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.
Sprinter vans, motorhomes recalled for fuel leak hazard
Days after getting the emissions software update, my partner’s 2011 Sprinter broke down. Shattered turbo and a DEF temperature sensor error. After an expensive fix and a disrupted road trip, we returned 300 mi home to be greeted by a check engine light. The van has been in the shop consistently for months now.
MB support team says any issues must be addressed at a dealership. The dealership says they can’t prove that the problems are arising from the emissions software update. $10k+ later we are still on a short leash from home and becoming regulars at the local shop.
Would love some advice on what to do about this.
Hi, Eric. Wow! Sorry to hear about all of the issues with the Sprinter. I’m not sure if it would qualify as a “lemon” RV, being from 2011, but maybe Attorney Ron Burdge would have an idea of what you can do to resolve this. Here’s his website: https://rvlemonlaw.com Good luck! 🙂 –Diane
Thank you for the suggestion, Diane!
You’re welcome, Eric. Even if Ron can’t help you directly, maybe he can help head you in the right direction to get this resolved so you can enjoy your RV again. And again, Good luck! 🙂 –Diane
We STILL has not received our money…and are told there is no set date for this reimbursement. Has anyone else received theirs?
yes- got it months ago
Recently had Emissions modification done by MB, went on trip from NY to Virginia. Before I left had oil changed at local garage, not MB. Went on highway for the 1st time and noticed a warning message come up and it said I had too much oil in the engine and went back to my garage and had them look at it and they took out some oil. Went to Virginia confident that everything was good and the light came on once again. On the way back from Virginia I got a message to check my DEF and I know my garage always fills this up with every oil change. I pull over and check the DEF and it’s within the level limits it should be. I also noticed my AC acting strange as in the AC compressor is on but I have reduced fan blowing and cooling capacity. I turn the AC off completely for 15 seconds and turn it back on and the AC is blowing cool again. Not sure if this is a coincidence but all this happened after getting my Emissions work done. I have less power coming off a stop and notice 3 less mpg per gal.
I recently had the emissions recall done on my 2016 Sprinter Motorhome. After taking my first trip, I noticed reduced power and lower gas mileage of about 1-1/2 mpg. The scary thing is trying to pull away from a traffic signal, especially on an incline. There is barely enough power to get the vehicle to move away, and once it does, the engine RPMs are about 3800 and the accelerator pedal is nearly to the floor. It seems that the vehicle holds in lower gears for much longer until it gets up to speed. This is all very annoying. If I could go back to the way it was and waive the $3000 payment, I would.
I have had the emissions recall completed on my 2016 sprinter rv and so far no other issues. Another recall is for a rear wheel speed sensor that parts just came available for. I called my MB dealer for service and got their first opening, November 24!! Found another dealer and got a spot for early October. Yes, the sprinter service sites are getting very busy.
Durn there’s that fine German quality shining through again, buy American!
In addition to the “special Mercedes coveerage” you are privileged to receive, another just came in the mail: 11 years coverage for the turbo. There’s a clue in there.
Here are my 2 cents after having the recent emissions recall work done….I have 2012 Winnebago View with V6 diesel. I have found this engine to be very zippy and fast, even when towing my Jeep, including hills, for the last 5,000 miles (I just bought her in October). After I had the recall completed I drove to the dealership and hooked up my toad and CANNOT go faster than 45 mph on a flat freeway, not only that but you can even feel the total lack of power from the start.😡 I immediately returned vehicle to dealer and they said they hadn’t heard about any similar problems and they have been doing many recalls. That was 2 weeks ago. I called them today and they said there appears to be stable horsepower and torque when not under load but a significant loss of both when towing. He recommended I purchase an aftermarket chip from Rennetech for $1460!!!! This is NOT my problem! Mercedes needs to fix!! And to an earlier commenter, this problem is not background “noise.”
And, they have now received several similar complaints….
We had four sprinter vans for our office. We had numerous problems with them going into limp mode. One time we broke down and Charleston West Virginia and they said we had to get towed to Ohio because no one worked on them in charleston. Based out of Richmond Virginia we could not find anyone to work on them here. It started out the Dodge dealer then they said they won’t work on them Mercedes said they wouldn’t work on them. We had so much problems with him we finally got rid of them all and basically had to give them away. I would never touch one of those sprinters
Another Jan here. I had a 2015 Leisure Travel van and after 3 years of problem free driving, my engine light came on and my van “limped” up a hill outside of Albany. Took it to 4 different garages, 3 of which were Mercedes dealers. The problem would be fixed for awhile, then the engine light would return. It broke my heart to get rid of it, but as a single, senior woman traveling alone I couldn’t take the risk of getting stuck somewhere. I would NEVER buy an RV with a Mercedes engine again!
