Mercedes Sprinter Diesel Engine – Removal and Replacement (T1N)

The physical replacement of the Mercedes four cylinder CDI diesel engine is a major mechanical job by any means, but thanks to some good engineering and designed-in serviceability, this is not to be feared. If you know a routine to follow and have a system about your work a direct engine-out, engine-in is an achievable task in a full days work and maybe the following morning for a competent DIY’er.  Having all garage equipment available and not being bothered by any changes in the weather, a drop-in job can be dusted off end to end, in a working day.

Sprinter engine swap 1

To undertake this task you must posess a reasonable general tool kit and have at least a reverse torx socket set and the use of an engine hoist.  The following outlines how I do the job, you may have different Ideas, but I follow a tried and tested pattern of disassembly and assembly, it works for me and maybe it will for you too.

First raise the bonnet (hood) 

Remove the battery from the tray

Pull up the two radiator retainers and take off the rubber dampers, top either side of the radiator.

Remove the grille, slam panel, removing the bonnet catch bowden cable and right hand headlamp (looking from the front)

Undo the water hoses from the engine, (at the thermostat and water pump spigots) then release the hose from the steel pipe above the exhaust manifold and the one on the opposite side feeding the electric circulation pump.

Remove the turbo hoses from either side, to and from the intercooler. Remove the upper supply hose to the inlet manifold.

Remove the air box lid and take out the filter, extract the air box base. Take off the turbo supply pipework and disconnect the crankcase breather heater. Remove this hose from the breather oil/separator.

Disconnect the diesel feed and return lines from the fuel filter

Remove the upper half of the inlet manifold, and plug the inlet ports with rag or paper to prevent anything being dropped in there.  Remove the plastic injector cover if fitted.

Undo the clips on the upper air distribution ducting above the inlet manifold and slide off the removable section.

Pull off the vac pipe from the turbo actuator

Undo the oil cooler support bracket torx screws from the top of the radiator and the top of the intercooler lip, slacken any pipe retainers and release the oil cooler loop, do not break the circuit as no oil needs to be drained/lost.

Pull up and out on the left side first the radiator and intercooler (fixed as one piece) Remove from the vehicle. On AC equipped vehicles the condenser too would have to be removed

Sprinter engine swap 2

Orientate the oil cooler loop upwards towards the battery tray and tie it to the bulkhead to keep it out of the way

Undo and remove the exhaust to turbo sealing clamp ring

Remove the turbo stay bolt (underneath), oil supply banjo and all exhaust manifold nuts. Remove complete turbocharger/manifold assembly

Remove serpentine auxiliary drive belt

Remove the four alternator bracket bolts and disconnect the power and exiter connections from the rear, remove the alternator

Slide out the ECU from under the dash, pull back the grommet into the engine bay that routes the engine harness to the ECU.  Undo these connectors from the ECU and feed them back through the bulkhead.

Undo the red glow plug unit wire feeds and auxiliary supplies from the positive battery terminal, reach in through the right hand headlamp opening and remove the loom connector from the glow plug control module

Remove the power steering pump and place it where the headlamp usually resides

Disconnect the charge air pressure sensor plug and inlet air temperature sensor from the plastic duct.  Remove the charge air rigid duct from the area of the right hand headlamp, there are two torx screws accessed from the rear area of the right headlamp

Tie the engine loom and starter feed cables from the battery connector up high, onto the top of the engine

Undo both 18mm engine mounting nuts and move the right hand loom bracket and earth bonding lead to a safe location. Leave the bolts in the holes a few threads for safety

Jack each side of the vehicle and place ramps under the front wheels to gain access to underbody

Get underneath and remove the two starter motor bolts

Remove all the remaining reverse torx ring bolts on the bellhousing

Assemble the engine hoist

Use a length of seatbelt webbing the tightly join the forward and rear engine lifting eyes.

Slide in the hoist and using the webbing as your lift point, take the weight of the engine

Once the engine mounts are just cleared undo the finger tight mount bolts

Get underneath and bar off the engine from the bell housing

The gearbox will be self supporting on its mounting, allowing you to pull the hoist out slightly bringing the engine forward an inch or so, jacking it as you go

Orientate the engine so it lifts straight ahead, over the front crossmember, its a tight fit with the sump, go carefully and steadily and it will lift over this, up and out of the engine bay

Once removed, lower the engine onto an old tyre to give it stability, otherwise it will want to fall over to the exhaust side!

