Mercedes Sprinter Turbo Blown – Symptoms

This will not be a lengthy post as turbo’s are covered in many other areas of this site, but I did think it would be useful to show with a few images of what the symptoms of a blown turbo look like and to back it up with a little additional text.

Sprinter turbo blown

Depending on the level of failure, the following symptoms will show themselves. Huge amounts of billowing white smoke from burning oil within the exhaust system due to failed turbo seals.  (engine oil is pushed at high pressure past the turbo seals directly into the exhaust system and intake tract) This smoke in the early stages of failure may appear as a slight ‘whisping’ of white exhaust output, usually coinciding with some oil marking or dotting on the rear doors, almost like someone has flicked oil from a brush.  These are the first indicators that all is not well.  You may notice a higher than normal oil consumption and possibly a louder than normal ‘spooling’ noise from the turbo itself, maybe even a metallic ticking, increasing with engine load.  It goes without saying that there will most probably be some power loss and even an engine management lamp illumination / limp home situation.

Sprinter blown turbo

When the turbo does fail completely, it does so in a number of ways.  The two main types of failure are fairly major, being either catastrophic and non-catastrophic.  The former is where the bearings collapse completley on the turbo and send metal parts directly into the engine sump, usually finding that during this, all the engine oil dumps almost immediately into the intake tract and exhaust, so fast that unless the engine is halted immediately, irreparable damage is caused by oil starvation to big ends and mains.  Good night engine…

The more preferable (If that is possible!) and latter type of failure, is where the indications of turbo trouble give fair warning and are immediately heeded by an informed owner driver, thus preventing certain engine damage, caught at least before the engine oil pressure warning lamp illuminates!  White smoke – stop the van and check oil level – immediatley, if dangerously low arrange for vehicle recovery and turbo replacement.  You may just be lucky… and be able to at least minimise the damage caused.

Sprinter blown turbo

Often when the turbo fails it dumps huge quantities of engine oil into the intake tract in a very short time – starving the engine of its oil pressure and life blood!

The majority of turbo fails are due in the most to oil starvation (the main cause – turbo bearing seal failure) that prevents a suitable cooling lubrication path to the high speed rotating spindle which in turn rapidly disintegrates the internal bronze bearings due to heat, causing very rapid spindle seizure and enevitable destruction.

Blown garrett turbo Sprinter

If you suspect in any way that you may have turbo issues STOP the engine and check it out, as to continue running the power unit could easily cost you a complete engine and not just a turbo repair on the Mercedes Sprinter / Vito diesel engines (Including those derivatives utilised in Mercedes passenger cars.)  You have been politely reminded!

26 thoughts on “Mercedes Sprinter Turbo Blown – Symptoms

    1. Hi Derek,
      Not necessarily always the case, but if the noise is unusually loud and not previously heard and perhaps accompanied with some of the other described issues then there could be a fault developing. Some turbos are more noisy/whistly than others and go on for years. If you are concerned it is better get a second professional opinion but without actually hearing the problem it is really difficult for me to comment further.
      Sorry I can’t be of more help, though I hope this helps you a little.
      All the best

    2. hi Stive my sprinter have a problem when I change gears there is a sound and other gears 5,6 don’t go smoothly and even when its neutral its shaking someone said they I must blow the brake fluid from clutch how and where or there is such a thing of blowing

      1. Hi Karabo,
        I would check out the dual mass flywheel is not breaking up as if there is heavy vibration or knocking at idle it may be this. Either way this needs to be looked at quickly as if it is the flywheel falling apart then it can cause other very expensive damage.
        All the best

  1. Hi Steve, if i’m getting a lot of white smoke to start with then it clears after a while on the journey, does this sound like turbo issues? Now and again, the engine management light appears, sometimes flashing and then a little power/acceleration loss,



    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for the purchase of the book !

      I would be looking to see if you were experiencing any oil (level) loss, There is a chance the engine is fine and its just the turbo spindle seals weeping slightly just warning of future trouble. Are you using any water? and are you sure the white smoke is oil (does it smell oily, perhaps after an extended period of idling) this would be a sure sign of turbo seals or perhaps engine blow by. Pull the rubber hose off the rocker cover breather vent and see what you can see with the engine running, if there is a great deal of fumes at high pressure this could be what is carried directly into the turbo intake and burnt. This would be the signs of just a worn old engine and pretty much common to all diesel engines when they get a few hundred thousand miles on the clock. – Worse when with a cold engine, better when warmed to normal running temperatures.

      If you have water loss and the white cloud does not smell oily then there is an outside possibility the head gasket could be starting to leak slightly, sealing itself when it gets warm and everything expands.

      You have a few pointers there to watch/take a look at, let me know what you find.
      All the best

  2. Hi Steve, I have a 2014 Mercedes Sprinter with 19,000 miles on it. I take it to the dealership for all its service needs. I have babied this work truck inside and out. I’m driving on the parkway and my oil light comes on and within 5 minutes the engine dies. The trucks engine is shot and needs a new engine. How can this be? I believe that when I brought the truck in for service one month ago, they did something wrong and now this is the cause. I do not want a new engine at 19,000 miles, I believe at this stage I should be getting a new vehicle. Have you ever heard of this happening to a Sprinter with this many miles on it? Thank you.

