Mercedes Sprinter 313 CDI Problems & How To Fix Them

These are the common Sprinter 313 CDI problems: 

  1. Broken Exhaust Flex Pipe 
  1. Clogged DPF Filter 
  1. DEF Heater Failure 
  1. Glow Plug and Connecting Module Failure 
  1. Injector “Black Death” 
  1. Leaking Oil Cooler & Intercooler Hose 
  1. “Rumble Strip” Noise 
  1. Sprinter Van Losing Power 
  1. Start Countdown Issue 
  1. Turbo Resonator Air Leak 

A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter can easily see a lifespan of 300K+ miles. As long as you stay on top of regular tune-ups, a Sprinter van will remain reliable, and you’ll be proud of its longevity. 

But despite the Sprinter van’s durability, flexibility, and trusthworthy German technology, these vans can run into some common technical problems.  

I’ve selected the most common problems with the Mercedes Sprinter 313 CDI that need your attention. Understandably, you’ll find the 313 CDI (Common Rail Diesel Injection) engine in Sprinter models from 2003 to 2010. 

I’ll explain what causes the Sprinter 313 CDI problems, how to prevent them, and how to fix them when they occur. 

Let’s get started and talk about everything in detail. 


The 10 Common Mercedes Sprinter 313 CDI Problems 

Most Sprinter 313 CDI problems come from failing to care for your van properly. However, others are entirely beyond your control, and you won’t notice them until the part is completely broken. 

Now, the good news is that everything here can be repaired or replaced. A qualified mechanic can easily help you solve these problems before things get worse and cost you a ton of money. 

Here’s a detailed look into the Sprinter 313 CDI problems: 


1. Broken Exhaust Flex Pipe 

This can cause serious trouble, and there’s usually no warning in advance because the flex pipe breaks all at once. The issue affects the DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) lines and the nozzles. 

The problem is due to hot exhaust gases leaking from the broken flex pipe and then melting the flex pipe wiring. You can easily see a broken flex pipe in front of your catalytic converter because it’s usually part of the cat assembly.  

You just have to replace the flex pipe and any of the other things that hot gasses have damaged or melted. 


2. Clogged DPF Filter 

The DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) catches exhaust particles to prevent black smoke from exiting the tailpipe. Notably, the DPF can only catch and keep the particles which are a  particular volume.  

Once the filter is full, your Sprinter’s ECU computer automatically triggers a temperature rise of up to 1200 ℉ at the exhaust to burn the particles. 

The process happens when you go for a long haul at highway speeds. But if you use a cheaper service oil for your Sprinter instead of the MB 229.52 and drive in city mode, you’re sure to have trouble. 

Particles will build up in the DPF. They won’t burn automatically during the regeneration process and will clog the filter. This disrupts the flow of exhaust gases and blocks the filter even more, meaning only manual regeneration will be helpful. 

A certified Sprinter technician will hook up diagnostic tools and instruments then do the manual regeneration, which costs about  $150. 

A clogged DPF may also be due to a: 

  • Faulty temperature sensor 
  • Defective EGR ( Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve 
  • Turbocharger failure 
  • Faulty fuel injectors 

Sadly, there’s only one option left if the ash level remains stubbornly high after manual regeneration: replacing your old DPF. 


3. DEF Heater Failure 

Your Sprinter’s DEF heater keeps diesel emission fluids from freezing. But then it could burn out in one day; then you’ll start seeing engine warning lights.  

An AdBlue heater failure in Sprinter vans is more likely to occur during chillier months, unlike in the summer when fluids don’t easily freeze. 

It’s more common in Sprinter models from 2010 because they use an advanced technology called BlueTEC to reduce harmful emissions. A faulty DEF heater could also trigger the “starts countdown” feature, which I’ll discuss later. 

Don’t worry about the DEF heater failure, though. A qualified mechanic at a Sprinter dealership can remove it and replace it with a brand-new OEM. 


4. Glow Plug & Control Module Failure 

Unlike gas-driven Sprinters that use spark plugs, diesel Sprinters use glow plugs to fire up the engine. Glow plugs take considerably longer to get damaged because they only fire up when you start the van. 

Regardless, glow plugs, and their control modules will still fail in the end. During winter, the effect can be more intense, and a glow plug could get stuck in the engine cylinder head.  

The only way to get around the glow plug issue is a replacement, and each glow plug could cost you up to $80. 


5. Injector “Black Death” on the Seal Ring 

The leading cause of injector “black death” is a failure of the copper seal ring between the injector and cylinder head. Once it happens, it allows combustion gases to escape and cause the accumulation of black tar-like material over the fuel injectors. 

Depending on the degree of damage, you could smell a strange exhaust odor when the engine is running. At times you may even hear it puff. 

To be blunt, injector black death is severe, and it even looks gross when you open the hood. However,  mechanics can diligently break down the tar-like material and take out the injector to replace the seal. 

This takes time, and depending on the seriousness of the issue, prices also vary. At times, the service technicians at Sprinter dealerships will have to destroy the injector and cylinder head to get everything out.  

A different service technician may set the copper seal on the wrong side or fail to replace it with a brand-new one. In that case, combustion gases will still leak, and you’ll run into the problem again. So be sure to take your van to a certified Sprinter dealership only. 


