2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter Problems And Buyers Guide (W906/NCV3)

The 2006 Mercedes Sprinter is a staple amongst the world’s package delivery industry, service industries and many other places, including the camping and van life world. The 2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter featured a modern exterior design, modern safety features, comfort and reliability you would expect at this price point. However, compared to some other, less complicated vans, owning or buying a W906 Mercedes Sprinter today is without a doubt a bit more expensive and complicated. We talked a lot about the diesel engines that are present in the 2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter, we have written both extensive reviews of problems with the OM651 engine and the 6-cylinder OM642 engine.

2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter OM642 6-Cylinder Diesel Engine Problems

Just like many other Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles (W211 E-Class, C219 CLS- Class, W164 M-Class), the 06’ Sprinter comes with the OM642 6-Cylinder diesel engine. This diesel engine is known to have its fair share of problems including DPF issues, fuel injector seal failures (black death), oil cooler leaks, swirl flap actuator problems and more. We have written an extensive overview of the problems that this engine has HERE.

OM651 4-Cylinder Diesel Engine Problems 

We already mentioned the OM651 engine in our review of the W212 E-Class, and this is actually one of the most common engines in the W906/NCV3 Mercedes Sprinter. It is a 4-Cylinder diesel engine with a twin-turbo that comes in three versions. The OM651 engine is known to have issues with coolant leaks, timing chain and timing chain tensioners, fuel dilution and more. We have written an extensive overview of OM651 problems, make sure you read it!

ncv3 w906 mercedes sprinter camper

BlueTec Diesel Issues

The biggest problem with BlueTec engines in the 2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter W906/NCV3 is related to the emissions control systems. There are numerous problems that we will try and cover in this section:

NOx and Oxygen sensor failures

A large number of owners experience problems with NOx and oxygen sensors. The most common cause for the failure of these sensors are the DPF regeneration cycles that heat up the exhaust system to the point where the excessive heat eventually destroys these sensors. Replacing them is not cheap, and they can cause your van to go into limp mode.

P20BD error code and SCR problems

One of the most dreaded errors for the W906 Sprinter is the infamous P20BD error code that indicates a failure of the SCR (selective catalytic reduction system) heating element. In some cases, Mercedes agreed to cover the cost of the SCR heating element replacement but it does not happen often. For owners of Sprinter RVs, this becomes a much bigger problem, as Mercedes still demands for them to pay the labor cost, which is significantly bigger due to all the RV-related obstructions of the heating element. The worst part is, that as other SCR components fail, all of the RV parts need to be disassembled again which alone costs 1000’s of $ in labor costs.

Using the right oil for the BlueTec diesel engines

A large number of owners swear that using the right oil eliminates many of the problems that people face with BlueTec diesels. And to an extent, there is some truth in that. We recommend that you always use fully synthetic oil backed with an API label that confirms the quality and formula of the oil. Many cheap and even some expensive engine oil do not have the API certificates and labels, which means that the sticker that says “100% Synthetic Oil” does not mean much. We recommend buying API Group IV fully synthetic engine oils that have a high-temperature high-shear value that is best for fighting off oil dilution in direct injection engines. 

DPF And EGR Problems

One of the more common faults with BlueTec sprinters are the commonly clogged EGR valves and DPF filters. This is especially common in Sprinters that do a lot of short-distance driving or inner city driving. Many owners hate the fact that in a Mercedes-Benz the DPF regeneration process is not being indicated with a dashboard warning or a warning light. Instead, you basically never know when is your car doing a DPF regeneration and it can be easily interrupted which leads to clogging of the DPF filter and fuel dilution. After the DPF regeneration has been interrupted 3 times, the diagnostics tool usually brings up the P2459 error code. Fuel dilution is also a big problem with failed DPF regenerations. During the regeneration process, the engine is getting more fuel into the combustion chamber in order to burn off the soot in the DPF. When you interrupt this process the excess fuel in the cylinders leaks past the piston rings and into the oil sump causing the oil level to rise and the engine to run on diluted oil, which is incredibly harmful for the engine. Mercedes admits that this is an issue and released a service bulletin that explains more: Mercedes Service Bulletin LI18.00-N-054809.

