Sprinter A and B service costs – how to avoid dealer tricks

If you call a dealer and ask how much their Sprinter A and B services cost, it won’t sound too terrible. That’s because dealers have started quoting just for an oil change, not the additional preventative maintenance that is required.

Once you drop the van off, they’ll subsequently let you know the extra cost -and time – for items such as replacing fuel filters, etc.

Do your homework. You need to know what items are typically required during the two types of service and you need to make sure the dealer quotes for all of them before you commit to getting the service done.

There are two types of maintenance service on a Sprinter van, imaginatively known as Service A and Service B. They alternate, so your van’s first service will be an A service and then subsequently B, A, B, and so on.

The A service is called an “oil plus” service. The B service checks more items and is called a “maintenance” service.

The time between services varies depending on what van you have. Newer models have a 20,000 mile interval. The vehicle also tracks how it’s been used and the condition of the engine oil and might give a dash message to get the service done before you reach the actual mileage. This system is called “ASSYST.”

If you ignore the message, it will continue to nag you, saying “Service A overdue by xx days.” Missing a service date will not put you in to limp-home mode, but it’s obviously possible that a malfunctioning component that the service would have fixed could do that.

The service interval of 20,000 miles might seem surprising if you’re used to older North American cars which had 6,000 mile service intervals. Oil quality, fuel quality, better engineering, and a range of sensors inside the vehicle mean that the interval can be extended without harming the vehicle. Of course, you can service the vehicle more frequently if you want but typically there’s no need unless you have very heavy use or lots of stop-start driving or idling.

What’s included in a service?

The 2015 Mercedes maintenance manual lists the following items for Service A:

  • Change engine oil and filter
  • Replace fuel filter & water separator
  • Test brakes
  • Visual checks for paint damage/corrosion, seat belts, hoses and lines, reservoirs, driveline, steering and suspension
  • Check brake system, fluid change if necessary (extra cost)
  • Check DEF reservoir, top up (extra cost)
  • Check V-belt
  • Check tire pressures (incl. spare wheel)

This doesn’t sound like a long list, but replacing the fuel filter is expensive (~$450) and takes time (or at least you’ll be charged for a chunk of time). If they’re doing their job properly, the service department will be running a whole series of visual checks for chafing, cracking, or other damage to mechanical parts of the vehicle.

Service B is bigger (and more expensive):

  • Change engine oil and filter
  • Replace fuel filter & water separator
  • Replace HVAC dust filter or AC system combination filter (extra cost)
  • Test brakes
  • Visual checks for paint damage/corrosion, lights, wipers, seat belts, hoses and lines, reservoirs, driveline, steering and suspension, aux battery.
  • Lubricate trailer hitch and rear door hinges
  • Check coolant levels, top up if necessary (extra cost)
  • Check brake system, fluid change if necessary (extra cost)
  • Check power steering, fluid change if necessary (extra cost)
  • Check windshield washer system
  • Check DEF reservoir, top up (extra cost)
  • Check V-belt
  • Check sliding door water drain bores
  • Check tire pressures (incl. spare wheel)
  • Check tire sealant, renew if necessary (extra cost)
  • Check brake pad/linings thickness, parking brake lever travel

A lot of these items are just visual checks or tests of fluid quality. It’s only if something’s wrong that you’re likely to see a larger bill than you expected. However, oil and filter, fuel filter, and dust filters should be quoted for a B service at a minimum. It’s also very likely that the brake fluid will need changing at this point based on time since its last flush.

There are some other things that need to happen during the first A service (retighten axle bolts) and first B service (change transmission oil and filter). As the vehicle ages, other components also need checking. For instance replacing the v-belt every fourth oil change (or 80,000 miles).  You can find the full list in your Sprinter’s maintenance manual.

Finding out how much a service really costs

Recently, dealers have taken to quoting only for the oil change if you call. It’s a dirty trick to get you in the door. Be sure to ask what’s included in the price they quote, and then ask what the cost would be for the other items in the lists above. The full price could be considerably more than the initial quote.

We called three local dealers and received wildly varying quotes. All were quoting for the minimum “service” of changing the oil and oil filter. Quotes in mid-2017 ranged from around $250 to over $500. After adding in the cost of the other items in an A service the price jumped to anywhere from $700 to over $1000.

The dealers’ justification for this tactic is that they don’t know what other items need servicing until they see the vehicle. That’s great. But I’d rather they quoted for the full service and then gave me good news after they’d lifted the hood and found things didn’t need changing. Dealers used to do this, and some still do, but the move to minimum pricing quotes is more for their benefit than yours as a customer.

Dealers aren’t your only option

Dealers aren’t necessarily ripping you off. Sprinter parts are expensive. Some obviously charge more than others, as evidenced by the variation in quotes we received from three different service departments. What’s annoying is their tactic of quoting a low price and subsequently charging a higher price.

