it turned out several connections in the cable where missing
-you can but don't have to use the WiFi its wired via Ethernet cable

Paul
Thank you all for the reply, just what I needed to know. SDConnect C4 it is... No to wade through aliexpress to find the least flakey one.
 

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OK.

since i'm an idiot about this stuff ... can someone post a link which describes the C4 'stuff' - software/laptop/cabling most desired ?

thanks
 

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So, for SDConnect C4, it appears there are different firmwares that can be loaded onto the units, I've seen 100925, 101044 , and 155988.

What version are you all using successfully?

Does anyone know if it matters which version I get? \

Has anyone changed the firmware on their units?

Thanks
 

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On thing you need to watch out for with C4 is that is MAC address can be blacklisted. Don't ever connect the SDS machine to The Internet and you won;t have a problem. If it does get blacklisted, there are ways to fix it, but it's quite involved.

I'm still using "C3", direct RS232 connection on a 2015 version of SDS and it works just fine.
 

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One needs to connect to the Internet to update the addons. If the xentry has been installed with all proper "fixes" there is absolutely no danger going online.
 

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I've never had an issue with a blacklisted multiplexer, but like I said, I use the C3 hard-wired RS232 version which rarely has that issue. I do connect the VM running SDS to The Internet, but I never download any updates. There is a lot of info about SDS on the mhhauto forums.
 

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Like others I got my SDS C4 multiplexer from a China and had it shipped to me in Germany. I only purchased the multiplexer/cables and being the computer geek I am, built the computer system from scratch using the Dell D630 (yep, really old) laptop. I think the latest software I'm running (Xentry, EPC and WIS) is the December 2015 update. I've download the addons and updates off line and transfered them to the Dell via USB drive. I connect the MUX to the computer via the Cat5 cable - Wifi is configured, but don't use it. I also have the cables and connectors for lots of older vehicles as well.

As rudeney mentioned, MHHAuto has a lot of information on the SDS. The only thing I've done to it over the last year or two was to download a patch/hack to reset the system clock so the old version of Xentry would still work - apparently it was hard coded to stop working a year or two ago.

I think I updated the firmware on my MUX exactly once and it scared the crap out of me while it was updating - fear of bricking it was my main concern. Although, I'm not sure that you actually gain any functionality by updating the MUX. Updating the software on the computer will add new vehicles and parts list for the EPC.

Given all of that, it has been one of the better purchases I've made and really allows to get in a understand these vehicles and fix the problems relatively inexpensively.
 
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