Sprinter Fuel Filter Change

Since we might be encountering diesel of dubious quality south of the border (or perhaps better, who knows), it’s a good idea to know how to change your fuel filter. We buy OEM filters at the Mercedes dealerships and carry a few spares, just in case. They’re about $50 and probably a bit cheaper online. We’ve heard OEM suppliers are either Mann or Mahle, so probably best to go with those.

The fuel filter sits underneath a heat shield below the air filter housing, right in the center of the engine compartment. It’s not a very convenient spot unfortunately. To change it, let the engine cool off a bit, as there can be some hot parts around (including the filter itself).

We haven’t been able to find much information on it online, so here’s the step-by-step guide:

Parts:

Tools:

  • Torx bits
  • 5mm hex bit
  • Flathead screwdriver

Procedure:

1) remove the air filter housing. This requires 5 steps: 1) use a flat head screw driver to pop up the air vent on the 2 plastic connectors. 2) disconnect the black plastic air hose on the driver side (snaps off easily); 3) remove cable on the driver side by sliding upwards; 4) loosen clamp on passenger side and remove air hose; 5) remove 2 electrical connectors from passenger side. Important: do not turn the ignition without reconnecting these 2 electrical connectors – you’ll get a check engine light. After these 5 steps, you can pull out the air filter housing and put it off to the side.

Air filter housing

Air filter housing

2) next, you remove the heat shield with a Torx bit. There are 5 spring-loaded screws that turn 90 degrees to detach. You can then pull out the metal piece and put it to the side.

Heat shield below the air filter

Heat shield below the air filter

3) the fuel filter is now accessible. To remove it, 1) open the clamp on the back side of the filter cage using a 5mm hex bit; 2) loosen the clamps on the 2 high-pressure hoses attached to the filter and pull them off; 3) disconnect the electrical connector by pulling it out. You should now be able to lift the fuel filter out of its housing (there is a hose in the way but you should be able to get past it pretty easily).

Fuel filter exposed

Fuel filter exposed

4) with the fuel filter out, you now remove the 2 Torx screws on top of the filter, remove the plastic screw on top, and twist the black plastic insert that sits in the filter, once you twist it slightly, you can pull it out of the fuel filter.

5) there are 2 rubber O-rings attached to the plastic insert. Your new filter should come with new ones. Take the old O-rings off (a flathead screwdriver might help), make sure the new ones are lubricated (you can use old engine oil), and replace them. Then put the insert into the new filter, reattach the 2 Torx screws, and put the black plastic screw back on (some oil might help again).
6) put the fuel filter back into its casing in the engine compartment, reattach the high-pressure hoses, tighten the clamps, attach the electrical connector, tighten the clamp on the housing. Make sure to reverse all steps from step 3.
7) reattach the heat shield plate the same way you took it out. It slides into 2 pins in the back, and attaches with 5 Torx screws that only need a 90 degree turn.
8) put the air filter housing back on (it hooks in on the rear side), and make sure to reattach the 5 things from step 1.

Done.

One thing we’ve done to our setup (and this is where it might be confusing for others): the fuel filter comes with a connection at the top that loops around to a spot on the passenger side, which is just as inaccessible as the filter itself. This connection is supposed to be used to check the liquid inside the fuel filter in case of problems. Since it’s equally inaccessible either way, you can remove that connector. If you ever have an issue with fuel quality, you can just attach a windshield wiper hose to the plastic connector on top of the fuel filter and drain the content of the fuel filter more easily.
Another thing on the clamps for the high pressure hoses on the filter: the OEM clamps require a special tool (most people use pliers and run into issues tightening them. When we bought our Sprinter, it had aftermarket clamps installed that were biting into the rubber hoses. We replaced them with a 13mm and a 15mm clamp that tighten using either a hex bit or a flathead (these should work). It’s something to consider. The clamps don’t have to be super tight, the hoses don’t come off that easily.

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22 Comments

  1. Hey guys,
    Just stumbled across your IG feed. Looks like you are having a blast. My wife and I spent two years traveling around the US and Canada in our Sprinter, so we know how fun (and trying at times) it can be. 😉 Our intention is to ultimately travel to SA as well, but we are currently taking a break in San Diego for a year or two before heading south.

    Part of the reason for this break was a concern about the availability of ULSD fuel throughout Mexico, Central and South America. I wasn’t able to find any definitive information about it, but found something mentioning wider spread adoption by 2015 or 2016.

    The vans in prior Sprinter blogs have been the old body style (2002-2006) with the older engine that could run on low sulphur diesel without issue, so the concerns about fuel were never really addressed.

    I’m very interested to hear about the luck you are having with finding ULSD as your trip goes on. Also, have you found any other online resources for diesel availability?

