Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 Problems (2014-2020) – Reliability Report

Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 Problems: At the beginning of the 2010s, the now more popular than ever trend of crossover SUVs just started growing. To get in on the “game” Mercedes-Benz introduced the raised and toughened version of its A Class, called the GLA. The Mercedes-Benz GLA is a toughened, rugged version of the A Class. While it does offer the 4×4 option and rugged bodywork, very little of these smaller crossover SUVs ever see an off-road setting. The X156 GLA was very well accepted amongst buyers which makes it a really sought after vehicle in the used car market. Not only does it look incredibly good, it is also reasonably reliable and incredibly versatile and comfortable compared to the A Class.

Major faults

Oil leaks on 2014 GLA Models with the OM651 diesel engine

Mercedes-Benz GLA with diesel (OM651 – 220d, 180d, 200d) engines made before 2015 were prone to oil leaks coming from the ring seal between the timing chain tensioner and the engine itself. This affected certain pre-2015 models and was resolved with a recall in January 2015. Ignoring the issue could lead to serious oil starvation and even fire hazard. Generally speaking, the OM651 engine is much more reliable and easy to maintain than the OM642 diesel engine that we talked about before.

Dual Clutch pack fracture 2015-2016 X156 Mercedes GLAs with the DCT transmission

Certain Mercedes-Benz GLA came equipped with dual-clutch, direct-shift automatic gearboxes. X156 GLA made between 1st November 2015 and 30th January 2016 were manufactured with a defect weld in the seam of the dual-clutch assembly. When the seam fractured, the entire clutch pack failed. This leaves the car unable to drive and you are faced by a big big repair bill. Luckily this was fixed by a recall in July 2016. If you are buying a GLA with a DCT transmission, make sure this has been taken care of. To learn more about direct-shift transmission check out guide to DSG problems and how to drive a car with a DCT transmission to prevent damage.

Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 Rear differential problems

One of the major Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 Problems is the dreaded rear differential problem. Vehicles with both diesel and petrol engines are affected with a fault in the internal differential unit. This might cause grinding, thumping and all kinds of other noises. Some owners also report failing rear 4Matic differentials due to premature wear and tear. As stated on ConsumerReports, a completely new differential is due before the car reaches 60,000 miles or 100,000 kilometers.

Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 problems with the OM651 timing chain and timing chain tensioner

Another unpleasant major Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 Problem is the wear of the timing chain and the timing chain tensioner on more high mileage vehicles. While some wear is expected, owners do report of having to replace the timing chain and timing chain tensioner prematurely. A timing chain is located at the back of the engine, on the transmission side which makes the replacement process hard and expensive. 

Manual transmission problems on the X156 Mercedes GLA

Owners of Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 with manual transmissions are reporting problems with the 3rd gear of the gearbox. The part at fault is the synchro on the 3rd gear which makes it hard to put the gearbox lever into 3rd gear.

mercedes gla x156 rear

Minor faults

Faulty universal joints in the steering shaft on the 2017 X156 GLA

In 2021, which is 3 years later, a recall was made for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA X156. There was a problem with the universal joint of the steering column design. The joint in question was not made according to the specifications which causes the steering to be impaired overtime.

Control unit of electric steering malfunction

In a bulletin by Mercedes-Benz USA, Mercedes recognized the issue with the “Power Steering Malfunction, Service Required” warning message. The problem also appears as sluggish steering. To solve the issue, Mercedes-Benz recognized that the issue could lie within the faulty contacts of the power supply to the electric steering or a fault within the control unit of the electric steering. After a diagnosis is made, the power supply is cleaned, repaired or the control unit is replaced entirely.

DPF filter problems on the diesel X156 Mercedes-Benz X156

Owners of diesel powered Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 commonly report problems with blocked Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF). This is more common on vehicles that are often driven on short distances and in the city.

Water pump issues on the GLA 250 petrol engines

All versions of the Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 are prone to water pump and thermostat issues which means that their functionality has to be regularly monitored. The problem is more common on the petrol GLA 250 version of the X156 GLA. Ignoring the issue can lead to a complete water pump failure and as a result, you can end up with an overheated engine. If the thermostat is faulty, the engine can either warm up too fast or it never heats up to the working temperature. Both are equally as damaging so replacing a relatively inexpensive thermostat should be your priority.

Body and interior problems

Wind noise problems on the X156 Mercedes GLA

A number of owners are reporting issues with increased wind noise inside the GLA. This is fixed by realigning the doors and checking the door seals of the car. In certain cases, door seals need to be replaced. Both are quick fixes.

