How Expensive Sprinter Vans Are to Maintain

As a luxury full-size van, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter isn’t expensive to maintain. It’s very reliable but will cost you $18,000 to $19,000 in repair and maintenance costs during its first 10 years of service. You should note that your van’s maintenance costs will vary depending on how you use it.

And despite the high maintenance and repair costs, the Sprinter is very popular among van enthusiasts. It’s versatile, robust, has a ton of driver-assist and safety features, and excellent towing capacity.

Additionally, the van is very reliable, and you won’t be visiting the auto repair shops frequently.

Throughout this article, I’ll show you common problems with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, how expensive it is to maintain, why it’s reliable, and how well it holds its value. 


Sprinter Vans Are Reliable

Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans are reliable due to having a robust drivetrain and chassis that can withstand rough terrain and harsh conditions.

And, with proper care and maintenance, a Sprinter van can last 10-20 years or 300,000 miles before it requires any significant repairs or replacements.

To prolong your Sprinter van’s lifespan, Mercedes-Benz recommends service intervals of up to 15,000 miles for gas engines and up to 20,000 for diesel models.

Most commercially used Mercedes Sprinter vans clock an average mileage of more than 100,000 miles annually, and they can still last more than 10 years.

And, with an annual repair cost of $1,800, the Sprinter’s ownership cost is pretty low compared to the Ford Transit vans. The repair and maintenance figures are a direct result of the times you will drive your van to the repair shop.

In contrast, the Ford Transit Cargo van is cheaper to maintain and has an annual repair and maintenance cost of $1,170.

This is because, as much as the Sprinter vans are reliable, major breakdowns are costly. ’Most of their spare parts are from Germany or Mercedes-only automobile repair shops.

Additionally, Mercedes-Benz uses complicated electronics and drivetrain components in their Sprinter vans to reduce their carbon footprint and improve drivability and reliability.

The more electronically equipped a van is, the higher the chances that the slightest of faults will render it undrivable. You’ll have to do routine maintenance to keep your Sprinter van in good condition.

Here are some Sprinter van service intervals

  • Exchange your van’s brake fluid every 2 years
  • Replace the cabin dust/ combination filter every 400,000 miles
  • Set the wiper blades every 10,000 miles
  • Replace the synthetic motor oil every 15,000 miles for gas engines and 20,000 miles for diesel engines
  • Replace the transmission oil and filter at 40,000 miles. You’ll then replace both components every 60,000 and 30,000 miles for diesel and gas engines, respectively
  • For diesel engines, you should change the fuel filter every 20,000 miles


Common Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Problems

The Mercedes Benz Sprinter engine is a proven motor with excellent power delivery, reliability, good fuel economy, and durability.

And given the incredible engineering involved in making the Sprinter vans, you won’t need to visit the repair shop frequently.

However, as rare as they are, Sprinter van problems do happen.

Here are some common Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van problems and how expensive they are to repair.


Broken Flex Pipe

This can cause you part with close to $2,000 to have your flex pipe replaced and related accessories repaired if substantial damage occurs as a result of it.

This is because the Mercedes Sprinter van’s exhaust flex pipe is one part that easily breaks down and leaks exhaust gasses.

If this happens, the hot exhaust gasses will melt any electrical wiring and DEF nozzles it comes across .I In extreme cases, it will cause the  engine to shutdown.

Mending a broken flex pipe isn’t as expensive as the other repairs, but it’s equally important. In its early stages, a failure to diagnose a broken flex pipe will cause the hot gasses to damage other parts of the Cat/ DPF assembly.

Here is how you’ll know that your van’s flex pipe is faulty

  • A noticeable foul/ exhaust gasses smoke
  • A loud and foreign noise from the exhaust
  • A hanging exhaust pipe
  • Loss of power and acceleration, especially when towing or going uphill


Leaking Fuel Injector / Black Death

Depending on the severity of black death, repair costs range from $200 to $3,000 and even more.

You can avoid such expensive repairs if you replace copper seals every 50,000 to 60,000 miles. Also, don’t reuse copper seals during or after repair.

A leaking fuel injector gets its dreaded black death name from the thick black residue you’ll often find underneath the plastic injector cover in Sprinter vans.

The black carbon residue results from leaking fuel injectors and may arise due to poorly installed, substandard, or faulty seals.

Therefore, combustion gasses leak through the copper seal rings and gradually build up around the fuel injectors as a black deposit.

