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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, Thought you might like to see our new tow and delivery vehicle.



We only recently got it and plan to use it to tow our race cars to events and move tires and wheels around for our parts business. First thing we did was throw some of our wheels on it.



They are 15x7 BRAID Winrace Acropolis rally wheels and are super-strong. We mounted some Yokohama A/T tires in 235/75-15 and are rather pleased with the result. We also mounted up a pair of PIAA driving lights as no self-respecting RALIVAN would be seen dead without some extra lighting.



and of course lots of stickers:




This is one of the cars it will be towing:



Of course we plan a few more modofications but nothing too radical. Just a bit of RALLY-BLING. Mud flaps are a must and we might add a couple more lights to the front. We ordered a Mercedes grill too as the Dodge one is falling off. We are also planning on replacing the dampers with Bilsteins or KONIs and maybe a K&N air filter as well as more stickers.

Although only a 2005 it already has 250,000 miles on it so we won't be flogging it very hard even though it runs great. Already suffering from Sprinter cancer but only surface stuff, mostly around the windshield and right in the middle of some of the body panels. Have to take care of that soon. It needs a windshield anyway so popping this one out and painting the surround will have to be coordinated.

I love driving this thing and am looking forward to many happy miles, some more mods and conversing with fellow Sprinter owners on this forum. BTW you can see bigger versions of the pictures here: Team Illuminata

If you have any suggestions or questions let me know. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Now the van is officially the Michigan RALIVAN



Also got a Mercedes grill today:



Had to peel off the hood mounted chrome strip after bolting it in place. Left a terrible mess of goop that took half a can of Goop Off and a gallon of elbow gease to remove.



but worth it







OK, needs a chrome Mercedes star and apparantly theres a trim that goes round it too.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Got the rest of the Mercedes grill parts last week and slapped them on.



Had to paint the grill surround flat black but the chrome star came already chromed! I think it looks rather nice :)



Next day I rented a trailer from U-Drag and loaded up the race car for a RallyCross 2.5 hours away.



The RALIVAN did very well and had no problem pulling the car and trailer at 65-70 mph. At 70mph the temperature was slightly elevated from 65mph but not too high at all.




It struggled a bit more on the way back however. Not sure why but we towed a different car back and there was a rather large headwind. With the cruise on it would drop from 70mph to 65mph on some of the drags. Once we got half way home (and the wind died down a bit) it was business as usual.

Generally I was very satisfied with the way it towed and it was great to have the van at the race instead of unloading everything from the race car after driving it there on rally tires! I think it's time to buy a trailer.

For those who are interested in these things for the 300 mile round trip it got 17.5 mpg. Not bad I think.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm having trouble finding the Koni dampers for this thing. Twice now I've placed an order online and had it refunded without explaination. Any idea who has these? Need all four.

 

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Discussion Starter #6
I think we need to catch up with our RALIVAN updates. Got a bit behind.

During the winter months we installed a ProClip iPhone mount in the cab:



No, this is not for phone use, I'm not that good a driver that I can talk and drive at the same time. This is so I can use the iPhone's navigation app, play my tunes through the stereo via the USB input and use the OBD2 diagnostic and gauge app. I bought. It also locates the iPhone's camera in a perfect spot for on-track in-van video should the need arise.


We also replaced the OE mud flaps with some bright red polyurathane rally mud flaps from Rally Armor, one of the lines we carry, because, well, it's the RALIVAN!




The OE holes allowed us to fab up some Rally-bling type brackets too:




Surprisingly (or not) Rally Armor don't make fitment specific mud flaps for the Sprinter so we used their universal model which comes without pre-cut holes or hardware. This allowed us to cut holes that lined up with the original mud flaps's holes and use the original screws with big fender washers where necessary.




A piece of copper pipe makes a great spacer to reach the original mounting bracket.




So then we were ready for all the snow and slush Mother Nature forgot to bring us this winter. Still, it looks RALLY.




