July 18

2012 Mercedes-Benz GL350 Turbocharger Replacement

Auto Repair, Mercedes


Mark: Hi, it’s Mark for Top Local Lead Generation and we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive, Vancouver’s best auto service experience. How’re you doing today Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well this morning.


2012 Mercedes ML350

Mark: So we have another Mercedes Diesel GL350 with a big service. What happened with this vehicle?

Bernie: The engine started making some pretty horrible noises, and the owner took it to Mercedes where they told her she needed a new engine. She wasn’t extremely happy with their price quote, which was high, it’s a lot of money to do an engine in one of these cars and she brought the vehicle to us.

Mark: So it’s another diesel with the motor perhaps gone, what ended up having to be replaced?

Bernie: Well what we found actually was the turbocharger was bad in the case of this vehicle. But this is another vehicle, a 2012, so it’s only four years old at this point, 48,000 kilometres, still young and to my mind, almost a brand new vehicle. The oil hadn’t been changed in over a year and according to the dash was 20,000km over due for an oil change. A very bad thing to do on any engine, especially on a Mercedes 3 liter diesel. We’ve already talked about this in a previous blog post about the engine we replaced. So we did our diagnosis on it and listened to it: it sounded like the engine was blown with horrible knocking sounds. We authorized engine repair work and started taking things apart.

Mark: So what, tell us about the diagnostic process, what did you go through to get to that level of that you might need that level of service?

Bernie: Well, initially listening to the engine, and black smoke blowing out along with the check engine light on for a variety of different trouble codes; just the sound of the engine and based on the lack of oil change and we made a pretty quick assumption that there’s something in the bottom end of the engine had given way. What was interesting is when we authorized the engine repair, we started pulling things apart, we took the turbo duct off and Matt, our technician, who was working on it, he noticed that the turbocharger was severely worn. This is completely blown and I’ll show you a video in a minute of the turbo. The turbo is a little turbine and it sits in a bearing and it usually has a tiny bit of play, but this one is actually completely broken and we thought wait a minute, maybe it’s just the turbo. So we thought, let’s take a diagnostic a little, let’s be a little more thorough here, so we put everything back together, we’ll drain the oil out, found the oil wasn't all sludged up which was the case with our last engine job, so that was a positive sign. We took the oil filter out and cut the oil filter apart just to examine it and there were a few metal particles, but not much, just a few little fine particles. We thought, hey maybe it’s the turbo that’s bad, so we put some fresh oil in the engine, started it up and listened to it and really the only noise we could hear was coming from the turbo. So at that point we authorized with the customer to change the turbo,  flush the oil a few times because it’s been so long overdue and see what happens from there.

Mark: So what was involved with the repair process?

Bernie: Well we basically replaced the turbocharger, but in the process, we also, there’s a turbo oil stand which we have to remove, found that to be partially flooded due to the oil sludge. We tested and verified that there was actually good oil flow through there because we didn’t want to find, perhaps an oil passageway plugged up and we put a new turbo in and it blows it. But clearly the turbo had been damaged from lack of oil changes. We drained the oil out, again found there was really not much sludge in the oil which was a positive sign. We did a couple of hot oil flushes, so we actually did two oil changes on the engine then we filled it with proper oil. So that was basically the repair procedure, put it back together and that was it.


Top of engine view of 2012 ML350 diesel engine. The red arrow points to the turbocharger

Mark: So let’s see that turbo. What’d that look like?

Bernie: Yeah, let’s look at a couple things here, first I’ll share some pictures and here, we’ll start with some pictures. This is the picture of the actual engine compartment. That red arrow points to the turbocharge and so the turbocharger, if you look, there’s a sort of black piece that goes across the front of the engine, right in front of that red arrow and that’s the air intake. So the air is sucked into the engine into the turbocharger, there’s a turbine blade in there and that blows the air out through that silver pipe that goes forward towards the front of the engine and that give the engine it’s boost, it’s high pressure and the turbine sits inside this turbo mechanism. Just another quick photo, there’s our 2012 GL model vehicle. So let’s go back here, I’ll start the screen share again and we’ll look at this turbo. Ok so there’s our turbo - ok so here’s a quick, crude video.


Mark: Oh, that’s not supposed to happen

Bernie: Yeah, all that movement there is not supposed to happen at all and the camera is supposed to be steady too but I did a quick video without the tripod. I’ll just show it to you again, it’s pretty amazing, like that is just worn beyond belief. Now we’re looking at the exhaust side of the turbine here, the intake side which is on the other side, and the shaft is broken between the two, so there’s no turbo boost and this blade gets spun when the exhaust runs through, so you can imagine the kind of racket, the kind of noise it would be making. So the good news is that was basically it. Now after we put the turbo in and we started the engine up and it ran, but it started blowing a lot of smoke out because when the turbo failed there are oil passageways inside the turbo and it just filled the exhaust system and the intake system full of engine oil. So it was a bit of an embarrassing drive for Matt when he went out: there were clouds and clouds of smoke everywhere.  When he came back the engine was running quite rough, making some bad noise and we thought oh oh, it’s not fixed. But the good news is we shut it off and left it for a little while, ran it for a little longer and I think what was happening was there was so much residual oil in the intake system, and being a diesel, an oil burning engine, it would get little blasts of engine oil coming in that would cause the engine to run intermittently rough and make knocking sounds from bad combustion. So we took it out for a good long drive, burnt the rest of the oil out, embarrassed myself a little bit, after about 15 minutes the oil burning stopped and the engine ran smooth and it was good.

Mark: So it sounds like maybe this owner dodged a major bullet.

Bernie: I think so, but I wouldn’t count on the longevity of this engine. And this is actually the scary thing, we did a few posts about buying used cars and it might be that this owner may sell this vehicle and it’s going to be running great but how would you know if you bought a used car that this amount of work had been done? That this oil has been neglected like that? There’s no real record of that other than if they showed the bill for this work or if someone actually contacted us, so that’s a bit of a risk you know, just to add to our used car post we’ve had. You just hope and assume people have done good maintenance and this is why you need to ask people, do you have receipts for all your maintenance, have you done all your oil changes on time? Because if people can’t produce them that can be a real red flag, as we talked about the last person who had this particular issue had a twenty two thousand dollar job for a blown engine and his turbo for some reason was working. So yeah, I think the owner dodged a major bullet here which is great, very fortunate.

Mark: And then probably the life of this motor is compromised?

Bernie: Absolutely. You know, there’s no doubt about it. You just can’t go that far without oil changes, without causing some kind of damage.

Mark: So final lesson is if you have a diesel, change your freaking oil.

Berne: Exactly, I mean I can’t say enough and especially with so many modern cars, especially a Mercedes, I mean it tells you right on the dash, change the oil. Just follow that. It’s so simple. They couldn’t make it any simpler unless, we phoned you up when it was due and kept calling every day you didn’t do it. It’s just, the clock keeps ticking, it’ll tell you 20 days over due/ 21 days, 22, its like you got to do it, otherwise you’re going to spend a lot of money. Those are my final thoughts, change your oil unless you drive a Tesla, change your oil.

Mark: So if you need service on your vehicle from a guy who cares, from a company who pride themselves on incredible customer service and giving you the best deal and the best advice possible, not spending a dollar more of your money than is needed or deserve, these are the guys to call in Vancouver. Pawlik Automotive. You can book your appointment at 604-327-7112 or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: You’re welcome. Thanks Mark.


About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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