Panel between the sunroof and windscreen detaching problems

One of the rare Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 Problems is connected to the sunroof of the GLA. Vehicles fitted with panoramic roofs have a panel between the windshield and the panoramic sunroof. If the panoramic sunroof has been serviced before, there is a big chance that the previously mentioned panel has not been bonded correctly which poses a serious hazard to the occupants if the panel detaches while driving.

interior of the gla amg x156
Interior of the GLA AMG model.

Alcantara seat premature wear issues

Owners of the X156 GLA commonly report premature wear of the alcantara seat covers. This is not something that should be a problem on a premium crossover SUV as the GLA.

Headlight and rear light fogging issues

Another quality related body issue is the dreaded headlight and rear light fogging issue. Entire assemblies of lights need to be replaced or resealed. Both are annoying and expensive procedures if you buy a used Mercedes-Benz GLA X156.

Mercedes-Benz GLA rear backup camera not functioning

Many owners are reporting problems with the backup camera of the X156 Mercedes GLA. According to this GLAowners thread the problem lies within the wiring of the camera which gets damaged as the camera drops down as you put the car in reverse.

Electronic problems

Problems with the emergency call services

GLA’s made between 2018-2021 might be subjected to a problem with the emergency call services. The problem is software related and in most cases a simple activativation done through the cloud was enough to solve the problem. If you plan on buying a GLA, make sure this feature is working as it should.

Front parking sensor problems on the X156 Mercedes GLA

As these cars age, more and more owners are reporting problems with front parking sensors. Replacing certain sensors or simply updating the software solves the problem.

Fuel tank level sensor issues

Another electric or to put it more correctly software issue is related to the fuel level sensor. Many owners report incorrect readings of fuel level. This issue is usually solved by reprogramming the sensor.

Battery draining problems on the Mercedes-Benz GLA X156

Owners of the X156 Mercedes-Benz GLA are reporting many problems with the battery. The biggest issue seems to be the Stop&Start system that diminishes the battery prematurely.

Wheel speed sensor problems on the Mercedes-Benz GLA X156

These cars are full of sensors that ensure a smooth ride and modern features. Unfortunately this also means that a number of sensors will need replacement as these cars age. One of such sensors are wheel speed sensors. You can replace them at home, see this forum thread for more.

Frequently asked questions

Are Mercedes-Benz GLA reliable?

Yes, the first generation Mercedes-Benz GLA has proven to be very reliable. If you buy a low mileage car with a full service history there really is not much to worry about. All the major problems with the GLA have been taken care of with recalls. Make sure those recalls have been addressed.

What are the most common Mercedes-Benz GLA X156 problems?

The most common major problem with the X156 Mercedes GLA is pertaining to the rear differential and the cooling system. Other smaller common problems include a series of failing electronic sensors that need replacement.

Where is the Mercedes-Benz GLA made?

Where your Mercedes-Benz GLA is made depends on the country you buy it in. The first generation Mercedes-Benz GLA was made in the following locations:    

  • Germany: Rastatt
  • China: Beijing 
  • India: Pune
  • Thailand: Samut Prakan 
  • Brazil: Iracemápolis

When did the Mercedes-Benz GLA come out?

First generation Mercedes-Benz GLA, called the X156 was revealed in 2013 and sold between 2014-2020.

Does Mercedes-Benz GLA have automatic gearbox problems?

Generally no, the automatic gearbox on the first generation Mercedes GLA does not cause major trouble. There was a recall for certain vehicles that were fitted with a poorly welded clutch pack on GLA’s with the dual-clutch, direct-shift DCT automatic transmissions.

Does Mercedes-Benz GLA have battery problems?

Yes, a number of owners report problems with the battery. The battery is prematurely drained and needs replacement due to the Start & Stop system.

Conclusion and recommendation

If you are looking for a premium crossover SUV, the first generation Mercedes-Benz GLA might be just the thing you are looking for. It looks fantastic, and we expect it will continue to look fantastic as it ages. When it comes to reliability, these cars are good. They derive much of the technology from the A Class which makes it somewhat proven and more reliable as models that were developed from the ground up. Before buying a GLA, make sure that all the recalls that affected your chosen vehicle were taken care of. You can do that for free at any Mercedes-Benz dealership. Make sure that the car you are buying has a full service history, that is the most important thing and we are getting really repetitive with this advice. Good luck!

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