Sprinter Low Boost – Limp Home on Full Throttle

One of the 2004 long wheel base Mercedes Sprinters developed a problem where everything was fine under moderate throttle openings but once full power was called for, the van would register a fault and lock into limp home. Recycling the ignition cleared the fault, until the next wide open throttle and call for high power.

A great deal of work had been done on this particular van over a short period and most of the regular problematic contenders covered elsewhere on this subject had been dealt with. We knew we had good fuel delivery, good fuel pressure, sound boost and good induction hose-work. New sensors had been fitted on both low and high pressure points on the system and the only fault recorded was low boost.

Faulty Sprinter turbo boost actuator

We had previously seen another fleet operators Sprinter register low boost and discovered that the intake air filter was completely choked with muck and grime, this was not the case with this van.

Examining for mechanical issues became a primary focus as all the electrical systems were sound and cross-referring their readings on ‘live data’ proved their adequate function. In driving the vehicle with the code reader connected, we were able to see that maximum turbo boost was never achieved at full power, but was seen approaching moderate peaks at more modest and lazy throttle openings.

Often the van would perform fine unladen and fail consistently when loaded, slipping into limp home as soon as the driver tried to make good progress.

I removed the airbox and checked the vacuum pipework from the brake servo to the boost control valve and everything was in good order. I removed the supply pipe to the turbo actuator and double checked this for problems such as nicks, cuts and splits – nothing.

The lever arm to the turbo was free and this was confirmed by removing the circlip from the eye of the actuator arm and manually operating it to prove there was nothing wrong within.

Faulty turbo boost actuator Mercedes Sprinter

My next test was to push the actuator rod back into the actuator and be certain the movement was unhindered and smooth. The next test was to block the vacuum pipe opening with a finger, allowing air to be expelled while I pushed the rod inward. Closing the gap with moderate finger pressure should be enough to hold vacuum inside the diaphragm, making a ‘popping’ sound as the rod springs back to its extended position when you release your finger. I noticed the fitted actuator was not doing as it should in that respect as it was not ‘popping back’ to an extended position. Indeed, careful observation proved that the rod was moving very slowly to a fully extended position with a finger blocking the port, indicating a failure of the internal diaphragm – probably a slight leak or pin-hole.

This would under normal circumstances been difficult to spot as it had not failed completely. The actuator still pulled the turbo lever to a fully down position once the engine was started. However the small leak meant that the on-off pulse control of the actuator, given by the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) of the vacuum control valve, was not as it should have been – resulting in under-boost on high power call situations.

The replacement of the actuator although fairly straight forward in mechanical terms, is a bit of a fiddle to accomplish, as one of the mounting bolts is a good finger-stretch into the confines of the turbo and takes some jiggling to get the pin back into position and tighten it.

There are three 10mm bolts into the exhaust side of the turbo scroll casting. These hold the actuator support bracket and also clamp the spool cartridge face against the turbo scroll casting flange making a gas tight seal.

Once these three bolts are removed and the circlip removed from the rod/lever, the actuator can be removed for inspection. Access to the area is best achieved by removing the complete air box, the turbo intake hose and brake servo vacuum pipe. Once these components have been removed, additional removing the vertical heat plate/shield that separates the air box from the turbo assembly is essential to obtain free access to the three actuator fixing bolts – especially as one is a real swine to get to!

Faulty turbo boost actuator Mercedes Sprinter 2

It is important to set the actuator arm/rod length of the replacement part to the same dimension as the original. This is critical in that it effects how the vanes are positioned within the turbo for any given actuator setting. Simply measure the new rod length to the old one and make adjustments using the 10mm lock-nut and thumbwheel provided on the actuator rod. Lock the setting once you have it and ensure the hole in the rod eye is positioned in the correct plane to accept the lever bar of the turbo once reinstalled.

Rebuild is the reverse of disassembly from this point. Once fully built, check your work and clear any remaining fault codes and then road test the vehicle. Once again boost should be available through the complete power range and it should react smoothly to engine loading, just as it did prior to the fault occurring.

Other Mercedes Sprinter turbo fault/boost related posts:


Please be sure to use the comprehensive site search facility to find what you are looking for (Just enter your search term in the search box on the top right and click search) – There are many informative Mercedes posts on this this site, just waiting to be viewed!

2 thoughts on “Sprinter Low Boost – Limp Home on Full Throttle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *