(2005-2011) Mercedes-Benz ML 280 CDI & 320 CDI Problems And Guide

We already talked about the general problems of the 2005-2011 Mercedes-Benz ML that is often referred to as the W164 ML. The W164 is its factory codename so the next time you see that reference, you know what it means. The ML was an instant success and the reason it is still so highly valued and sought after is the way it looks and drives. For us, it passed the test of time like no other car out there. After all these years it still looks incredibly good, it drives just as good if not better than modern SUVs and it can take a beating on and off the road.

But as you might imagine, keeping a car with this many features can be a headache. And to be completely honest, it is. I know, I owned one. Between replacing and fixing common OM642 engine problems and dealing with the Airmatic suspension, it can get expensive and tiresome. But don’t worry, we are here to help. Here are the most common Mercedes-Benz ML 280 CDI & 320 CDI Problems so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

Mercedes-Benz ML 280 CDI & 320 CDI Engine Problems

The 2005-2011 ML or W164 was the first car to receive the OM642 V6 diesel engine. We talked extensively about the OM642 engine and all of its problems. The OM642 is the engine fitted to both the 280 CDI and the 320 CDI version of the Mercedes ML. The only difference between them is the software that dictates the power output. Here are the most common problems with this engine:

  • Oil cooler leaks
  • Positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) problems
  • “Black Death” and other Fuel injector problem (read more about it here)
  • Turbo inlet seal leaks
  • Timing chain and timing chain tensioner problems (premature failure)
  • TWC temperature sensor issues
  • Turbo actuator problems and symptoms
  • Swirl flap motor problems
  • Engine carbon deposit problems(read more about it here)
  • Engine Oil Level Rising (Fuel Dilution) problems (read more about it here and here)

To see those problems explained in detail, check our OM642 diesel engine review!

Mercedes-Benz ML Common Problems

You now know what potential problems await in the engine department of the 280 CDI and 320 CDI Mercedes ML. As we said before, these cars have a lot of advanced features and a complicated Airmatic Air Suspension. Here are all other most common problems with the 2005-2011 Mercedes ML 280 CDI:

  • Various Airmatic Air Suspension problems (read more about it here)
  • 7G 722.9 automatic transmission problems (gear selector and conductor plate problems)
  • 4Matic part-time 4WD problems
  • Body rust problems
  • Steering wheel clunking and button problems
  • Various interior problems

Read more problems and all the details about those problems in our Mercedes-Benz ML W164 Problems article!

mercedes 280 cdi and 320 cdi
My Mercedes-Benz W211 280 CDI and my family’s W164 320 CDI. Both have the same OM642 engine.


Buying an old Mercedes-Benz with so many complicated technologies that the 2005 ML has is not an easy feat. I owned a W164 before and I had the luck of buying a well-maintained example of the ML 320 CDI. But even then, it was not unusual that I paid more than 1000$ for repairs. If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to seek cars with rich service and maintenance history. You do not want a car that did not have any Airmatic components replaced, that had no work done on the engine, and so on. I would even dare to say that buying low mileage examples with all original suspension and engine components can be more dangerous than buying an ML 280 CDI with more miles but also more new parts.

Even though these cars are fairly cheap today they are still highly expensive to maintain and service. Good luck and make sure you read our detailed reviews of the W164 ML and the OM642 engine that is in the 280 CDI and 320 CDI. 

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