There are some ways you can reduce the cost. It’s up to you whether you let the dealer top up your DEF fluid and change your wiper blades. I’d suggest against it, because the Mercedes DEF is very much more expensive than other brands for the exact same product and you’ll be paying labor time as well. Adding DEF fluid is easy. Changing the wiper blades is simple enough too. You don’t even have to do it before your appointment. Just let the service writer (the person who greets you when you turn up) know that you don’t want them to do those tasks.

There is no requirement to get the vehicle serviced at a dealership. If your vehicle is in warranty, the only requirement is that it is regularly serviced and that you have a record of those services. There are lots of independent service locations, and some charge much less than the dealership’s service department. You could even do the work yourself, and many people do.

9 Replies to “Sprinter A and B service costs – how to avoid dealer tricks”

  1. My apologies but I am confused somewhat by what is truly required i an A and B service. Also it seems like you are telling me the dealer doesn’t know what is required at 20K miles. What is the bottom line here? Thanks!

    1. Matt,

      The service manual that comes with the vehicle lists out what’s required. Some things happen regardless, such as oil change. Some things are incredibly likely to be necessary, such as the fuel filter change, and some are time-dependent, like brake fluid changes which happen every two years.

      So if you drive a lot and get your A service done in the first six months, you won’t be doing a brake fluid change. If you drive very little and the A service happens after two years, then the brake fluid will need to be changed.

      So it’s true that the dealer doesn’t absolutely authoritatively know what will be required, nor do they know the absolute price of some items (fuel filters are different on certain models). But they do know what’s typical, and they do know a typical cost range. When you press them for details, they’ll discuss those typical costs with you.

  2. Bit off the point maybe… my 2016 Sprinter came with 3 years of maintenance included. Have had one free service at the one year interval. It included the oil filter and a bunch of other things. I’m in Canada if that makes any difference. If someone is considering buying a new vehicle this would be worth considering based on the costs Diesel is talking about.

  3. Good tips. It does seem a little excessive to replace the fuel filter at the *first* A service, which for my van was 19,000 miles and 15 months after the dealer took delivery of the 2016 4×4. While I have seen a few sketchy Diesel pumps over that time, most of the fill-ups were at Costco locations that had just recently started offering Diesel.

    I thought Mercdes-Benz of Lynnwood was being more transparent with their coupons (https://www.mblynnwood.com/service-specials-2/), but it seems that they don’t mention fuel filter for either the A or B service for Sprinters (or for any other car for that matter.) Maybe that’s because replacement is time-based. They definitely didn’t inspect or replace the originally cabin air filter which was clogged. Luckily I had already ordered a new Mann Filter from EuroCampers.com and spent the extra $2 on the model with carbon filtration (http://www.eurocampers.com/2007–2016-Sprinter-Cabin-Air-Filter–Hengst-MicronAir-or-Mann-for-models-with-w-Tempmatic-AC_p_204.html) which dramatically improved the vent air odor.

    It sounds like we can’t delegate deciding what to include in a service. Considering how expensive they are ($229 + tax with a coupon for just an oil change!) that is frustrating. On the bright side, Mercedes will offer free road-side assistance to any owner (even of an out-of-warranty vehicle) who has spent more than $100 in a single transaction at a dealership within the past 18 months: http://www.mercedesbenzofdenver.com/roadside-assistance.htm

    So it makes sense to try and find a dealer with a B service coupon that includes the fuel filter replacement.

  4. My dealer quoted me $900 for oil change and fuel filter change for the first 20,000 miles change… I did it myself for $185. That was oil, oil filter, oil drain plug gasket, fuel filter and new fuel hose clamps. I also bought better filters than what Mercedes uses. There is even a video on YouTube on how to reset your assyst.

    1. Brandon, you mention that you bought better filters than what Mercedes uses.

      I’d be very careful using parts that aren’t the same specification as the Mercedes ones. For instance, a filter may be better in terms of filtering more particles, but that could also restrict fuel or oil flow. The online price for the fuel filter with water separator for our model is around $300 so I’m surprised you managed to get all the parts so cheap.

      But you’re right, you can save a lot of money by doing the job yourself. Did you also do the other checks for the first 20k service, like checking the torque on the rear suspension U-bolts?

      1. $300? Where are you looking? My dad sells car parts and is a big outfiter for companies that have sprinters (fedex, DHL, etc). I priced a Mercedes fuel filter with water separater (Aka Mann not Mercedes made) for $50. What you have to watch out for is the parts that Mercedes “makes” and sells at the dealership. They are grossly overpriced and would be the same product as a cheap “Fram” or whatever Walmart sells. Yes your dealer may be cheaping out on you….

        I’m in the military. So I have access to a full auto shop. Lifts, computers, paint booths, etc. If your still using the dealer your doing yourself some harm. Being able to diagnose your own oil really helps you understand your vehicle. It also lets me inspect the vehicle and replace what truely needs to be replaced. Knowing your vehicle front to back is important and when something goes wrong at least I’ll have an understanding of what it was. (Instead of having the dealer stare at it for an hour then hook up a computer to tell them a fuse blew out. Goodbye $700.)

        And yes I check the U-Bolts and they didn’t need to be torqued.

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