PDA

View Full Version : Noob considering an '04 with 330K.


ions82
06-18-2019, 04:59 AM
As the title states, I'm looking at an '04 with 330K. It was purchased at auction and has been at a dealer lot for a few weeks. I haven't seen it in person as it is a couple hours away. It looks decent for its year and mileage. Of course, the seller says it runs and drives great.

Anyway, I'm not new to diesel. I've owned three 2nd-gen, 12-valve CTD Dodges. I much prefer the reliability of old tech. I'm not afraid to work on my vehicles. I've never pulled a motor or dropped a transmission, but I might give it a go if it came down to that. I've rebuilt the diff on one of the Dodges. Did a complete front end on another. I'm confident that I could tackle most of the issues that pop up with the older Sprinters.

So, is an '04 with 330K a bad idea? Essentially, it would only be a road trip vehicle. Occasional use around town. Maybe pulling a small enclosed trailer at some point. Never heavy use or hauling. I'm very easy on my vehicles. My concern is hearing others who have had to replace motors. I don't know exactly how these motors fail, so I'm not sure what to look for. For the last couple years, I've been eyeing the Nissan NV2500s. However, I could snag this rig for much cheaper. Any advice?

Bobnoxious
06-18-2019, 06:06 AM
I would get an estimate from a local MB dealership for inspection.

Nautamaran
06-18-2019, 07:28 AM
My ‘04 has 192,000 miles and has been my daily driver for two years and 35,000 dependable miles. :thumbup:
If you’re here you know that the only thing “Dodge” are the badges. The rest is pure Mercedes Benz.

These engines run on their electronics, so check the wiring harnesses for rodent/water/abrasion damage. Splicing in new wire is possible, or take-offs from wrecks, or factory-new harness.

The injector seals have a habit of letting go, the heads can warp and crack, the injectors can stick and over fuel and take out a piston. Or they can run past a million miles. I would offer that cooling system maintenance and timely injector renewal are the best hedge against a catastrophic failure, followed by fluid and filter choices. Old coolant can clog the block passages and overheat the head, leading to warpage. A knock-off oil- or air-filter element can come apart and quickly cost you a bearing or a turbo compressor.

The transmission can go the distance, but the torque converter can let go if run hard and long under heavy loads (over 10,000 lbs?) and will take the transmission with it. The socket on the conductor plate can leak, causing electrical gremlins and eventually damage the control module. The fluid was “lifetime” but a 60,000 mile interval seems accepted as reasonable.

The white paint is thin and the primer was poor. Any nick turns into a rust bubble... regular waxing helps.

So at 330,000 miles?
I would take a good look down inside the radiator for obvious scale.
Peak under the oil fill cap at the timing chain. Look for oil spray from boost leaks in the induction hoses and clamps.
LIFT THE PLASTIC ENGINE COVER.
Inspect the injector gallery for “black death” from injector seal leaks.
Perform an injector leak-off test to get an idea of their health. This tests the health of the upper actuator valve, not the lower nozzle valve, so only tells half the story, but certainly a half worth knowing.
Crawl under the driver’s side and pull the transmission electrical plug and look for fluid.
Have a peak at the prop shaft and support bearing, muffler and cat welds, sway bar bushings and links.

Unless there are service records, plan to flush the cooling system, change the oil, atf, brake fluid, and differential. These are all straightforward tasks, and the write-up forum has the information you’ll need.

Good luck. Hopefully you like what you see,

-dave

ions82
06-18-2019, 08:26 AM
My ‘04 has 192,000 miles and has been my daily driver for two years and 35,000 dependable miles. :thumbup:
If you’re here you know that the only thing “Dodge” are the badges. The rest is pure Mercedes Benz.

These engines run on their electronics, so check the wiring harnesses for rodent/water/abrasion damage. Splicing in new wire is possible, or take-offs from wrecks, or factory-new harness.

The injector seals have a habit of letting go, the heads can warp and crack, the injectors can stick and over fuel and take out a piston. Or they can run past a million miles. I would offer that cooling system maintenance and timely injector renewal are the best hedge against a catastrophic failure, followed by fluid and filter choices. Old coolant can clog the block passages and overheat the head, leading to warpage. A knock-off oil- or air-filter element can come apart and quickly cost you a bearing or a turbo compressor.

