Giant gash/slice in van frame above fuel tank

jtr210

New member
Greetings Wonderful Community,

I crawled under my 2014 Sprinter 2500 conversion van last night to take a look at something, and noticed an alarming, large, two to three foot gash/tear/cut along a section of the van’s metal frame right above the fuel tank. It starts at one of the pre-cut holes in the van frame's metal beam, goes down near a bolt connecting the fuel tank to the frame, then goes all the way back near the final bolt connecting the fuel tank to the frame in the rear. I am attaching a couple pictures.


1590204391606.png1590204391699.png

There is no other visible damage around that area or anywhere else under the vehicle or on the outside.

Does anyone have an idea what could have caused this? Is there any kind of modification that would necessitate this type of cut? Honest mistake? Sabotage? Freak accident?

I had some routine service done last week at a Mercedes dealer, (airbag replacement, fluids, tire pressure, etc.), and I had all four tires replaced a couple days ago at Costco. I had the oil changed at a truck mechanic last summer. Other than that and some driving, the vehicle has been parked on the street outside my home or at an RV storage place. I am friends with the previous owner, and he had the vehicle towed on a flatbed once about three years ago, but he has no idea how this would have happened.

Does anyone have some idea at how this could have happened, whether by good intention, bad intention or accident? I am quite concerned about the structural integrity of the van’s frame. Ugh.

Thanks y’all!
 
That is crazy. One would think someone would have to use an oxyacetylene torch to do that. Any sign of melted plastic on the fuel tank indicated molten metal landed on the plastic and is left embedded?
 

CJPJ

2008 3500 170"ext. 3.0 V6
Holy smokes that gash has lips the full length. . Seems like a frame fatigue tear would be vertical and that one is for the most part horizontal
 
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jtr210

New member
No sign of melted plastic or molten metal fragments anywhere.

My best guess at the moment is that a metal hook on a winch caused the tear. I think this would have caused other visible damage too though, so I'm not sure if that's the case. Crazy.

I knew this van would be a money pit, but I always thought the voluntary upgrades would be the reason. :-(
 

CJPJ

2008 3500 170"ext. 3.0 V6
A vehical recovery where they hooked the thin frame and tore it . Seems very plausible.

Possibly a bad tow truck operator did it while pulling it up onto the flatbed
 
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Mike DZ

2016 View 24V (2015 3500)
The orientation of the "lips" suggests that force was applied perpendicular to the length of the hole, not parallel like a tow cable would exert. I think you would see some deformation of the metal at the edges of the gash in the direction of pull, which is not apparent to my eye. In other words it doesn't appear to me to be caused by a tow hook. The segmenting or scalloping of the edges implies to me a series of tool applications perpendicular to the gash. Why would somebody do that? Now that is a mystery.
 

vanski

'05 Box Snow Camper
Are you sure it’s through the frame and not just through the protective spray coating? Can you stick a screw driver or something all the way through?
 

Midwestdrifter

Engineer In Residence
I would guess that happened when someone was trying to winch the vehicle onto a flatbed. They put a hook into the frame hole on the left, and then proceeded to keep winching as it tore through the chassis.

The good news is that the sprinter is a unibody. Those "frame" tubes only provide a portion of the structural support. Also, the vertical faces of the tubes are mostly intact.

Here is how I would repair this.

Drop the fuel tank about 3". You can likely do this without disconnecting everything.

Use a grinder or reciprocating tool to remove the worst of the "lip". Bend or hammer flat what you can.

Have a doubler made from some 16 gauge steel or a14 gauge 6061-T6 aluminum. It will have a 90 degree bend. It will essentiall be the lower the vertical face visible in the photo. Any fab shop should be able to make one in about 30 minutes from a sketch.

Clamp the doubler on, and drill for 1/4" thread forming bolts/screws. I suggest putting one screw every 12" on each face. On the vertical face stagger them about 30% from the centerline, going low/high.

Remove the doubler and clean/scuff the undercoating. Bond the doubler in place with structural urethane adhesive (3M has several great options, as does sikaflex). Insert the thread forming screws. They will form threads in the sheetmetal of the van body/frame.

