Buying for first time

Southsouth

New member
Hey guys I am looking to convert a van to full time living. I was looking at promaster diesels but I think the t1n 2.7L diesel is easier to work on and more fuel efficient.

It looks like the major common issues are injector leaking, egr, and rust. And there seems to be ALOT more DIY videos on the t1ns than pro masters. Also I have alot mechanical experience so this is really appealing that there are tutorials out there.

I am in Toronto looking at a few 2500 high tops. They all have 300k kms or more. and go from 5k to 10k in price. If there is a 1 owner van with 500k kms and serviced at a shop its entire life, would that be a better pick that a 300k kms with multiple owners and no invoices? Also what are your other thoughts?

Thankyou
 

Alphacarina

2006 Itasca Navion 23H
I'm guessing that like many of us, you're a bit 'budget constrained'?? That makes it a bigger gamble

My thoughts, for what little they're worth are - Does it make a lot of sense to do a conversion on a mostly worn out older van that you may never be able to sell . . . . because you end up being the owner who ends up junking it when it's no longer economically viable to repair? Then you've lost all your investment. If your conversion is going to be extensive and expensive, I know I'd start with a younger vehicle which hopefully has lots more trouble-free miles left in it. Sprinter diesels do often last a long time and many miles, but when you're buying a 15 or 20 year old one with little known history, you might be the one who ends up buying a replacement engine or transmission

Also, driving an older, high mileage vehicle around the area where you live is one thing, because when it quits and must be repaired, you're in your home territory and you know where to go to get the best deals on parts and labor and any needed tow could probably be handled by a friend. When you're exploring new territory far from home and you break down, you're in a much more expensive, and unfamiliar situation - Getting a diesel van repaired hundreds of miles from home can cost many thousands and often take weeks

My 2006 Sprinter based motorhome is old enough that it worries me some about breakdowns in far away places . . . . but it only has 20,000 miles on it, so I'm hoping any problems would be minor and (hopefully) not involve a new engine or transmission

For the record, Ford makes an I5 diesel in their Transit, in either standard, mid or high roof versions - I've seen some sweet conversions of them on Youtube. They haven't been around long enough that you'll find one for $10 or $15K tho . . . .

Don
 

BrennWagon

He’s just this guy, you know?
Hey guys I am looking to convert a van to full time living. I was looking at promaster diesels but I think the t1n 2.7L diesel is easier to work on and more fuel efficient.

It looks like the major common issues are injector leaking, egr, and rust. And there seems to be ALOT more DIY videos on the t1ns than pro masters. Also I have alot mechanical experience so this is really appealing that there are tutorials out there.

I am in Toronto looking at a few 2500 high tops. They all have 300k kms or more. and go from 5k to 10k in price. If there is a 1 owner van with 500k kms and serviced at a shop its entire life, would that be a better pick that a 300k kms with multiple owners and no invoices? Also what are your other thoughts?

Thankyou
With T1N Sprinters, a single owner vehicle with good service records and little to no rust would be the best bet almost regardless of mileage. The older Sprinters seem to hold up best when used often and a low mileage hardly used vehicle can actually need more work to get it road worthy. Regardless of mileage expect to put about $2000 US in parts to get caught up with deferred maintenance. This forum is invaluable to the DIYer and without it I know that I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep my 2006 in the road. If you’re ready to chase electrical gremlins, replace rusted brake lines, Keep after body rust, get good and dirty and bust your knuckles regularly a T1N might be right for you.
If not, a newer Transit seems to be the safest bet after hearing some ProMaster horror stories (one of my customers has a first year ProMaster and has gone through 2 transaxles so far and he never loads his van heavily and doesn’t drive like an idiot)
 

Southsouth

New member
I have a lot of mechanical experience working on old bmws. You name it (except engine rebuilds). And I would take a 300k km bmw with maintenance records than a 120k bmw without any. So I think I can handle the repairs on the t1n. In general I like older cars. I think they are simplier to maintain and they have been figured out and tutorials exist to fix everything.

Honestly I have 15k cash and my car is worth maybe 7-8k. This is on the table as I am in survival mode and will be evicted. I am 29 and beyond fed up with Canadas housing market and job market. Low wages and high rent. 5 days of the week I retreat to my crappy basement to listen to footsteps from above, and to watch some tv. Then for the weekends I end up just doing chores I was too lazy and tired to do on the weekdays. Anyway even that meager existence is no longer possible since I lost my job right before the lockdown, and thus starting defaulting on payments, including rent.