The transmission can go the distance, but the torque converter can let go if run hard and long under heavy loads (over 10,000 lbs?) and will take the transmission with it. The socket on the conductor plate can leak, causing electrical gremlins and eventually damage the control module. The fluid was “lifetime” but a 60,000 mile interval seems accepted as reasonable.

The white paint is thin and the primer was poor. Any nick turns into a rust bubble... regular waxing helps.

So at 330,000 miles?
I would take a good look down inside the radiator for obvious scale.
Peak under the oil fill cap at the timing chain. Look for oil spray from boost leaks in the induction hoses and clamps.
LIFT THE PLASTIC ENGINE COVER.
Inspect the injector gallery for “black death” from injector seal leaks.
Perform an injector leak-off test to get an idea of their health. This tests the health of the upper actuator valve, not the lower nozzle valve, so only tells half the story, but certainly a half worth knowing.
Crawl under the driver’s side and pull the transmission electrical plug and look for fluid.
Have a peak at the prop shaft and support bearing, muffler and cat welds, sway bar bushings and links.

Unless there are service records, plan to flush the cooling system, change the oil, atf, brake fluid, and differential. These are all straightforward tasks, and the write-up forum has the information you’ll need.

Good luck. Hopefully you like what you see,

-dave


Thank you for that golden info, Dave. I will have to copy each of those separate suggestions and attach a picture to them (as I'm unsure what many of them are or look like). It would easily be the most comprehensive checklist I've ever taken to a used vehicle inspection. I've read that the harmonic balancer can be problematic. Is there a quick way to check that?

I'm excited about the prospect of owning one of these old vans. As I mentioned, I'm a fan of old diesel tech. I've enjoyed working on the CTDs. Some of the "hacks" that people collectively figured out are fantastic. For example, a crappy $200 throttle position sensor could be replaced with a simple potentiometer. I'm guessing there aren't many similar mods for the Sprinters, but it sounds like the older ones aren't terrible to work on.

ions82
06-18-2019, 08:28 AM
I would get an estimate from a local MB dealership for inspection.

Unfortunately, the closest MB shops are 1-2 hours away from the seller. I've read that MB dealerships can be very hit-or-miss when it comes to these old vans. I may just have to roll the dice.

Midwestdrifter
06-18-2019, 01:06 PM
Make sure to pull the plastic injector cover (put it back when your done). Look for signs of injector seal leakage, fuel leakage, and/or replaced injectors. At 330k the injectors will likely be getting tired. When they fail sometimes they can destroy an engine if you ignore the symptoms (surging, rough idle, black smoke etc).

If the oil has at least a few thousand miles on it, I would send a sample to blackstone labs. That will give you a baseline, and give you a heads up for many possible wear issues.

Check the air filter box (it is probably full of sand/crap). Plan on the trans service if it hans't been done. This includes electrical connector, TC and pan drain, new filter, and a magnet check.

Check the rear axle for seal integrity, and change the lube.

Check the turbo system for air/oil leaks.

Check the driveshaft UJs for wear. Unbolt one end and give it some motion if needed.

Check the front end, including steering rack and steering shaft for wear. Same goes for suspension bushings front/rear.

Check cabin air filter for crap, if the blower fan is making noises or is slow to start, pull it for a lube.

Finally, get a decent scan tool (see the scanner sub forum) and scan it for codes. Record any you find.

PS: get the service manuals and documentation from the forum sticky.

ions82
06-18-2019, 04:40 PM
Make sure to pull the plastic injector cover (put it back when your done). Look for signs of injector seal leakage, fuel leakage, and/or replaced injectors. At 330k the injectors will likely be getting tired. When they fail sometimes they can destroy an engine if you ignore the symptoms (surging, rough idle, black smoke etc).

If the oil has at least a few thousand miles on it, I would send a sample to blackstone labs. That will give you a baseline, and give you a heads up for many possible wear issues.

Check the air filter box (it is probably full of sand/crap). Plan on the trans service if it hans't been done. This includes electrical connector, TC and pan drain, new filter, and a magnet check.

Check the rear axle for seal integrity, and change the lube.

Check the turbo system for air/oil leaks.

Check the driveshaft UJs for wear. Unbolt one end and give it some motion if needed.

Check the front end, including steering rack and steering shaft for wear. Same goes for suspension bushings front/rear.