If you did not drain the oil, you will discover the importance of keeping the removed engine upright as it will leak very fast from the turbo oil return opening in the sump line

There could be the odd small thing I have forgotten here, but generally all the major points are covered as above.

Sprinter engine swap 3

Now the engine is out, you can prepare the new engine for fitment, transferring any parts you will need from the old unit. Make sure the clutch slave cylinder in the bell housing looks in good condition and does not look to be leaking. (Do not press the clutch pedal to test!)  While the engine is out it is well worth inspecting the steering knuckle joints as access will never be this good again if they ever need to be changed. Same story for the clutch, if it is suspect then change it now, as your saving will be in the labour time of maybe having to do the job again at a later date.  If you have access to a steam cleaner or jet wash and you have the time clean out the engine bay, it almost makes working on an engine a pleasure when its clean and oil free! Plus you can see if your new engine has or develops any leaks if its clean and dry at the start.

Sprinter engine swap 4

I am not going to say replacement is the direct opposite of removal because once the replacement engine is in situ then adding the remaining parts can be done in an order that best suits you, allowing you the best access to components as build-up progress is made.

This replacement used engine is known to have an issue with No2 injector seal leaking, so before being able to start and run up the newly installed lump, I will change the seal and overhaul this part of the engine before continuing to fully build up the unit. Its easier to remove an injector from an engine mounted in a vehicle than to try and chase it round the garage, especially if attempting to remove a difficult or stubborn injector.

Sprinter engine swap 2

I will cover the injector replacement procedure and final test running of a newly installed engine in future sections.


21 thoughts on “Mercedes Sprinter Diesel Engine – Removal and Replacement (T1N)

  1. Evening Steve,my 08 Mercedes sprinter van 315cdi is giving heather light trouble,it can take continuous turning on and off ignition and walking away and coming back(a lot of the time before she’ll come on so van will start (mostly when it’s after being driven)but an odd time in mornings,it could go a week then with no trouble Please Help

    1. Hi Thomas,
      The heater or glow plug lamp usually indicates an issue if the lamp remains lit for a period once the engine has started. I would not expect a glow plug fault to cause any significant starting problems (even if none of them were working) as the CDI engine usually starts without issue anyway, unless of course you are in Antartica! I am presuming you could go ahead and just start the van without waiting for any lights.

      You could check the glow control module as this is a common fail point on earlier models. The wires corrode in the connector and also internally making poor connection to the internal relay and PCB. Also it is not unknown for oil to creep back up the loom on the older models and flood the plastic case, destroying the internals – though you will see this immediatley if you pull off the plug.


      If reading that you cannot start the vehicle while the glow light is not illuminated, indicates a start condition problem – as the glow plugs/module would not normally inhibit in any way the starting of the vehicle. If this is the case and no turning of the key even cranks the engine, then have a look here for a possible solution. I knew I had read about this somewhere and it seems more common than you at first think. These guys seem to have pinned it down to a front SAM or its connected Relay.

      Hope that helps a little, I hope I have understood you correctly.

      All the best

  2. hi i have a sprinter good body so i cant aford the og engine so is it possible for me to put a toyota 7mge engine or a nissan vg30 engine

    1. Hi Craig,
      As the vehicle uses the ECU for other body control functions, e.g. speedo signal, rpm, immobiliser and other instrumentation. The complexities of swapping the engine are not just focussed on the mechanical unit itself. You would also have to fabricate an adapter plate for the bell housing and engine mountings. On the face of it a nice idea, but I think all things considered – fitting anything other than a replacement engine of the correct type would be (or end up being) most uneconomical.
      All the best

    1. Hi James,
      Expect to pay £800-1200 GBP for a complete used running engine without turbo, also less alternator/starter and a few other ancillary parts and budget 2 days work to do the job. If you are not doing the labour yourself budget 12-16 hours at your chosen mechanics rates.
      Component costs of the turbo unit itself, used would be in the region of £150 – 350 GBP – new £650 ish. A new core assembly only, to fit for your existing turbo (if this is the only failed part) should cost you less than £100 for the part itself plus 3-4 hours to strip fit and replace on the vehicle.