My budget for the van is max 10k cad and 4-5k for the maintenance and a bare bones build in the beginning (insulation, solar, heat, water system) and then slowly figure out the interior.

But the first thing I will be doing is preventative maintenance. Seems like on a t1n this would be glow plugs, injectors, egr, turbo resonator, transmission fluid, waterpump, thermostat.
I read some have driveshaft u joint issues?
As for rust, every single t1n in canada will have it. I can do major rust repair because I can weld, but where are the norotious spots that are real PIA?
And worst case scenarios, how hard are tranmissions and engines to find and how much do they cost?
What about engine leaks and gasket replacements, valve cover gaskets? timing chain cover gaskets? oil line hose gaskets? differential seals?
 

sassmatt72

2006 high top long, Fully converted by me
injectors are not considered a maintenance item, typ only touched when "Black Death" is found (look under injector cover, if clean and dry good). 10k for an engine/rebuild more or less on your work or not and how much u reuse.
(If you can work on an older BMW you will laugh at how easy the TN1 is).
I'd go for the one that feels better to u regardless of milage, better to spend what u can and have a savings cushion,IMHO).
mine way an oily mess (service van) took me 2 weeks of serious inside cleaning to get it to my starting point. I paid 7500$USin San Jose CA
@ 210k miles she gets better than 18MPG heavily loaded and driving hard.
engine leaks are less frequent but happen.
If doing water pump, do the entire serpentine belt system (pulleys+tensioner, and t-stat too)....
driveshaft issues are a pita cause u can't serve them but buy a whole shaft (or take to a good drive shaft shop and re-make)...
rust around windshield (under rubber where u can't see it), brake lines, parking brake cables and center cable splitter thingy, and under front step liners.
trans is actually in many other vehicles, but mostly trans issues are RSN (rumble strip noise) which is an easy fix (look up Dr A RSN fix) basically drilling a tiny ?size E 0.005? hole in driver side front shift solenoid end plate to allow fluid to bleed off, RSN caused by a fluid fluctuation, interestingly the same trans in other applications has this hole from factory...
 

Aqua Puttana

Poly - Thread Finder
I'm guessing that like many of us, you're a bit 'budget constrained'?? That makes it a bigger gamble

My thoughts, for what little they're worth are - Does it make a lot of sense to do a conversion on a mostly worn out older van that you may never be able to sell . . . . because you end up being the owner who ends up junking it when it's no longer economically viable to repair? Then you've lost all your investment. If your conversion is going to be extensive and expensive, I know I'd start with a younger vehicle which hopefully has lots more trouble-free miles left in it. Sprinter diesels do often last a long time and many miles, but when you're buying a 15 or 20 year old one with little known history, you might be the one who ends up buying a replacement engine or transmission

Also, driving an older, high mileage vehicle around the area where you live is one thing, because when it quits and must be repaired, you're in your home territory and you know where to go to get the best deals on parts and labor and any needed tow could probably be handled by a friend. When you're exploring new territory far from home and you break down, you're in a much more expensive, and unfamiliar situation - Getting a diesel van repaired hundreds of miles from home can cost many thousands and often take weeks

My 2006 Sprinter based motorhome is old enough that it worries me some about breakdowns in far away places . . . . but it only has 20,000 miles on it, so I'm hoping any problems would be minor and (hopefully) not involve a new engine or transmission

For the record, Ford makes an I5 diesel in their Transit, in either standard, mid or high roof versions - I've seen some sweet conversions of them on Youtube. They haven't been around long enough that you'll find one for $10 or $15K tho . . . .

Don
FWIW I agree with your thoughts, but I have an issue with the Ford diesel suggestion. I haven't researched the Ford Transit diesel. If the Transit diesel that is offered is common to many other Ford platforms, my comments don't apply.

The Ford Transit gas aka petrol engines are common to other platforms. Dealerships will be familiar with the drive trains. Parts should not be a problem. I believe that the Transit diesel is not so common. That will put it in a similar category as early Dodge Sprinter diesels where the dealerships weren't really familiar with the engines.

Do proper research before jumping into a Ford Transit that has a diesel engine.