You can tell if you have a leaking fuel injector by looking out for:

  • Hissing sounds from the engine
  • Black carbon deposits underneath the engine cover
  • Check engine light
  • Rattling sounds from the engine
  • The exhaust/fuel mixture smell while driving

Furthermore, look out for cracks in the fuel injector body to prevent accidentally setting your Sprinter van aflame. Consider replacing it or having it rebuilt by professionals.


A Fault Triggers Start Countdown Notifications

Newer Sprinter van models with Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC engines usually have a start countdown failure if there’s a faulty DEF Adblue system or a broken NOX oxygen sensor.

Sprinter vans use diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to reduce their carbon emissions. It’s made with an exact ratio of 67.5 percent deionized water and 32.5 percent synthetic urea.

As a result, you’ll need to be careful when buying DEF fluid for your van, since using one with different deionized water to synthetic urea ratio will void your van’s warranty.

Furthermore, an advantage of a Sprinter van is that it will always tell you when it requires the DEF fluid, and ignoring this message is catastrophic. Once the fluid is low, the van gives you a numerical countdown of the “starts” you have before it experiences a complete shutdown.

You’ll see notifications on your instrument panel such as 10 starts left, 9 starts, and so on till none is left. At this stage, you won’t be able to start your van.

Furthermore, here are additional factors that will trigger a start countdown.

  • The start countdown meter is broken
  • Defective sensors
  • Expired or contaminated diesel exhaust fluid
  • Molten or blocked DEF system nozzles

Since there’s a myriad of factors that can trigger your van’s start countdown clock, it’s better to take it to a Sprinter van repair shop or dealership as soon as you can.


Rumble Strip Noise From the Torque Converter

For this repair, a Sprinter van repair person will charge upwards of $1,300 for both labor and parts.

The torque converter produces a rumbling sound if:

  • You use the wrong transmission oil
  • The transmission fluid level is too low
  • Worn-out torque converter lock-up clutch

It’s a very costly problem that affects all Sprinter vans except for the 4 cylinder models.

To fix the rumble strip noise, you’ll have to consult a professional. They’ll dismantle the transmission, rebuild your torque converter, and reinstall it.


Oil Cooler Leak

Oil cooler leaks are prevalent on Mercedes Sprinter van models produced post-2007, especially those with the OM642 V6 engine. And despite Mercedes’ shift to using more durable and robust Viton seals, you’ll still experience leaks.

Replacing the oil cooler is expensive, owing to the difficulties before accessing it. It’s located underneath the intake manifolds, the coolant lines, EGR equipment, and the turbocharger.

As a result, you’ll have to remove all these components before you can access the oil cooler.

Replacing the seals or the oil cooler becomes easy once you’ve cleared the access path. However, oil cooler leak repair is a very tedious and time-consuming activity that may require anywhere from 10-15 hours to complete.

In addition, you’ll need to replace all seals in the oil cooler and related components. To make the repair less stressful, I’d recommend that you acquire a complete oil cooler seal kit for your van.

And considering that a good seal kit comes in at about $120, plus 10-15 hours of labor costs, replacing oil cooler seals is very expensive. You’ll have to part with close to $2,000 to have the seals replaced by a professional.


Replacing a Clogged Diesel Particulate Filter

It can cost close to $3,000 to have your DPF and related sensors replaced. The repair costs figure may be slightly higher or lower depending on your location.

The diesel particulate filter or DPF is found in most diesel-powered Sprinter vans. Its role is to trap soot from exhaust gasses, preventing black smoke from exiting your van’s exhaust.

As you drive around, this soot builds up in the DPF up to a point when your van automatically does a regeneration. Regeneration within the DPF burns up the soot at temperatures close to 1,200°F to allow it to be expelled with the exhaust gasses.

However, Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans are very sensitive, and any fault or use of sub-standard components and fluids within the DPF will cause it to malfunction.

Any issue that hinders the DPF’s proper functioning will clog it and prevent regeneration. These include a faulty swirl flap motor and a damaged EGR valve. 

Additionally, using the wrong engine oil hinders the regeneration process and causes vast amounts of ash to build up within the DPF.

The DPF is a sensitive component whose operation is linked to your van’s drivetrain and power. The rate of air intake into your van’s engine is determined by the rate of exit of burnt gas and fuel through the exhaust.

If the ash builds up gets too high, it blocks the DPF preventing exhaust gasses from exiting your van. At this stage, replacing your diesel particulate filter becomes your sole option.


Glow Plug Failure

Unlike the spark plug in Sprinter gas models, the diesel models have glow plugs to ignite the fuel-gas mixture. Since there’s intense compression in a diesel engine, compression alone won’t ignite the fuel-gas mixture, requiring an external heat source.