Check cabin air filter for crap, if the blower fan is making noises or is slow to start, pull it for a lube.

Finally, get a decent scan tool (see the scanner sub forum) and scan it for codes. Record any you find.

PS: get the service manuals and documentation from the forum sticky.

MORE great info. Thank you for the help. I've gotta say, just having this forum as a resource has already made me more comfortable with the idea of even considering this vehicle. What an amazing network of helpful and knowledgeable minds. :thumbup:

DRTDEVL
06-18-2019, 05:21 PM
Where is the van located? I bet someone on here knows of an experienced shop within reasonable distance of the van for an independent inspection...

GC1234
06-18-2019, 05:30 PM
There's plenty of good information in the posts before me, but for a little additional insight: I bought my 2006 high roof with 150k miles and have gone through a long list of replacements; water pump, radiator, oil cooler, all hoses, all turbo hoses, alternator, complete a/c system, new valve cover, all new injectors, new brakes, all in all about $4,000 in parts. I've never owned a diesel or pulled an engine, but I can say with the help of this forum and other resources there is literally nothing you can't do. Check under the plastic engine cover, check the radiator, run codes if you can, but no matter what's going on you can fix it. It just depends on how much money you're willing to (continue to) spend.

Aqua Puttana
06-18-2019, 05:47 PM
What others said. :thumbup:

Well, except for a MB dealership inspection. That isn't worth the trouble for such an old vehicle. They will find a very conservative very long laundry list of problems.

My 2nd Sprinter 2006 purchased used, 140,000+ miles. It was in good shape overall for the age/miles. My guess is that I still dumped close to, maybe over 3000 bucks into parts only, all DIY maintenance, to get it up to decent standards. It was worth the money and effort to me.

The engines can go for many miles. My hoarded 2004 has over 328k and is still reliable. (I don't really need 2 ea. Sprinters.) That said it is rusting out from under me and any major failure will have it headed to scrap. There is risk as miles pile on. That's why I bought the 2006.

Some general inspection information is here.

Inspection tips for buying a used Sprinter T1N
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5174

Tips for New to Sprinter Owners
http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23409

Good luck.

:cheers: vic

Nautamaran
06-18-2019, 05:56 PM
Thank you for that golden info, Dave. I will have to copy each of those separate suggestions and attach a picture to them (as I'm unsure what many of them are or look like). It would easily be the most comprehensive checklist I've ever taken to a used vehicle inspection.
Whatever it looks like on the surface, it’s a FIFTEEN year old van and will require a good going over to know where you will need to put money, and how much. An engine swap can quickly burn through $10k, so be sure this one is in good health. With pre-glow complete, mine starts with less than one second of cranking every time.

I've read that the harmonic balancer can be problematic. Is there a quick way to check that?True. Stick a mirror or camera up behind the radiator for a visual check of the rubber bonding the balance ring to the hub. The serpentine belt, tensioner, and pulleys have likely been done once or twice by that distance?

I'm excited about the prospect of owning one of these old vans. As I mentioned, I'm a fan of old diesel tech. I've enjoyed working on the CTDs.
Not to quash your hopes, but keep in mind that this is an endurance-tuned 2.7 litre i5, not a 6.3 litre. It can (and should!) accelerate from a stop fast enough to spill your passenger’s coffee, but you’re not going to be lighting the tires...

Some of the "hacks" that people collectively figured out are fantastic. For example, a crappy $200 throttle position sensor could be replaced with a simple potentiometer. I'm guessing there aren't many similar mods for the Sprinters, but it sounds like the older ones aren't terrible to work on.
Think what you will of MB, they know how to make stuff that lasts. Whether they always choose to do so is a fair question, but since these were fleet vehicles the “regular” tasks are easy to get done DIY. You’ll want a set of torx and E-torx tools and metric allen wrenches...
I’ve done two injector seals and had the radiator stack out of mine, but haven’t done any major/precision assemblies like a head gasket or differential bearings.

There are a couple of optional features hidden in the ECU (like “working speed control” for fast idle adjustment) that require a dealer tool to unlock, and the Sprinter is “special” when it comes to scan tools. Though the list of capable tools is growing, a generic OBDII code reader is likely to only get SAE codes from the engine, not the deeper sub-codes available, and be unable to connect to the transmission, abs/esp, etc...