:2cents: vic
 

Alphacarina

2006 Itasca Navion 23H
I am 29 and beyond fed up with Canadas housing market and job market. Low wages and high rent. 5 days of the week I retreat to my crappy basement to listen to footsteps from above, and to watch some tv. Then for the weekends I end up just doing chores I was too lazy and tired to do on the weekdays. Anyway even that meager existence is no longer possible since I lost my job right before the lockdown, and thus starting defaulting on payments, including rent.
I certainly do agree with your desire to live full time in a van - It has been a popular idea now for several years, especially for those in your age bracket - Sure beats moving back home to live with your parents, IMO. Since you'll be 'living' in it rather than doing lots of long distance traveling, an older, high mileage van could last you a long time . . . . you might only be putting 5 or 6K per year on it

To answer your original question, I would prefer the higher mileage, 1 owner vehicle with documented maintenance records over one with lesser miles, but 2 or 3 past owners who didn't document anything - Your initial outlay to catch up with deferred maintenance will be much less than it would be on a vehicle which has only had minimal care

Don
 

Nautamaran

2004 140” HRC 2500 (Crewed)
The expensive parts of a rebuild are the HP fuel pump, injectors, and Turbo... possibly a new head if warped, or replacing cracked pistons at CAD$500 each. Then add a new valve cover if the injectors are stuck, decking the intake and exhaust manifolds, hot tanking the block, etc etc and you can get into the $5-10k range pretty quickly.

I’d consider an older van a sinking asset. A straight cost. As such don’t bolt anything into it that you can live without. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make it comfortable, just don’t expect to get all your money back out if you sell it, and understand that there is a real risk of having to double-down or walk away from it if suddenly faced with a catastrophic repair bill.

Van Life also takes more planning.
Your day to day needs are different.
Food. Water. Toilets. Bathing. Trash.
These become harder to manage.
Research local PARKING. Insurance.
These costs can add up, and a couple of parking tickets (or even tows) can quickly equal the cost of rent...

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you stick with paying Toronto rent for a basement view (been there!), just that you’re taking on as many challenges as you’re finding freedoms.

Good luck,

-dave
 

Southsouth

New member
The expensive parts of a rebuild are the HP fuel pump, injectors, and Turbo... possibly a new head if warped, or replacing cracked pistons at CAD$500 each. Then add a new valve cover if the injectors are stuck, decking the intake and exhaust manifolds, hot tanking the block, etc etc and you can get into the $5-10k range pretty quickly.

Van Life also takes more planning.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you stick with paying Toronto rent for a basement view (been there!), just that you’re taking on as many challenges as you’re finding freedoms.

Good luck,

-dave
I saw rebuild kits for 2k ish that included the pistons. I guess those are cheap non oem kits?

As for vanlife, for me, its about being self reliant. I don't want to depend on anyone or anything. Maybe this a strange notion for "healthy" minds.

After recent experiences with landlords who don't repair or compensate me for a flooded basement. Or relying on the landlord tenant board tribunal for justice. Hell, still waiting for justice over my last landlord two years now. Or working for a large corporate company for 4 years that can just fire you anytime they want and give you 3 weeks severence. Even our great healthcare system failed me, missing an appendicitis which went undiagnosed for 3 weeks until I went to another hospital. Or backstabbing friends and business partners that steal from you. Believe me, it just one thing after another. Sorry for the rant.

hah, I kinda see my vanlife living like a wandering ronin.
 

TGEMilwaukee

New member
I found om647 rebuild kits for 1 to 1.5k. Has anyone here done a rebuild, just curious how hard is it to do?
I did a rebuild two years ago. Final cost for me was $5,185.00 (US) The small parts add up fast... Expect to replace all hoses, clamps and many of the internal fasteners need to be replaced, as they are one time use only.

This cost was for parts and machine shop costs only. $3,646.00 in parts, which includes the $1,500 for five new injectors, and the remaining was $1,199 in machine shop services. In my instance that was to bore and sleeve one cylinder, and hone all the cylinders, clean cylinder head and grind the valves, etc. Align bore the crankshaft bearing bore in the block from an overheated bearing cap.

I did the engine removal, cleaning, assembly and installation myself.... It's not terribly hard in my opinion. I've done a couple engine rebuilds prior to this one. There is a technical manual out there with all the needed specification, information. Including fastener torque values etc...

The challenge would be where and how to do this if living in the van.
 