I won’t buy a dodge, and now won’t buy a sprinter. Hate people and companies that scam.
My biggest gripe has been the massive number of miles required to reset the “not ready” status for emissions testing. I’ve put hundreds and hundreds of miles on my 2011 Winnebago View trying to pass emissions so I can get it registered. The EPA update in May was just part of this, along with another check engine light earlier in the year. It’s such a waste. Running 6-8 unnecessary tanks of fuel through the thing kind of defeats the purpose of emissions testing. Oh, and vehicle is definitely slower after the EPA update.
Got the fix done. Fast fix, no problems at all since. The complainers’ voices are always the loudest. 2-3 complaints across a nationwide fleet are absolutely background noise.
I got this recall done, fuel mileage went up .9 mpg. Getting 16.5 mpg on my 2016 Leisure Travel van Unity. I have a lead foot too. Sorry for no bad news.
It’s very refreshing to get “no bad news” for a change. Thank you, George! Have a good night. 🙂 –Diane
I have an 08 2500 that I converted. A few years back the muffler style dpg clogged and yes my Sprinter wouldn’t sprint. Good news. A replacement was available, a mere $3000.00 for a vehicle I paid $8000.00 for. I removed the filter and it runs like a top. You guessed it, the check engine light is still on. I’ve never found anybody that could do an emission test on it.
Jan here with the Navion… second check engine light came on only two stops after DPF sensor was “fixed.” An hour later. Actually limped into dealership 20 miles away twice..didn’t get the five engine starts before limp mode either time!! . scary on hills when it won’t go over 20 mph… in shop nine days total and it is my home and had to vacate it… did get loaner car on second visit.
Misery deserves company. I have a 2015 Ram Promaster eco diesel camper that I bought new. It has proven to be embarrassingly unreliable. The total diesel emissions system failure happened a month ago in the Smokey Mountains. Although it had only 58k miles, it was out of the federal emissions warranty so I was relieved of over $6,600 in repairs plus 2 weeks of car rental and motel bills. The dealer, in all fairness, knew how to fix it. I am another traveler looking for dependability and hope to find it in a new Ford Transit with a gas motor.
I own a 2008 Winnebago View. It came with the 3.5 liter gas V6 and (thank goodness) not the problematic diesel engine. I have had no problems with this unit other than having to replace the drive shaft (with a much more robust aftermarket drive shaft). The gas engine has about 100 more horsepower and the maintenance is very simple and inexpensive (I do it all myself).
I’m currently stuck for the second time as a result of this problem as noted in your “cheating on emissions “ Friday night was told this again for the now second time while out on the road check engine light comes on and being told stay close by you need emissions repairs. Stuck on side of road for the entire weekend till they can look at it on Monday but according to the dealer it’s a result of this cheating and “it should be covered”. Who will cover my loss of time and payment for accommodations while I wait this weekend.
The 2012 MB passenger van had a raft of engine lights as we towed our 3500 pound trailer cross country. Each repair was fingers-crossed, as the mechanics “thought” the problem resolved. I traded for a 2016, and have had several recalls, but unfortunately, it’s my favorite vehicle — great power, view, comfort. I do have maintenance done at 12,000 miles by my local shop. I buy the oil ( 13 quarts of Mobil 1 ESP), and the Mercedes fuel filter from Amazon and I get charged $100 for the maintenance which also includes rotating the tires and regular fluid check. That looks like $300, but the MB $400 doesn’t include the fuel filter. I’ve talked a couple of folks out of buying Sprinters, given the cost of maintenance and the fact that only a few dealers can service the Sprinter. Thanks, MB!
Finding a servicing dealer is a challenge. Most maintenance is pretty routine. Fuel filter takes some time but it’s just nuts and bolts and all from the top of the engine. Oil needs a really big catch pan.
Mine has 80,000 miles and really runs like a top and is great fun to drive. I can easily parallel park it. Mine was not made as a camper, it was made as a work van so no slide outs. Queen bed hide away, wet bath, fridge with small freezer, gas, 120v, 2 burner propane stove, propane tank. I’m not going to live in it, but it’s a great camper