Green Diesel Engineering is a popular “tune” supplier, if that’s your thing. I won’t comment on the trade-offs inherent in any modification to an engine management system’s configuration, but they are real, and can effect emissions, reliability, and longevity. GDE no longer does business in California or with California residents.

-dave

Midwestdrifter
06-18-2019, 06:29 PM
As a general rule dicking about with the digital wiring is fraught with peril. Not worth the risk unless you know what you are doing. Other than wiring protection and few minor improvements, you are best served leaving the factory systems unmolested except for maintenance and repair activities. This is a full electronic diesel, it is not something you can easily make changes too without causing LHM.

The tunes bump fuel pressure and increase peak combustion pressures. Not worth the extra risk on a high mile van. If your cooling system is marginal, it will only exacerbate that. Overheating, poorly filtered air, and overfueling injectors are the most common engine killers.

Many of the USA resellers import cheap euro sourced parts, and relabel them. The quality is a total crapshoot. Stick with OEM, or one of the few vendors who tries to sell quality parts (OE, or equivalent).

The crank pulley can easily be inspected by eye and hand. Give the outer ring a gentle pry. It should have only barely perceptible movement against the inner hub.

Failed fan clutches are a common cause of poor cooling system performance. They often are difficult to diagnose, but usually cause elevated cruising temps, above the normal 180-190f.

Nautamaran
06-18-2019, 06:42 PM
When you have time, you should check out MWD’s build thread: http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=41215
and travel log: http://vagariesabound.blogspot.com/

And the reference library: http://www.diysprinter.co.uk/reference/

Pure gold.

-dave

ions82
06-21-2019, 06:00 AM
Well, I took the first step into the rabbit hole of Sprinter ownership. I bought the '04 I was looking at. It's a 158" with a high roof. Turns out that it's a retired FedEx truck. I've seen quite a few units with identical setups for sale around the country. From what I've read (here in the forum), FedEx does a pretty good job of maintaining the trucks and dumps them around 325-345K. This particular one has some rust near the windshield, but I don't suspect it will be getting any worse here in the desert (I live in Albuquerque.)

Anyway, as soon as I started driving it back home, it started having problems. The power steering needs some attention, the CEL was on, and the ESP, ABS, and tire lights came on. It also does a strange thing where the throttle seems to cut out if I hold it steady. Fortunately, there is a very comprehensive shop right near my home that specializes in European vehicles. They were very helpful in running it through their Mercedes-specific scanner. A laundry list of codes came up, but many of them turned out to be old ones that were never cleared. Still, a few remained after driving and re-scanning. A new MAF will arrive tomorrow, and the hope is that it will fix the CEL issue.

Aside from that, I'm going to go back over some of the info posted in this thread. Over the coming days/weeks, I'll try to give it a full service and check everything out. I have a feeling it may need some work on the brakes and steering. I plan to pull all the FedEx shelving out as it won't be practical for my use. Hopefully, I can also figure out how to add cruise control and remove the FedEx speed limiter. From what I gather, reprogramming the ECM is required for both. I think the nearby shop would be OK with the CC, but I'm not sure if they want to mess around with the speed limiter. It tops out at under 65 (which isn't a deal-breaker as I'm not really a speed demon.) I also want to look into buying a scanner.

Thank you to all who participate in this forum. It has been the main reason I've felt MOSTLY comfortable in jumping into this endeavor. What an amazing resource! My initial nerves and regret have turned to excitement. I wish I didn't need to sleep so I could just be out there working on the van all night long!:smirk:

Bobnoxious
06-21-2019, 06:07 AM
Save yourself much grief and replace the chasis to engine ground strap.

glasseye
06-21-2019, 05:09 PM
Your comment "mainly used for road trips" gives one pause.
For that task, reliability is Job One.

Batteries, tires, maintenance, spare parts, knowledge, this forum... :rad:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/DsnI5HeleKefhvjYbhm7QGApOzToD0MHwMLAdqm6nYnrxDk-3SX_MY7q4e_ZK9xwaUdnruDOR62W70sbjQW87qBkajEvyzKQZq S53TwsHu0X5GMLtgn2wuN1vriqGpRAhU8biRWnuw=w2400

DRTDEVL
06-21-2019, 06:32 PM
If you plan on having it tuned, the GDE tune removes the speed limiter.

ions82
06-21-2019, 10:54 PM
Thank you for all of these helpful replies. It looks as though I'll need to do some reading up on the recalls for this van. Mine has the dash console that stays illuminated and drains the battery. D'OH! Hopefully, I can get that resolved without having to resort to some sort of black magic and sorcery.

