Autel MaxiSys Elite Review: BMW & Mercedes Coding and Programming
Just for clarification purposes, and from my own personal experiences, here’s some useful info regarding the MaxiSys Elite, which many of you may or may already know about.
In order to perform the stated coding and programming abilities on BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, you must have a valid and current service subscription through Autel. With the MaxiSys Elite, you get 2 years included free with the purchase of the unit (unless otherwise noted), and I believe 1 year with most of the other Autel models. When your service subscription ends, so does the units ability to perform these specific functions, unless of course you renew. The cost to renew ranges from $1000 to upwards and over $1200 a year, which isn’t cheap. The scan tool itself will still work, but it will not allow you to code and program as before.
Second, you will need a WiFi (Internet connection) to proceed with the majority of the code and programming procedures. If you don’t have WiFi (Internet connection) at the vehicle when you’re working on it, you can take the scan tool out and to a location where you’re able to get a WiFi signal (when prompted), download the necessary files (associated with the procedure you’re doing), and then return to the vehicle to complete it. The device and integrated software allows you to do so. If there is no WiFi, you will not be able to complete the procedures.
In regards to what you’re actually able to code and program, it really varies from model to model and the MaxiSys Elite, even as comprehensive as it is, it should not be considered as a replacement to a dealer level scan tool. Features and functions via updates are always being added, so it only gets better with time, but don’t expect it to be able to perform everything you may need it too. If you need to perform a specific task, always check with Autel by providing them the vehicles details and what exactly you’re looking to do. Personally, I’ve found it adequately capable of handling the majority of my general coding and programming needs. If I had to give it a number between 1 through 10, with 1 being not at all capable and 10 being dealer level, I would rate it a strong 6 for BMW’s and a solid 5 for MB’s. Also, in some circumstances, a certain coding option may be available for one specific model and year, but not for another. For example, it may allow to perform a certain function on a 2008 BMW 335, but may not for the same on a 2009 BMW 335. It can be quite frustrating when that happens, so do some due diligence prior your purchase, to ensure it will perform what you need it too.
Another alternative to being able to perform dealer level coding and programming, if the MaxiSys Elite itself can’t perform the task at hand, is to use the included J2534 pass-through device, and your own PC. You will naturally have to download the manufacturer specific software, which for the most part is often free, but in order to use it, you will have to pay a subscription fee of some sort. The fees and plans vary from manufacture to manufacture, and they can be pricey. The good news, almost all usually have daily or weekly rates which make it far more affordable for everyday DIY type users. The drawback however, the software can be tricky to navigate, not to mention at times not even in English all together. I should also note, due to the level of access these programs grant you, you also risk permanently damaging electronic components if you don’t know what you’re doing. Please use extreme caution when using these programs and software.
When performing coding and or programming on a late model vehicle, it is always advised that the vehicles voltage stay above 12.50 volts. As a rule of thumb, keeping it at 13 volts will ensure you’ll have no issues. To do this, it’s imperative you connect an automatic type battery charger or maintainer to the vehicles battery. This is often a step many skip or simply are unware of, and failure to do so, can lead to an array of issues from incomplete coding / programming to downright failure of the vehicles electrical devices and modules.
Get a screen protector! Get a screen protector! I cannot stress enough how a small $5-$10 investment can help you keep your screen free from scratches, marks and stains. Let’s face it, most of us will use this unit with dirty hands, and being a touch screen device, it is easily damageable. Replacing the screen through Autel can be very expensive so to help avoid this cost, get a screen protector!
The storage case this unit comes in is quite large. With everything tightly loaded within, it is also on the heavy side at just over 25 lbs. Chances are, you won’t need everything included on a daily basis, so if you’re a mobile tech, you might want to invest in a smaller padded case or backpack to haul around the unit and just the essential cables and adapters.
Just because the special aka hot function is listed on the device, it doesn’t necessary mean it is available for use on your specific make and model vehicle. Many of these selections have limited vehicle access, so just because it says it can perform a certain function, double check with Autel if in fact it can perform that specific procedure on your application. I’ve found some of these functions have as little as 10% coverage in comparison to the make and models programmed within the unit.
As a comprehensive OBDII scan tool, it is a superior product. It won’t leave any stone unturned in this category and its vehicle coverage is quite good. Although I have ran into where a vehicle might not be detected via the auto scan feature, I’ve never not been able to connect to an applicable vehicle through traditional manual entry. Once connected, the tool is fast! One of the fastest that I have worked with. Date retrieval takes seconds, and I can often do what I need to do faster. When time is money, there’s nothing worse than a slow scan tool.
The battery on the Elite is pretty good, but be aware, it will drain with heavy use. If you’re going to perform heavy or extensive coding / programming, always plug it into a constant power supply. You can use the vehicles power supply, but just be sure the vehicle itself is being maintained by an automatic battery device as mentioned above.
Unlike some other tools of this nature, updates are performed wirelessly through WiFi and do not require any special or cumbersome dongles, or the connection to a PC. As long as you’re within the service and subscription period, and have an available WiFi signal, updates are fast and easy. If your subscription has expired, the unit will inform you as such and an option to renew will be available.
One other myth or rumor I want to debunk, that I hear often, is that the device will brick after the service or subscription plan has expired. In other words, you will not be able to use it at all, and this is utterly false! When the service subscription ends, the only feature(s) that will no longer function, is its ability to carry out certain coding and programming. It will still have bi-directional ability, allowing you to perform dozens of functions and diagnostic tasks. You will also still be able to use it as a powerful OBDII compliant diagnostic tool across many platforms. So let’s say your plan ended January of 2019, but you have a 2020 vehicle you want to scan. This device will scan that vehicle with no problems, but if any additional functions were added since your last update, you may not be able to access those newer features for that specific year and model.
Last but not least, is it worth the big bucks? The answer is, yes and no. In comparison to other scanners with such capabilities, IMO it is priced much more affordably. I’ve worked with scanners costing two to three times more which provided at best, equal capabilities. Naturally some of the really high end systems that cost in the $15k-$20k+ range will perform much more dealer lever and compressive functions, but the next part of that equation is, do you really need all that? I’ve found that the majority of techs whom purchase those really high-end systems only end up using less than 50% of what they’re capable of doing. The Autel is packed with a nice blend of basic and high level functions, which should be adequate to most. You really need to do some homework and breakdown what you need it to do and on what types of vehicles. There’s really no perfect all in one system, but with some careful analysis and research, you can walk away with something like the Autel MaxiSys Elite which comes really close. Looking at the big picture, the Elite IMO is an exceptional value, just as long as you use it for what it is intended to do. For the guy who just wants to look up DTC’s and have the ability to clear them, it is without a doubt over kill. For everyone else, the Elite could be the answer.