Timing Chain Problems

We all know that both the OM642 and the OM651 engines suffer from premature timing chain failures. It is just something owners have now gotten used to, and replacing the timing chain every 80-120,000 miles is nothing strange. However, the problem might in fact be connected to the fact that many of these vehicles drive around with diesel diluted and engine oil full of soot. This leads to premature problems with the timing chain and also explains why certain cars with BlueTec engines require timing chain replacement much earlier than others. A loose and worn-out timing chain can be easily hard at a cold start for about 2-4 seconds with a distinct metallic rattle. Do not ignore it even though the replacement is nowhere cheap.

To avoid problems make sure that every system that is meant to filter soot is working properly. This includes the PCV valve (which should be replaced every 60,000 miles), EGR valve, DPF filter and regular oil changes. You should consider shortening the oil replacement interval if you do a lot of short-distance driving.

All of the diesel engines in the Sprinter also require that they are slowly and properly warmed up before you really push them. Hammering down on the gas pedal when the engine is cold is sure way to prematurely damage the timing chain.

Rust Problems

As far as we have seen, rust is really not an issue on the second generation Sprinter. While some people do experience problems with rust, they are for the most part isolated cases. Keep in mind that rust can also appear if the Sprinter you have or you are buying has had poor accident repairs in the past. Mercedes Benz had a lot of problems with rust up until 2005 and on the first generation of the Sprinter.

Nonetheless, we cannot rule out rust as being completely non-existent. If you are buying a Sprinter, make sure that it is completely rust-free so you avoid rust repair projects like this. Consider buying a coating thickness gauge to evaluate any previous accident repairs.

W906/NCV3 M271 Petrol Engine Problems

The 1.8 liter 4 cylinder petrol engine, called the M271 was equipped with a small supercharger, the Eaton M56, hence the name “Kompressor”. While the M271 is known for being easy to work on, it does come with its own set of issues. The biggest problem of this engine is without a doubt a faulty timing chain design which leads to premature looseness and rattling of the timing chain. Replacing it is not complicated like on the OM642 diesel engine, but it is still costly.

This engine also suffers from loss of power which is mostly connected to carbon deposits on the intake valves. We talked about carbon deposits before on Lifeonfour, so we recommend you read that article as well. The carbon deposits on the intake valves cause problems like rough idling, misfires and decreased engine power. The M271 also suffers from PCV valve failures or crankcase ventilation problems which also leads to oil entering the intake manifold and leaving harmful deposits.

If you are buying a sprinter with this engine, make sure you inspect the plastic oil filter housing and the aluminum heat exchanger located below these housings. Hot engine oil eventually deforms the plastic housing and gaskets which leads to nasty oil leaks that can lead to major problems as it leaks on crucial components below these parts.

2006-2018 mercedes sprinter back

M272 Petrol Engine Problems

We already talked about the numerous problems with the M272 3.5 V6 engine in our review of the W221 S-Class and the C219 CLS-Class, so please do read those. We would just avoid this engine in the Sprinter if you do not need the power for towing or heavy loads. Otherwise, it is just a much less fuel-efficient engine and it costs a lot more to keep up with it.

W906/NCV3 For Camping And Van Life

The NCV3 van certainly is popular for camper conversions, OEM RVs and amongst the van life community. It certainly looks cooler on Instagram than on some other cargo vans. But in all seriousness, choosing the W906 for a camper conversion or van life can be a good choice if you buy an example with a rich and clear servicing history. There are other much more reliable vans out there and anyone telling you otherwise has never owned a used, poorly maintained NCV3. On the other hand, the W906 is one of the most comfortable, advanced, and great to drive vans that won’t let you down in those aspects, it is still a Mercedes after all. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Sprinter Van Is Best For Conversion?

First and foremost, the best-used sprinter van for conversion is the one with full-service history and is rust-free. In other aspects, we recommend choosing the at least the L2H2 Sprinter van as a candidate for a camper conversion. The Length 1 and Height 1 Sprinter van just lacks the space and standing height that you need in a comfortable camper. If you need more space, go for the longer versions. (L3,L4 and at least H2).

How Long Is A Sprinter Van In Meters?

It depends on the wheelbase of the Sprinter van. For example, the L1 2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter van measures 5,2 meters in length, while the L3 Sprinter measures 6,9 meters in length.

Which Sprinter Van Is Most Reliable?

In the case of the 2006-2018 Sprinter Van, we think that the best option is buying one with a well-maintained OM651 diesel engine.

What Is Sprinter W906?

The W906 Sprinter van is a factory codename for the 2006-2018 Mercedes Sprinter van.