transmission nightmare - dealer ransom?


New member
So my '02 freightliner 2500 long tall got itself stuck in second and then in neutral back in june. First I thought it just needed to have the trans serviced and then flashed to get it out of limp mode, but the first dealer I brought it to tried to sell me a trans and torque converter without putting a scanner on it or even dropping the pan. I did manage to get them to put a scanner on it as I was waiting for the towtruck, and I wrote those codes down. After paying $400 to get it towed 104 miles (thanks for nothing, AAA) closer to where I could stay for a while without transportation and had a friend to help me work on it, we found a used trans for cheap that came out of a van that was retired because someone put gas in it, so the trans should have been fine, no word of limp mode from the van it came from, fluid in great condition and basically no metal in the pan. We put the new (to me) trans in, ordered the benz-spec'd fluid and filter, stuck a remanufactured torque converter in while we were in there, and got it to move again but stuck in second. Better than stuck in neutral, but not much. More research led me to believe that it needed to be flashed so we brought it to the local dealer (proximity to a dealer big enough to have a drbIII was another reason I had it towed to where it is) who claimed the TCM code we were getting meant the TCM needed to be replaced before he could get any more information out of it. I was skepitcal, but we did it, now of course they say they're getting an "internal transmission fault code, a 2502", which I happened to have written down from the other dealer scanning it, its a gear ratio imlausible or trans is slipping code, one of the codes we were getting from the old trans. I'm pretty sure I have a dirty wheelspeed sensor that causes my ABS to fire prematurely but other than that doesn't seem to bother anything, could this be confusing the TCM? Because I sure dont have 4 to 6 thousand dollars for another trans, and my gut is just freaking out about the honesty of this dealer (or rather, lack thereof)--something tells me they haven't actually flashed it yet and are just trying to sell me one expensive thing after another. Anyone within a reasonable distance to Flemington, NJ have a DAD or similar scanner that could help me try to catch the dealer lying to me? ...cuz if I do I'm gonna try to make them give me everything for free ;) Or at least rip them all new assholes as I call the better business bureau from their waiting room on the busiest saturday I can find. I was all set to buy a DAD and try to get in there myself and finish what we started, try to clear the tcm codes and get it to relearn the "new" trans but I don't know anyone with a good enough scanner, and it seems like even if I buy a used drbIII scanner I might not even be able to do what I need to without dealer credentials, which it sounds like the dealer figures this is the case and will just keep ransoming my van one expensive repair at a time... this is making me wish I had never gotten this van, I owe money on it and now this is putting me way upside down. If anyone can help make me a believer again that would be nice, because now I'm afraid of future issues that would require another trip to the stealership when I'm not so conveniently close to civilization, this van is meant to get me AWAY from places that have giant car dealerships, WTF...

What I am looking for is advice on getting a scanner that can make a transmission talk to the TCM. No transmission shop I have talked to seems to know how to do a sprinter trans, its starting to look bleak (the carnie at the counter at the stealership even used that word, as he was setting me up for the new trans pitch that would come with the next phone call-- a week later of course). At least use of someone elses scanner might get me out of limp mode, but it looks like I really need my own scanner to avoid situations like this in the future. It looks like I don't even have the option to source my own rebuilt, reman'd, or even brandy-new trans if I need that damn dealer ransom drbIII device to make it work. I'd walk away from this thing if I didn't owe so much on it still. I know a boat is a hole in the water you throw money into, I did not realize a sprinter was a similar hole in the road, sheesh.


I feel for you...

I have a Mercedes E320 wagon with unknown trans problems and everyone wants $7k (more than I paid for the car in working order) to replace the transmission. The trans worked fine for over 1k miles before it started "slipping out of gear", then worked fine for about 500 miles after replacing the conductor plate before the same thing. Trans fluid was and is clean. Replaced the TCM with a identical module.

I had resigned myself to replacing the trans (130k on the car, can't imagine a MB trans would go bad so soon) but after consulting with the guys at Silver Star Transmission I really don't think it is a mechanical problem. So it sits and waits for some time to figure out what the problem is...

You need to find someone with a scanner and the knowledge of how to use it to move you along.

Does your TCM have transmission fluid in it?


Formerly Type2Teach
Once a van is in hard limp mode, nothing will get it out unless you reset (flash) the ecu with a DAD or dealer level scanner... even if you replace the tranny, the ECU still has the hard limp mode stored.


Well-known member
I can tell you are having a bad day with this van!

First you seem to be having a fixation with a DRB3 scanner when a Snap on Solus Pro will do most of the diagnosis to run down the problem.
Above all the scanner, any scanner is only as good as the operator who can interpret the info it provides. After all its only a guide or an indicator to focus in on the issue(s) at hand!

Sorry to be blunt but if you are unfamiliar with the Sprinter and its wiring together with fault occurrences you are likely to miss the problem and be further frustrated.

My first inclination is that you may have a communication problem within the modules and wiring so that the transmission doesn't have a clue on what it must do when "D" is selected.
One thing I can tell you is that 2002 and 2003 T1n Sprinters are notorious for wiring issues, in fact the harness is more often than not found to be severely deteriorated , and we will often toss the harness for a new one or at best solder in repair sections.

My shop has Shop Key an essential element to pull wiring schematics and trace faults.
Equally we have manuals on the NAG 1 transmission to run down those faults that go amiss on the first diagnosis run !
Indeed the vehicle relies on its wheel speed sensors to get an idea of whether it is rolling down the road or not! One thing I do find is that often mechanics whether professional or self appointed wannabees cannot tell the difference between a single contact single filament bulb and the twin contact variant. Installing the wrong bulb in the tail lamps or high centre lamp will cause communication issues and faults in the ABS signalling system. CAN faults abound or even poorly installed trailer hitches and wiring pigtails that get corroded and short down! This often affects the ABS and communication at the wheel speed sensors. If confused enough the transmission won't shift!

Now as for dealers they have their recommended repair postures and this often clashes with the customer viewpoint. Their repair path is to start with a clean slate (in your case a new transmission ) not a customer supplied take out junkyard gearbox--which it might be. Its all about the money and the dealer will often elect to cover their position by insisting on new! You can't blame them its all the about the numbers game and profit. A ransom if you prefer that word!
Reporting them to the BBB will have little effect upon them, except you might get some "mileage" by venting your frustration! Besides if the dealership is big enough the BBB doesn't accept complaints about big organizations and big corporations.

You are in that classic position I see these day not only with a Sprinter but other Lux cars like LR's BMW's and MB cars themselves.
I think you will have to see if you can find an independent specialist in your area that can look at the vehicle and run down the issues you have reported in your post.

Best of luck with the repair and I hope you get a satisfactory outcome.
Cheers Dennis


Own a DAD ODB2 Unit.
Find someone with a DAD unit close to you (to read the tramsmission error codes and reset the transmission errors) if possible. I would never consider loaning my DAD unit out, however I often drive over to other peoples places to assist if I can.

Where to find people with DAD units:

Please add your general location to your profile (along with the model Sprinter you have) - you do this in the 'User CP' section (in the blue line above). It helps to know where you are for people that may offer to help.

There are not a lot of people around that service Sprinters (this is a common problem for a lot vehicles, not just Sprinters). However, this Web Site has a lot of information that you can use to diagnose issues and usually narrow down the problems to resolvable things. It also helps if you are mechanically inclined and can do some of the work yourself.


New member
Post your location. Remote diagnosis via the web can be a tough one and you may be close to competent help.



New member
My current location was mentioned in my original post, but I went and changed it anyways in the userCP section anyway for those who didn't catch that (it's Flemington, NJ). I don't actually really live here, but I have lived here and am stuck living here until this van issue gets resolved.

First you seem to be having a fixation with a DRB3 scanner when a Snap on Solus Pro will do most of the diagnosis to run down the problem.

From everything I have read on these forums, nothing but a drbIII or DAD-type scanner will flash the ECU, so if this snapon scanner will actually do that, can someone confirm this? I might have a better time finding someone who has one of those, but it sounds like it wouldn't fix my problem, if what really needs to happen is getting the ECU flashed.

I was also wondering what happens if I ask the dealer to give me a printout of what their scanner reads, will it tell me if the ECU was flashed recently? Someone at another shop told me it should have dates and times of when it was reset stored (they also told me it sounds like I'm getting the runaround). This dealer told me they flashed it first thing, but I just have a hard time believing that we are now getting the same codes with a different transmission in there AND a new TCM, the guy even mentioned the old TCM code today when he was trying to talk really fast around my question of are you SURE you flashed it... I found another shop nearby that sounds like they might be sympathetic enough to just flash my ECU and not insist that I need a new trans, but that's what the last two told me...

Thanks again,
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Well-known member
The best non factory scanner which will flash all functions is an Autologic.
If you call Autologic Hq in NY state they can direct you to an Independent in your area which has an MB program loaded on their tablet. It is what I use for the most part on all Sprinter platforms.

As I mentioned a Snap On tool will access all the transmission codes and tech info/live data. Its my grab and scan product in both Verus and Solus Pro. We have used in for more than 7 years on TIN and later products

The MB tool has the capability to access the memory/history but in any case doing an adaption on any MB platform is basically the same.


