Categories
Mistakes

Step 1: Did you buy the right van?

Everyone has their opinions on why the Sprinter/Promaster/Transit is more appropriate for camper van conversion over the other. Here’s mine.


Sprinter

Not sure why the van community aspires to Sprinters. While Mercedes is known for their luxury cars, the Sprinter (at least NCV3 and earlier) is certainly not a luxury product. It is as about utilitarian as a plastic fork, and while you can excuse some traits of a vehicle as a tradeoff by having good characteristics in other places, I would assume that priority #1 for a van would be reliability and serviceability, and this criteria alone should put it at the bottom of most people’s lists.

What I mean is, while people might buy a Mercedes product as a luxury car knowing full well it may have issues down the road, the dealer can loan you a vehicle while they work on yours. They can’t however, loan you a small apartment, and nobody has a fully built out backup camper van.

Common issues

Their diesels, like all diesels nowadays, are not a great option with the introduction of environmental standards, with emissions equipment that fail often and is expensive to replace. DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) will crystallize if not consumed within its shelf life, and force tank and injection equipment failures.

The paint remains the worst in the market and WILL rust sooner than the other two vans, despite them claiming reformulated paint.

Unfortunately they, like most of the German vehicle brands nowadays, are built to maximize revenue, which means building them as disposable vehicles to be reliable within the length of the standard lease. Those who pick them up after, fund the companies’ operations with service bills.

Service is not only difficult to find (Sprinter-specific dealers?), it is outrageously expensive and they actively work against the DIY/home mechanic by locking out end user seviceability with coded modules that you cannot replace without visiting a dealer.


Promaster

This is a Fiat product, imported because FCA were caught dead in the water without a small/midsized van after their breakup w/ Mercedes. The van was immediately struck off my list because it is only available in FWD (front-wheel drive), which in a van application, should be only considered for high volume, low weight loads. What happens is once you add weight to the rear, the load on the front decreases, which results in vague steering, reduced traction, and overall a lesser vehicle than the other two.

People will cite “FWD is better in the snow”, but this is false in most camper van builds. The principle that allows FWD to be better traction is front engined vehicles have weight biased towards the front. Once you start filling your cargo area, the weight bias will shift and the traction will suffer, worse than any RWD van will.


Transit

Best of the worst? I have few good things to say, other than the Ecoboost motor is strong, and it handles better than the other two turds. 🙂 The transmission, while supposedly stout, is not programmed well from the factory and the amount of lockup demanded by the transmission software at low engine RPMs, leads to premature torque converter failure. Still, what’s $2000 every 100k miles?

Parts are cheap and available, though, and being that it handily outsells the other two vans (here in the United States and also around the world), allowing you can find second-hand parts easily. Service can be done at any Ford dealership, as their electrical and mechanical systems are in-line with the rest of their product line.

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