(no pics, sorry) My first NCV3 Fuel Filter R&R - Part 1 of 2

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Not Suitable w/220v Gen
The weekend of the July 4th, 2009 I replaced my fuel filter, oil & oil filter and main engine air intake filter.
The Highlights

Prior to work I had all the tools and supplies/parts required for the job in one, handy place.
  • I didn’t spill diesel in the engine compartment.
  • I cracked the oil filter housing cap and removed the drain screw before playing with the fuel filter
  • After the fuel filter work, I finished the oil service.
  • Then I replaced the engine air filter.
It took about an hour, which surprised me so thoroughly that I had to spend three more hours doing busy work just to get over the shock and to make my four hour prediction accurate.


A few days before my planned project day, I did all of the following:
  • I reviewed Keith Messinger’s (kmessinger) write up
  • I hauled out the new in box fuel filter, air filter, oil filter and 14 quarts of oil placing them in the back of the van.
  • I pulled off the air cleaner and center engine cover.
  • I fished around that disaster of a tool collection for all the drivers and bits I’d need, looking for major headaches that would put up a fight, as well as for chaffed wires, and other signs if insidious entropy.

Specifically, I looked at the back of the filter bracket and found my 5 mm hex driver and verified that it was reachable with the tool. I did this for all the fasteners I’d need to touch for the project.

Then I put the engine cover and air cleaner back on, connected the wiring to the sensors and verified that I was, in fact, competent enough to take all this stuff apart and put it back together w/o making my Sprinter cough up a DTC.

Basically, I just scoped the project and made all the foreseeable tools and supplies available to myself after verifying – for instance - my 5mm allen driver actually fit the retention screw for the fuel filter bracket.

I collected enough rags to cover the arena, sop up spills, etc. I thought this would be messy. It wasn’t.

The currently employed fuel filter laughed at me and explained that if I tried this, I’d have to have the Sprinter towed to the dealership. I ignored its threats as the fuel filter knows its time is near and will say anything to keep its job.

The Day Arrived

I started with 2 mile drive and a StarMOBILE scan to verify that I didn’t have any driving issues or active or stored DTCs (not all DTCs will cause the check engine light to illuminate). I didn’t.
This is where my clock started ticking.

I cracked the oil filter housing cap, started to drain the oil. Then I exposed the fuel filter, removing the engine intake air cleaner and center engine cover.

Before picking up any tools, I draped towels around the area of operation, covering all the holes big enough to swallow a clamp, but too small for my hand. This is a habit I learned from my father. I don’t even think about it anymore but it proved, perhaps for the first time in my life, to be helpful.

The towel serves as a net (Always try to work with Annette… Annette Funicello, Annette Benning, Annette Moreno; the only exception is, well, don’t work with Annette Yeomans).
I found that my fuel filter bracket was tightly clamped around on the filter. I loosened the screw.

The bracket didn’t release.


I'll say this way: Turn screw counter-clockwise. Bracket remains, unmoved. Filter stuck.

(Sprinter Source says, "The text you have entred it too long (11047 characters). Please shorten to 10000 characters long). I can do that. See next posting.



Not Suitable w/220v Gen
Re: (no pics, sorry) My first NCV3 Fuel Filter R&R - Part 2 of 2

Meanwhile, back at the frozen filter bracket....

I backed out the screw, but the bracket didn’t follow the screw. The bracket was over-tightened, and being over-torqued is exactly the same as being in love. It was love with the fuel filter it clutched desperately.

I tried to remove the screw, but the screw was also in love. After a certain point in its rearward travel, this retaining bolt refused to further turn counter-clockwise.
I got the screw as close to “out” as I was able. Then I started to pry the mating services of the bracket apart because the filter wouldn’t twist, let alone lift out. I wasn’t desperate. I swear.

Seasoned mechanics know what happened next; and you can stop grinning, stop shaking your head and stop rolling your eyes.

My not-desperate, patient, gentle prying at the bracket mating surfaces liberated the screw with gusto.

Retaining bold shot away from the bracket, bounced off of something and landed on the towel between lovely, accessible, breathable air and the impossible, impassible regions of that gaping canyon: engine “V.” Below the towel, I heard the disappointing groan of the stacked plate oil cooler.

The “V” of the OM642 is a trap. It’s a giant hole deceptively protected by engine pipes and other pieces I’m not qualified to remove and replace, especially to just fish out a clamp or a screw.

Catastrophe averted by towel.

I slowly, carefully, and deliberately plucked the screw from the towel. I named the screw, “Sheriff Bing-Bing-Bing Ricochet Rabbit,” mocked it for its futile, thwarted escape and placed it on the ground, safely away from my feet, the camouflage of gravel and – most importantly - any other places of refuge within the treacherous terrain of the engine compartment.

The bracket was still closed. I used a crowbar, some spare dynamite and some holy water. Finally, the bracket’s death grip on the filter was overcome. It had nothing to do with the girl that walked by my Sprinter, on her way to the lake down the street. That was a coincidence.

Next was to disconnect the Water In Fuel (WIF) sensor housing from the drain tube.

Keith’s write up shows him removing the water in fuel sensor while it’s still attached to the drain tube; still attached to the vehicle. Then Keith twists the filter around to remove the WIF from the filter. He leaves it in the engine compartment. This is fine. This is a noble, tried and true method.

I hate noble, tried and true.

Therefore I didn’t lift the filter + WIF just to tip and twist the filter to release its hold on the WIF.

