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Old 07-14-2019, 07:24 AM   #1
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T1N Interstate bulletproofing

Yesterday, two incidents within minutes of each other made me realize that we need to start building a thread to address T1N Interstate hardening in a way that has only been done more casually (and less organized-ly) prior to now.

Hardening, or "bulletproofing" (as Million Mile Sprinter owner Joel Sell calls it) is the process by which failure-prone van parts (in our cases, both Sprinter- and Airstream-related) are systematically identified and replaced preemptively under controlled conditions, rather than in the form of on-road emergency responses, which can be ten++ times as expensive as well as schedule-destroying.

It sounds easy, but it's not. I have been working on it in earnest for several years now, and not only have I FAILED to accomplish it, I AM NOW FALLING FARTHER BEHIND THE GOAL THAN I EVER HAD BEEN.

Joel has been developing a bulletproofing system that he can offer as a paid service - in other words, he takes your van and replaces X number of components preemptively, and theoretically, you should be in much better shape then, at much lower risk of uncontrolled break-downs.

But Joel has a wife and twelve children to support, and it's not necessarily fair to ask him to share that information (= his own carefully-curated free market advantage) with the rest of us - that Magical List That He Is Going To Execute to keep your T1N Sprinter actually operating (or at least to improve your odds significantly).

To kick off this thread, here are the two things that happened:

(1) Last night we finished replacing the Sprinter's window-lifting mechanisms with an aftermarket retrofit. As I mentioned on that other thread, I was aware that the cab windows falling out was a possibility. What I did NOT realize is that it's basically an inevitability - I would have done that replacement years ago if that had been clear from my research. And as it turned out, the window fell out (rather, in) during extreme weather conditions, such that it became a disabling break-down for me. I could not do a repair on the road - the best I could do at that point was tape up the whole side of the van and make a mad dash back home.

(2) Fifteen minutes after we finished bulletproofing those two cab windows last night, I logged onto Instagram and I was immediately presented with this atrocity (below).

Here's another T1N, NOT ONLY DISABLED BUT WITH ENGINE DAMAGED because of some crappy two-dollar part that I had never heard of despite active searching for all such sources of potential devastation during 5 full years of Sprinter ownership.

What the freak???!?!?!? How is it possible that this kind of thing is still happening to any of us??

Last year, I went onto Sprinter Forum and hatched a thread in which I appealed to literally the entire world to enumerate all of the most likely T1N failure routes. And do you know what?? Those forum members never really laid a finger on the scope of the issue. That thread was called Which preemptive replacements for a 12-year-old T1N? It captured some good ideas, but it did not grow to approach any kind of a bulletproofing solution.

Some would say I'm nuts for even trying to build a bulletproofing database, but what is the alternative, exactly? More catastrophic failures, more horrendous expenses, more mad dashes back home from the road?

Here is last night's Instagram atrocity:

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Old 07-14-2019, 07:50 AM   #2
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I’ve certainly heard of those pumps failing (I have a spare myself) but I’ve never heard of one breaking and leaking like that.

I setup my aux (diesel) heater so I can run it without running the engine (off the house battery)- and if those pumps do not work it will not run. Stopping pumping is not uncommon (I’ve heard).

I also keep a spare fusebox (for under the steering column- mine had a little corrosion I cleaned, but...), EGR, fuel filter, several sensors- all in the van for any trips.

Mark
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Old 07-14-2019, 08:10 AM   #3
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And so it goes.
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:31 PM   #4
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Midvanlifecrisis is not dumb. As his username suggests, he's an older, experienced person. I doubt that he knowingly hot-ran his engine into damage territory.

It may be a feature of the T1N Sprinter that it's very easy to do this kind of thing. Case in point.

When our engine was replaced in May of this year, we found out only after the fact that Detroit Diesel had shipped the long block with an improperly-sized oil dipstick in it. This caused an otherwise-highly-competent mechanic to WAY overfill it with oil. Once I got it out on the highway, it overheated VERY quickly due to lost circulation (and that didn't even involve a problem with the coolant itself) - the temperature shot sky high within seconds.

Furthermore, there was no audible alarm associated with this engine-threatening event. There was no flashing light. There was just a half-inch-square low-contrast flashing message on the teeny tiny dash amber LED indicator panel saying HI, HI, HI (meaning its temperature was too high). If I hadn't been intentionally looking at the temperature gauge and the dash on a second-by-second basis, there's no telling how long it would have been before I noticed.

The ergonomics of its warning system could scarcely be worse. A less vigilant* driver might have not noticed and might have blown up a new engine with literally just ten miles on it. It would not be difficult. (*I could say neurotic instead of vigilant, but every bit of my neurosis with respect to this van has been more than justified by actual events that have transpired).

Yet another reason to bulletproof a T1N - it's not necessarily going to tell you when it's approaching a death-inducing operating condition at 90 miles an hour.
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Old 07-15-2019, 07:22 AM   #5
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One of the bulletproofing issues I'm having is a lot of "I've never seen that before" regarding various mechanical and material failures. This is as true of "mechanics" (I use that term loosely) as it is of some owners. It's a skepticism that urges the individual to assume that whatever they are looking at is a one-off that they personally don't need to worry about.