Once the adhesive sets the repair will be stronger than the frame its supporting.
 

Aqua Puttana

Poly - Thread Finder
A vehicle recovery where they hooked the thin frame and tore it . Seems very plausible.

Possibly a bad tow truck operator did it while pulling it up onto the flatbed
I was thinking that too FWIW. But the "slice" looks a bit thin for that.

Are you sure it’s through the frame and not just through the protective spray coating? Can you stick a screw driver or something all the way through?
Blowing up the pictures makes that look like a possibility. That is especially true if what looks like the threads of the tank fastener turn out to be a shadow/dirt/something else.

If it is more than the rubbery coating curling off you would think that the MB dealership tech would have highlighted it as a problem.

:2cents: vic
 

BrennWagon

He’s just this guy, you know?
Whatever caused that gash, it looks like it mush have been fairly recent. There doesn’t appear to be any rust along the lips. I’d suspect that an incident involving a shop floor lift may be the culprit, as the metal defiantly shows signs of strange stresses and the angled part at the rear looks like the same angle as lift ramps to my eye. If whatever had caused the damage had ruptured the fuel tank the shop or towing company would’ve had to address it immediately on their dime, with something not immediately obvious like this, you’re likely to have to foot the bill yourself
 

Montucky

Member
Crazy.

I will say this - no one could have made that gash and not known that they did something wrong..

I agree with others that it looks fresh. No rust. I'd have some pointed questions to anyone who worked on that van in the last few weeks! Good thing is that it's a pretty easy repair to patch in some material there and weld it back up. Best of luck.
 

tinman

Active member
The orientation of the "lips" suggests that force was applied perpendicular to the length of the hole, not parallel like a tow cable would exert. I think you would see some deformation of the metal at the edges of the gash in the direction of pull, which is not apparent to my eye. In other words it doesn't appear to me to be caused by a tow hook. The segmenting or scalloping of the edges implies to me a series of tool applications perpendicular to the gash. Why would somebody do that? Now that is a mystery.
The scallops are odd. I wonder if someone did a quick attempt at reworking the damage after it happened. Otherwise the rip theory seems to me the best guess.
 

AirJoseph

Member
To me it looks like a strap was hooked into the first hole and the other end of the strap got caught under the rear wheel while driving forward. That would cause that type of gash. Thin metal isn't it?
 

jtr210

New member
Thanks so much for all your advice and input everyone! I plan to question the Mercedes dealer, and I’m going to get it looked at and fixed by someone else this week. I’ll let y’all know how it goes!
 

Aqua Puttana

Poly - Thread Finder
A tie-down hook from a flatbed tow could have been left attached when the van was rolled off the bed.
That could be. When a tilt bed is raised the stress on an unnoticed single attachment could be significant. A less than competent operator might wonder why the damn truck won't roll off and rather than checking things, just use methods to get it to move down and off so they can get home for dinner.

That said, the actual cause(s) may never be determined for certain.

:2cents: vic
 

PhilipE

Member
Do the tank strap bolts have nuts on them or welded in nuts?

The factory would have been weld nuts.

In the pic. Which side of pic is front of vehicle?

To me that is not a hook pullout. At the start of a pullout. The front hole is going to leave a big dent before tear out. It would pull the metal towards direction of pull before the tear out point. I do not see that.

A pullout will normaly be a large pie shape that gets bigger the farther it goes.

I think its an idiots way of repairing two bad tank mounting bolt holes. I think it was done by a air powered hack saw. The wavy edge on the cut was by channel locks bending it open. Then the person wasn't smart enough to finish the job by welding it back together.


There is no reason for a tow driver to be hooking anything in that region to load or unload. They do not hook to vehicles in the middle unless they need to flip it back on its wheels. They use eather end for pulling. They connect to major suspension parts or frames real close to the those mountings points. The rule " allways attach to strongest part of vehicle for any pull."
Side of a frame on a unibody vehicle is not strong.
 
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BrennWagon

He’s just this guy, you know?
Metal tears look exactly like that damage. I have seen it many times on aircraft and once on a piece of heavy equipment.
Do you mean a tear that develops as a result of metal fatigue or from an external force?
 

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