'98 C230 Mysterious Code on Dashboard

Fellow listers,
My father-in-law has a '98 C230 that has a mysterious code in the bottom center of the dash. When you start the car, a graphic symbol of a
wrench, which blinks and a negative number, which starts at -27 and counts down appears.
What does this mean? Is this another excuse to get you into the dealer?
On another topic, I currently have a Volvo 850, which I've been very satisfied with. However, it's gettting up in miles (282,000) and I'm thinking about a newer car. The one thing I do not want is proprietary OBD codes for diagnostics, meaning only the dealer has access to the device to read fault codes. I'm not a guy who tolerates being corralled, so the question is does Mercedes have the same proprietary practices or can you get the codes by plugging in a standard OBD device/reader?
Thanks....
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
By federal law, all car must be able to be read by generic OBD-II reader since 1996. Here in USA that is. So, yes, you can use generic OBD-II reader to pull code and then decipher that information.
MB also integrated proprietary OBD-II capability to further diagnose the car as far as the body, AC, ABS, tranny, etc. But has no bearing on the regular OBD-II
As for your problem, I think the issue is that your car has not been serviced for oil change when it stated it needs to be... If you changed your oil, then it is time to reset your service indicator. Your owner's manual will tell you how to do that.
OBD-II scanner will only tell you the problem if the check engine light is on.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
that is a reminder from the flexible service system (fss) that routine service on the car is 2700 miles overdue. I have the same model as your father-in-law and follow the fss warnings to have my car serviced. btw, I urge your f-i-l to use a synthetic motor oil which will allow him to go at least 10k between service jobs. one more note: MB recommends alternating between what it calls Type A and Type B service procedures. Type A is fairly basic, Type B is more involved. Here's a link for more info from edmunds
http://applications.edmunds.com/maintenance/maintenance.do
with this info in hand, you can take your MB to a trusted mechanic, though he may not be able to reset the FSS, as the dealer can do. FSS reads the quality of your motor oil based on how the car is driven. Extreme conditions would most likely reduce service intervals.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.