Sprinter adventure vans are popping up like wildflowers in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. If you’re considering purchasing a new high-profile Sprinter adventure van; Mercedes, Ram or Ford, here are some things to consider when it comes to maintenance.
Looking for a pre-owned model? Use this valuable information, along with a Pre-Purchase Inspection to help you be confident that your purchase is a well-cared for adventure van and not a bundle of problems.
By far the top of the line is Mercedes. With upgrades and amenities not found on other brands, the Mercedes price reflects it's luxury and performance. The Mercedes Sprinter also has the highest “cost of ownership”. You will need to be prepared to spend more for your general services (Mercedes A & B service), as well as repairs. The Mercedes diesel engine requires high performance specialized synthetic oil that is far more expensive. The fuel filter, also with a higher cost, requires changing at every B service (about once a year). Quality Automotive Servicing suggests that the A & B services be performed every 5000 miles. The manufacturer may recommend 10,000 for “normal driving” but from the Mercedes Sprinter vans we have seen, this is just too many miles on the oil and filter. The oil is often low and has turned dark or burnt in color. The oil filter can be clogged or damaged. Driving with maintenance items that are past their performance state will shorten the life of the engine and other components and become repairs down the road. In addition to the A & B service, maintenance associated with the 4x4 is another consideration and cost. Depending on what type of roads and condition the van is driven, plan on eventual maintenance or repairs to the rear axle, rear differential, rear drive shaft, transfer case and transmission. With all this said, as long as you know about the additional maintenance costs and follow a schedule to keep your Sprinter performing, you will have many happy adventures and a good resale value.
If you are looking for a van with similar features and space to the Mercedes but with a lower cost of ownership, RAM is a great option. The maintenance and repair costs on a normally aspirated gasoline motor will be less than the two competitor vans listed here. Because it is front wheel drive, there are no 4x4 components, transmission, or rear driveshaft that require maintenance and repair. Without the 4WD drive train, the RAM also has the largest space under vehicle for fresh water and waste tank capacity, meaning you can dry camp longer. Some consider the RAM to be more of an RV than an adventure van because it is not 4WD. The RAM Pro-master front wheel drive performs well on dirt roads but has limited clearance. It has also been reported that there can be a traction issue when the RV tanks are full. The combination of weight in the back and front wheel drive, make it difficult to get traction on an incline with dirt or sand.
The Ford has many features that make this a good option. This van comes in 2WD & 4WD options, has a 6 cylinder eco-boost with 310hp so you will get good performance and towing power. But like any turbo-charged engine, if you don’t do the correct maintenance, you run the risk of burning up the oil and blowing up the turbo. Even if you do the maintenance, turbos can eventually fail which results in an expensive repair. Overall, the maintenance costs are less than Mercedes and more than RAM.
A Note About Maintaining Your Van;
Like all van owners, you will probably plan on taking some lengthy trips, fully loaded with gear and possibly even towing a trailer. All this weight puts immense stress on an engine, especially at altitude. At Quality Automotive Servicing, we recommend servicing your van at the “Severe Maintenance” interval, usually ½ the interval suggested by the manufacturer. The manufacturer bases service intervals on an un-laden van in driving conditions that are not nearly as severe as we encounter every day in the mountains. Vans that do not follow our recommended shorter intervals between service, come through our shop with low oil levels and circulating burned/contaminated oil through the engine. Filters can be clogged, collapsed or have other damage. This will not only affect the performance of the van, but also the longevity of the engine and the resale value.
Damaged oil filter
Regardless of the brand and model you choose, you will be making a big investment in your new adventure van. The costs to maintain it will be higher than a car. The cost of not maintaining it will be higher still. At Quality Automotive Servicing in Truckee, we are your local van service specialist. You can depend on our experts to keep your investment performing. Please call us for an appointment at 530-587-1933 or log on the the website to request a service appointment.