    By the way. Love the wood panel interior. Looks like you had a fun time building.

    Cheers,

    Nathan
    @twastravels

    • Nathan,

      the ULSD issue has definitely been top of mind for us before going on this trip. We haven’t heard of anyone doing this trip with a NAFTA NCV3 Sprinter (the 2007-current model) before, but there are a couple of stories from German overlander forums that helped us figure this issue out. There are stories of Sprinters (as well as Mercedes G-class and VW Crafter) overlanders breaking down in South America due to a bad combination of high-sulfur fuel and high altitude. The problem is almost entirely related to the diesel particulate filter, which clogs up and puts the car into limp-home mode, as you probably know.

      A few things that might be helpful:
      1) In Mexico, you see plenty of Sprinters everywhere and Mercedes commercial vehicle service is widely available. The OM642 engine (3.0L V6) is not available, but we’ve heard from mechanics that they look pretty similar to the 2.7L 4-cylinder that is being sold in Latin America. We can’t speak for other countries yet, but at least Mercedes lists dealers / distributors in all of the Latin American countries.
      2) Mexican Mercedes dealers sell an additive that is supposed to help with bad diesel quality. It costs about US$10 to treat 120L of fuel, so about US$10 for every 1,000km (600 miles).
      3) Mobil 5W40 ESP Formula M oil is available in Mexico, the same that should be used on US Sprinters. I think DEF is also available in Mexico.
      4) The “Mexican emissions system” has a straight pipe where US Sprinters have a DPF.
      5) In case you are considering it, it’s possible to take out the DPF on Sprinter models 2008-10 but harder to do on 2011+ models.
      6) Nowhere in Mexico have we seen any sign that there is ULSD available.

      So far in Mexico, we’ve only had minor issues with the Sprinter, but none related to the emissions or diesel quality.The mechanics have been nothing but excellent (and there are tons of them). We went to the mechanic twice: First to replace some rubber pieces on the front suspension in a small town by a suspension shop, second at the Mercedes dealer in Puebla (huge dealership) because of turbo issues, which were solved by cleaning the electronic connectors to the turbo and the ECU. The attitude here of fixing rather than replacing with new parts is definitely a nice change compared to the US.

      Shoot me an email (jakob@sprintervandiaries.com) if you have any questions.

  2. Many boat owners carry fill spouts with blt- in filters to address certain diesel quality issues BEFORE the fuel enters the tank.

  3. Hi Jakob.
    Came across your diaries. My wife and I just bought a 2008 Sprinter from Montreal a couple of weeks ago, hoping to take it to South America in a couple of years. I too am very interested in the low sulphur diesel issue. Do you have any updates as you are heading south? I read one post from Costa Rica where they removed the Catalitic converter. Also read you were in Perry Sound ON, designing your plumping. We live a couple of hours south from there. 🙂 All the best in your travels.

    Norbert

    • Norbert,

      We’re in Chile now and the Sprinter performed well all the way, at all altitudes and had no issues with fuel quality. I would say it ran roughest on the fuel in Peru from our experience. We didn’t have any issues with contaminated fuel (e.g. water or dirt). You won’t be able to get ULSD south of the US except for Chile, Argentina, and Costa Rica (I believe). One thing to consider is removing your DPF before heading south of the border. It’s the primary cause for failure, especially once you combine low fuel quality with high altitude – which is often the case in the Andes. Excited to hear about your trip – when are you planning to head south?

  4. What year van is your Sprinter? I have a 2014 V6 Cargo Van. I believe that my van has the exact configuration as it pertains to the hoses, wire harness, screws, bolts etc.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to explain your process in changing your fuel filter. It was very understandable.

    Happy travels!!!

    Stephen

  5. Thank you for revealing the fuel filter’s location.
    Hope you are enjoying your trip in SA. Recently as of last May I bought a 2013 Sprinter outfitted by Winnebago Industries and have logged 15000 miles so far. I was wondering if you could list the part number for the fuel filter ( there are several filters available but all different models).
    Thank you very much,
    Casey Deer

  6. Hello Jakob, while in Mexico you mentioned that your van developed a clunk noise…. But no mention of what was repaired by the local mechanic. Can you elaborate a bit more for us please?
    Terry

    Recently, the Sprinter has been making a subtle, but distinct ‘thud’ noise while driving over bumps and we were planning to take the van to the Mercedes dealer in Guadalajara. One night while at Delia’s a couple that lived nearby came over to the van to introduce themselves. After chatting for a little and when the husband heard that we planned on taking the van into the dealer, he quickly recommended that we first bring it to the local mechanic and that he’d be happy to come with us to translate (he’s Mexican). The next morning, Jakob and the husband took off to visit the mechanic while I helped out on the farm. After only an hour and $300 Pesos (~$25usd), the van was fixed! We are curious how much it would have cost at the dealer, but are happy we didn’t find out. Most importantly, however, It was Jakob’s birthday so we took off to Guadalajara to celebrate.