Are there preferred tire options for the T1Ns? The tires on this one are on the brink of death, and I want to start looking for some suitable replacements. I don't plan to have 4K pounds of cargo, but should I stick with load range E anyway? For me, smooth/quiet ride and longevity would be paramount. I don't plan to go off-road or ever be in snow.

Midwestdrifter
06-21-2019, 10:56 PM
Stock is 225/75R16 (except dually and 118 WB). Choose a LT range E tire. Plenty of good options at reasonable prices in that size.

Nautamaran
06-22-2019, 01:12 AM
Agreed. Find an LT225/75R16 load range ‘E’ you like, then adjust pressure down appropriately for your actual weight.

-dave

ions82
06-22-2019, 08:18 AM
The van went back to the shop today so they could install a new MAF sensor and clear the codes. After, the CEL returned. So, it's unclear what is causing it to come on. I was told to drive it around this weekend to see what pops up. I believe this van has the gauge cluster that drains the battery, but I don't know if that would be a culprit for some of the other problems it's experiencing. I'm a little confused by all that I've read on the sequence of recalls. I guess I'll need to contact a dealer about that issue. After today, I have more questions.

The shop owner mentioned that there are Bosch parts from Germany and identical Bosch parts from China. Is that accurate? The suggestion was that I should only get parts through their sources. Along with the MAF, the air filter was replaced (the old one had more dust than I've ever seen in a vehicle filter.) He just ordered an STP from Auto Zone.

I've also been a little confused on which scanner(s) would be best for this vehicle. I'd like to be able to check and clear codes, but the little I DO understand is that most scanners don't show the whole picture. An article I read pointed me to an iCarSoft MBII, but it seems those may no longer be supported (company out of business?)

billintomahawk
06-23-2019, 07:19 AM
Try this...


https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=46898

Autel MD802 was what I bought.

bill in tomahawk

Nautamaran
06-23-2019, 04:22 PM
I’ve got an MD802 Elite (all systems) and it gives me enough info to get an idea of what is going on with the engine. It is not a two way tool, so only capable of doing a read/reset, but that’s enough. The MD802 is also able to diagnose a huge number of makes and models, so my friends have borrowed it on a few occasions to scan their vehicles.
On the T1N, it can pull live data from engine, transmission, srs, shifter, atc, timer(door locks), skreem(key fob), IC, ESP.
not to the depth of a Star tool, but enough for my purposes.

The T1N does not scan using CANBUS. It uses seven different OBD pins to bring all the module K-Lines (iso14230) to the data port. So the scan tool needs to be programmed with knowledge of where to find the various modules, and be wired with a k-line client on all those pins. A $20 emissions readiness tool is only likely to have just one wire on Pin 7, and that pin is only wired to the engine module.

Autel’s MD808 or AP200 are also possible choices, and at US$50 the AP200 looks like a great deal - I’ve now got one but haven’t finished setting up the app on my iPhone... I hope to spend some time with it today and report back. I’m a DIY guy, so don’t have any knowledge to share for the higher end tools.

-dave

ions82
06-24-2019, 06:18 PM
Excellent info. I, too, am a DIY guy. The shop with the STAR system has been helpful, but I don't believe that scanner has shown anything that the aforementioned scanners wouldn't display. After all, it only pointed to the MAF sensor, but that didn't resolve the CEL after install and reset. Pretty sure one of the Autel models could've shown me that.

I'm excited about this van project. The help here in the forum is incredible. There's no doubt it has made a hugely positive impact on the lives of many. It keeps us going down the road and has probably saved people millions of dollars.

autostaretx
06-24-2019, 09:55 PM
There are (at least) two things that can leave your instrument panel display illuminated past the 45-second time-out:
(a) in a 2004 (or early 2005), failure to replace the instrument panel as part of the T21/2016blach recall.
(b) the "key still in ignition" switch is hanging up ... try either twacking the area near the key slot, or just re-insert, twist to ON, twist back to OFF, pull key. Then see if the dash times-out 45 seconds later.

good luck
--dick