Patrick of M

2005 T1N 2500 (NA spec)
From what I can tell t1 ends are a better deal in Canada than in the states. Obviously rust is a problem but the van sits up high enough that most of it doesn't appear to be structural although the tin work can be extensive. I'm inclined towards low mileage because I know these engines have an easy 300,000 mi in them with half decent maintenance. I would avoid a +300,000 Mile Van unless I felt like putting in a new engine.
Obviously maintenance records are helpful, I find Highway driven vehicles are more appealing to me. From experience I can tell you the mid-length van
parks easily in a city, the long one is harder to find parking for and harder to find a workspace that would fit it.
This one is interesting https://m.facebook.com/marketplace/...nel\":503,\"value\":0,\"upsell_type\":null}"}
 

jrod5150

Well-known member
Rust is by far the most expensive repair. I’d recommend avoiding vans that spent time in rusty states. A History report can save slot of time. There’s a few Midwest & southern states that seem to be ok. Southwest and west coast are preferred. Of course prior ownership plays a big part in it.
 

Kajtek1

2015 long/tall limo RV 2.1l
I grew up in 4-seasons and cheap cars would have hole in fenders after 3 years.
After moving to California took me quite some time to understand why 10 yo car park under the tree with no underbody coating has no rust.
That said don't take location as guarantee. Evidently Ocean breeze is pretty corrosive and cars park close to the beach will have corrosion. But that seems to be limited to only couple hundreds feet from the Ocean, so is rare problem.... but still...
In Europe you can buy factory repair panels, like door sills. Sheetmetal formed slightly bigger, so it goes over original who has corrosion.
Never have seen such in US.
 

LowBudgetT1N

New member
OP is in Canada so finding a vehicle without rust will be difficult to impossible. Although there are enough Canadians that winter here in Florida you may just find a cad sprinter that spent it's winters in Florida.

I personally would not spend $10k for a 300k mile rusty van, that's asking for disaster on your budget.

You have any friends that are considering van life and would split the costs?

Vans/RVs in the 20-30k range seem to be a much better buy.
 

Kajtek1

2015 long/tall limo RV 2.1l
I guess some people are impatient or don't want to travel for good deal.
In last year I managed to find 2 of nice 2015 Sprinter buses in the range of $17k.
Took some search and some traveling, but deals are out there.
Even the last bus was in Wyoming, it was there only last 6 months, when rest of its life it was in Las Vegas. Meaning no rust, not even spot.
 

Southsouth

New member
ok so a good deal (i hope) popped up on kijiji today for 4600 cad. I impulsed bought as others were coming to buy it from farther away.

It is a 2006 2500 short wheel base high top. Has 257k kms on it. Was sitting for 8 months and was just started today. Calipers were sticky but broke free. But immediatly something in the power steering system started leaking and soon had no power steering. Took it around the block. No check engine. Engine felt strong. No weird sounds. Then plugged into diagnostic. Took some pictures of live data. And the only code was a stored one for a air temp sensor.

Called CAA to tow my car and I drove the van back. Noticed in the steering there is some play. Enough that I can move the steering wheel side to side a few inches. The Hi oil light came on periodically, but thats because the owner put in more oil today to start it up (he has no idea about mechanics and owns a bakery business, and only owned this van for 2 years and zero maintenance records).

I called a sprinter specialist before i bought it and told him the issues (some rust, power steering leaking). He told me the engine alone is worth 4500. I asked if he could run a compression test, and he said at 250k kms and no strange noises he said he knows it'll be fine. But he will look at it for free trm for me. Really nice guy apparently. Located in north york, just google sprinter mechanic. So worst case I will resell it or even profit a bit. Not sure. Its not my ideal van as it is the short wheel base and there is no maintenance records. Besides the power steering, the windshield is cracked, the interior drivers seat is ripped. The fan vents are all broken. Radio is asking for a code, hvac buttons dont work but havnt really tried making them work. The ESP and Wheel traction light came on together on the 20km highway drive home, I guess a wheel sensor went? And the steering wheel doesn't tilt? which really is disappointing for t1ns. The suspension felt okay, but I dont how a vans is supposed to feel like. The under body was rust free. It has rust in the classic door footstep area. little bit rust around corner of windshield area. Rust on edges of passenger and side door, rusty rear doors. In side there is some rust between the roof seems but no holes. All typical for a t1n I think. Should I upload pictures of it?
 

Southsouth

New member
I did a rebuild two years ago. Final cost for me was $5,185.00 (US) The small parts add up fast... Expect to replace all hoses, clamps and many of the internal fasteners need to be replaced, as they are one time use only.

The challenge would be where and how to do this if living in the van.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
 

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