6. Leaking Oil Cooler & Intercooler Hose 

I’ve mostly seen oil leaks from the oil cooler gasket in Sprinter models from 2007 onwards. It’s a problem your Sprinter is more likely to run into once you’ve clocked 120,000 miles or more. 

Replacing a damaged oil cooler is a complex and expensive undertaking, and it could see you part with more than $1500. It involves disassembling and removing other parts like the filter, manifold, turbocharger, hoses, etc. 

Another related problem with Sprinter 313 CDI models is cracking intercooler hoses, like the driver’s side intercooler-to-intake hose. Tiny cracks usually start forming near the metallic fitting of these hoses before they blow out and become bigger. 

When these cracks begin to form, you may experience occasional “limp home mode” issues, which I’ll explain next. 


7. Limp Home Mode (Sprinter Van Losing Power) 

Well, first off, the limp mode is a safety feature in your Sprinter that protects the engine from damage. But then it’s an issue because your Sprinter loses power suddenly and won’t run well unless you restart the engine. 

When your Sprinter’s ECU senses a malfunction in the turbocharger system, it forces the engine into low power or “limp home mode.” Generally, your Sprinter could lose power for any of the following reasons: 

  • Faulty oxygen sensor 
  • Broken EGR valve 
  • Leaking intercooler hoses 
  • Actuator and resonator breakdown 
  • Defective swirl flap 

You’ll figure out you’re in limp mode when there’s a sudden drop in the engine power without any noticeable noise. And if it catches you uphill, you may not even be able to maintain 50 mph. 

It’s a good idea to pay attention to the “check engine light” on the dash, as it can indicate limp mode. 


8. “Rumble Strip” Noise 

Sprinter dealerships call this issue “rumble strip noise” because of the sound and shuddering you’ll feel as if you’re driving over a rumble strip on the side of the freeway. 

The leading cause of the rumble strip noise problem is a worn-out torque converter clutch. It can also result from using the wrong transmission fluid or low fluid levels. 

To fix this problem, mechanics take out the transmission, then rebuild the transmission clutch with heavy-duty parts before reinstalling it.  


9. Starts Countdown Issue From the DEF System 

The “start countdown” is a malfunction you may experience with diesel Sprinter models from 2010, including the 313 CDIs. It’s mainly due to a faulty NOx (nitrous oxide) sensor or a hitch in some other part of the DEF system. 

 If you fail to add DEF fluid in time or the AdBlue components breakdown, you’ll begin seeing the starts countdown warning on the dash. It’s usually something like “10 starts remaining”. 

I strongly recommend taking your Sprinter to a dealer for service and repair as soon as you get this warning.  

Don’t wait until you have so few starts left, or you’ll have to tow your Sprinter to the dealer for a factory reset. Moreover, it will require more complicated and pretty expensive repair work. 


10. Turbo Resonator Air Leak 

While most folks wrongly call this problem “turbo leaking oil,” it’s an air leak from the turbo output. Any original Sprinter turbo resonator can gradually develop a cracked, torn, or flattened O-ring. 

The leak could worsen with time as pressurized air erodes the rubber seal. When the ECU detects a pressure variation, you’ll begin to experience rapid power drops. Luckily, the O-rings can be replaced, and they’re among the relatively cheap Sprinter parts. 


Sprinter Vans are Complicated 

As I highlighted before, some common Sprinter 313 CDI problems are way beyond your control. Sprinter vans are pretty complex, especially for models starting from 2008 because US diesel regulations changed around that time. 

For example, the DEF pump consists of a tank, level sensor, temperature sensor, control unit sensors, and an actuator. Once your van has clocked 100K miles or more, it’s not uncommon for these parts to malfunction. 

Because of the Sprinter van’s complexities, most regular mechanics won’t even dream of touching them. That leaves you the option of taking your Sprinter to a certified dealership. 


You Can Tell Symptoms of Sprinter 313 CDI Issues 

Before buying a Sprinter van (especially a used one), I highly recommend taking it for a thorough test drive because it helps you properly assess it.

If you own one already, please keep a keen eye on how it drives, paying special attention to the following: 

  • Engine stalls when driving uphill 
  • Leaking engine oil under the hood 
  • Shuddering and strange noises 
  • Burning smells 

As we know it, these German machines are pretty elaborate, and it may not be easy to troubleshoot and fix these issues yourself. That’s why I advise you seek help from a certified Mercedes-Benz dealer. 


Always Pay Attention to the Engine Warning Lights 

If there’s one thing you get out of this guide, let it be that you should never ignore the “check engine light” warning. It comes for various reasons which you may not easily figure out.  

The best bet is to take your van to a Sprinter dealer. They’ll use an OBD II scanner to look at the trouble code and get more info. 


Closing Thoughts 

On the outside, Sprinter vans look pretty simple and require little maintenance. But when you get to know them better, you’ll notice they need special attention for optimal performance.  

Most Sprinter 313 CDI problems occur if you fail to stick to the correct maintenance schedule recommended in the owner’s manual.  

As it turns out, sourcing Sprinter parts can be tricky since they’re mostly shipped internationally and only re-assembled in the US.  

You have to deal with the exclusive pricing of these parts due to their high quality and excellent craftsmanship. 

That makes repairs and maintenance very expensive, and the last thing you want is to run into Sprinter 313 CDI problems due to negligence.