While we had the wheels off we checked the brakes and discovered it was time for new rear pads:




Uh. ho! this don't look right:




That's more like it:

 

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Discussion Starter #7
More updates:

I decided, as they were leaking oil, it might be an idea to replace the dampers. First had to find the top bolts. Oh, here they are, under the driver's plastic carpet and in the tool shed on the passenger side.





Went with regular duty Bilsteins. Can you tell which is new?

Fronts



Rears




And installed






I had to buy a whole set of spanners just to get one that would fit down onto the front strut nuts. Still, $15 isn't bad for a whole set of spanners. Thanks harbor freight.




One of the easier damper swaps I have done and worth doing as the RALIVAN rides much better now.

I also replaced the front speaker as the right one was blown. Looks like this is going to be at least the second set of replacements. Can't believe this is OE.




Strangely I had to remove the A pillar trim to get at the speakers.




Walmart specials. $35!




With a few "adjustments they plop right in.



They don't sound too brilliant but at least they work.
 

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So after a few thousand miles on the new dampers I have some looseness in the front that I can't track down. It feels like ball joints or wheel bearings but I checked those and they are fine. I'm thinking the front right damper is faulty and making a noise. Could it be?

Added some extra lights to the front to increase the rally-bling





A few weeks ago we decided it was finally time to replace the cracked wiindshield as the cracks were getting alarmingly big. Took the hood off to make access easier.



and had Service Glass come over to remove the old windshield.



As we had a bit of rust to take care around the winshield I told him I'd give him a call in a few das to install the new one. He was laughing when he left the shop. So we gound off the surface rust.



Painted over it with POR15, filled the irregularities with filler and primed it.



Until finally it was ready for paint.



Now, please bear in mind that this was my first time with a paint gun so there was a bit of a learning curve. It's still a curve. So, we had a few runs but more concerning was the lack of paint match.



I dont think it is qute as bad as it looks here but the original paint has clearly dulled quite a bit. Perhaps we should paint the whole van! Soldier on. Two weeks later we call Service Glass to pop in the new windshield. He laighed again.



Et voila! Good as new.



and then the cheap replacement speakers blew again so I replaced them once more but with some much better ones. Hopefully these will survive a bit longer. Also had to replace the battery!



With it's new windshield the van is proving a great asset due to its excellent towing ability.



I don't think it would make a good dune buggy though



Took it to the track a few times this summer too. No, not to race, to sell wheels.








I think I may have found the Sprinter prototype in Maryland.



No, not up for sale. Free parking spot at Euro cars in Bethesda, Maryland. really saved the day.



Oh, we upgraded the mirrors too. I think these must be off a later model.



Next on the list is power window for the passenger side. I can't reach the handle!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Got toe out?






Looks like the RALIVAN needs a rack. Was hoping it was just a tie rod but think its steering rack bushings. Manageable but pricey :(

Are these common failures after 250,000 mile? Easy to do? Any good sources for a rebuilt. Looking at $600 locally but at least it comes with tie rods and boots. What steering fluid are we supposed to use?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Hey, sorry. I've been neglecting this build thread. Got a bit distracted by our new rallycross car:



as you might imagine ;)


Anyway, the RALIVAN has been towing the 911 around Michigan quite a bit and has had some issues but nothing major. In our ongoing attempts to isolate the noises from the front and firm up the steering we replaced the steering rack and the anti-roll bar bushings. That helped a bit but when we replaced the upper strut mounts the squeaking noise went away :) That just left a little bit of clunking from the front somewhere. All that remains untouched that would make any metal to metal noise like this are the wheel bearings and lower ball joints but they seemed fine. Finally, a mechanic friend managed to get a bit of side to side movement out of the ball joints so we ordered up some new ones. We have yet to install them though.

Because we got distracted by some other stuff though we did do a quick alignment as the tires were starting to show signs of a being abused from excessive toe out.








Back to those distractions: Firstly the exhaust system fell off! Yes, literally. Fortunately it happened in my street at 15mph but it was a bit of a surprise.

