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Old 06-18-2019, 04:59 AM   #1
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Default Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

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?
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Old 06-18-2019, 06:06 AM   #2
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

I would get an estimate from a local MB dealership for inspection.
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Old 06-18-2019, 07:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

My ‘04 has 192,000 miles and has been my daily driver for two years and 35,000 dependable miles.
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
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Old 06-18-2019, 08:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nautamaran View Post
My ‘04 has 192,000 miles and has been my daily driver for two years and 35,000 dependable miles.
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.
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Old 06-18-2019, 08:28 AM   #5
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobnoxious View Post
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.
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Old 06-18-2019, 01:06 PM   #6
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

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.
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Old 06-18-2019, 04:40 PM   #7
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Midwestdrifter View Post
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.
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:21 PM   #8
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

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...
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

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.
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: Noob considering an '04 with 330K.

What others said.

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.

vic
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