By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Back in 2020, the EPA and the State of California slapped the wrist of Mercedes-Benz USA and parent, Daimler AG. It seems the big automaker allegedly cheated on emissions standards on many of its diesel-fired rigs – including Sprinters. While not claiming responsibility, Daimler settled out of court to the tune of a $2 billion settlement – and a recall of a quarter-million units. The recall of 2009 to 2016 model-year rigs is creating Sprinter woes for some RVers.
Secret add-on equipment
Sprinter woes come from what the fed and state governments claim is some secret add-on equipment that Daimler never bothered to mention to the EPA. These “undisclosed auxiliary emission control devices and some so-called ‘defeat devices’” are the nut of the matter. These secret add-ons allowed too much nitrogen oxide to whoof out of the tail pipes of the rigs in question. Nitrogen oxide is linked to both heart and lung problems, as it builds up in ground-level (hence breathable) ozone.
Defeat devices, which are illegal, “cause the vehicles to produce compliant results during emissions testing,” the Department of Justice said in a statement. “But when not running a test, the vehicles’ emissions controls perform differently, and less effectively, resulting in an increase in [nitrogen oxide] emissions above compliant levels.”
The EPA granted Daimler three years to get the majority of Sprinter vans brought up to snuff. The recall will mean all affected vehicles will get a new software upgrade and a fresh nitrogen oxide sensor. If a recalled rig doesn’t already have a “copper catalyst,” they’ll get one of those, too. Other items may be included.
Does your Sprinter no longer Sprint?
So how has all of this affected Sprinter owners? You may have an RV built on the Sprinter platform. You may – or may not – have already had your recall work done. We got an email from a not-so-happy full-time RVer named Jan. Jan’s Sprinter woes began with her 2011 Winnebago Navion, based on the Mercedes Sprinter. The rig was recalled and earlier this spring Jan got the recall work done.
Or so she thought. Call it a Sprinter woe, when her Navion no longer sprinted. The dreaded “check engine” light lit up, and Jan was headed back to a dealership for the work to be redone. Sad to say, not all Mercedes dealers will fix a Sprinter, and of that quarter-million Mercedes rigs in the recall, the majority are Sprinters. She got it into a dealer, and it was “fixed” again. For about two weeks. Then the light came back on, and this time the Sprinter became the Creeper, when it went into limp mode. The trouble was more than just the RV – it also hit Jan rather hard. Imagine trying to stay out of the way of full-tilt freeway traffic when you can’t urge your ride to go faster than 45?
Oil change – in four months!
The third appointment for the rig meant a week’s wait. It seems Sprinter woes are widespread. While Jan’s “hurry up and wait” issues took place in the Pacific Northwest, another Sprinter owner, Marty, had his own Sprinter woes. Marty is out in Central Michigan, and his Sprinter needs an oil change. Easy enough, eh? The dealers tell him that it will be a four-month wait – just for an oil change! Could it be that dealers are so swamped with emissions recall work that nothing else moves?
We’d like to hear from you if you’ve had your own case of Sprinter woes. Drop us a line to russ at rvtravel.com. If there looks to be a widespread problem, we’ll try to get to the bottom of it. As for Jan, she says she’s so disappointed by the whole misadventure – well, if you want to buy a Navion, let us know.