This bugger weighs about 50lbs!



I couldn't find any aftermarket systems and a dealer wanted oner a grand so we had a local fab shop make a 3" system for a few hundred dollars. RALIVAN now has a rally exhaust :)



Then, a couple of hours into a week long road trip we lost boost pressure and the RALIVAN went into limp mode. It managed fine but 50mph meant some "relaxed" driving.




When we got back to the shop we couldn't isolate the leak so just replaced all the usual suspects on the intake:









I can't say we fixed it but it hasn't done it since.


There are a lot more stories to tell but they will have to wait. Gotta go sell some wheels.



:)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Driving around town this spring revealed one severe weakness of our RALIVAN: manual windows! Now I'm not one for power everything and our van's low spec is one of it's best qualities but the inability to reach the passenger side window handle when on the move was driving us nuts in the warm but not AC compatible weather. Apparently the previous owner used to use a plastic cup on a stick to reach the handle and indeed, that might work but there had to be a better solution. We looked into new and used OE parts to convert but that seemed expensive and convoluted so we settled on an aftermarket solution for two doors for around $100 or so.



You have to remove the handle and install an adapter so the motor can drive it. Then install the motor behind the door panel and wire it to a switch. How hard could it be. Not very actually.












Had to buy a bit of OE kit:



And video proof: Our RALIVAN now has power window! - YouTube



Now we can enjoy fresh air whenever we want and we still half a kit leftover for spares or to convert the driver's side one day.



.
 

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During a recent rain storm our driver's side wiper arm just broke off. Of course it wouldn't happen when it was dry would it. Only 90 minutes from home up the freeway so we left them off. Thankfully we use Rain-X washer fluid so it wasn't a problem. The water just beaded up and blew off. Anyone else experienced this?




Inspired by changing the wiper arm we decided to do a service. Oil:



Air filters. Cabin one hadn't been changed for a while:



AT fluid etc. etc.


Next we tackle the rust while it's still warm out.

.
 

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During a recent rain storm our driver's side wiper arm just broke off. Of course it wouldn't happen when it was dry would it. Only 90 minutes from home up the freeway so we left them off. Thankfully we use Rain-X washer fluid so it wasn't a problem. The water just beaded up and blew off. Anyone else experienced this?




Inspired by changing the wiper arm we decided to do a service. Oil:



Air filters. Cabin one hadn't been changed for a while:



AT fluid etc. etc.

Next we tackle the rust while it's still warm outside.


.
 

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Did you know Sprinters rust? Take a look at one next time you are out and about. Unless it's only a few years old I bet it has rust blisters all over it. These are not your normal Michigan car cancer rust spots either. These just appear in the middle of perfectly good looking panels for no apparent reason. It's as if the guy in the factory who sprays them has a permanent cold and sneezes on them all before pulling the trigger on his paint gun.

So ours had the same issues so we though we would claim it back before we lost control of it. You already saw the rust around the windshield in the windshield replacement post right. Well most of ours is like that or better.

So the procedure we adopted with each spot was grind it back to bear metal, treat with rust converter, fill sand, prime.






This resulted in a van with primer spots all over it.












Then it was time to figure out how to hide all those spots. Can you guess what we came up with?
 

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This one was rust and a small dent.



Under the drivers foot well the feet from the plastic step had worn holes through the metal!





As most of the rust spots we fixed were on the lower third of the body we realized we could use the left over vinyl from the race car wrap. So it begins.














Don't they make a lovely couple.




Still to do: the hood leading edge is a mess and may need to be replaced. There is a patch in one of the rockers that looks like it should be cut out and welded. Apart from those just a few blisters here and there. Next year I think.
 

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The RALIVAN has seen some pretty brutal weather these past few months. Lots of snow and very cold temperatures. It soldiered through, sort of.

We thought we'd prep it right this year with some proper winter tires. Went with Bridgestone Blizzaks as they seem to be the best.