    • Terry,

      It was the front stabilizer bar bushings. In fact they seem to wear out fairly quickly, especially when you drive a lot of bumpy roads. We ended up having to replace them again in Argentina 20k miles later. It’s a cheap part (you can buy the front bushings for ~$10 at Rockauto or here), and doesn’t take too long to replace as long as the bolts holding them in place aren’t stuck. The rear stabilizer bar bushings did fine throughout the entire trip. When we got back to the US I replaced the front and rear bushings just in case, and the van feels a lot more stable now. Next time going to South America I would carry a spare set of the bushings.

      An easy way to check is to get under the van and rattle the stabilizer bar in different directions. There shouldn’t really be much movement when the bushings are still good.

      Jakob

  7. Hi again….

    I also wanted to thank you for your amazing post and pictures on how to change the fuel filter on the 08 sprinter. Reading your post gave me the confidence to step up and give it a shot which by the way was a very smooth process…
    Cheers
    Terry

  8. Jakob,
    Thanks for the fuel filter replacement process and pictures. Two questions:
    Is the last paragraph necessary for a routine fuel filter replacement?

    “One thing we’ve done to our setup (and this is where it might be confusing for others): the fuel filter comes with a connection at the top that loops around to a spot on the passenger side, which is just as inaccessible as the filter itself. This connection is supposed to be used to check the liquid inside the fuel filter in case of problems. Since it’s equally inaccessible either way, you can remove that connector. If you ever have an issue with fuel quality, you can just attach a windshield wiper hose to the plastic connector on top of the fuel filter and drain the content of the fuel filter more easily.

    Do you need to bleed the fuel lines of air after replacement?
    Your travels are interesting
    Thanks
    Gary

    • Hey Gary,

      I put that paragraph in because in the pictures our setup looks slightly different from stock. It makes no real difference whether you disconnect the hose or keep it in place. With the NCV3 you don’t need to bleed the fuel lines, they are primed when you turn the ignition. I usually cycle the ignition a couple of times before I start up the engine just in case.

      Jakob

  9. Wow this is really am amazing post… So let me summarize and ask clarification on a key point.

    Independent of the have the NCV3 might perform as a result of the higher sulfur fuel:
    1) Will permanent damage be done to the engine or other part for that part?
    2) I have not read the post here in detail but have rebuilt engine when I was younger. What level of skill is needed to address the higher sulfur fuel and how often did you need to deal with the result of the dirtier feul?

    • Hey Bruce,

      As far as I can tell, there’s no damage to the engine from running higher sulfur fuel. We did use an additive that we bought from Mercedes in Mexico to help deal with fuel issues, although I’m not sure that it made much of a difference. The DPF will clog more easily, so for any long trip through places with high sulfur fuel, you may want to consider removing it. Aside from changing fuel filters more frequently (as a precaution), we didn’t need to do anything to deal with the fuel quality. We took care to go to more popular gas stations where the locals went, and never had issues with water or dirt contamination.

      Jakob

    • Arthur,

      A quick google search returns this result:
      http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4908

      From your vehicle manual:
      STANDARD PROCEDURES – DRAINING WATER FROM FUEL FILTER
      Connect a hose to the Water in Fuel (WIF) drain (2) and place it in a clearly marked and suitable container. Open the WIF drain by turning counterclockwise. Turn the ignition key on for 20 seconds (Refer to low pressure fuel pump operation). Repeat the procedure until all water is removed, close the drain and remove the hose.

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  11. I’m planning to drive my 2012 sprinter through Mexico and am wondering if you guys had to remove your DPF filter to avoid damage from higher sulfur diesel? Is it possible to keep the system as is and still use Mexico diesel?

    • For a quick trip to Mexico (a week or so), you shouldn’t really encounter any issues filling up with higher sulfur diesel. From what we’ve heard it’s a good idea to remove it for longer duration trips, especially when you combine high altitude driving with higher sulfur diesel – for example in the Andes. If you decide to remove your DPF, you’ll have to reprogram your ECU to deactivate some sensors.

  12. Hello there,

    I just did a successful fuel filter change on my 2013 Sprinter, but did start the engine to look for fuel leaks without the 2 connectors to the air box on! After that, the check engine logo was on. Have I hurt anything? And how to reset light. Thanks Bert

    • Bert,

      You didn’t hurt anything (at least unlikely that you did), but the engine light will not go off without manually resetting it. If you have your own scan tool, we put instructions on how to reset the check engine light here. If not, you can go to any auto parts store and they should be able to reset it for you for free.

      Jakob

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