That conclusion is not logical. They haven't "seen this before" because the T1N Interstate has never been 13 to 15 years old before, not because "this" does not or cannot happen. Hello.

We are solidly into the realm of old age impacting vehicle materials in particular, especially polymers (plastics and rubbers). The image with which I opened this thread is of a plastic part that broke and probably destroyed an engine, which if true, requires a minimum $14,000 for a reconditioned warrantied long block (I know, because I just wrote a check for it). Or less for a junkyard engine which will come with its own slate of problems.

Speaking of which, for this thread I'm going to start a protocol of bottom-lining specific bulletproofing strategies. There was some back-and-forth on Instagram last night which resulted in the following conclusion:

HOW TO BULLETPROOF THE AUX WATER PUMP: Replace it.

DETAILS: Auxiliary Water Pump (T1N), OEM Part Number: 0392020026, Manufacturer Number: 5098398AA, Sprinter Gen1 T1N w/ 2.7L OM647 (2004-2006). One source here; also available from other sellers.

RATIONALE: It's a less-than-hundred-dollar mechanical component containing plastic parts which will degrade over time. If it fails, it could set off a chain of events that destroy your engine.
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Old 07-15-2019, 08:51 AM   #6
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Missed the edit window.

An example of material vs. mechanical issue perception:

Originally with respect to the window mechanism failure, my husband was not convinced that we needed to preemptively repair BOTH cab windows. The driver's window gets 10x to 100x as much wear-and-tear. Every time we access our secure storage garage, we have to roll down that window so that the gate pad can read the RFID chips in our key chains. So by his reasoning, the driver's window should be in much worse shape.

"But Bugs lost her passenger window at almost the same time as we lost the driver's window," I rebutted.

It's only one data point, but it convinced him that we are NOT looking at usage failures here. We are looking at material failure, which is a very different animal.

-- Usage failures are wear-and-tear-based.

-- Material failures are more purely time-based.

We risk falling into a degenerative trap if we conclude that wear is the only factor in this equation.
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:31 PM   #7
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I have a feeling that the only way to do this bulletproofing thing systematically and correctly is by crowdsourcing.

It's not as fantastical as it seems. Think Wikipedia for T1N Sprinters, only on the topic of bulletproofing rather than just compiling general information.

There are enough people out there invested in their T1Ns, either as camper vans or trades vans or some other specialty build, that they would be motivated to help build such an information repository.

This here is the 782-page 2006 Sprinter parts catalog PDF. Seven hundred eighty two pages.

Someone needs to go through every bit of that ^^ part by part by part - find every piece of cheap plastic or rubber integrated into every part, and evaluate that part in terms of the relative hazard that it poses to the T1N when it fails. And bolster all that crowdsourcing with trackbacks to the forum threads where previous people have actually dealt with doing replacements and repairs. Tie it all together into a navigable value-added package that forums, by their fleeting and disorganized chit-chat nature, cannot support.

One person cannot do all that. For a group, it would be manageable. People create mountains of absolute garbage on the internet every single day. Why not channel some of that energy into something valuable instead? Something upon which we could all make risk-based vehicle management decisions?

I'm going to noodle awhile on what it would take technologically to launch something like what I just described.
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:47 PM   #8
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It would be really nice if auto part stores published the sales volume for each part they sell. Even if the same parts are used on lots of different cars, that data could still be quite useful. Of course, that is closely held market share data so we’ll never see it.
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Old 07-15-2019, 07:13 PM   #9
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FWIW, we just replaced the starter battery today.
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Old 07-16-2019, 05:02 PM   #10
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[QUOTE=InterBlog;2264665].....
HOW TO BULLETPROOF THE AUX WATER PUMP: Replace it.

This, apparently, is the teeny tiny little P.I.T.A. which has a cheap plastic part inside of it, which can take out your entire engine if it fails and you don't notice it right away, which you might not, given that the T1N indicator ergonomics suck so badly.

Now, whether we can get it installed before I hit the road...hmmm. I have to research that next.

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Old 07-16-2019, 06:48 PM   #11
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This might help.

https://youtu.be/Vmrll92wm7A
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:26 AM   #12
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Best T1N info source for aux pump repair I've found so far is here.

According to this Sprinter Forum thread, many of these pumps fail after 2 to 4 years, and then people drive around with them non-functional and aren't even aware of it. They just sit there apparently as weak links in the chain until maybe they eventually sprout coolant leaks.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:34 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
Best T1N info source for aux pump repair I've found so far is here.

According to this Sprinter Forum thread, many of these pumps fail after 2 to 4 years, and then people drive around with them non-functional and aren't even aware of it. They just sit there apparently as weak links in the chain until maybe they eventually sprout coolant leaks.
I don't see a need for this pump unless you use the REST function of the van. I've never used mine.
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:53 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
Best T1N info source for aux pump repair I've found so far is here.

According to this Sprinter Forum thread, many of these pumps fail after 2 to 4 years, and then people drive around with them non-functional and aren't even aware of it. They just sit there apparently as weak links in the chain until maybe they eventually sprout coolant leaks.
Leaking would be the only way these things could hurt the engine. They are in a closed loop system which provide hot coolant to the heater core. They have nothing to do with cooling the engine.
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