We are glad we did as the very next day:




This setup did us proud for a couple of months until we went up north for the Sno*Drift rally. The van delivered the Porsche in fine fettle then sat for three days in below 0f temperatures for three days. When it came time to start it to return south it stubbornly said "Nein!" Here is looking pissed off and neglected scowling at the Porsche in the garage.




It would turn over but seemingly with not enough speed to fire it up. After a few attempts the battery (fairly new) started to loose power so we gave up and put it on a charger. After leaving a hairdryer running on top of the engine for 3 hours it finally started but unfortunately way too late to make the ice race I was hoping to run on the way home. Back down I75 we went, me pissed off. RALIVAN smirking to itself.




Not wanting to suffer that indignation again and with winter not willing to give up its icy grip it was off to the interweb to by some heat.




A 60W battery pad:







a 150W oil pad heater.






and an on at 20F, off at 30F Thermo Cube






That should do the trick.

And so far it has. We've had a couple of cold snaps since we installed this stuff and so far it has started easily at 5F and 6F. Now, if I could just get the heater booster working we'll have heat in the cab too.
 

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Damn, lots of work, it looks great! The 1st gen sprinters are my favorite
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The frigid winter this season inspired me to restore my heater booster system which has not worked since I've owned our RALIVAN, about three years now. Mine has no timer or multifunction device, just a button in the HVAC panel that glows red when I press it. The light does not provide much heat though.

For those of you who don't know what this is let me try to explain. The heater is plumbed into the coolant lines that supply hot coolant to the cabin heater matrix. This heater burns diesel and air to provide instant heat to this portion of the coolant so that the cabin is receiving warm air almost immediately. Brilliant!

I verified that absolutely nothing works in the system so I removed the heater unit and checked to see that the harness was giving it power when it was supposed to. I then located the fuel dosing pump and found its connector to be loose. Then I found the water pump and after jumping it from the battery concluded that it was inoperative.

So I assumed I have the classic seized pump causing the over temperature sensor to melt down and shut down the whole system. I ordered a $60 eBay pump and began to strip down and restore the heater unit itself. Seems like everybody's favorite source for parts for these is just across town so that's a bonus.


I found the ESPAR heater right where it is supposed to be:




I couldn't get the exhaust pipe to come off the unit so cut it and removed the retaining bracket to get the unit free. I might sleeve the pipe or replace it. Looks in good condition though.






ESPAR out




This is the fuel pump right. The connector wasn't off when I found it, just loose.




and this is the water pump.




I checked the fuel dosing pump. Got 9 ohms resistance. Does this mean it's OK or naff?

Started dismantling the Espar heater but got thwarted by some stubborn screws.












New pump arrived so it it went. Old one was definitely not working.






I could hear this working with the REST system now so that's an improvement. Now for the ESPAR itself. Applied a little heat to the three stubborn fasteners and voila, a two piece ESPAR.




Looked very clean. Only potential issue I could find was dodgy looking wires to the temperature senders.






I measured the resistance of all the various components and tested the fan with a 9V battery. It worked.





I spent the rest of the afternoon removing the gasket residue. Also verified the fuel pipe was clear.





From ESPAR manual with my measured values in red. I think I need some temperature senders.






Then these arrived.




And.......it works!

I slapped it back together and threw it in the van and it fired up. I didn't realize the engine has to be running for it to fire though. Now I get heat in the cabin after just a few minutes Fabulous. Here's the requisite video.

RALIVAN Heater Booster Fixed - YouTube
 

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Discussion Starter #20
We decided to replace the front control arms on the RALIVAN as the ball joints seemed a little loose and there is this persisntent rattle we've been chasing for ever. We could have just replaced the ball joints but it seems tricky to get them out of the control arms and that would still leave the old bushings in place. Quicker just to replace the whole unit. Who wants a set of new ball joints?














Guess what? Still have our rattle. Wheels bearings next I guess.
 
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