    1. Hi David,
      Everything is possible but it is a huge job and would involve in my view work that would simply be hard to justify to get it working. The heater box is different, the controller, the ecu would have to be coded, wiring changes and pipework. Of course possible but if the cost is reflective of the added value to you – I doubt it.
      Hope this helps,
      All the best Steve

  3. Hi. I have a Diesal Manual Merc sprinter I think around 2003 that has ceased. Can I replace it with an automatic engine or does it have to be manual

    1. Hi there,
      I am going to hazard a guess that the crank will be different to accept the torque converter of the auto transmission as opposed to the dual mass flywheel of the manual, if the engine was from a Sprint Shift (Ambulance or Food Delivery Van) as it uses a conventional clutch and flywheel this should be OK.

  4. Hi Steve
    To plan for engine conversion on 2003 Sprinter 413CDI motorhome, W904, OM611 sprint shift IL4 2.2L
    to OM642 V6 3.0L twin turbo from 2016 Sprinter what would you recommend are all the parts to get before starting the conversion. Existing engine is low milage, so change is for improved fuel economy, power & torque. V.I.N. WDF9046132A910873. Thank you

    1. Hi George,
      What you are planning is a huge undertaking, you will basically need everything including dash pod/instruments, ignition key module, on and on. I would say get an older style 5 cyl engine and recondition it, change the ECU and fit.

  5. Hi steve: I have 2008 515 CDI motor knocking front of engine ..was told easy fix as most tend to hav ethat issue,crank case beairng go on cylindr number 2,it is 646.986 engine
    so ifthat is the case we shall try fix that way…, but if it does not the can I change it with om650 or651 motor?
    if so what ca n I look for.

    1. Hi Ram,
      Just before you start stripping the engine make sure the Harmonic balancer (crank pulley) is not de-laminating and making all the clatter and knocking. Try running it with no Aux belt. Any engine type change will have its problems, as the ECU will have to be swapped, this means a key security swap, instrument cluster etc, my advice stick to the same engine type and make life as easy as possible.

  6. hi steve, i just recently bought a used 290,000 2006 dodge sprinter with a 2.7 mercedes engine in bay. I was told there good running vans i use for work i havnt drove it yet i been doing body work so i can paint it but i decided to drive a little because i didnt want to start driving it and then break down. So i did drive it on freeway and it started rattling really loud then black smoke then engine shut down and will not turn over now i am assuming engine seized up. I would like to replace it and possibly put it in myself i am ok in building a race car but i never did a diesel van before i was wondering were can i get a good used engine from or new without the other parts i can transfer from and how much. thank you for taking time to read my problem. Reggie

  7. i have a really mint jeep crd 2.7, merc engine and gearbox but the engine has been very badly damaged beyond reasonable repair , my wife loves it and was just wondering about putting possiably a smaller engine in it for her running about in 2.2 or somthing shes mentioned it will break her heart to let it go,just thought you were the man to know and give me some ideas to help out maybe.

  8. Alright Steve. My 05 sprint shift sprinter has pressure in coolant suggesting head gasket problems. You any idea what a garage would charge to undertake the job? Vans hasn’t overheated so no engine damage. I am also considering attempting it myself. If I have a go is it better to remove whole engine or just head? Cheers Kev

    1. Hi Kev,
      As they front of the van is fairly easy to strip and the engine almost walks forward quite easily, I would tackle this job out of the vehicle. I would remove the injectors while the engine remains in the van first as often they are a bit of a swine to remove and at least you have the engine fixed as opposed to chasing it round the workshop floor!
      Its a big job, but if you are methodical and good with spanners very possible.
      I have no idea of cost in your location, often its cheaper to fit a recon or good used if you are labour cost counting.

  9. Alright Steve looking to swap a 2005 313 with a 2002 313. They have different cc 2005 2148 and 2002 is 2151 I think. Will I need to swap ecu? Cheers Kev

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