    1. Hi Dan,
      That is bad news. Was there actually oil in it or had it leaked away? If there was a good quantity of oil in there and the situation was sudden then It could be that something connected to the oil pump had failed. Either pump itself or drive. Even the pick up pipe strainer becoming detached. How on earth this would happen, goodness knows. For oil circulation to stop instantly it must have been fairly catastrophic failure of some component. If the turbo oil seals had failed (its rarely sudden) and huge amounts of oil were being pumped at some serious velocity into the induction or exhaust tracts it would have smoked very badly and become noisy to the point of being undrivable perimortem.
      This is clearly a very unusual failure, you will need to talk seriously to the dealership, if possible get an independent engineers report before letting them have the vehicle back to look at, this is your insurance against any ‘he said you said’ argument and will either go to prove or disprove the likelihood of any service negligence’. In reality I doubt if you will get a ‘replacement van’, you would get most probably a crate engine from the factory with such things as your alternator and other externals etc fitted to it. This would be an acceptable result I feel, and it carries a huge dealer cost.
      Do let me know how you get on and I do empathise with you situation – its just how you move forward with the dealer from here that is important.

      All the best

  3. Hi
    Thank you for your information.
    When the turbo tries to kick in it makes a slight rattley sound with no extra power also when im driving and aproatch a slight hill it just looses power and wont accelerate and when I try to go down the gears what a load of pants it is, I have started to notice white smoke now a d then nkt to thick.

    Many thanks

    Also a whistle sound when I take my foot of the gas.

    1. Sounds like a faulty turbo Ariff,
      The blades are most probably catching the scroll casting on the turbo due to bearing wear – that could be the noise/ reason for poor performance.
      Best Regards

  4. So helpful. I have a rattle coming from the turbo which I think are the bearings…but no white smoke and everything is running great. Trying to decide whether to preemptively switch it out. The catastrophic possibility would suck 🙂
    Thanks again. It’s an 06 2500. Curious what you think.

    1. Hi Bill,
      Check that the rattling is not due to anything on the actuator just ‘loose’ or the actuating lever that goes into the cast iron turbo scroll body, this often does wear and develop a little slack and could rattle. If you suspect the rattle is more serious then remove the induction pipe from the turbo and try and lift/move the turbo impeller/turbine. If there is excessive play and maybe even scarring where it has contacted the insides of the alloy scroll housing then it is pretty much a sure sign that the turbo is on its last legs and would need replacement. Not all rattles are terminal, have a check around and see if there is anything else that could be making the noise, heat shield etc.

      All the best

  5. Hi, my sprinter 518 2009 , it has white smoke coming out in puffs and while travelling huge puffs of black smoke on excellration, this white and black smoke is not contentious ,it will stop for a while and start up again. If the vehicle is idealing there is plenty of white smoke but not contentious. Please advise.

    The discussions on this site it very helpful and I really appreciate it

    1. Hi Rishi,
      It is common for the EGR valve to give problems that could lead to issues of the type you describe. Remove the EGR valve and clean it of soot. There is a good chance it is mechanically stuck/sticking and boost power is being lost through the exhaust resulting in over rich combustion (not enough air for the fuel injected) and often limp home at reduced power. Obviously the best course of action would be to get the van on a diagnostic machine and fault codes read, but I suspect the EGR in this instance has a high potential of being to blame.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Hi Steve
        Thank you for your reply, the van is not loosing power, its not loosing power at all,
        just white smoke while idealing, not all the time and
        while travelling smoke blue black not all the time, I asked a few friends , they said I should go for a long drive , which I did , speeds of 149kms , runs like a dream , no smoke , next day same story white puffs of smoke, patches of black smoke every now and again while travelling. Not sure what to make of it . What is the EGR valve?

        Thanks Rishi

  6. Hi Steve, Thanks for the post.

    I have a 2007 Sprinter 313 it runs fine but now and again it blows lots of white smoke, but it smells of fuel, not oil, it can come on anytime even after a 200-mile trip, it’s got 28000.00 miles on the clock. You really notice this on tick over and its that bad I sometimes turn the engine off at traffic lights.

    Hope you have some advice I can try.

      1. Steve,
        if you have time and don’t need a get back on the road asap fix, clean it up and see how you go, spend later only if needed 🙂

  7. Hi Steve

    Found your post after our turbo blew last weekend, a garage has replaced it and 2 days later I’m getting similar symptoms again! It looks identical to your picture and the oil up the back is the same.

    Any idea what might be causing this to happen? I don’t think the first Turbo had an issue, as we’ve now got a brand new £600 genuine replacement from Mercedes, and it appears to be happening again within a couple of days.

  8. Hi Steve. Turbo problems
    With load the van will only go at 40 mph up hills no power. Also noticed when stationary lots of white smoke .when driving no smoke
    So had turbo changed. As advised by garage.
    But still same problem no power specially when climbing hills wit load . Also when engine cold still white smoke. When engine warms up no smoke.
    Can u help thanks. Max

    1. Could be a lot of oil still burning off from inside the exhaust system from the initial failure of the turbo, see if it clears over the next few weeks of running.

  9. Hi Steve,
    My vehicle is a 2004 316cdi based motor home. This week, I suddenly started getting a cloud of white smoke and slightly rough running for a minute or so on start from cold, then the engine runs fine, but there is a slight blue tinge and oily smell from the exhaust when warm.
    I wonder if it is a bit low on power as I have to drop down to 4th if I go below 50 on slight inclines (I.e. less than 2000 rpm) but maybe it was always like that, l’m not sure.
    One one occasion it took several attempts to re-start when hot. Any thoughts gratefully appreciated.
    Thanks, John Walker

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