New member
Thanks to all for attempting to help. The third dealer I had this poor van brought to tried to get me for 8 or 9 grand for a new trans and a bunch of other crap. Looks like the used trans I bought was maybe no good after all, but we're not giving up yet on maybe something auxiliary to the trans, possibly wheel speed sensor and/or maybe whatever fedex used to put a 65mph governor on it? In any case, it's off the road for the moment, limping in third gear which is progress from stuck in neutral, but not good enough to actually use. Bought a $500 1986 Nissan truck for running around and (hopefully) making it cross-country to where I need to be to get making better money to be able to afford the Sprinter, or at least to be able to afford to get it fixed and then maybe sell it. Just wanted to finish up this thread, unresolved as my problem is. Anyone having similar problems should check out this thread:
There were some suggestions posted in there that didn't come up in my thread, namely some good affordable scanner suggestions, and someone's suggestion of pulling the tcm and bringing it to someone with a DAD to put into their vehicle and read/clear code (genius!).

Thanks again to all for attempting to help, I'll be in the Nissan hardbody forums for a while now...
Hi John,
I am going to NJ next Monday. I have training on the 30th and 31st. I can bring my dad down and see what can be done with this van. I am not sure where our classes are yet. It should be close to Fujitsu manufacturing plant. I just went through this with my Fedex van. Turned out to be a bad conductor plate. In my case, contaminants shorted out the plate after a fluid change. I can't say for sure that will work for you. Here is everything you will need for the job ebay item number 271564845708. I saved my fluid and put it back in. I did have to add a quart or to after I was done. You can call me if you would like to try this. 518-570-8314


New member
Thanks buddy, too bad I just saw this now, monday after the weekend you were coming through... I am absolutely going to look into all of that tho, as it is really looking like thetrans I have in there might actually be in working order and we have something auxiliary to the trans sending it into limp mode. Had a Solus scanner on it yesterday and learned a bunch about exactly when it goes into limp mode, so now we're hot on the trail of something I hope... Thanks again!


New member

Sounds like you might be making progress on the correct diagnosis.

My experience in case all this fails:

While we were on vacation the trannie on my 02 158" 2500 died in Silver City NM. Nearest Sprinter dealer was in Santa Fe, some 400+ miles away. The service manager there snippily said (wrongly) that they only worked on the newer model.

El Paso TX Freightliner told me over the phone that they only worked on real trucks.

Herr Doktor Andy Bittenbinder was a great help over the phone and had me rule out any obvious fluid leak. Then I scheduled a visit to the local trannie shop after they promised to drop the cover for a quick fluid look and to swap a likely clogged filter. Dr Andy thought I could risk a drive to Santa Fe with an extra filter or two and trannie fluid as highway backup if I reclogged the replacement filter on the way to a real diagnosis.

Well, the AAA tow driver got my van on his flatbed and brought me to the small Silver City trannie shop. The owner saw it was a MB product and flatly refused to touch it.

The knowledgable tow driver brought me to the next nearest car dealer that did trannie filter changes---that dealer gave me an appointment seven days away---no persuading earlier. Nothing doing with that.

The fine view of the NM countryside continued from the tow truck cab. My driver took me to his boss and they conferred and called the trannie guy they used in Deming, NM, who was willing to look.

We rolled into the Interstate Transmission yard. I saw the shop was chock full of vehicles and that mine would be outdoors work. Got the van off the flatbed and there I was completely at the mercy of the owner.

Fifteen minute later the pan was dropped. The metallic particles in the fluid were silver not gold, a sign the outer gold coat had worn off. Filter was clogged too.

Jesus, the owner of Interstate, was happy to just change the clogged filter or whatever else I wanted.

I had a quick conference with Herr Doktor and also with equally terrific Sprinter Guy Carl, my talented local MB chief tech., who called me back on his lunch hour. Carl had warned me of some wear on the trannie when he had done routine servicing a few months back.

Jesus' small shop did not have any specialized MB computers.

But we had much more vacation and many more mountain passes ahead of us and the quiet can-do attitude of Jesus impressed me. So I bit the bullet and asked for the price to do a replacement trannie. About $500 labor, he said.

I knew about Silver Star Transmission in OK. They took my credit card for $1800 and agreed to Fedex a trannie to NM. Dang if it wasn't there in 36 hours.

Jesus installed it in short order and I thanked him profusely for moving me ahead of his local customers. A generous tip to his crew was in order.

Test drive showed that limp-home 2nd gear was not an issue. Glad to see that.

Dr A warned me that without a computer reset it might be iffy for a while before the van adjusted to the different characteristics of the new trannie. A 20 mile local run to a nearby monument had the van behaving well by the end of it. Van computer got it sorted and I was ready to try the Interstate. Did not require a visit to the posh Santa Fe dealership.

Lived happily ever after and goes to show the value of people you can trust.

Oh, AAA Plus covered the 60 miles or so on the flatbed. The tow driver also got some extra from me for his kindness and patience.



New member
Thanks, looking into it right now. I think we're gonna try dropping the valve body again and giving everything a reeeeaaaally good cleaning, hoping its just a dirty vehicle speed sensor in there maybe, and if that doesnt work then maybe we'll order that trans conductor plate.