Glow plugs reach more than 1800°F to raise the engine temperatures and facilitate ignition. A failing glow plug symptoms include a misfiring engine, black smoke, loss of drivetrain power, hard starting, and poor fuel economy.

Glow plug maintenance isn’t expensive, and you can replace one if you have some knowledge of vans. Once you’ve received a warning on your instrument panel that your glow plugs are faulty, consider replacing them as soon as you can.

And, if you’re not well versed with Sprinter vans, it’s better to leave the task to the professionals. Mercedes-Benz are stringent and rigid and will void your warranty if you install substandard or non-Mercedes glow plugs.

On the bright side, glow plug failures are rare since Sprinter diesel vans use them exclusively when starting.


Sprinter Limp Mode

A limp mode is a safety feature in turbocharged diesel Sprinter vans that prevents damage to your van. It happens when the engine control unit (ECU) senses that the turbocharger system is malfunctioning.

Since all vehicles must abide by EPA emissions guidelines, an excessive loss of power forces a turbocharger shutdown hence placing your van in a “limp mode.”

Here are the causes of the Sprinter limp mode

  • Bad mass airflow sensor
  • Faulty spark plugs
  • A faulty mass air sensor (MAS)
  • Electronic throttle actuator problems
  • Broken or malfunctioning oxygen sensor
  • Failing catalytic converter

Additionally, the limp mode is caused by a faulty swirl flap motor, a broken turbo actuator, and leaking turbo resonators and intercooler hoses.

A common sign of the Sprinter limp mode is a sudden loss of power or the check engine light notification. Other signs include:

  • Slow acceleration, especially when going uphill
  • Hard to start
  • Black exhaust smoke

Ignoring the Sprinter check engine light or limp mode notifications can be catastrophic for your vehicle, which may signify even more significant problems.

Once you experience any signs that may signify that your van is in limp mode, you must consult a Mercedes-Benz repair shop. The limp mode should not cause you to panic, but it may result from a combination of one or more faults; hence repair prices can be pretty high. 


DEF / AdBlue Tank Heater Failure

You’ll have to part with close to $1,500 or more to have your DEF heater replaced.

A DEF fluid is crucial in any Sprinter van as it reacts with and eliminates the nitrogen oxides present in diesel engine exhausts. It’s stored in an external tank equipped with a heating system to keep it running even in winter.

And like all other Sprinter components, the DEF heater fails occasionally. However, as you’ll need it during freezing months (with less than 12°F), you’re more likely to recognize the failure sometime after it has already occurred.

Fortunately, the check engine light warning will turn on and launch a start countdown concurrently.


Sprinter Vans Hold Their Value Well

Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans have a reputation for being solid, strong, and long-lasting. But given that the van has a lot of electronics, it’s impressive that they hold their value for so long.

A new Mercedes Sprinter costs $35,000 to $50,000, whereas a used one in good condition (with a mileage of fewer than 100,000 miles) will cost you between $30,000 and $40,000. An older one (with a mileage of 200,000 miles) will cost you $15,000 to $20,000.

The above figures are for unconverted Sprinter vans. Regardless of the mileage, you’ll part with $50,000 and upwards to get yourself a converted Sprinter van in good condition.

Factors that determine a used Sprinter van’s value include:

  • The condition it’s in- A poorly maintained van will quickly lose its value compared to a well maintained one. Servicing your van religiously according to Mercedes-Benz servicing intervals keeps it in good working condition.

And as we’ve seen, some modifications such as adding a racking or security system increases your van’s value.

  • Its mileage: Well-maintained Sprinter vans can last upwards of 20 years or even 30 years for some. However, mileage is a determinant of the level of use or abuse that your van has undergone.

The more the mileage, the less a van’s value is.

  • Fuel prices: Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans have moderate fuel economy figures and excellent cargo-carrying capacities. And, as much as they’re not the best in terms of fuel economy, cheaper fuel prices will drive van enthusiasts to the Mercedes Sprinter.


Final Thoughts

The Mercedes-Sprinter van is very reliable despite being slightly more expensive to maintain than its rivals, such as the Ford Transit. And while it saves you money in fewer visits to the repair shop, any significant damage to the Sprinter van is costly.

Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans have very sophisticated technologies and electronics that can only be diagnosed, repaired, and reprogrammed by a Mercedes-Benz specialist.

Therefore, do periodic maintenance according to your service manual to avoid colossal maintenance costs.