With a facial grimace, I just pushed in on the white collar-locks of WIF-to-drain hose fitting and applied excessive, brutal, eye-squinting upwards pressure to the joint.
The drain tube connection popped away from the WIF with much dramatic background music of strings and percussion (who let the bag pipes in the orchestra?).
If you do disconnect the WIF from the drain tube, you’ll free the drain tube from the sensor housing and then you can remove the filter and WIF from the vehicle w/o Keith’s required yaw, pitch and roll maneuver to remove the WIF while the filter is still in the engine compartment.

Had I not done it this way, I’d have sloshed fuel all over the towels and probably managed to get fuel on the back bumper and the trailer hitch electrical connector. Yes. I am that good. Keith, on the other hand, is no good at splashing diesel fuel from an open, nearly full fuel filter, on his engine, let alone his camera and the neighbors.

Once the WIF was free, I needed to disconnect the fuel lines. After a couple of false starts, I got good with the MB approved clamp removal tool. No fuel line clamp was malformed and I didn’t damage the hoses, either (I thought I might). How do I know I didn’t malform a clamp? I checked against new, in the bag, spare clamps.

I was happy to have learned how remove, replace safely reuse the MB fuel line clamps. The act of using the right tool properly wasn’t intuitive for me, despite the video demo I saw at Hazet tool site.

This skill – working with the factory clamps - was important to me. I don’t think it should be a goal for you.

I don’t think it’s important that you know how to work with the factory clamps. This is just my opinion. In fact, my opinion: everyone – even I - should use a screw-style, full grip (NOT A WORM GEAR), high-pressure, fuel line clamp. I didn’t use a screw-type fuel line clamp this time because I wanted to become competent with the factory style fuel line clamp.
Installing the WIF in a new fuel filter is easy. I coated the o-rings with used diesel fuel and it inserted w/o fanfare.

I dropped the new filter in the bracket, attached the in feed and out feed lines, clamped ‘em and pushed on the drain tube connection into the WIF.

Bleeding Out The Air

I did correspond with Andy (Doktor A) Bittenbinder before I tried this on my own. Andy told me that the fuel system is self bleeding (of air) and placing the ignition key in position 2 for 30 seconds is sufficient to swap air for diesel within the new, empty fuel filter after it’s installed. He also gave me much appreciated encouragement and a verbal pat on the back when I reported success.

Prior using the ignition key to flood the new fuel filter with fuel, I placed an indicator rag ("paper towel" just doesn't sound serious enough) under the filter’s line clamps to verify a functional seal against a malformed clamp or damaged hose.

I also placed an indicator rag under around the filter to verify that the WIF was not going to gush or dribble fuel down the filter’s wall.

Then I walked to the cockpit and hit the ignition switch to position two and watched my watch. I didn’t hear anything to indicate the fuel pump was done pushing air out of the filter housing/fuel system…. I don’t know what to listen for and I live on a busy street.

I left the indicator rags in place for the test drive.

Then I replaced the oil drain screw, removed and replaced the oil filter and added 13 quarts of oil (the book says “13.21 quarts,” but I was high on having replaced my first Sprinter fuel filter and felt like tempting fate.

The frowny face of misfortune cowered. I ruled the day.

I put everything back together. I went on a test drive. I pulled off the engine cover and removed the dry indicator rags. I installed the air filter in the big giant air filter housing. Reassembled everything. I started the engine. No errors. I reset ASSYST with StarMOBILE and was shocked that only about an hour had gone by, including time restart Microsoft Windows and launch the WiTECH app.

Naturally I took three more hours to put all the tools away, dump the used oil at a recycling site (Shucks Auto Supply in Seattle) and fire off an email to Andy reporting success and thanking him for the encouragement.

Sorry I didn’t take pictures, but I was unwilling to risk time dilution. I was also unwilling to touch my Nikon D300 with dirty hands. I’ll take pictures next year or if I help someone do it to their NCV3 before it’s my turn, again.

I hope this helps a mechanically shy Sprinter owner save a few hundred dollars w/o drama.

Special thanks to my dad, to Andy, Keith, John Bendit of Upscale Automotive and Bruce Blessing; each of whom taught me something that contributed to my successful project and my liberation from dealership technicians.

What warranty? Chrysler who?

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Resident Oil Nerd.
Does anyone else hear the theme music from the movie Rocky?

Congrats Jon! Perhaps you can use some of the money you saved to do something else to impress the girl walking down the street!


Active member
Re: (no pics, sorry) My first NCV3 Fuel Filter R&R - Part 2 of 2

Meanwhile, back at the frozen filter bracket....

snip - I just pushed in on the white collar-locks of WIF-to-drain hose fitting w/o Keith’s required yaw, pitch and roll maneuver to remove the WIF while the filter is still in the engine compartment. -snip

Good job Jon! Next time I will know what to do. I studied that little white thing for about an hour, pulled out on it :thinking: and finally decided the German's forgot to paint it black. Darn, should have know better!

Oh, and next time I will use a towel!




Not Suitable w/220v Gen
Thanks, Piper1. I know that it's no big deal to a lot of people, but it was a major hurdle for me. The money's just going into the money market fund for now.


That fitting's counter intuitive in the way it comes apart.... at least for you and me. It takes a lot of force to pull it apart because it has to withstand a lot more pressure than the average, American low pressure side of the fuel system (15 - 20 psi, for the engines I'm "used to," if I recall correctly). No one ever photographs that fitting dis-articulated, even me.

Thanks, man

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