Own a DAD ODB2 Unit.
After you have a LHM mode set in the transmission, you will have to get a DAD (or DRBIII at the dealer) to reset the TCMs error codes (in my case, I had to do 2 sets of resets). Cleaning may have fixed the problem, but unless you also clear the TCM errors, the transmission will stay in LHM.


05 140" SHC 2500 Cargo
Did silver star lower their prices?? The website says $2100 wholesale + $300 core charge
You are correct , these are current prices. I think d bertkos story was old.


New member
Thanks to all for your suggestions, private messages, referrals, etc. I would be at a total loss without the help of these forums. Just to update: we ordered the autel 802 scanner, adjusted the wheel speed sensor that was giving a zero reading, which got rid of my ABS code. Then it seemed like I was getting an intermittent reading on the y3/6n3 vehicle speed sensor inside the valve body, (that's one of the two little magnet thingys connected to the electrical conductor plate a.k.a. the trans conductor plate) and we were still getting a p2502 "trans is slipping or gear ratio is implausible" code which the only info I could find suggested changing out the conductor plate which comes with the two sensors attached to it, so that ruled out the sensor and the conductor plate with one $185 educated guess/shot in the dark. While in there we had a chance to check the fluid again since it had been on a few test drives since we took it back from the dealer and maybe we had stirred up metal that had been hiding in the lines or the radiator, but the fluid looked really good--little bit of grey sludge and a few small flecks of metal no bigger than glitter flakes, and no chunks. Still not fixed. Down to one code, the good ol' p2502, and no bad sensors, everything giving a reading with the live data while driving in circles... still stumped. Looking into getting a rebuild from this guy in NYC for 1850, seemed to really know his stuff, owns the business and picked up the phone and answered all of my questions and asked me a bunch, basically asking if we had done everything we had tried. WAAAAY more helpful than anyone I have talked to on the phone at any other shop, seems to really know his stuff, says he has about 80 transmissions ready to be installed, 5 hours in and out, starting to sound pretty enticing considering the quotes of $5,000, $7,000, and $9,000 that I've gotten from dealerships. Seems like he might even try to fix it before he sells me a new one (!), such a welcome relief from the track the dealers try to send you down with every question. In any case, feeling like we're right on the this problem's ass, if anyone has any other suggestions I'm running out of leads to follow. Gonna double check my fluid level and the fuses under the seat for good measure, maybe we popped one somehow with all of our tinkerings. Keeping fingers crossed, will post an update when I have it. This seems to be a recurring mysterious problem with these gearboxes, and I would love to help someone avoid the headache this has turned into for me.


New member
After you have a LHM mode set in the transmission, you will have to get a DAD (or DRBIII at the dealer) to reset the TCMs error codes (in my case, I had to do 2 sets of resets). Cleaning may have fixed the problem, but unless you also clear the TCM errors, the transmission will stay in LHM.
So we got a scanner that can do that, the Autel 802 "All" model, still getting a soft limp mode that resets with a key cycle. Better, but not fixed yet. It will go thru 1st and 2nd and then try for 3rd and say "implausible" a half second after the "actual gear" sensor says "3", then it needs to be reset either by the scanner or a key cycle. Can even reset while driving, but still can't get into 3rd. And it doesn't show the flag for emergency mode, so hoping its something electrical thats confusing the sensors or the calculations it makes from those readings to allow shifting. Seems funny to me that we don't get any other codes from the TCM that would indicate a mess inside the gearbox, just this vague "trans is slipping or gear ratio implausible"... its so ambiguous it even says "or" in the description.


UK 2004 T1N 313CDi
As your problem appears to be speed related are all your wheel speeds exactly identical or do you have one not matching?
For example, If you have an odd size tyre this will cause that wheel to run at a different rotational speed to the others and once this difference exceeds an allowable tolerance it may throw you into LHM.
I might be on the wrong track but certainly would cost nothing to check now you have your new scanner.



New member
Yes, checked all the wheel speed sensors, we DID have one that was giving a zero reading and had a much larger gap than the others so we adjusted it and it reads like the others do, pretty much identical numbers in live data. I did just get a tip from Ben at Performance Diesel in Chicago (thank you for suggesting him, Jesse Milton), I'm about to go try putting the valve body from my original transmission back in. We had been wondering and worrying if maybe there was some sort of mismatch--maybe our used trans was the wrong transmission for my rear end or wheel base maybe? But Ben told reassured me that they only ever used one trans in that year, and that the only difference would be in the valve bodies, so I'm going to clean up and throw the old valve body from my original transmission into the new (to me) one with a new conductor plate and the old sensors, which he also reassured me usually don't go bad. So, fingers crossed for the no-part repair, finishing up my coffee and putting on some layers right now, hope this does it! I'll keep y'all posted...

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